Gardens of the Vatican City Facts & History

The stunning Vatican Gardens are located within the walls surrounding the Vatican City. The tall walls, called “mura leonine” after Pope Leo IV, separate the Pope’s State from the city of Rome. One of the most impressive things about the Vatican Gardens is how impressively huge they are. Indeed, the Vatican City extends for about 44 hectares. The gardens cover almost a half of the city, nearly 25 hectares, and are scattered with a lush vegetation, exotic plants and beautiful artworks such as fountains, statues and buildings.

Credits: image By Stefan Bauer, http://www.ferras.atOwn work, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link
Location: in the Vatican Museums
Tickets: Needed / Visit Vatican Gardens Tour Fees and Hours
Accessibility: Partially Accessible / Visit Vatican Gardens Tour Fees and Hours
Kid-friendly Attraction

Origins and History of the Vatican Gardens

Even though the origins of the Vatican Gardens dates back to Pope Nicholas III (1277 – 1280), the present structure of the gardens must be attributed to Pope Julius II (born as Giulio della Rovere), patron of arts, who commissioned Bramante the current design of the Gardens, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and also the famous Raphael’s Rooms in the Vatican Museums.
Further works were carried out under the Popes Clemens VII and Paul III, who designed the “secret garden” within the Vatican Gardens.

Credits: image by @Roma_Wonder

Next, Pope Paul IV commissioned the construction of a little palace surrounded by lush vegetation.
Today the charming building is known as “Casina di Pio IV” (which literally translated means “Pio IV little house”) and is home to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the real jewel of the Vatican Gardens, west of the Belvedere Courtyard! In front of this patrician villa stands another garden with radiating pathways bordered by geometrical hedges. This garden is known today as “Giardino dei semplici” dedicated to the growing of medical herbs.

Credits: image by @Roma_Wonder

The Fountains

From 1500’s to present day, the structure of the Vatican Gardens hasn’t changed that much.

However, it’s worth mentioning that in 1600’s Pope Paul V had the ancient Trajan Aqueduct renovated. Thanks to these works, it was possible to build some fountains inside the Vatican Gardens (the water comes from Bracciano Lake) such as the “Fountain of the Eagle” and the “Fontana della Galea” or the “Galea Fountain”, located at the left of the Bramante Staircase and named after the great, vessel in the middle of the basin.

Look closely at the cannons: a complicated system of tubes within the gallons enables them to spout water! The meaning of this masterpiece, attributed to Martino Ferrabosco e Jan van Zanten (Giovanni Vasanzio), can be understood from the inscription located on the side of the fountain and reading:

“The warship of the Pontiffs does not spout flames, but sweet water which the fire of battle tames.”

Credits: image by @Roma_Wonder

Life in the Vatican Gardens

According to sources, Leon XIII dedicated a lot of time and attention to the gardens. He liked following firsthand the gardeners at work and had a vineyard and some sheds built.

It was not unusual to see little goats, deers and gazelle donated to the Pope wandering around the gardens. Another gift that certainly enriched the already stunning Vatican Gardens was a copy of the Grotto of Lourdes!

Moreover, one of the main highlights is the unique view of St. Peter’s dome, a perspective you can get only from within the gardens. The Dome is so close it will looks like you can almost touch it!

Botanical species

Along the meandering pathways extend rare botanical species next to flora typical of the Mediterranean area, as if to spread the message of universality of the Church.

The combination of classic and exotic makes of the Vatican Gardens an oasis of peace or earthly paradise if you rather, featuring cypresses, pines, oleanders, but also species coming from far away such as Asia, Americas and Lebanon.

How to Visit the Vatican Gardens

This article about the history of the Vatican Gardens ends here. If it inspires you to visit the gardens firsthand, you can read all the information about skip the line tickets, location, hours and available guided tours in our related article “Vatican Gardens Tour Fees and Hours” where we explain everything in detail. Just know for now that the Vatican Gardens are not free to wandering around. They can be accessed only with an official tour guide of the Vatican Museums.
Enjoy your reading and your visit!