Covering over half of the Vatican city-state, the Vatican Gardens expand over an impressive 23 hectares. They were essentially a rough expanse of orchards and vineyards early in the 13th century until 1279, when Pope Nicolas III decided to move his residence from the Lateran Palace to the back of the Vatican and had the gardens enclosed with a wall.
In the 16th century, Pope Julius II had architect Donato Bramante, creator of the famous Bramante Staircase in the Vatican Museums, split the gardens into three sections. Bramante reworked the gardens in the Renaissance design, installed a giant labyrinth, introduced Lebanese Cedars and built a fortified stone wall that still stands to this day.
Although the Vatican Gardens are closed to the general public, they can be seen by specialized tours. Those who visit will find expansive and well-manicured gardens and lawns, fountains, priceless works of art and a number of buildings.