Honeymoon in Vatican City

Stay in Rome, and visit Vatican City during the day

Vatican City is the smallest independent state in the world in terms of inhabitants and size. It occupies an area of 44 hectares. The borders are represented by its walls and the travertine pavement curve that joins the two wings of the colonnades in St Peter’s Square. Beyond the proper territory of the State, Vatican jurisdiction also covers some extraterritorial areas within and outside Rome.

The Vatican Gardens

The Vatican Gardens have been a place of quiet and meditation for the Popes ever since 1279 when Nicholas III (Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, 1277-1280) moved his residence back to the Vatican from the Lateran Palace. Within the new walls, which he had built to protect his residence, he planted an orchard (pomerium), a lawn (pratellum) and a garden (viridarium). The event is recorded among other places on a stone plaque which can be viewed in the “Sala dei Capitani” of the “Palazzo dei Conservatori” on Rome’s Capitoline Hill. Created around the hill of Saint Egidio where today can be found the “Palazzetto del Belvedere” building and the courtyards of the Vatican Museums, this was to be the first Garden in the Vatican.

Saint Peter's Basilica

vatican honeymoonThe Constantinian basilica disappeared with time. Over 150 years passed from the decision of Nicholas V Parentucelli to enlarge and restore the ancient basilica to the completion of the Renaissance building with the façade (1612). This is quite a long period of time in terms of the number of years, but it is absolutely understandable if one remembers the enormous amount of work and the continuous changes in the planning.

In the over 150 years required to complete the basilica, the most famous artists of the time directed the “Fabbrica di San Pietro”. Among these were Raphael Sanzio, who decided to transform Bramante’s Greek cross design with a Latin cross-like structure in 1514; Antonio da Sangallo the Younger; and Michelangelo who, during the pontificate of Paul III, decided to reuse the original Greek cross plan, designed the dome and supervised its construction until his death in 1564.

Over the course of the next thirty years, the “Fabbrica di San Pietro” was directed by Giacomo Vignola, and then by the architects Giacomo Della Porta and Domenico Fontana, who completed Michelangelo’s plan of the dome around 1588.

Saint Peter’s Basilica reached its present state thanks to Carlo Maderno, who went back to the Latin cross plan and defined the scenographic aspect of the façade.

Work on the basilica was completed during the pontificate of Urban VIII in 1626, but it was only between 1656 and 1667 that Bernini, commissioned by Alexander VII, planned and constructed the great colonnade in Saint Peter’s Square with the 1st century B.C. obelisk in the middle. Originally set in the centre of Caligula’s Circus, where Saint Peter was martyred, it was moved to the present site in 1585 by Domenico Fontana, who was directed to do so by Sixtus V.

Saint Peter’s Basilica can host 20,000 people. It is 190 m long, the aisles are 58 m wide, the nave is 45.50 m high as far as the vault, the dome is about 136 m high as far as the cross. The interiors, characterized by huge mosaics, are sites of some of the most famous art works from all over the world, for example, Bernini’s baldachin and Michelangelo’s Pietà.

Castel Gandolfo

With the Lateran Treaty of 1929, Italy recognized the full ownership by the Holy See of the Pontifical Palace of Castel Gandolfo along with the adjacent Villa del Moro and Villa Cybo, and further agreed to hand over “the Villa Barberini in Castel Gandolfo along with all of its endowments, appurtenances and dependencies” (cf. Lateran Treaty, art. 14). Sometime later Pope Pius XI wanted to make the papal residence complete with the acquisition of some orchards near Albano in order to establish a small farm.

The Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo comprise about 55 hectares (11 more than Vatican City) of which 30 make up a garden while 25 are used for farming. The latter is carried out with full regard for the aesthetics proper to countryside gardening. The entire papal residence enjoys all the privileges of extraterritoriality. The properties which make up the villas include the Papal Palace (comprising also the Vatican Observatory), the Barberini Palace, apartment housing for 21 employees, an electrical plant, offices, farm buildings and animal stables. Also contained in the villas are buildings in the Villa Cybo set aside for the religious community of the Maestre Pie Filippini and their school, and two cloistered convents housing the Poor Clare and Basilian Nuns. In the piazza in front of the Papal Palace, the parish house assigned to the Salesians stands alongside the Pontifical Church of St Thomas of Villanova.

The former audience hall at Villa Cybo and the adjacent garden, which together make up about 1 hectare, were given as a gift to the Focolare Movement for its 25th anniversary.

The villas possess their own pumping station providing water from the lake for plumbing and irrigation, as well as an aqueduct that carries drinking water from the nearby springs of Palazzolo, which are also on property belonging to the Holy See.

The Administration of the Pontifical Villas oversees maintenance of the gardens, conservatories and arboretum, as well as the farming and animal husbandry conducted on the premises. It also manages the harvesting, production and sale of flowers and agricultural produce, and is responsible for the purchase and maintenance of the equipment used in all these activities. Furthermore, it handles the management of all the property belonging to the villas and ensures the efficient functioning of the water works, electrical plants, heating system and telephone system, and it oversees all other technical matters related to the villas. The Administration also manages the parking facilities for the villas and the automobile garage, along with the farm machinery. Finally, it assures that all requisite services are provided for the Holy Father during his stays at Castel Gandolfo.


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