A view of Pope’s apartment in Castel Gandolfo, near Rome, Italy. (Reuters)
CASTEL GANDOLFO – It may come as a surprise to most people, but about 40 children were born in the bedroom of the pope at the pontifical summer residence south of Rome.
Now that bedroom, which became a makeshift delivery room when the residence housed refugees during World War Two, and the rest of the papal apartments have been opened to the public as part of a museum.
The frugal Pope Francis decided not to use the villa – similar to but smaller than some of Europe’s royal residences, judging it too luxurious and grandiose.
Locals hope the apartments, the final part of the estate to be open to the public over the past two years, will boost the tourist-based economy of this lakeside town, hurt by Francis’ decision to stay at work in the Vatican and take no vacations.
And, while they understand Francis’ motives, they are praying the next pope will reverse the decision.
“We fear it will be a tombstone for us if future popes follow his example,” Castel Gandolfo mayor Milvia Monachesi told Reuters at the opening on Friday.
“The fact that the palace is now a museum will make a reversal in the future difficult,” she said.
At 55 hectares, the residence, which includes several buildings, elaborate Renaissance-style gardens, a forest and a working dairy farm, is larger than Vatican City.
The Vatican has owned the estate since 1596. The first pope to use it as a summer residence was Urban VIII in the 17th century. About half of some 30 popes since have used it to escape the heat of the Roman summer. (Reuters)