It has become a trend with current Pope Francis, straying from anything his past predecessors may have engaged in. Well, he’s at it again. The non-traditional Pope recently decided to make his exclusive papal summer residence open to the public.
For centuries now, the Apostolic Palace at Castel Gandolfo apartments have been a vacation retreat for the Pope of the Catholic Church, regardless of who that was. The papal summer residence is located on Lake Albano, on the outskirts of Rome.
As of Saturday October 22nd, 20 rooms (that have never been seen by the public before) were opened to visitors. This includes a simple bedroom, the study, private library, as well as a chapel. Some of these rooms are rich with some incredible history. In one instance, Jewish women were given the opportunity to give birth in a bedroom at the residence during World War II during the Nazi occupation; and the ladies were hidden by Pope Pius XII. Two Popes also passed in a bedchamber at the vacation retreat: Pius XII (mentioned above) and Paul VI.
Since becoming the leader of the Catholic Church in 2013, Pope Francis has only visited the summer residence several times, and has yet to spend a night over. He’s been known to pass up vacations and chip away at any luxury offered, however he’s not the first Pope that has refused summertime residency at the retreat. As curator of history at the Vatican Museum, Dr. Sandro Barbaglio notes, of the 33 Popes that have come and gone through Castel Gandolfo, on 15 have occupied it.
CNN reported that one Pope who seemed to make the most out of the vacation retreat was John Paul II, who even built a pool there and was thus snapped by the paparazzi in his swimming trunks.
Pope Francis opened the gardens to the estate for visitors in 2014, and since, guests have been able to check out the grounds via a white train. There is indeed a tour as well, which includes a viewing of Pope Benedict’s farm (organic of course), where one can see free-range hens, cows, bees, and cockerels frolic about.
The good news is, it is a great attraction to check out, should you find yourself in and around Rome. The bad news? Well, it might not be a permanent thing. As Barbaglio notes the decision is one that will stand until Pope Francis decides otherwise. A future pope may choose to make it a private dwelling.
Reason enough to check it out while you can!