The surroundings of Rome: Castel Gandolfo, a memorable journey through the lands of the popes
Castel Gandolfo is an Italian municipality of not even 9,000 inhabitants that belongs to the metropolitan area of the municipality of Rome; to be precise, it is located 30 km south of the capital and is the first true green lung that you meet once you leave the city. Its territory, which since 1984 has been part of the Castelli Romani regional park and includes the entire coast along Lake Albano, is characterized by the presence of many species of birds and the existence of pines, oaks, holm oaks, chestnut trees and vineyards.
If you love nature and the genuine and quality products that the land offers, we advise you to go in particular to Albano Lazio to taste excellent wines or to Marino to taste the excellent grapes that are produced in this area, 100% of origin. volcanic. On the last Sunday of July you can then participate in the Peach Festival where you will see young people who, in traditional costumes, head from the Borgo to the Papal Residence to donate fruit baskets to the Holy Father as a sign of devotion.
We also suggest a pleasant walk along the lake, where you will find well organized restaurants, relaxing dining options, bathing establishments.
The history of Castel Gandolfo
The first villas built in Roman times were built in Castel Gandolfo, including, in particular, the Villa of Domitian (81-96 AD) which is now part of the territory of the Pontifical Villa and which surprises the visitor who arrives in this city and not he expects to find himself in front of the remains of one of the most famous ancient houses, where the Emperor decided to set his home and which included an area of 14 square kilometers.
Subsequent emperors, however, decided to settle elsewhere, so that over time the villa began to be subject to an inexorable decline together with the various monuments, ornaments and statues that were destroyed to allow the construction of the city of Albano with the new materials derived from it.
The history of Castel Gandolfo remains more or less unchanged until around 1200, although the territories belonging to Domitian continued to be plundered, as happened in the case of the stripping of the marbles from the monuments in the area, which served to build the city of Orvieto.
Castel Gandolfo Castle takes its name from the founding family, the Gandolfi, who built the castle in the XII century. In 1221 this building passed to the Savelli who lost it and then bought it back; however, although at first Pope Sixtus V raised it to Ducato in favor of the Savelli, he was later foreclosed due to their insolvency. Finally, in 1604, the Holy See annexed it as an ecclesiastical asset to its possessions.
With the taking of Porta Pia in 1870, the arrival of the Bersaglieri sanctioned the end of the Papal States and with it the fact that the Pope had to abandon Castel Gandolfo until 1929, when the Lateran Pacts stipulated between the church and Mussolini established that the territory of this city should belong to Italy, however granting the servitude of over 4 hectares of land to the new Papal States with the formula of extraterritoriality.
During the Second World War the territories of Albano Lazio and Ariccia were heavily bombed, an occasion in which the Convent of the Poor Clares was hit which caused the death of 16 nuns and the city of Marino, where hundreds of people perished. After the war, all the Popes used Castel Gandolfo as a summer residence, which has given particular notoriety to the Castle all over the world.
In 1994 the Municipality of Castel Gandolfo became a city.
What to see in Castel Gandolfo
As it is easy to imagine Castel Gandolfo offers many enchanting landscapes and truly suggestive religious monuments.
We advise you to visit the Church of Our Lady of the Lake which was consecrated by Pope Paul VI in 1977, located on the shores of Lake Albano. Not to be missed is also the Church of Santa Maria Assunta whose construction, which began in 1619 and was then bombed in 1944. In the same period the Pontifical Parish Collegiate of San Tommaso da Villanova was built, located in the center of the city, whose architectural project was entrusted to Bernini: inside the church you will find paintings by Borgognone, stuccos by Antonio Raggi and some works by Pietro da Cortona.
The first monumental site that you will encounter going down from the center of Castel Gandolfo towards Lake Albano is the Doric Nymphaeum, discovered in the 18th century but not connectable to Domitian according to current studies; it would in fact be an ancient shrine built in honor of the deities of Albalonga, of which Cicero speaks. The decorative styles that compose it range from Doric to Ionic and some niches suggest that there were celebratory statues in them.
The Bergantino Nymphaeum, halfway between the Doric Nymphaeum and the emissary of Lake Albano, is also called Bagni di Diana and develops in several rooms: given the shape of the building it seems it was dedicated to thermal baths.
The emissary of the lake seems to have been an eminent Roman engineering work, created to regulate the course of the waters of Lake Albano; it is still in operation and is used to irrigate the fields on the north western side of the lake.
The Pontifical Villas have an area of about 55 hectares, of which 30 are dedicated to the garden and 25 used for agricultural activity. There is a well-kept and enchanting vegetable garden, an olive grove with over fifteen hundred trees, three long rows of vines and various hives are managed in which bees produce wildflower honey. Inside them, the Pontifical Villas host an Antiquarium consisting of seven rooms, which contains a series of works of immense archaeological value, probably coming from the Imperial Villa, the Nymphaeum Bergantino and the Theater.
The Papal Palace was erected between 1624 and 1626 at the behest of Pope Urban VIII Barberini and was built where the Savelli Castle used to be and before the Villa di Domiziano. Bernini also participated in the completion of the Palace, who created a portal in the gardens that no longer exists and also participated in the construction of a wing.
When you visit the Pontifical Palace, don't miss the Palace Chapel, which houses an image of the Madonna of the Czestochowa Sanctuary. Inside the Tabernacle and in other contiguous spaces you will find the frescoes by Simone Lagi and the Zuccari and the Bernini Gallery which was painted instead by Pier Leone Ghezzi. You can also visit the Dining Room of Clement XIV, the Throne Room decorated with tapestries and the Scalco Room decorated with the paintings of Salvator Rosa.
As you may have guessed, Castel Gandolfo is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, offers tourist attractions, food and wine products and immense spaces in nature, moreover your stay will be made even more impressive by the many stalls, exhibitions and events that are often organized to cheer visitors.
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