Take a walk through 2,000 years of history lead by an official Vatican guide. Besides the natural beauty of the Vatican Gardens, the Vatican City is rich in monuments and precious works of art.
After clearing security, the meeting point will be at the "Guided Tours" booth, which is located straight ahead and up the small staircase on the left. Maximum 10 people per group.
PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION CAREFULLY:
IMPORTANT: The Vatican Museums ask that you provide the name and date of birth of all the participants of the group, please enter the names and dates in the appropriate field in the order form, after adding the reservation to your cart.
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PLEASE NOTE: Immediately after submitting an order, you will receive an email with your order summary plus a second email confirming your successful payment. A confirmation email with links to the vouchers will be sent one business day after you place your order (Monday afternoon for orders submitted on Friday and during the weekend). Please make sure that your anti-spam filter does not block automatic emails from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tickets CANNOT be cancelled and are NOT refundable.
From Monday to Saturday. The Museums close at 6:00pm.
Entrance times will be indicated at the time of the reservation.
The Vatican Museums are closed on the following days:
Sundays (except for the last Sunday of each month, excluding Easter, June 29 and December 25 and 26)
January 1 and 6 (Epiphany)
February 11 (Lateran Pacts Anniversary)
March 19 (St. Joseph), 23 and 24 (Easter, Easter Monday)
May 1 (Ascension Thursday) and May 22 (Corpus Christi Day)
August 14 (Assumption Vigil) and 15 (Assumption Day)
November 1 (All Saint's Day)
December 8 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception), 25 (Christmas Day) and 26 (St. Stephen's Day)
The Vatican Gardens
The Vatican Gardens have been a place of quiet and meditation for the popes ever since 1279 when Nicholas III (Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, 1277-1280) moved his residence back to the Vatican from the Lateran Palace.
Within the new walls, which he had built to protect his residence, he planted an orchard, a lawn, and a garden. The event is recorded on a stone plaque which can be viewed in the Sala dei Capitani at the Palazzo dei Conservatori on Rome’s Capitoline Hill.
The first gardens of the Vatican were created around the hill of Saint Egidio where the Palazzetto del Belvedere building and the courtyards of the Vatican Museums are today.
Piazza Santa Marta
Your tour of the Gardens begins at the Piazza Santa Marta, built under Pope Pius XI (Achille Ratti, 1922-1939). As you take in the splendid architectural landscape, enjoy the view of the central courtyard, its large fountain, and its two great oak trees which are clipped into perfect dome shapes.
Proceeding from this point you undertake the ascent of the Vatican hill. The natural hillock was increased by the massive amount of soil excavated to make way for the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Papal Coat of Arms
As you wind your way up this hill you soon see the Palazzo del Governatorato, the building which houses the central administration of Vatican City State. As you climb the cobbled stairway which leads up to the front of of this building, you see a prime example of topiary figurative art in the shape of the papal coat of arms.
Significantly, the permanent section of this coat of arms representing symbols such as the tiara and the keys of Saint Peter, symbol of apostolic authority, is planted with perennials such as box shrub. The variable section dedicated to symbols relating to each new pontificate is planted with annual plants. Both the perennial and annual plants of this figurative coat of arms are selected to reflect the color scheme of the papal coat of arms.
Vatican Train Station
Your tour of the Gardens then follows further up the hill to the left of the Vatican Railway Station. There you can enjoy a view of the magnificent landscape surrounding the Fontana della Conchiglia (“fountain of the shell”) at the center of an arabesque of box hedges surrounded by magnolias and oleanders which flower throughout spring and summer.
At this point your visit continues up the Via dell’Osservatorio or Observatory Road. After passing under imposing Australian bunya-bunya trees and their characteristic large pinecones with a diameter that can reach up to 30 centimeters, you arrive at an artificial cliff.
The two hundred meters long cliff was created after the Lateran Pacts to contain the terrain of the increasingly steep slope. A rock garden has since been created there, home to a variety of succulents. Flowering brightly in spring and summer, it offers an explosive show of different hues in stark contrast with the bare rock. Among the many plants in this rock bank are a wide variety of magnificent cactus, aloe, and agave.
Monument to Saint Peter
Beyond this cliff, higher up the slope, is the geographical center of the Vatican State. Close by in the shadow of the Basilica stands a monument to Saint Peter. This monument previously stood in the courtyard of the Vatican Museums and was originally destined to end up on Rome’s Janiculum hill in commemoration of the First Vatican Council.
Next to this statue is one of the very few remaining buildings assigned to housing civilians in the Vatican. Known as the Casina del Giardiniere or gardener’s lodge it is the residence of the head gardener. His task is to oversee the work of some twenty-seven gardeners who take care of this park on a daily basis.
Mater Ecclesiae Convent
Still further up the Vatican hill, next to the walls built by Leo IV (847 -855) in 847 to protect the Basilica of Saint Peter from Saracen incursions, you come across the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery. At the request of the late Pope John Paul II, cloistered nuns were moved in here, offering daily prayers for the ministry of the Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church.
Continuing the gentle climb to the highest level of the Gardens, you discover the Ethiopian College. Surrounded by magnolias and araucaria trees, the building was designed by Italian architect Giuseppe Momo and commissioned by Pope Pius XI who built it to provide seminarians from Ethiopia a place in Rome where they could further their ecclesiastical studies.
Attached to the College is a tiny garden which takes its name from the Fontana dei Delfini (fountain of the dolphins). It is charmingly set among oleanders, pomegranates and banana trees. The wealth of flowers and the foliage there creates an intimate corner in sharp contrast with the sloping lawns of this area of the Gardens.
Strolling further along under some ilex trees you reach the highest point of the Vatican Gardens. At 71 meters above sea level it coincides with the spiritual heart of the park, the Lourdes Grotto. It is an exact replica of the one Massabielle grotto in Lourdes and was donated by the French in 1902 to Pope Leo XIII (Vincenzo Gioacchino dei Conti Pecci, 1878-1903). A statue of the virgin is framed by a bright green mantle of American ivy, above the original altar of the grotto donated to Pope John XXIII (Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, 1958-1963). It is a place where traditionally at the end of May the pope comes to pray and greet the faithful who have come up the hill in a torch-light procession.
From here, your tour takes the Viale Pio XI, the road dedicated to this twentieth century pope. Looking out from a small terrace under majestic date palms, admire the great Italian Garden with its box hedges, clipped at regular intervals into rounded shapes and - as dictated by Renaissance topiary art - without the presence of a single flower.
Colony of Monk Parrakeets
As you continue along gravel paths, amid a labyrinth of hedges, meet the Vatican colony of monk parrakeets. These colorful birds have been nesting here amid the branches of the cedar trees for a long time. Every now and then their screeching breaks the silence of the park.
Marconi Broadcast center
Next door to the Italian Garden is the transmission center dedicated to the figure of Marconi. It was from here that this eminent scientist broadcast the first radio message from the Vatican thanks to Pope Pius XI who encouraged the experiment.
Shrine to Saint Teresa of Lisieux
Proceeding along the Leonine walls you will see a little shrine dedicated to the Patron Saint of the Vatican Gardens, Saint Teresa of Lisieux, in the midst of a palm grove with a wide variety of species. Among these are a jelly palm with scented sweet orange fruits, the elegant Washington palm, and the great Saint Peter palm bushes, the only palm trees indigenous to the Italian peninsula.
Jubilee 2000 Bell
Further on is a clearing called capanna cinese (meaning Chinese hut), where you can admire a bell which is a memento of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
St. John's Tower
You now reach the avenue where Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli, 1939 - 1958) used to enjoy taking his daily walk. Four ancient olive trees were donated to John Paul II during the Jubilee Year 2000 and were planted there. This avenue leads up to Saint John’s tower restored by John XXIII and now used on occasion to receive special guests visiting the pope.
Along the ilex avenue which leads on from here to the French Garden you will be struck by the strong scent of the flowers and wood of the majestic camphor tree. Beyond this Garden lies the heliport built under Pope Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini, 1963-1978) which Roman pontiffs now regularly use when going on their numerous pastoral journeys.
The heliport has been placed under the protection of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa depicted here in bronze. From here you can admire the great open space of the French Garden, and take a stroll along the red rock paths lined with ancient terracotta pots adorned with the papal coat of arms and filled with stunning azaleas.
Placed here is a dug-in water cistern which can hold up to eight million liters of water necessary for irrigation, the fountains, and for fire prevention in the Gardens.
Surrounding this area are some rare trees. Among these are: an Australian silk oak, two very tall examples of dawn redwood, an olive tree donated by the State of Israel to mark the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Holy See, and a wide variety of other trees donated over the years by different delegations visiting the pope.
Gardens of the Palazzina di Leone XIII
Your tour continues towards the building known as Palazzina Leone XIII built in honor of the last pope of the 19th century, Leo XIII. Two great fountains known as Delle Sirene play amid strongly scented star jasmine in the center of a garden filled with yew hedges. Here, amid arches and espaliers of rambling roses stands a coral tree, the last tree of a garden of exotic plants that Pope Leo created towards the end of the his pontificate.
Shrine of the Madonna della Guardia
At this point your visit will continue downhill via the shrine of the Madonna della Guardia, which was donated to the inhabitants of Genoa by their fellow countryman Pope Benedict XV (Giacomo della Chiesa, 1914-1922).
Here you enter the forest covering close to two hectares of grounds almost all of which are of spontaneous vegetation. Among the trees, which offer visitors some shady relief during the summer and spectacularly bright colors in the autumn are the pedunculate oak, the Turkey oak, the downy oak, the hornbeam, and the northern red oak.
Fountain of the Eagles
Choose one of a myriad of paths leading to dozens of fountains: del Laghetto (of the little lake), della Vela (of the sail), delle Aquile (of the eagles), della Croce Greca (of the Greek Cross), del Candelabro (of the candelabra), della Capanna cinese (of the Chinese hut), dei Rospi (of the toads), dei cinque Zampilli (of the five spouts). The fountains number 97 in all, including the majestic age-old Fountain dell’Aquilone (of the eagle) designed by Vasanzio at the request of Pope Paul V (Camillo Borghese, 1605-1621). With its great mass of water gushing forth during the summer, it offers visitors a delicious respite from the heat.
La Casina di Pio IV
Once you step out of the forest, your tour is almost over. However, the most ancient part of the Vatican Gardens is yet to come. It is the original area created back in 1279 by Pope Nicholas III.
Admire the stunning Casina Pio IV, a building which takes its name from the pope who completed the building in 1558. Created in fact by Pope Paul IV (Gian Pietro Carafa, 1555-1559), work on it only ended in 1558 during the pontificate of Pope Pius IV (Giovanni Angelo De’ Medici, 1559-1565) who then used it both as a summer residence and as a hunting lodge at a time when wildlife was still plentiful in the Vatican.
Interestingly, the original area of the Vatican Gardens situated in front of the Casina Pio IV gave birth in 1288 to the first considerations of a systematic botanical project in Italy. We owe this development to the physician of Pope Nicholas IV (Girolamo Masci, 1288-1292), Simone da Genova, who not only created an herbal garden for the Pope, dedicated to medicinal plants, but also systematically classified names and properties of these.
Pontifical Academy of Sciences
Today the herbal garden no longer exists; in its place stand centuries old atlas cedar trees and great coast redwoods. The Casina Pio IV houses the meetings of the Pontifical Academies of Science and of Social Sciences.
Fountain of the Sacrament
Your visit to the Vatican Gardens ends with the view of three fountains: Peschiera (fish-pond), Giardino Quadrato (square garden) and Sacramento (sacrament).
After your tour of the Vatican Gardens, you can access the Vatican Museums and enjoy them until closing time (self-guided visit):
The Vatican Museums are the largest, richest, most compelling and perhaps most comprehensive museum complex in the world. Many treasures of the city's history are here, from both classical and later times, and many of the Renaissance's finest artists were in the employ of the Pope.
The Vatican Palace holds a collection of museums on very diverse subjects: displays of classical statuary, Renaissance painting, Etruscan relics, Egyptian artifacts, not to mention the furnishings and decoration of the palace itself.
The Vatican Museums are the Egyptian Museum, the Chiaramonti Museum, the Museum of Popes Clement XiV and Pius Vi, Gregorian Museum of Etruscan Art, Antiquarium Romanum, the Vase Collection, the Biga Room, the Gallery of the Candelabra, Gallery of the Tapestries, Gallery of the Maps, the Apartment of St.Pius V, the Sobieski Room, the Room of the Immaculate Conception, Raphael's Rooms and Loggias, the Collection of Modern Religious Art, the Sistine Chapel, the Apostolic Library, the Vatican Picture Gallery, the Gregorian Museum of Profane Art, the Christian Museum, the Missionary Museum of Ethnology, and the Carriage Pavilion.
Justly known as one of the most famous places in the world, the Sistine Chapel is the site where the conclave for the election of the popes and other solemn pontifical ceremonies are held. The ceiling as well as the wall above the altar bear the magnificent frescoes by Michelangelo. Pope Julius II commissioned the Florentine master sculptor and painter to decorate the ceiling between 1508 and 1512. Much later, from 1537 to 1541, Michelangelo was again called to create The Last Judgement on the wall above the altar, a fresco which would change the course of Western art.
Built according to the architectural design of Baccio Pontelli by Giovannino de Dolci between 1475 and 1481, the chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who commissioned it. A large rectangular room with a barrel-vaulted ceiling, it is divided into two unequal parts by a marble screen. The screen and the transenna were built by Mino da Fiesole and other artists.
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Free Admission for children under 6. You do not need to consider them while booking.
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