Inside Pope’s first refuge: A sumptuous lakeside villa

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It was pope Urban VIII who first decided in 1626 to establish the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, which is 30 kilometres (19 miles) from Rome and is also home to the large telescope of the Vatican’s Observatory.

Pope Alexander VII called in Baroque architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini to develop a new wing in 1659.

Centuries later, after several other villas had been incorporated into the land, Pope Pius XI opened a farm, where he kept animals which had been given to him as gifts — including wild boar and gazelles.

It now houses cows, free-range hens, cockerels and pontifical bees.

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Freshly laid eggs, milk, vegetables, fruit, honey and fat rounds of caciotta cheese from the farm are eaten by the pope at breakfast or end up in the kitchen of the papal household back in the Vatican, or on the shelves of the tiny state’s supermarket.

Last year the environmentally-conscious Benedict was also given vines to plant at the villa to make a locally-produced wine for his dinner table, with no carbon footprint.

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