When Pope Benedict announced that he would resign last week, speculation immediately turned toward who would pick up where he left off, but one of the more tantalizing mysteries facing Vatican observers was exactly where an ex-pope might go. The answer was given a little while later, when the pontiff announced plans to visit Castel Gandolfo, a traditional papal summer residence and popular tourist attraction roughly 10 miles from Rome.
The pope's retreat, with its sweeping gardens and view of Lake Albano, compares rather favorably to most communities -- and has a number of things in common with Florida's many retirement developments. The lakeside surrounding the town of Lazio has been a destination for well-heeled Romans for going on 400 years and these days it's positively littered with comely villas and ill-advised statuary.
Tourists come to this part of Italy to see the ruins of the residence of the early Roman Emperor Domitian and to visit St. Thomas, a church built by the incomparable sculptor Bernini. The area's natural beauty and the papal residence are also big draws. A road leads up from the center of town to the pope's summer place and, come August, visitors will be able to receive a blessing from the former head of the church.
Pope Benedict will be in Castel Gandolfo while the Papal Conclave takes place. Not a bad place to go after giving notice.