A permanent exhibition dedicated to almost two centuries of papal travel opened recently at the newly-enlarged Padiglione delle Carrozze in the Vatican Museums.
The exhibition showcases the popes' modes of transport since 1825 and includes the gold leaf-covered Berlina di Gran Gala created in 1826 for Pope Leo XII, and more modern cars such as the white Fiat 1107 Nuova Campagnola 1980 "popemobile" used by Pope John Paul II when he was shot during an assassination attempt in St Peter's Square in 1981.
In 1909, when an American archbishop presented Pope Pius X with the Vatican's first car, the pontiff refused to use it, claiming it was too noisy for the Vatican gardens. In 1922 Italian company Bianchi donated a Bianchi Type 20 to the Vatican, later becoming its first official car supplier.
In 1929, following the signing of the Lateran Pacts with Italy, the Vatican introduced its own car-registration system using the license plate SCV (Stato della Città del Vaticano). Horse-drawn carriages were quickly phased out, and by 1975 the white jeep-style “popemobile" was on the scene.
Today's popemobiles are made by Mercedes-Benz, which created the first electric popemobile in 2011, while the latest addition to the papal fleet is a couple of electric cars by Renault that are used on the grounds of Castel Gandolfo, the pope's summer retreat south of Rome.