The Castelli Romani (literally, Roman Castles), a collection of hilltop villages around Lake Albano and Lake Nemi about 25 minutes south of Rome, have always been synonymous with great food and simplicity. In times gone by, citizens of Rome would come here on the weekends to escape the hustle and bustle and heat of Rome, buying food along the way and enjoying it with local wine in a tavern.
These days, the area is best known for Castel Gandolfo, where popes have passed the summers for centuries, but there are many picturesque villages to visit and the region is one of great natural beauty.
Sometimes this part of Lazio is referred to as “the Roman Countryside” and it’s a great place for enjoying food and wine in a relaxed atmosphere. The tradition started by Roman emperors 2000 years ago is still alive and well in the Roman Countryside today.
THE CASTELLI ROMANI:
Ariccia, Genzano di Roma, Nemi, Castel Gandolfo, and Frascati
Ariccia is an ancient place. It was part of the Latin League before the foundation of Rome.
In Renaissance times, some of the greatest architects of the period (Bernini among them) were responsible for the stately buildings that grace Piazza di Corte.
Around the corner from Piazza di Corte, stateliness bows out and informality takes center stage at the fraschette. In the tavern-like atmosphere of these casual eateries, you’ll have the chance to taste typical local products such as porchetta (a whole pig roasted with herbs), the great local bread and wine, and classic dishes such as spaghetti alla carbonara and pappardelle with wild boar.
Join Sharon (blog writer) and Marco (driver) in Ariccia for a little antipasto shock at the fraschette!
Genzano di Roma
Genzano is best known for its bread, pane casareccio di Genzano, and for the Infiorata Festival.
During this event, the streets of Genzano are decorated with flowers arranged in mosaics, creating a spectacular floral carpet on the sloping pavement. This tradition goes back to the 17th century as part of the celebration of Corpus Domini.
The best-preserved town of the Castelli Romani, Nemi is enjoyed by simply walking around and immersing oneself in its country atmosphere. The views from the village are breathtaking.
Here you will have a chance to taste Fragolino, a local liqueur made from the wild strawberries that have made the village noteworthy. These wild strawberries are also used to make jam and other delicacies.
For those passionate about prosciutto, you might want to duck into Norcineria Castelli for a moment. This meat shop, with dozens of the fragrant cured pork legs hanging from the ceiling, is something to behold (and breathe in). A true Prosciutto Paradise!
Lake Albano, where Castel Gandolfo sits enthroned, is actually the flooded remains of two volcanic craters.
The placid town of Castel Gandolfo, summer retreat of the popes since the 17th Century, is packed with historic sites, fabulous panoramas, and great stories. The origins of Castel Gandolfo are very old, going back to pre-Roman times. It was possibly the site of Alba Lunga, capital of the Latin League, an important place in Italy's ancient past.
Dominated by spectacular Villa Aldobrandini, Frascati is renowned not only for its wine production but also for the many villas that dot the landscape. These luxurious country houses, which came into vogue starting in the 16th Century, were built by popes, cardinals, and Roman nobility as status symbols and centres of social activity.
Check out our day trips from Rome to Castel Gandolfo & the Ancient Appian Way, and the Roman Countryside!
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