Who needs a summer palace? Not Pope Francis, who has renounced the delights of Castel Gandolfo outside Rome and opened his private apartments to tourists, the Vatican said on Friday. The Argentine has refused the traditional trappings of the papacy from the start, declining to move into the sumptuous papal apartment in the Vatican and plumping instead to live in a hotel inside the tiny city state.
His rooms at Castel Gandolfo, a former summer favourite with popes hoping to escape the heat of the capital, have been turned into a museum which will be officially inaugurated on October 21.
Francis has visited the palace some 25 kilometres from Rome only a couple of times since his election in 2013, and has never spent the night there.
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His predecessors John Paul II (1978-2005) and Benedict (2005-2013) often stayed at the site, which has been owned by the Holy See since 1596 and has expanded over the centuries to now sprawl over 55 hectares (135 acres).
Francis opened the estate’s gardens to the public in 2014, with tours organised for groups and by reservation only.
Since last year, tourists have also been able to climb aboard a special white train for an express trip to the lavish estate and a tour of the papal villa, including past the pope’s organic farm, which houses cows, free-range hens, cockerels and pontifical bees.