The Vatican Gardens in Rome

Vatican Gardens

The Vatican Gardens (Latin: Horti Civitatis Vaticanae; Italian: Giardini Vaticani) are exclusively beautiful private gardens and parks from 16th-century in the Vatican City State, located within the territory of Rome. The gardens cover more than half of the country, owned by the Pope and considered as the smallest government in the world. Their territory is 23 hectares (57 acres) with the highest point of 60 metres (200 ft) on the Vatican Hill. You need to plan your visit in advance, since it is possible only by a reservation. The gardens considered as the Pope’s private playground which you can visit by taking the two-hour foot-and-bus tour.

The Vatican Gardens

The Vatican Gardens are surrounded by stone walls in the North, South and West

They were established during the Renaissance and Baroque era and there are different fountains and sculptures on the territory of gardens. However, there is no access to public, except special group tours provided by the Vatican. Moreover, there are 16 Marian images venerated all around the world at the designation of the Roman Pontiff or the Pope – the owner of the gardens. Besides greenery, sculptures, and fountains, there is the Governor’s Palace and the Radio of the Vatican on the territory of the gardens. You can clearly see the gardens when climb up the dome of St Peter’s Basilica, from the highest point of Rome.

History

According to the Pious tradition, the site of the Vatican Gardens was spread with sacred soil taken from Mount Calvary by Saint Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine. By this sign, she wanted symbolically unite the blood of Jesus Christ with that shed by early Christians, who died because of persecutions of Emperor Nero. The Gardens of the Vatican date back to medieval times when vineyards and orchards prolonged to the north of the Papal Apostolic Palace.

The Vatican Gardens

In 1279, Pope Nicholas III decided to move his residence back to the Vatican from the Lateran Palace, so the area became enclosed by walls

However, at the beginning of the 16th century, during the pontificate of Pope Julius II, the gardens were reconstructed. Donato Bramante’s project considered to split gardens into three new courtyards: the Cortili del Belvedere, the “della Biblioteca”, and the “della Pigna” (Pine Cone) in the Renaissance style. Moreover, a rectangular Labyrinth set in boxwood and decorated with Italian stone pines and cedars of Lebanon was added to the design of the gardens. Today, the Vatican Gardens contain many medieval buildings and monuments from the 9th century to present day along with flowers and greenery. Moreover, the most notable features of the gardens is an artificial grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Loudres (Grotta di Loudres), which is a replica of the Loudres Grotto located in France, and an olive tree donated by the government of Israel.

Loudres in The Vatican Gardens

Private Tours

The Vatican offers tours to its gardens, where most of them are in English and take place in the morning. Usually, the time of the tour is between 8:30 am and 9:30 am.

The Vatican Gardens private tour

  • Info about the Guided tour of the Vatican Gardens for individuals and groups: www.museivaticani.va
  • Book a tour: www.biglietteriamusei.vatican.va
  • Full ticket: 33 euro
  • Reduced ticket: 24 euro
  • Tour days: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Type of tour: bus tour
  • Languages: Italian, English German, French, Spanish. Other languages are available upon written request at: tours.musei@scv.va
  • Note: the guided tour is not available for wheelchair users and is not recommended for visitors with limited mobility because of the type of standard route
  • Tel.: +39 06 69883145; +39 06 69884676

Interesting Facts

  1. The House of the Gardener located on the territory of the Vatican Gardens is the smallest building in the Vatican
  2. At the end of the guided tour of the Vatican Gardens, visitors have an open access to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
  3. The Radio of the Vatican, located on the territory of the Vatican Gardens, broadcasts in 45 languages all around the world and was created by Marconi in 1931
  4. The Vatican City with its Gardens recognized as a unique UNESCO World Heritage Site since it is the only site which encompasses a whole country
  5. The present structure of the gardens is attributed to Pope Julius II, but further works were carried out under the Popes Clemens VII and Paul III, who designed the “secret garden” within the Vatican Gardens
  6. Pope Paul IV commissioned the construction of a small palace surrounded by lush vegetation. It is knows as “Casina di Pio IV” (The little house  of Pio IV) and is home to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences
  7. Another garden with radiating pathways is in front of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and bordered by geometrical hedges. It is know as “Giardino dei Semplici” and used for the growing of medical herbs
  8. Water to the fountains inside the Vatican Gardens comes from the Trajan Aqueduct from Bracciano Lake, which was renovated in 1600’s by Pope Paul IV
  9. Throughout the history, there were different animals living in the gardens, such as goats, deers and gazelle
  10. The Vatican Gardens are very well seen from the dome of St Peter’s Basilica

The Vatican Gardens view from the dome

Have you ever been inside the Vatican Gardens? Tell us about your experience in comments 🙂

Watch our vlog about the Eternal City and private tour to St Peter’s Basilica, Square and instructions on how to climb up the dome! You can book this tour here. Discover a breathtaking view on the gardens from the cupola of basilica in our video:

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Author: Kate Zusmann

For the last five years I live in Rome, Italy. Recently, I've graduated from the American university of John Cabot with major in communication and minor in entrepreneurship. I have a passion for writing, traveling, and exploring new things.