Scroll down for videoWhen the 117 cardinals enter Vatican City to elect the next pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI will have left the havoc inside the city's walls far behind, opting instead for the shaded gardens of his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, in hills just 15 miles south-east of Rome.Secluded in the lakeside retreat while the traditional process of the conclave is underway to elect the 266th leader of the Roman Catholic Church, the 85-year-old will enjoy cooler temperatures and tranquil afternoons with strolls through the surrounding gardens, lush orchards and vast meadows.
The luxurious, historical Apostolic Palace and Pontifical Villas that contain staterooms dating from the 17th and 18th centuries have offered an oasis to popes for centuries, when they sought refuge from the summer heat of Rome. And the majestic staterooms, which include an 18th-century frescoed gallery and an audience chamber, will host the frail pope as he moves into retirement after abdicating on 28 February.
Contemplation, hush and solitude will be the order of the day at this enchanting state, which overlooks the nearby Lake Albano. The area's natural beauty has been enhanced over the years, so that the papal residency's grounds now house flourishing terraced gardens and lush green lawns encircling lakes covered with water lilies.
The sweeping grounds feature box hedges impeccably trimmed into globes and pyramids, and an abundance of plant life – such as the exotic splendid monkey puzzle trees and colourful camellias, gardenias, azaleas and Chinese hibiscus – thanks to the mild winters and rich volcanic soil. Sprinkling fountains, such as the gushing Fountain of the Eagle, elaborate sculptures and a replica of the grotto of Lourdes adorn the sprawling terrain where Benedict will await news of his successor.
This enchanting retreat will only be temporary, though. When renovation work is completed on a modest cloistered convent within the Vatican walls, Benedict will return to the state where, he says, he will see out his remaining days "hidden to the world" and living "a life dedicated to prayer".The Pope made history when he announced that he was to stand down due to "advanced age", becoming the first to do so for six centuries.