Pope Francis shuns lavish hilltop palace to spend summer in Vatican

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis broke with another papal tradition on Thursday, and revealed he will not spend his summer in the lavish palace in the hilltop town of Castel Gandolfo, host to popes for centuries and a favoured retreat of his predecessor Benedict XVI.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Pope Francis would stay in the Vatican City over the summer despite the usually stifling heat in Rome.

He will remain in the Domus Santa Marta, a modern hotel-style residence where he has lived since his elevation in March, choosing not to move into the spacious and regal papal apartments.

Millions of people in recession-hit Italy are likely to make a similar decision this year. Official data last month showed that one in two Italians were unable to afford one week of holiday away from home in 2012.

The former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina has set a humble tone for the papacy. He has said he wants the 1.2 billion-member Catholic Church to focus on helping the poor and to become more austere itself.

He will visit Castel Gandolfo, in the Alban Hills outside Rome, to say a Sunday blessing on July 14, Father Lombardi said. He is due to visit Brazil later in the month, his first trip abroad as pontiff.

The former Pope Benedict, the first pope to abdicate in 600 years, liked to spend his summers in Castel Gandolfo, and also chose to spend the first few months of his retirement in the complex of hilltop villas boasting lush gardens, a farm and stunning views.