Castel Gandolfo lies on the western side of Lake Albano, and is part of the ‘Most Beautiful Villages of Italy’. The area has been identified with the ancient city of Alba Longa, founded by Aeneas, progenitor of Rome. During the Roman period, many prominent people have built their villa here, such as Pompey and the emperor Domitian.
The current village was formed around the tenth century around a castle and for the first time a Papal Bull mentions the Church of San Michele in 1244. The village was owned by Gandolfi, hence the current name. By the end of 1200 Castel Gandolfo became a possession of the Savelli family until 1597 when it was acquired by the Apostolic Camera for debt. In 1608 it was declared an inalienable property of the Holy See.
In the Renaissance, the castle was transformed into a palace by Pope Urban VIII Barberini and became the summer residence of the Pope. Alexander VII enlarged the palace and instructed Bernini to build the accommodation area in the front. Following the Pope’s example, many Roman noble families built their villas here including Torlonia and Cybo.
Many intellectuals and artists have gone to Castel Gandolfo and have described it in their works including Goethe, Stendhal, Winckelmann and Massimo d’Azeglio.