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Until very recently the Vatican Gardens were off limits to most visitors. There are reserved times of the day for the Pope to be alone for walking, reading and meditation, but often important visitors and benefactors of the Vatican museums were the only regular folks getting in. Now the Vatican Museum offers a package tour that gives access to the gardens for visitors.
The main benefit of getting the garden tour is skipping the huge lines that form outside the museum. The garden tour for individuals (in which you will be placed in a larger group) or for a group of up to 16 persons must be preordered at the online ticket office and your ticket includes a tour of the gardens as well as unfettered access to the Vatican museums on the same day.
The Vatican gardens tour is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The hours are those of the museum, but final booking will give you an exact group slot time with a guide. The guides are well informed and they take tourists to the highlights of the gardens, the Lourdes Grotto, the trees planted by Popes and heads of state, the various fountains and pathways.
Guests are discouraged from getting too cozy with the lawns and flowers as it is a tour not really a place to stop and rest. The history of the Vatican city state is well explained and the various buildings and their functions are described. The full cost of a ticket is 32 Euros and the reduced ticket for children and students is 24 Euros.
Probably the nicest portion of the gardens is the hilltop in the back where one can see neighborhoods of Rome beyond the walls as well as a back view of St. Peter’s basilica and the Vatican Museums. It is a scenic spot that many are just now starting to appreciate. Guides are full of stories of visits, events and the lore of the Pope’s personal walking grounds. There are two types of tours for visitors who may have physical handicaps or are more time sensitive.
Specialty bookings for University groups and pilgrimage groups are available as well on the website.
There is also a minibus tour of the Vatican gardens every morning from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., except Wednesdays, Sundays and Vatican holidays. The bus leaves every 30 minutes from Pius XII Square, in front of the ORP Meeting Point, More exact information and information can be found on the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi website.