The Vatican Gardens has remained relatively closed to the public, until 2011 when Pope Benedict XVI decided to allow regular visits to it. Since then, many tours has been developed with it, including the “Vatican by Train” programme to Castel Gandolfo, opened to the public in 2014 by Pope Francis, which I did not have time to go for.
Tickets for the Vatican Gardens, no matter what tour, can only be purchased online. It gets sold out a few days after they are released for sale about 2 months before.
Online tickets for the same, if not cheaper, price also allow you to skip the famous queue line for ticket purchases to the Vatican Museums and just proceed in 30 minutes before your time slot.
Enter from the relatively short line, with a guy scanning the code on your ticket…
… and just enter the door for security screening.
You’ll enter the main ticket hall. Head to the left if you have gotten your online tickets.
You need to exchange them for the actual ticket at one of these counters. Just follow the signs for whatever ticket you have purchased.
I took the Vatican Gardens tour by open bus as the walking tour was sold out by the time I took a day to decide whether to go or not. This was 2 months prior to my visit. Ouch.
The route of the open bus tour.
A new set of headphones is also provided for the audio guide. Just plug it in to the side of your seat and choose your language.
The bus seats 28 people, and the views are better on the left side, so try to get a seat there first. I spent most of the time looking on the other side of the bus instead, which wasn’t very pleasant.
Sample view of the Square Garden from sitting on the right side of the bus.
The Casina Pio IV, home to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
The Pinacoteca, which can also be seen from the Square Garden when visiting just the Vatican Museums alone.
The Eagle Fountain, or Fontana dell’Aquilone.
The Vatican Radio tower and administration building.
The Lourdes Grotto, a replica of the actual one in Lourdes, France.
The Vatican City Heliport.
The Jubilee 2000 bell.
The Italian Garden.
And approaching my favourite part, and probably purpose of visit…
The Vatican City Railway Station.
The Vatican City Railway Station sidings.
The headshunt is located in a tunnel beneath the Italian Garden.
The entrance of the Vatican City Railway Station.
The gateway to and from the Vatican as part of the Leonine Wall.
The Church of St. Mary Queen of the Family, or Chiesa di Santa Maria Regina della Famiglia, and the Palace of the Governorate as seen from the back.
Heading back to the starting point and passing by the Square Garden once again.
The tour was pretty comfortable, taking about an hour, and it’s good for those who may not want to walk around half a country. Would I opt for the walking tour instead of the bus if I do go back next time? Certainly, if it’s still open then.
Following this, you are free to roam around the Vatican Museums for the day.
Cost of the Vatican Gardens Open Bus Tour: €23
Thanks to my student card, I was able to purchase reduced tickets online, saving quite a bit of money as the full price would be €36 instead. Technically, the open bus tour itself costs €15, but it’s packaged with the Vatican Museums at €8, and is not sold separately. You do need to pass through the museum gates to board the bus anyway. If it makes you feel better, just treat it as a bus tour with free Vatican Museums access instead!