Pope Francis’s favourite veggies are broccoli and cauliflower. That is a fact. And with his love for farming it is no secret that the former bar bouncer turned holy man is known as the most down to earth pontiff of the 21st century.
It was in 2014 when the leader of the Catholic church first opened Castel Gandolfo to members of the public. Situated outside Rome, the capital city of Italy, the castle also houses the pope’s summer residence.
Not many people know, though, that Castel Gandolfo has its very own farm. Since 2015, after intervention from the pope himself, Vatican City visitors are also encouraged to purchase fresh produce from the farm.
“The full complex … spans 136 acres (about 55 hectares), of which 62 acres (25 hectares) are used for farming. Much of what Francis eats from fresh olives to Cacciotti cheese comes from this land,” report Newsweek.
The article further states that unlike some of his predecessors, Francis does not appear to be particularly interested in relaxing at the retreat, which features gardens, historic ruins and a swimming pool.
Newsweek quotes Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, who claims that the pope said, “I don’t use Castel Gandolfo. Why not let the people enjoy it?” So, that is exactly what the church did…
Ancient agricultural methods
Ndtv reports that Francis’s predecessor, Pope Pius XI, had the farm built between 1929 and 1934. It still operates according to the agricultural methods of the time. No, it’s not an organic farm but it works with natural fertilisers. Synthetic chemicals are used only when strictly necessary.
The Vatican head farmer Alessandro Reale earlier told CCN that a basket of fresh produce from the farm is prepared for the pope’s breakfast table every morning and sent down to the Vatican.
“Special requests from Francis include broccoli and cauliflower, the farmers tell us. Handmade cheeses, milk, eggs and yogurt are also made fresh daily and put in the pope’s basket.”Vatican head farmer Alessandro Reale
The vegetable garden at the farm also has a special plot where seeds from the White House, gifted to Francis by former US president Barack Obama in 2014, are planted.
Reale also told CCN that the farm has 1 000 olive trees – over half of them dating back to the year 1200. “Each year, they produce a small number of bottles of olive oil for the pope and officials who live in the Vatican. The olive oil is high-quality.”
Also, chickens on the farm feed on the extra dough from remnants of communion wafers, made by sheltered nuns who live on the property.
A friend of small-scale farmers
In a June 2014 address to the the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Pope Francis said the world must do more to help small-scale farmers. The pope believes the coronavirus crisis should spur efforts to create a global food system capable of withstanding future shocks.
“I appreciate and encourage the efforts of the international community to enable each country to implement the necessary mechanisms to achieve food autonomy, whether through new models of development and consumption or through forms of community organisation that preserve local ecosystems and biodiversity,” the pope wrote in Spanish.
- Want to travel from Mzansi to visit the pope’s farm? It only opens for members of the public on Saturdays. You’ll have to buy a full-day ticket of €40 (about R700). This includes a visit to the Vatican museums and a return trip to Castel Gandolfo on the Vatican steam train. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Castel Gandolfo farm was closed for the public. However, according to apnews, the farm was reopened to the public in June 2021.
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