CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 19, 2010 ( "The view is enchanting from all directions," the director of the pontifical villa at Castel Gandolfo says when he describes the Pope's summer residence.

Benedict XVI, following a 400-year tradition, has been at Castel Gandolfo since July 7. Unlike previous years, he did not elect for a time of vacation in the mountains, but went directly to the summer residence where he has a schedule that includes time for writing.

Pope Urban VIII (pope from 1623-1644) established the papal summer residence at the pontifical villas.

Saverio Petrillo, director of the Pontifical Villas, spoke to Vatican Radio about the site.

It does not have the type of artwork that attracts art lovers, he said, but referring to the "transcendent art or to the miracle of nature" is another matter.

"Green spaces dominate and the view is enchanting from all directions," Petrillo said, "from the side of the Tyrrhenian Sea, visible on the horizon, from the lakeside (of Lake Albano), ever lively and surging with movement; from the surrounding hillsides that slope down to the villa and even from the view on to the town of Albano, with its characteristic little square, adorned with ancient shops that have lost none of their former fascination."

Guest of honor

A local parish priest affirmed that area residents always welcome the Pope with fresh excitement. Mass times are changed so the people can join the Holy Father to pray the midday Angelus on Sundays. That weekly meeting has been, in fact, the Pontiff's only public audience for July. The Wednesday general audiences are suspended until Aug. 4.

The Pope's presence gives a particular flavor to local events.

The annual peach festival on July 25 becomes a small token to honor the Holy Father as a delegation of farmers presents him with a basket of the first and best fruits of the peach harvest.

The Aug. 15 solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady is also seen as an annual appointment with the Pope.

Another popular event is the feast of St. Sebastian, the town's patron, celebrated Sept. 1.

Father Waldemar, the parish priest of San Tommaso, told L'Osservatore Romano that "the high point is the blessing that the Pope imparts to a delegation of the organizers," as if he were personally imparting his blessing to everyone.