Visiting Castel Gandolfo and the Pontifical Villas
Castel Gandolfo is a small municipality of the metropolitan area of Rome and it belongs to the circuit known as “Borghi più belli d’Italia,” the most beautiful villages in Italy, so much so that it has always been the Popes’ holiday destination. Proof of this are the various Papal or Pontifical Palaces.
The best way to reach Castel Gandolfo is by train as it is the quickest option and avoids the traffic, which in Rome is truly chaotic. The train station in Rome is called Termini (it has connections to the airport) and from here the Regional takes us to Castel Gandolfo in just 41 minutes, with trains running once every 60 minutes.
History of the villa
Since imperial times the village has enjoyed not only spectacular views but also a mild Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters due to its dominant position that starts on the Colli Albano hills and drops to the Agro Romano valley and Lake Albano. It soon became the seasonal refuge of the emperors, starting with Domiciano if not his predecessors. There they built their villas which later, in the Middle Ages, became part of the inalienable assets of the Holy See. However, it wasn’t until Pope Urban VIII arrived in 1628 that Castel Gandolfo began to be used as a papal residence.
Most interesting monuments
The Holy See’s influence here is apparent in the number of religious buildings, up to six, including churches and collegiate, in an area of little more than 14 square kilometres, as well as in the civil buildings which mainly include the multiple papal residences.
The Collegiata di San Tommaso da Villanova
The main place of worship in the city of Castel Gandolfo, a complex that consists of a Parish Church, Rectory and the Church of Madonna of the Lake at Albano Lake. Pope Alessandro VII Chigi commissioned Bernini to build a church to be used as a palace chapel beside the Papal Palace. He followed the typical outline of a Greek cross where everything is harmonious and canonical according to the dictates of the Renaissance, however for the interior he chose a more Baroque look which he gave great dynamism with a transept covered by a great dome with a lantern on a decorated drum.
Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo
Built at the request of Pope Urban VIII following a design by Carlo Maderno on the remains of the old structure of the Castrum Gandulphorum, a feudal castle belonging to the Gandolfi and Savelli family. However, it took on its current appearance in 1660 due to the intervention of Pope Alessandro VII.
The Pontifical Villas consist of three different parts:
The Gardens of the Moor, which are located at the back of the Apostolic Palace and are the oldest part of the residence as they already existed as part of Cardinal Visconti’s old villa.
Villa Cybo, which was built by Cardinal Camillo Cybo and joined the complex when Pope Clement XIV bought it from the Dukes of Modena in 1774.
Villa Barberini, which was built by Pope Urban VIII’s nephew and houses the Castilian See of the seasonal College of Propaganda Fide. The Italian-style gardens surrounding it are especially beautiful.
From Rome: Castelgandolfo & Pontifical Villas
Spend the day to see the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo.
A good gastronomic destination
If you spend a few hours in Castel Gandolfo you’ll probably be there at lunch or dinner time. As a tourist spot, this little city has a good gastronomic offer which can be eaten while enjoying the pretty views of Lake Albano. We definitely recommend that you go for a restaurant with views, of which there are many all the way along the coastline. There are also charming places on the medieval alleys of CastelGandolfo, you’ll be spoiled for choice and we particularly like it there. Here are our favourites in each of the areas:
La Gardenia (Viale Bruno Buozzi 4). Specialists in fish and with a marvellous outside terrace with views of the lake. If the weather isn’t good or there are no free tables outside, the indoor dining room also enjoys good views through the windows. Top quality products and a creative presentation.
Arte e Vino (Corso della Repubblica, 49), a family-managed place that is a restaurant, a delicatessen shop and a wine cellar. Fresh local ingredients.
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