A little history of Castel Gandolfo
The construction of Castel Gandolfo is based on the ancient and splendid Roman villa of Albanum Domitian which was the residence that the emperor Domitian built between the years 81 and 96. The town remained in oblivion until 1200 when the Genoese family of the Gandolfo built the castle on top of the hill overlooking the lake.
Even when the papal footprint was engraved in the middle of the 16th century, the reconstruction of the Papal Residence was designed by Carlo Maderno for Pope Urban VIII in the17th century, however, Pius XI later added the Papal Palace and the adjoining villa Barbarini. The small square in front of the Residence was renamed in 1870 with the name of Liberty Square during the movement for Italian unity. The Papal Palace was uninhabited from 1870 to 1929 when Mussolini, with the signature of the Lateran Treaty, recognized the Holy See as its owner.
What is Castel Gandolfo nowadays?
This small town known for the beauty of nature that surrounds it and for the elegance of the city and its walls is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Here you will find:
PONTIFICAL PALACE was built between 1624 and 1626 by Pope Urban VII Barberini and was designed by Carlo Maderno. Gian Lorenzo Bernini participated in the last stage and contributed with a portal for gardens that no longer exists and collaborated in the realization of one of the wings.
CHURCH OF ST. THOMAS OF VILLANOVA is the Collegiate Church that dominates the main square of the village. Its construction began in 1658 on behalf of Pope Alexander VII Chigi and the project was entrusted to the great artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
ANTIQUARIUM OF VILLA BARBERINI The Villa Pontificia belonged to the Barberini family and passed to the Holy See with the Lateran Pact of 1929, spread over a 55-hectare park. It currently houses an important antiquarium in seven rooms with notable collections.
DORIC NYMPHAEUM is the first archaeological site that is located descending from the center of Castel Gandolfo towards Lake Albano along Via Gramsci. Originally it was part of the Villa Domizia, but today it is isolated from other monuments of the vast imperial residence that extended around the lake.
THE BERGANTINO NYMPHAEUM, better known as Baths of Diana (Bagni di Diana), the Bergantino Nymphaeum is located on the western shore of Lake Albano, halfway between the Doric Nymphaeum and the Emissary of the lake.
EMISSARY OF LAKE ALBANO is an artificial conduit of 1,800 meters that begins on the west coast of Lake Albano and ends in the town Mole di Castel Gandolfo.
Curiosities of Castel Gandolfo
Did you know that the small town of Castel Gandolfo is about 40 minutes from Rome and has 8,000 inhabitants and 136 hectares? This small and quiet village of the Lazio region at the foot of Lake Albano becomes the center of attention of Italy and the Catholic world every summer, thanks to the ancient palace of Castel Gandolfo where is the summer residence of the Catholic Supreme Pontiff.
Did you know that besides the Papal Palace there are also located two convents, a school, a farm, the gardens and the Vatican Observatory? Pope Urban VIII was the first to choose Castel Gandolfo as his summer residence.
Why visit Castel Gandolfo?
Castel Gandolfo is commonly known as the Pope's City, as it houses the Pope's summer residence. It is a holiday resort located at the top of Lake Albano and is frequented by tourists from all over the world who appreciate the location, the panorama, the exquisite hospitality and the refined beauty. The visitor who first enters the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo can’t imagine being able to find one of the most famous villas of antiquity.
For visitors to Castel Gandolfo it may be an attraction to see the Pope and his cortege, however the set of buildings and palaces that conform Castel Gandolfo are of great interest for lovers of architecture and history especially for the antiquity of this castle.
How to visit Castel Gandolfo?
Castel Gandolfo houses some of the pontifical villas and it is possible to book guided tours to visit them. If you wish to concentrate your visit only in Castel Gandolfo, you can join a group tour that also includes the transfer by train to and from Rome. If instead, you prefer a more complete visit to discover the places linked to the Popes, you can book a full day tour that includes the entrance to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Gardens.
Other attractions in the area
You can complete your visit to Castel Gandolfo with an unforgettable tour of the Vatican City:
The Vatican Museums are a must visit for the large collection of works of art found inside: paintings, sculptures, tapestries, jewels and archaeological pieces, all this and much more in one place. In addition, in its interior is the famous Sistine Chapel with the frescoes of " The Last Judgment" of Michelangelo.
St. Peter's Basilica is probably the most impressive church you'll ever see. Its beauty is indescribable with its opulent interior and majestic exterior where you will find works of art by great masters such as Michelangelo and Bernini. Do not miss the wonderful opportunity to climb the dome and enjoy the view of St. Peter's Square.