1) Providing a perfect blend of history, art and faith, the Vatican Gardens are made up of flourishing grounds, papal shrines, Renaissance fountains and grottos, mature orchards, vines, and trees, as well as ancient monuments and sculptures.
2) Pope Nicholas III began the Vatican Gardens in 1279 by planting an orchard, a lawn and a garden. As these areas have changed and grown significantly over the past centuries, the Gardens now envelope over 57 acres.
3) The Vatican Gardens is formally known as “The Gardens of Vatican City”, informally as “Giardini Vaticani”, and unofficially the “Pope’s Playground”.
4) Divided into three distinct landscaping styles, English, French and Italian, the Gardens also house the Vatican heliport, train station, and radio station.
5) Currently owned by Pope Francis, the Gardens sprawl throughout half of Vatican City, spreading from the western border up to Vatican Hill, with the highest point reaching 200 feet above sea level.
6) Since the lush Gardens were intently designed for the Popes’ relaxation and meditation, public access is limited. Private tours are available from Walks Inside Rome. Tours are coupled with a visit to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and Saint Peter’s Basilica.
7) Beginning in the late 16th century, the Gardens became home to a magnificent collection of Renaissance masterpieces in the forms of architecture, sculpture, and fountains. Each piece more stunning than the next, the Fountain of the Eagle symbolizes the return of water to the Vatican from the Acqua Paola while the equally majestic Lourdes Grotto is an artificial cave modeled after the Grotto of Massabielle in France.
8) Alongside the many architectural treasures, there is the medieval Saint John’s Tower or “Torre San Giovanni” which overlooks the Gardens. Orginally built by Pope Nicholas III in the 16th century, it was rebuilt by Pope John XXIII in the early 1960s. Presently mainly used as papal apartments, the Tower was where Pope Benedict XVI met with former U.S. President George W. Bush in 2008.
9) The Vatican RadioStation was added to the Gardens in 1931, by famed inventor Guglielmo Marconi.
10) Today, the Gardens have 14 “Maria” images, symbolizing prayers for the Virgin Mary in various languages and cultures. As recently as December of 2015, a Filipino mosaic of Our Lady of Penafrancia was added to this impressive collection.
Walks Inside Rome offers unique private morning tours of the Vatican Gardens on most days of the week!