The Villa in the Vatican Gardens
( Originally Published 1907 )
The Vatican Garden is divided into three sections, as map 1 shows and as we saw distinctly from the dome, when we were at Position 9. The first part is a thick wood in which stands a villa easily reached by broad paths from the Vialone Belvedere, the path running along the west wall of the Vatican. The second part is an open space north of the first part, laid out in fanciful plots ornamented with all kinds of flowering shrubs. The third lies west of these two sections, forming a miniature wilderness in itself. We saw the Pope and Monsignore Pescini in one of its quiet recesses. In this region Leo XIII built his Casino now before us as we stand on the terrace above the grotto.
The building of this little villa illustrated perfectly the fashion in which the palace of the Vatican grew to its present proportions. At first the Vatican was small enough, until successive Popes began to erect buildings for different purposes at easy distances from the palace; then those were joined by colonnades or galleries or other buildings, until they became parts of the main structure. In this way was built the Hall of Statues, which at one time was a summer house of a Pope. Thus Leo built this casino (or "little cottage"), in this bit of forest. Pope Leo in his old age got tired of the imprisonment of the Vatican. He could not very well break the law and tradition laid down by Pius IX and his advisers, that the Pope should not go forth into Rome and Italy until his rights were restored. It was certainly in his power to do so—to go over to his summer residence of Castel Gandolpho for a change of scene and air ; but to take the law in his own hands would have invited other troubles, for which he was not prepared.
Therefore he built this villa, and took up his abode here when he felt the need of a change. In this lovely seclusion he could for a time shake off the cares of office. Observe the avenue at the left. Just such avenues cross and recross each other in all parts of the garden. Some are shut in by partitions of box and laurel, high as groves of oak. Others are lined with orange-trees cut into hedges, in which fruit and blossoms give a delightful contrast to the deep green of the foliage. A hermit might live here in perfect silence, so restful is everything, so little invaded by the coarse loudness of the crowd. It is with pleasure that the Pope escapes to it after his laborious routine at the palace.
Our next position is on a path called the Viale del Pilone, which we saw from the dome in Number 9. Find on the Map number 32, and remember that we are to be facing nearly southward.