I’ve been inside the Vatican twice before and thought that was pretty cool. What I didn’t know, until recently, is that it is actually possible for me to tour the more exclusive areas of the Vatican.

My friend, the Travel Angel, just began giving behind-the-scenes tours of the Vatican gardens. Better yet, Travel Angel, or Joanne Bergamin, actually lives behind these super secret gates.

Basically, the story goes… Joanne was working for the Pope’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, and each day, she had to pass through the gates of the Vatican. At this point, she was still living in the city of Rome. How she got this job, is quite the secret, I suppose.

Years later, one of those dapper Swiss Guards approached her and said, “Oh hey, I’ve been in love with you for a while now.”

They got married, she moved into the Vatican, and blah-blah-blah. Jealous? Her Instagram has a few photos from the ceremony, if you have the patience to scroll back far enough.

 

A Rundown

Our tour began at a cafe right across the street from the Swiss Guard barracks – coffee, cappuccino, fruit, cakes, pastries, and sandwiches galore. An Italian’s dream come true.

For the next three hours, I felt like I was inside of some mystical little village. The Swiss guards greeted us with smiles and goodmorning‘s in Italian, German, and English. A dozen Fiat 500’s raced by on the cobblestone road in front of me. Apparently these Cardinals aren’t so keen on following the speed limits.

First up, a magnificent fountain of a boat and a view 60 meters above sea level. Joanne handed me a cookie from a nearby bakery and we stopped for a bite while she explained some history behind the fountain.

Next, walked back down the hill to a giant piazza. Supposedly, it rests atop of all documents written about the Vatican and Catholic church.

Fun fact:

if you are a university student, you can actually apply to study in this library and use these Vatican documents to write your thesis. Better start that application soon! I would assume they receive thousands of applications from just Roman students alone each year.

The building on the right side, below, is actually part of an office building, the Travel Angel explained. The people who work inside have the task of eradicating child trafficking.

My favorite part of all was the vast green gardens inside the Vatican walls, which date back to medieval times. I felt like I was standing in an oasis right in the middle of Rome – the abundance of vibrant colors, the absence of trash, and the lack crowds.

There was a series of small trees, or the “Plants mentioned in the Bible,” lined up along a pathway. One tree displayed grapes for making wine. Another grew olives. The most significant, though, was the “spinacristi,” or thorns of Christ. This plant is totally out of season in the fall – as you can see. To get a better idea of what the thorns of Christ look like, click here.

Next we walked past a rusty old train track, the Ferrovia Vaticana. It was constructed between 1929 and 1933 during the reign of Pope Pius XI and is considered the shortest national railway system in the world.

The tour wrapped up with a brisk walk past the Palace of the Governorate of Vatican City State and the actual room where the pope lives. Yes, I got to see his window. No, I did not get to see the pope. 

Joanne “dropped us off” at the front entrance of Saint Peters Basilica, after security guards practically escorted us through the entire building. Casual. At least, it sure seemed that way for Joanne Bergamin.

The best thing I saw might have been this tiny truck with the Vatican logo printed across the door! How cute is this?!

Joanne’s “Exclusive Vatican Gardens Tour” was a real treat. I highly recommend it for anyone living in Rome or just visiting for a short period of time. 

Find Joanne’s Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/travelangel.blog/
Find Joanne’s website here: https://www.travelangel.me

To sign up, just send her a message on Facebook. She can organize tours every afternoon except Sundays.

33 thoughts on “A Private Tour of the Vatican Gardens”

  1. How interesting, Cassidy! How long did your tour last? Would there be a fee for the tour? Wonder if I’m the only one thinking “Pirates of the Caribbean” when seeing that pirate ship, ha! Always enjoyable with you as our tour guide!

    1. Thank you, Coach! There was certainly a fee for the tour, but Joanne did not charge me for it and did not want this information published on my blog post. It lasted about three hours. I totally thought it was a “Pirates of the Caribbean” type of ship too! I tried to search for it on Google, but unfortunately, could not find anything more about it… It’s all so mysterious!

    2. Hi Tom! I do 90 minute tours on weekday evenings from 5.30pm which include St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican grounds and Swiss Guard Barracks, and just touch on the Vatican Gardens. Otherwise I can do longer tours on Saturday mornings which allow you to fully enjoy the Vatican Gardens (away from the big tourist groups)! Cheers, Joanne

  2. Oh wow what an amazing tour! You’re so lucky to have got to see that, it’s sweet that Joanne offers such a tour. It would be a must-do if you’re in Rome I think! 🙂

  3. This was a magnificent article that had me captivated by your storytelling! The way you described your special tour made me feel like I was there with you. The pictures are fantastic too!! I look forward to more posts!

  4. Hi Cassidy,
    Thank you for this amazing post! Your photos are stunning! 🙂 I had the good fortune of visiting the Vatican many years ago. 🙂 However, I never knew that there was more to it than what we saw on the tour. The students that get to use that library are incredibly lucky!!!:)
    I am so pleased that you got to experience this wonderful “behind the scenes” look. If I ever go there again, I would love to do this tour!
    Best, Christina

  5. I like this black ship on the picture 🙂 Looks really cool.
    It is always difficult to read travel posts when you are a travel soul, but have to stay for a long time in one place due to circumstances xD
    But it was nice to see another place, even if on the picture 😉

  6. I have been lucky enough to visit Rome and the Vatican city, since then I have told all my friends everyone should visit Rome and the Vatican atleast once in their life time.

  7. aaaah, this makes me a bit jealous… (luckily just a tiny bit lol) Awesome photos! I really need to go to Rome and Vatican soon 😉 xx

  8. What an awesome opportunity!! I love these photos and would have loved to do this! That girl is living the dream haha

  9. Very good written story. It will be useful to everyone who employess it, as well as me. Keep up the good work – i will definitely read more posts.

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