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The Vatican Gardens

When we think of the Vatican City – the world’s smallest sovereign territory – the gargantuan Vatican Museums usually spring to mind. However, more than half of this tiny country is actually covered by gardens. The Vatican Gardens, which are among the prettiest in all of Rome, were first enclosed when Pope Nicholas III moved his residence from the Lateran Palace to the Vatican in 1279 and erected a large wall around a chunk of orchards and vineyards. The garden was given a new look in the 16th century under Julius II when he had his favorite architect, Donato Bramante, redesigned the space with a more theatrical flair. Today you can only see the gardens if you book a tour in advance but their impeccable landscaping dotted with medieval architecture is one of the hidden highlights of any visit to the Vatican.

Visiting the Vatican Gardens: Thing to See

The Gardens

The Vatican gardens are supposedly planted in soil that St. Helena (Emperor Constantine’s prolific relic-gathering mother) brought back from the Holy Land. A more verifiable claim is that they contain every plant that is mentioned in the Bible. Originally designed by Bramante with a Renaissance emphasis on equal proportion, they have been divided up by subsequent redesigns and the addition of various fountains, monuments, and buildings. Perhaps the most famous plant is an olive tree donated by the government of Israel. In the past, Popes have enjoyed the Vatican gardens principally for the tranquility that they offer anyone strolling through them. John Paul II was a particular fan of walking the gardens when he needed to collect his thoughts.

Tips for Visiting the Vatican Gardens

Hours

The Vatican Gardens are only opened to people who have pre-booked private tours, either through the Vatican or with an independent tour group.

Tickets

Walks of Italy offers tours to the Vatican Gardens and Castel Gandolfo for €120.00.

Rules

Because the Vatican Gardens are considered to be part of a holy place, both men and women must dress appropriately. That means shoulders and thighs must be covered.

The Best Time to Visit the Vatican Gardens

The best times to visit are in the Spring, when the flowers bloom, or in the fall, when the leaves change. Because most people only want to see the art in the Vatican Museums, visiting the Vatican Gardens is a wonderfully peaceful and crowd-free experience, regardless of when you go.

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