Day Tripping – Rome to Frascati

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAView of Frascati from belevedere at Villa Aldobrandini, Frascati, Italy, 2012

Just south of Rome, in the Alban Hills, lies a string of hilltowns, villages, and vineyards called the Castelli Romani.  One of my favorites is Frascati the largest and best known for it’s wines and beautiful villas.   Amazingly many of these towns survived the heavy bombing of World War ll.  More than 50% of Frascati was destroyed in the war.

Located a short 12 miles (20km) southeast of Rome, Frascati is easily reached by train, car, or taxi.  I recommend taking the train from Roma Termini station.  Depending on the specific train It takes between 30 and 40 minutes. The regional trains cost about 2 euros one way and it is best to buy a round trip ticket at Termini as sometimes the ticket counter in Frascati is closed for lunch or coffee breaks and you don’t want to miss a train or get on a train without a ticket.

Home to many well preserved villas including Villa Aldobrandini, Villa Falconieri, Villa Parisi, Villa Grazioli, Villa Lancellotti, Villa Muti built by Popes, cardinals, and roman nobles, Frascati is easy on the eyes.  Not all the villas are open to the public but many allow access to the gardens.

We were fortunate to visit in the Fall and the weather was beautiful.  The day was as crisp as a bottle of the well known wine.   I will tell you that you do a lot of walking and stair climbing in this town.  I am not telling you this to discourage you but to ensure that you are mentally prepared.  The effort is worth the amazing views of Rome and surrounding area which you will have many opportunities to photograph.  The city center is easily walked and there are many good restaurants to choose from.

If you have unlimited energy I would recommend a walk up past Villa Aldobrandini along Via Cardinale Guglielmo Massaia to the church of San Francesco d’Assisi part of the Monastery of the Cappuccini.  It is a beautiful walk and the monastery and church at the summit are charming.

Convent of Saint Francesco, Frascati, Italy, 2012Entrance to the small church of San Francesco d’Assisi (1575), Frascati, Italy, 2012

After exerting yourself enjoy lunch and of course some Frascati wine at one of the many cantinas, osterias, and trattorias in the town.  Make sure you bring your camera and your appetite.  Buon Viaggio!!

Tree Covered Trail, Frascati, Italy, 2012Tree lined walk, Frascati, Italy, 2012  

Other Recommended Day Trips

The Vatican Gardens, An Urban Oasis – Rome

Vatican Gardens, Rome, 2013 Upper Terrace, Vatican Gardens, Rome, 2013

Balancing the desire to visit “must see sights” and to relax can be hard at times.  Especially if you have a limited number of days in Rome.  Visiting the Giordini Vaticani will allow you to do both in spectacular style!  The views from the “backyard” of St. Peters along the upper terraces of the garden are nothing short of breathtaking.  Open daily except Wednesdays and Sundays, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.  The guided tour, in small groups of 20 to 25, which lasts approximately two hours winds leisurely through the lush gardens, fountains, statuary, and architectural gems of Vatican City.  The tour guides are friendly and knowledgable and provide you with a historical overview of this special place.

Vatican Gardens, Rome, 2013 Stone Pines Along the Northern Walls, Vatican Gardens, Rome, 2013

The Vatican Gardens have been a place of quiet and meditation for the popes since 1279 when Nicholas III (Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, 1277-1280) moved his residence back to the Vatican from the Lateran Palace.

Within the walls of Vatican City these urban gardens and parks cover more than half of the 109 total acres of Vatican territory to the South and Northeast. The papal heliport, Radio Vatican, and the Vatican Train Station (no longer used) are just a few of the interesting buildings you will see.

Italianate Garden, Vatican Garden, Rome 2013Italianate Garden, Vatican Gardens, Rome, 2013

After your tour you may visit the Vatican Museums or you may want to avoid the crowds in the “front of the house” and continue to relax along the streets of rione Prati.    One of my favorite places to have a panino is DUECENTOGRADI “200 Degrees”.  Located a short five minute walk from the entrance to the Vatican Museums at Piazza Risorgimento, 3.

Under The Tuscan Sun – Enjoying a Vineyard Tour

Castello di Tignano, Tuscany, 2009Harvested grapes prior to pressing hanging in a beautiful stone building at “Il Poggione” near Castello di Tignano, Tuscany, 2009

Several years ago a dear friend Phyllis and her husband Stu met me, Joe, and Joe’s parents for an espresso in the town of Tavarnelle val di Pesa in the beautiful countryside of Tuscany. After relaxing and catching up we accepted their generous invitation to visit a friend Riccardo Casamonti and his vineyard.   The drive through the countryside was a photographer’s dream with spectacular vistas in every direction.   I am sure I asked Stu to stop the car on no less than 10 occasions so I could take a photo.

The small vineyard, “Il Poggione”, is located very near the Castello di Tignano in the town of Barberino Val d’Elsa in the Chianti Region south of Florence.  Riccardo produces 1,200 botles of wine annually and only on the best vintages such as 2006.  Among the wines produced is a wonderful Vin Santo, “holy wine”, a style of Italian dessert wine.  Traditional in Tuscany, these wines are often made from wite grape varieties such as Trebbiano and Malvasia.  Riccardo couldn’t have been more welcoming as he showed us around the farm allowing us to experience wine making from harvest to press to tasting!!

After spending the better part of the day at the vineyard we enjoyed a spectacular lunch of amazing seafood at La Trattoria del Pesce in the nearby town of Bargino.    Truly one of the most memorable days in Italy over the years and a reminder to take advantage of wonderful opportunities when they land at your doorstep.   Phyllis and Stu we will be forever grateful for this amazing experience – Mille Grazie!!  David, Joe, Barbara and Richard

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARiccardo Casamonti, “Il Poggione” Vineyard, Tuscany, 2009

Il Poggione Vineyard, Tuscany, 2009Pressing and fermenting the grapes, “Il Poggione” Vineyard, Tuscany 2009

Day Tripping – Rome to Tivoli

Villa d'este Fall 2013Large Fountain, Villa d’Este, Tivoli, 2012

There are many day trips to nearby towns and cities that you can take from Rome.  Florence, Frascati, Tivoli, and Ostia Antica are among some of my favorites.  Taking the train from Roma Termini Station to Tivoli, located about 30 km to the northeast from downtown Rome, takes about 45 minutes. As the train pulls out of the station and moves into the country you see parts of the city you normally wouldn’t experience and finally as you climb the gently curving hills toward Tivoli you can look forward to beautiful vistas including some waterfalls.

Among Tivoli’s many treasures are Villa d’Este and Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa).  Both exceptional in what they have to offer.  If you have to choose, Villa d’Este, would be my choice for the exquisite fountains, vistas, and greenery. (NOTE: Villa d’Este and Villa Adriana are closed on Mondays)

Upon arriving at the Tivoli Train station walk downhill on  Viale Giuseppe Mazzini.  When you arrive at the traffic circle, round the circle to your right, and stop at Il Ciocco for an espresso. From the back of the bar you can look down upon Villa Gregoriana.  From here you can follow the signs to Villa d’Este and enjoy your walk up into this ancient town.

Cafe Life – La Dolce Vita

Joe, Gerry, and Jochen at Cafe FarneseJoe, Gerry, and Jochen at Cafe Farnese, Rome, 2012

Relaxing outdoors in one of the thousands of cafes that line the streets is part of the Roman way of living.  Cafes come in all shapes and sizes from the very humble to the very chic. One attribute they all share – the waiters will not rush you.  In Italy no one will bring the check until you ask for it – a refreshing change to be sure. Nothing is more enjoyable that sitting outside with friends and family.  People watching,  discussing the news of the day, or planning where you may be going next can take hours!

You will undoubtedly discover a cafe to call your own, generally if you visit an establishment more than three times you are considered a regular, however if you need a suggestion or two some of my favorites areas/cafes include:

Campo di Fiori – Cafe Farnese

Via Veneto – Cafe de Paris

Navona/Piazza Pasquino – Il Piccolo

Piazza del Popolo – Canova

Via Marmorata – Tram Depot

Please share any of your favorites !!!!

Cafe de Paris, Rome, 2013

The Pleasure of Food

Kersten Family at Ristorante Da PancrazioEnjoying a typical Roman pranzo at Ristorante Da Pancrazio, Campo di Fiori

Too say Italians love their food is absurd.  They obsess about it!  Having eaten in just about every region of Italy in every conceivable type of establishment I will say that I especially enjoy traditional Roman dishes.   Roman cuisine evolved from a historical perspective from creative use of what the nobility threw away or “paid” their servants.  Many of the typical Roman dishes incorporated inexpensive items – offal, organ meat, etc. knows as the “quinto quarto”.  Today’s dishes have evolved from those recipes and focus mainly on fresh vegetables, cheeses, and pastas.

When visiting Rome I balance trying new places and new dishes with my favorites.  Some of my favorite places in the Campo di Fiori are listed here.

Cafes, Enotecas, Gelaterias, Osterias, and Pizzarias