Vatican Gardens, Vatican City State
If you happen to be looking out the window as you tour the Vatican Museums you may get a glimpse of lush greenery. Located inside Vatican City lies an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of Rome. These are typical Italian gardens, which means that the emphasis is on the shrubbery and landscape layout, so don’t expect a lot of flowers.
The Gardens are located on one of the highest points in the city at had their beginnings back in the Fourth Century when Pope Boniface VII had a small garden with medicinal herbs. The gardens continued to expand and in 1559 Pope Pius IV had a casina, or summer residence, built as a respite from the heat of the Apostolic Palace. Then, in the 1800’s ,under the auspices of Pope Leo XIII the gardens were expanded again and additional pathways and shrubbery was installed. The Pope often strolled the gardens to pray and reflect. Saint John Paul II was also a big fan of strolling through the gardens, and in his younger days was said to go for a jog as well.
In 2011 Pope Benedict XVI held a ceremony to inaugurate the 100th fountain, the Saint Joseph Fountain, in the Vatican Gardens. Also of particular interest is the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, a replica of the famous grotto in France.
There is an olive tree donated by the government of Israel and the gardens contain every plant mentioned in the Bible.
We encourage you to tour the gardens when you visit Rome. Each tour is led by a licensed Vatican tour guide and you will be given “whisper” headsets so that you can hear the guide clearly. Usually the guide will speak English as well as another language depending upon the group taking the tour.
The tour usually begins in an area behind the Sistine Chapel, where the Pope walks. While on the tour you will see the Vatican Radio tower, grotto, scientific school as well as an altar and able to see the Dome from anywhere in the garden. Tours last about two hours and cost about 31 Euros per person. You should plan on getting tickets in advance. Various private tour companies can arrange tickets for you. Most group tours do not include the Vatican Gardens, but if you have some free time on your tour you can possibly fit it in.
There is a small convent located in the gardens: the Mater Ecclesiae Convent, located behind the “Fountain of Eagles”. It was used for cloistered nuns from time to time. This 4-story building shown here has not attracted much attention in the past but until recently it had a famous resident: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI until his death. It contains a chapel, library and half-basement.
Click here for the official website of the Vatican Gardens with some great photographs.