VATICAN CITY (AP) — Normally there's lots of fanfare when the pope travels. But the Vatican says Benedict XVI slipped away for the day without notice for lunch and prayer in the mountains of central Italy.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the pope's spokesman, said Saturday that a day earlier Benedict went to pray in a mountaintop sanctuary known as Madonna of the Needy.

Then the pope lunched with a cardinal in the town of Carsoli and later visited a church in Rocca di Mezzo, known for its cool summer temperatures. The Apennine town, 140 kilometers (90 miles) east of Rome, is a busy base in winter for cross-country skiers.

Instead of vacationing in the Alps as in the past, Benedict is spending this summer at the papal retreat in Castel Gandolfo, one of Rome's suburban hill towns.