Friday, June 24, 2016

Viva La Papa (Gardens)

Last week during our three-day trip to Rome, we took a special field trip to the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. I was absolutely blown away by the site’s extensive history as well as the fantastic gardens. Once while visiting a church, the tour guide told our group, “this place is like history lasagna.” I have come to realize that this statement holds true wherever you are in Italy and the Papal Gardens were no exception.
In 80-96 A.D, the Emperor Domitian ordered a villa to be built on the ruins of the legendary town of Alba Longa. A thousand years later, in the 12th century, the Gandolfi family built a castle on the same site. It was fascinating to see some of the ruins of Emperor Domitian’s villa to be maintained and incorporated into the present day garden.
Then, in the 13th century, the castle passed to the powerful Roman family Savelli until 1604, when the village was bought by the Camera Apostolica and became Church property. The Popes "lost" the summer residence when in 1870 the Italian troops occupied Rome, and the Papal States ceased to exist. Pius IX declared himself a "prisoner in the Vatican" and never left the Apostolic Palace.
Finally, the Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and the Italian State, signed February 11, 1929, created an independent State named Vatican City State. This small state also included the papal property at Castel Gandolfo.
There were several distinct areas of the Papal Gardens, all of which were unique and beautiful in their own way; however, my favorite one is pictured here. The shaped boxwood hedges create symmetrical balance, as each side was a mirrored image of the other. Red and white plants were organized in patterns contrasting against the rich green boxwood, catching the eye and leading your gaze down the expansive garden. I had only seen photographs of this particular formal garden style, and I can now tell you, it is even more impressive in real life and captivating to look at.
While I have loved every second of this remarkable study abroad experience, visiting the Papal Gardens was by far one of my favorite days. So until next time with visions of the Papal Gardens dancing through my head, grazie and gig 'em! 

-Lauren K  

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