Pope Francis wants you to enjoy the gardens he's not using

Maybe it's because we're in the middle of another cold snap. Or because I was stuck inside for most of the day with a baby who's teething and a two-year-old having one of those days. Or maybe it's because our heat went out this morning and it was getting awfully chilly indoors by the time the repairman came with the (expensive) new part we needed. Whatever the reason, I'm thinking a stroll in a Mediterranean garden would suit me very well right about now. So, this morning's news that the pope has opened the Castel Gandolfo gardens to the public struck me as especially welcome.

Last summer, Pope Francis broke with tradition by not spending the season at Castel Gandolfo, the papal retreat 15 miles outside of Rome. (He didn't leave his post in Buenos Aires for holidays, either.) The villa is also where Pope Emeritus Benedict lived for a few months after he resigned, while his retired-pope digs were being readied in Vatican City. (See this breathless writeup for some details about what's there, or this much drier (but very detailed) account of how each pope did or did not use the property. And then there's this rundown of significant moments in CG history.)

Now, another "exceptional" act from Pope Francis, allowing the general public to tour the Barberini Gardens. Make your arrangements here.

No word on how long this arrangement will last -- though it seems safe to assume the pope will spend this summer, like the last, at the Vatican, so summer vacationers may be able to count on access to the gardens on their holiday this year. Are you curious? Would you go out of your way to visit, if you could?

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.

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