Orientation in the Countryside

Tina Rocchio Resident Director for Italy Programs


January 27, 2018

Here is a bit of a summary on our celebratory day in the countryside!

We began the day at Piramide Metro Station; as a last-minute switcharoo, I took nearly half the group off to the Farmer's Market of Circo Massimo (Saturdays&Sundays only) while the rest went, as planned, to the Testaccio Market (everyday through 2pm, except Sundays).

We then headed out to the hills just southeast of Rome known as the Castelli Romani. These are towns such as Marino, Frascati, Rocca dei Papi, Rocca Priora, Ariccia, Albano Laziale, Nemi and Castel Gandolfo. The area has long been the weekend refuge for Romans escaping the heat of the city. Still today, people go to the Castelli for a walk and a meal.

For lunch, we went to the family-owned restaurant, da Pietrino e Renata. Some of our servers were Pietrino and Renata's grandchildren, already the third generation of the family restaurant. The restaurant is in the town of Genzano, famous for its bread (you can ask for pane di Genzano in any Roman grocery or deli) and for its annual infiorata for the Corpus Domini in June. They literally cover the roads leading up to the cathedral with beautiful tapestries created with flower petals. Much like the mandala tradition, they take days and nights to create and are swept away in just a matter of moments.

After a long lunch of every course minus desert (to leave room for gelato), we proceeded to Castel Gandolfo, best known as a part of the Pontifical Parish of St Thomas of Villanova and the Pope's summer residence. Castel Gandolfo overlooks the Lago di Albano; across the lake we saw the village of Nemi (best known for the native, tiny, flavourful wild strawberries). Beyond Nemi is yet another volcanic lake, Lago di Nemi.

There are local trains that run from Stazione Termini all the way to all of the main villages of the Castelli, including Castel Gandolfo. If you do plan a trip back to Castel Gandolfo, be sure to catch the train to Albano Laziale. The train would leave you along the hillside, overlooking the lake, about halfway between the lakefront and the village high above. Take a look at the Paddle Lab web site for a great morning or afternoon kayaking on the lake; Francesco and his colleagues speak English and are very experienced kayak guides. 

Remember, the entire area of Castelli is very well known for their wines, both red and white, coupled with a delicious sandwich filled with Porchetta, the local herb-stuffed roast pork. These can be had at one of the hundreds of roadside Fraschette.