The Vatican Gardens

The dome of St. Peter's seen from the Vatican Gardens

The Vatican Gardens date back to medieval times when vineyards and orchards extended to the north of the Apostolic Palace. In the 1279 Pope Nicholas II enclosed this cultivated area with walls. Today these walls are no longer standings owing to the site's transformation at the beginning of the 16th century. Two new courtyards were created: the Belvedere and the "Pigna" or Pine Cone (see Vatican City map nos.18 and 26).
Nicholas V (1447 - 55) conceived a series of gardens which could be used in ceremonies of the papal court as well as for the pope's personal enjoyment in the area now occupied by the Courtyard of St. Damasus (map no.6) and by the late 16th-century building which is presently the pope's private residence.

In the area of greenery which remained after the construction of the Belvedere corridors (now the Apostolic Library and the Vatican Museums, map nos. 27 and 25), Pius IV (1559 - 65) had Pirro Ligorio construct the lovely Villa Pia or "Casina", intended for his moments of leisure and rest, which is now the seat of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (map no.54); later, Paul V (1605 - 21) adorned it with splendid fountains.

The Italian Garden with its
characteristical box hedges

St. John 's Tower
Today the Vatican Gardens are divided into two areas (as can easily be seen from the top of the dome of St. Peter's) by the remains of the medieval walls which encircled the Vatican before the construction of the surviving 16th-century ramparts. On one side, in a north-north-west direction, is the park of the Villa Pia and the wood above it; on the other side, behind the apse of the Basilica, is the area that was set aside for agricultural cultivation until the foundation of the Vatican City State (1929) and later left green, although today much of it is built up owing to the requirements of this extremely small state.

After the Lateran Treaty, 11 February 1929, behind the sacristy and the Basilica, Piazza Santa Marta (map no.76) was laid out, and the Mosaic Studio (map no.66), the Railway Station (map no. 65),

the Palazzo del Governatorato or Government Palace (map no.68), the Ethiopian College (map no.62)and the Marconi Broadcasting Centre were built. Along the medieval walls, at the level of the circular tower, Pope Leo XIII had a new "retreat" constructed, the building now occupied by the administrative offices of the Vatican Radio (map no.59).

On the wall to the left, The Torre San Giovanni or St. John Tower (map no.61), rebuilt by Giovanni XXIII, is reserved for illustrious guest.

Useful Information

Guided tours of the Vatican City are organized by the Information Office for Pilgrims and for Tourist of the Vatican City.
Departure: Information Office, St. Peter Square. Purchase tickets in advance.
Admission is not permitted to visitors without proper dress.

For information: +39 06 69884466 or +39 06 69884866