Fun fact: the Vatican Gardens cover over 50% of the surface of Vatican City, which is the smallest state in the world!
Although a visit to the Vatican Gardens isn’t indispensable, it will delight botany enthusiasts and is well worth it if your schedule allows.
Follow the guide!
💡The Captain’s tip 💡
Want to find out more about Rome’s history? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour (in English). It’s up to you to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide!
Brief history of the Vatican Gardens
The Vatican Gardens were created in the Middle Ages. Nestled on the Vatican Hill, the gardens originally consisted of vast vineyards and orchards.
In the 13th century, Pope Nicholas III transferred the residence of the popes from the Lateran Palace – located next to the Basilica of St. John Lateran – to the Vatican. He had the Vatican Gardens fenced off and partly turned into lawn and gardens.
But the most significant changes came later. In the 16th century, at the request of Pope Julius II, the gardens were entirely redesigned in the Renaissance style. The work was entrusted to Bramante – known, among others, for having participated in the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica – and Pirro Ligorio. They created the Belvedere gardens and the large rectangular labyrinth of boxwood, umbrella pines and cedars of Lebanon, and replaced the surrounding wall erected by Nicholas III with a large defensive wall.
⚓ Attention, sailors! ⚓
Want to find out more about Rome’s top landmarks, activities & museums? Why don’t you check out the Captain’s detailed article on the best things to do in Rome?
Visiting the Vatican Gardens
The Vatican Gardens cover almost 23 hectares and include a square garden, an English garden, a French garden, an Italian garden, a vegetable garden and a vast wooded area of 3 hectares.
Botanical enthusiasts will recognise many Mediterranean plants and flowers in the gardens, as well as exotic species imported from distant countries.
The gardens are dotted with medieval remains, renaissance buildings (temples, pavilions, etc.), fountains and statues. Among the most notable points of interest are
- The copy of the Grotto of Lourdes: built at the beginning of the 20th century, this artificial grotto is an exact replica of the Grotto of Lourdes.
- The statue of Saint Therese of Lisieux:Thérèse of Lisieux was a French nun who was born in 1873 and died in 1897. She was known for her mystical publications which inspired great devotion throughout the world.
- Mater Ecclesiae Monastery:this former gardeners’ house, enlarged in the 1990s, has been the residence of former Pope Benedict XVI since his resignation in 2013.
- Saint John’s Tower: built in the Middle Ages, Saint John’s Tower is located along the ancient wall built by Pope Nicholas III.
- The Jubilee Bell of the Year 2000:This bell was made at the request of Pope John Paul II to celebrate the Jubilee Year 2000.
- Vatican Radio:the Vatican Gardens are home to the headquarters of the Vatican radio station, which has been broadcasting in 40 languages since the 1930s.
- Vatican City railway station: built between the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s, the Vatican City railway station was never used very much, except for the reception of goods…
Getting to the Vatican Gardens
The Vatican is open from Monday to Saturday and closed on Sundays (except for the last Sunday of each month) and all religious holidays.
The Vatican Gardens are located in Vatican City, behind St. Peter’s Basilica. The nearest metro station is Cirpo-Musei Vaticani on line A. Many buses, including hop-on hop-off buses, also stop near the Vatican.
Visits of the Vatican Gardens
Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to freely visit the Vatican Gardens… The only way to discover this oasis: guided tours. Places are limited, so it is best to book your visit in advance.
For more information: guided tour of the Vatican Gardens (with or without access to the Vatican Museums)
⚠️ Planning to visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel? ⚠️
The queues at the entrance to the Vatican Museums can be absolutely endless: you may have to wait 3 or 4 hours if not more, especially during the high season and the school holidays.
Captain Ulysses can only recommend that you opt for skip-the-line tickets: they’re well worth it!
Find out more: skip-the-line for the Vatican Museums
👉 Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all of Captain Ulysses’ suggestions!
🛏️ Accommodation: to book your accommodation in Rome, Captain Ulysses highly recommends Booking.com:
– the best youth hostels
– the best hotels for tight budgets
– the best hotels for midscale budgets
– the best high-end hotels
🎟️ Activities: As for booking visits and tourist activities, Captain Ulysses recommends three websites: GetYourGuide, Tiqets and Civitatis. Guided tours, cruises, skip-the-line tickets, tourist activities… there’s plenty to choose from!
🎫 Citypass:if you are staying in Rome for several days, it may be worth investing in the Roma Pass or the Omnia Card. As well as entries to some of the capital’s most iconic sites, these passes include access to public transport.
🚐 Transfers:if you want to arrive in Rome serenely, you can book your transfer from the airport to the city centre in advance. A car will be waiting to take you to your accommodation in the city. For more information: transfers in Rome.
🚌Local transport:Rome has a comprehensive public transport system: metro, bus and tram. Access to public transport is included in the Roma Pass and Omnia Card. If you wish, you can also opt for a hop-on hop-off bus tour which stops at all the top tourist attractions in Rome (audio guide included). If you wish, you can also opt for a hop-on hop-off bus tour which stops at all the top tourist attractions in Budapest (audio guide included).
✈️ Flights and trains: to book your flights to Rome, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Skyscanner. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.
As for trains, the Captain highly recommends Trainline to book your tickets.