Rome and its surroundings. Nature, gastronomy and art: trip to the “Castelli Romani” District

Look at that sun that has risen, Nanni,
what a scent of roses, carnations and pansè.
As everything is a paradise, Castelli are like that!

“L’Occhialone” the Lakes of Nemi and Albano (Source: notiziecastelli.it)

So says the typical song that accompanies the trip to the Castelli Romani, the picturesque villages on the Alban Hills, a few tens of kilometers south-east of Rome. And the Castelli, easily accessible by car or train, with their mix of blue lakes, woods, breathtaking views, good wine and gastronomic specialties, really look like a paradise!

I want, in the next beautiful days, to climb up above “the eyeball” (L’Occhialone), at the end of the path that retraces the ancient Via Sacra that connected the Appian with Monte Cavo (the ancient Mons Albanus), home to the temple of Jupiter Latium, religious and political heart of the cities of the Latin League, four centuries before the founding of Rome.
The natural balcony is the only point of the area from which you can admire both Lake Albano and Lake Nemi, whose waters fill what remains of the craters of two ancient volcanoes, reminiscent of the shape of a pair of glasses from above.

The amenity and charm of this landscape and the splendor of its vegetation, have made it the favorite holiday resort of Domitian, Emperor of the first century AD, and owner of a large estate built on the remains of the ancient city of Albalonga and which included the entire Lake Albano.
And who knows if Caligula, the emperor who organized great celebrations in honour of Diana on board the two famous ships that kept “parked” in the center of Lake Nemi, already knew the tasty strawberries whose crops occupy most of the shores of this lake.

And also the Popes were conquered by the enchantment of the Castelli. The territory of Castel Gandolfo was in fact chosen as a holiday resort for the popes since the time of Urban VIII who, as soon as elected in 1623, commissioned Carlo Maderno to obstruct a papal palace on the remains of the estate of Domitian. Yet the first to holiday there was Alexander VII, some time later, who completed the building by adding the main facade and the west wing, thanks to the collaboration of Bernini.

Villa Aldobrandini (Source: baroque.it)

A must stop: Frascati, the most famous of the Castelli Romani, well known above all for its Tuscolane villas, the sumptuous late Renaissance and Baroque patrician residences built by the Roman nobility of that period. The villas, among which the wonderful Villa Aldobrandini stands out, born as country houses to be used in the summer, soon became real mansions, exemplifying the power and prestige of the family that lived there. They paid perfume to the most esteemed artists and architects of the time to take care of their enrichment and embellishment.

The town of Grottaferrata, built around the Abbey of San Nilo, is a medieval stop, as is the Byzantine monastery founded about fifty years before the Eastern Schism (1054) and, after this event, remained faithful to the Roman church.

The town of Marino, the City of Wine, is certainly worth a visit, which, lying on a spur of peperino, is famous for its white wine, celebrated in the well nta “Grape Festival”, during which, the fountains of the country flow wine instead of water.

And finally Ariccia, the ancient capital of the Latins, redesigned by the genius of Bernini and very well known for the porchetta, the pride of Italian gastronomy, honored, the first Sunday of September, the famous “Festival of Porchetta”, but tasty, in the rest of the year, in the many “fraschette”, the rustic taverns that populate the city.

the “Frascati Uva” (Source: castelliromani.it)

For a good wine and enchanted hills, you don’t need to escape to Tuscany! Contact me for suggestions, food and wine tours, visits to wineries and tastings in this paradise just a stone’s throw from Rome … I look forward to #aspassoconsara

Posted by Sara Pandozzi

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