Rome’s Least Crowded Tourist Attraction: The Giardini Vaticani (The Vatican Gardens)
Some people call this “the Papal Gardens.” I like to think of it as “the Pope’s Versailles.”
I recently returned from a trip to Italy. Most of my time was spent exploring the wine regions of Tuscany, but I did end the trip with a two day stop in Rome. While I’ve been to Rome multiple times, this was the first time I visited the Giardini Vaticani, or the Pope’s Gardens. These gardens are also sometimes known as the Giardini Barberini.
A shady arbor of trees in the Giardini Barberini
The Giardini Vaticani have only been open to the public since March of 2014, when Pope Francis decided they should be open for tourists to enjoy. Fortunately my friend who arranged this trip insisted I go and bought me a ticket for guided tour and insisted I visit. The tour starts at the Villa Barberini.
A statue located in the Pope’s Gardens
It was worth it alone to explore the Castel Gandolfo area, located 24 kilometers southeast of Rome. This area was also new to me and rather beautiful. It felt like a bit of Italy’s Lake region right on the outskirts of Rome.
A view of Lake Albano from Castel Gandolfo
The statues in the Giardini Vaticani aren’t as impressive as those at the Vatican, but the park is wonderfully devoid of the crowds of selfie-stick toting tourists. Not only are the Papal gardens uncrowded, but they are also underrated. The Vatican Gardens are still under-the-radar on the tourist circuit and well worth the price of admission.
Left: Boy covered in Ivy Right: A statues on display in the Giardini Barberini
The Giardini Vaticani was by far the least crowded tourist destination I saw in Rome in August. Unfortunately, you can’t just show up. If you want to visit, be sure to book ahead using the Vatican’s online ticketing system.
A waterlily in a pond of the Giardini Vaticani
Reservations are available online for the 90 minute guided tour, which is given in either English or Italian (tours in French are also available by request). A guided tour is your only option, since you are not allowed to explore the Papal Gardens without a guide.
Stairs and cypress trees at the Giardini Barberini (aka Giardini Vaticani)
Uncrowded + underrated= win!
Viewing one of the fabulous fountains on tour at the Giardini Vaticani
Some tours offer travel by scenic train to the Castel Gondolfo location of the Villa Barberini where the tour starts.
Fountain and cypress trees at the Giardini Vaticani (Barberini Gardens)
The Castel Gandolfo area is also rather charming and worth exploring after you tour the gardens. It’s a great off-the-beaten path destination for sightseeing in Rome.
Impressive mazes in landscape at Giardini Vaticani
A trio of cypress trees in the Vatican Gardens
You won’t get a picture of the Spanish Steps this empty in August
Peek-a-boo view of the Giardini Barberini aka Giaradini Vaticani
Admission fee (tickets available online on Vatican Museums web-site)
Full € 16,00
Reduced € 8,00
Vatican Gardens – guided tour on foot (duration of the tour is approximately 90 minutes):
full € 32,00
reduced € 24,00
The ticket includes: admission to the Museums (without guided tour), guided tour of the Gardens and rental of headsets.
Open bus tour:
full € 36,00
reduced € 23,00
Purchase of guided tour includes the open bus visit to the Gardens and the multilingual audio guide, and a visit (without guided tour) of the Vatican Museums on the day of ticket issue.