Description: Castel Gandolfo is a small Italian town in Lazio that occupies a height overlooking Lake Albano about 30 km south-east of Rome, best known as the summer residence of the Pope.
The Pope's residence (residenza papale in Italian) is a 17th-century building designed by Carlo Maderno for Pope Urban VIII. The papal palace, and the adjoining Villa Barbarini that was added to the complex by Pius XI have enjoyed extraterritorial rights since the 1929 treaty with Mussolini, the little piazza directly in front was renamed Piazza della Libertŗ in the first flush of Italian unity after 1870. The papal palace remained unused from 1870 until 1929. The parish church, dedicated to St Thomas of Villanova was designed by Bernini on the order of the Chigi Pope Alexander VII.
Castel Gandolfo, one of the hill towns known as the Castelli Romani, probably occupies the site of ancient Alba Longa, capital of the Sabine league. Its name is derived from a fortification of the ducal Gandolfi family in the 12th century, which passed to the Savelli family from whom the Apostolic Camera purchased it in 1596 for 150,000 scudi. Pope Clement VIII was the first pope to come to Castel Gandolfo, but the rebuilding of the old castle was the project of Urban VIII who first came in 1626.
The site of the papal palace, rebuilt on the ruins of the former castle, partly occupies the foundations of a summer residence of the Emperor Domitian that occupied 14 km≤ (5.4 square miles). In the palace's inner courtyard is a Roman bust depicting Polyphemus, the Cyclops from whose cave Ulysses escaped; it was found in the nymphaeum of the Imperial villa's gardens, an artificially constructed grotto of the crater lake's outlet.