Sharing travel stories through fashion

A Private Tour of the Vatican Gardens

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:
Find Joanne’s website here:

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

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