Castel Gandolfo is one of a group of small hill towns near Rome that are collectively known as the Castelli Romani. The town is best known for being the place where the Pope has his summer residence. It is located on a hill-top looking out over Lake Albano, to the south of the capital.
Castel Gandolfo city guide
There is a tourist information office in the Via Palazzo Pontificio, 6 (Tel. +39 06935918235). The city hall of Castel Gandolfo is located in the Piazza della Libertà, 7 (tel. +39 06 935 9181). The ZIP code is 00040 and its area code, like that of Rome itself, is 06.
The area comprising present day Castel Gandolfo has known human settlements since the Late Stone Age (between 50,000 and 12,000 years ago). It was in this same area that the legendary city of Alba Longa was supposedly founded by Aeneas. In the 7th century BC, still if legend is to be believed, this city was destroyed by Tullus Hostilius, the third King of Rome.
In the imperial age wealthy and influential Romans had their residences built here. One of these was the Emperor Domitian.
During the 12th century a family called Gandolfi constructed themselves a castle on the site. From the end of the 13th century till 1596 this became a fief of the Savelli.
In 1608, after Pope Clement VIII had acquired it, he made it into a property of the Holy See and the official papal summer residence.
Since 1871 Castel Gandolfo has enjoyed the right of extraterritoriality.
Like the other Castelli, Castel Gandolfo is dominated by a large villa, in this case the aforementioned summer residence of the pope. Around it is the picturesque centre of the town.
Naturally, the papal presence during the summer is one of the main attractions in the city, although most of the church’s properties, including the Papal Gardens, cannot be visited.
The Papal villas consist of three buildings, the Villa Barberini, the Palazzo Apostolico and the Villa Cybo.
The Palazzo Apostolico was built in 1624, by order of Pope Urban VIII. The architect was Carlo Maderno. This building, which has often been restored, included the Specola Vaticana, an Observatory. Its halls and rooms are decorated with frescoes and tapestries.
The most interesting area of the Villa Barberini are the beautiful papal gardens.
The main square is the Piazza della Libertà. The central fountain in this square was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The cupola of the San Tommaso di Villanova Church was decorated by Pietro da Cortona and Cortese.
The Villa Torlonia consists of a complex of buildings in the centre of a park. The gardens of the villa are punctuated by neoclassical statues.
There are some Roman nymphaeums on the territory.
From Roma Termini there is a direct train to Castel Gandolfo. However, the station is at the bottom of the hill and the walk to the centre is very steep. You can also take the underground to the last stop on line A (Anagnina) and then take a bus to Castel Gandolfo. If you plan to visit several of the Castelli Romani, the towns are connected by several bus lines.
- A peach festival takes place every 3rd Sunday in July.
- Saint Sebastian is the patron saint of the city and the holiday associated with this saint is celebrated in September.