Dan Brown, in The Da Vinci Code, has Aringarosa meeting the Vatican delegation at the Pope’s summer residence in the township of Castel Gandolfo.
“From the access road, Gandolfo resembled a stone monster pondering a suicidal leap. Perched at the v ery edge of a cliff, the casstle leaned out over the cradle of Italian civilization – the valley where the Curiazi and Orazi clans fought long before the foundings of Rome.”
Castel Gandolfo, in the Lazio region near Rome, is home to seven thousand people. The township itself, in the Alban Hills, is spread over 14 square kilometers and looks out over Lake Albano. The site was at one point the summer residence of Emperor Domitian. The landmark which gives its name to the town, Castel Gandolfo, was originally a castle built by the Gandolfo family in the 12th century. The pope’s administration bought the castle from the Savelli family at the end of the sixteenth century. The papal summer residence was built by Urban VIII in the seventeenth century. It was abandoned for seventy years after the end of the Papal State in 1870.
Dan Brown weaves into the story the Specula Vaticana – the Vatican Observatory based at Castel Gandolfo. Aringosa, as he arrives at the summer residence, resents the evidence of the Vatican’s engagement with astronomy found in the two towers, archival library and tourism-related activities.
In 1929 the Vatican was able to secure extraterritorial status from the Italian government for Castel Romano. Pope Paul VI died at Castel Gandolfo. John Paul II spent a lot of time in the gardens there. Benedict XVI has already made it clear that he will continue the Papal connection with the town.