Surrounded by more than 100 acres of gardens and overlooking the pristine Lake Albano, Pope Benedict XVI will soon make his way to a small hilltop town outside of Rome as he embarks on his new life as a retiree.

Benedict’s post-pontiff life officially begins as of 8 p.m. Thursday, when he’ll become the first retired pope in 600 years. With no examples to follow, much about Benedict’s role within the Catholic Church is unknown.

One thing that is known about his retirement are the picturesque villas where Benedict will spend two months as the final preparations are made on his permanent new lodgings in a convent inside Vatican City’s walls.

The villas are located in the town of Castel Gandolfo, located around 26 kilometres southeast of Rome. The villas already serve as the Pope’s summer residence, and he will be staying in the same room he has been using for the past eight summers.

With Benedict’s arrival in the town of 9,000 fast approaching, preparations are underway to welcome him.

When he arrives via helicopter, he will be greeted by the mayor, a local pastor and town residents.

He will also give a short greeting to the town from the window of his residence.

Benedict’s flat in the villa consists of chapel, a bedroom and a dining room, director of the pontifical villas Saverio Petrillo told the Catholic News Agency.

Petrillo said that although the staff was caught off guard by Benedict’s retirement, the flat only requires some minimal housekeeping before he arrives.

The properties that make up the villas include the Papal Palace, the Barberini Palace, apartment housing for staff, an electrical plant, offices and stables. The grounds are made up of a mixture of gardens and farms.

Clerics expect that Benedict will fill his post-papacy days with a combination of prayer and study.