Pope Francis has decided that the papal farm should be shared with the general public. Castel Gandolfo, a papal estate located 15 miles south of Rome, has hens, ostriches, turkeys, rabbits and cows that feed the pope and his visitors at the Santa Marta Hotel located on the property.
Starting next year, visitors will be tour the place and see the dairy, meat and vegetables produced on site, a practice that has been in place since Pope Pius XI built the farm between 1929 and 1934. The farm isn't organic but continues to follow the agricultural methods of that era, which include using natural fertilizers. Chemicals are used only when necessary, Osvaldo Gianoli, who runs Castel Gandolfo, told the Associated Press.
"We wait for the order from Santa Marta," Gianoli said on how his staff prepares the pontiff’s food when he visits the Santa Marta Hotel. Francis stopped by last month for lunch. "We proceed according to that order and put together a special basket for the Holy Father that reaches his table and his kitchen."
Castel Gandolfo is the papal Camp David of sorts. Popes usually take vacations there during the summer months. However, Francis, 77, has decided to stay in his suite at the Vatican during vacations instead of at the 136-acre estate. Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI was the last pope to stay on the property after he resigned from his top post in 2013.
Pope Francis has already expressed his desire to open up the estate to the public. In March, the gardens became publicly accessible. There have been about 8,000 people who visited them. Now, as the papal farm braces for visitors, Gianoli expects comprehensive farm and garden tours to be offered "and, why not, even the possibility of tasting our products," he said.
Perhaps the most famous animals at the papal farm will be two donkeys the pope received as a gift from Eurolactis, a Swiss donkey milk manufacturer, on Dec. 5.
“The Pope, who named himself after St Francis, the protector of all animals, revealed that he himself, when he was a baby, was brought up on donkey’s milk,” Pierluigi Christophe Orunesu, the founder of the company, told reporters.