Lazio: Off the Beaten Path + Tuscany's Maremma + The Sabine Hills+ Medieval Sermoneta + Subiaco + Caprarola + Lake Bolsena +Spring Gardens + Biking & Hiking in Fiuggi +The Pugnaloni of Acquapendente

Villa D'Este + La Posta Vecchia at Palo + Ceverteri Etruscrian Necropolis
Walled Cities of Umbria: Orvieto, Spoleto, Todi + The Tuscan Archipelego + Lake Bracciano + Viterbo
The Sannio + Naples and the Presepi + Weekend in the Snow + The Castelli Romani

The Best in Rome

Side Trips and Weekend Getaways

One of the great things about staying in Rome is that you are just a short flight away from destinations throughout Europe, and the Middle East. In just two or three hours you can be in Paris, Prague, Greece, even Turkey!

Love the arts? Top ten attractions in Istanbul

Shrouded in Arab history, Turkey is home to delicious cuisine and bordered by beautiful beaches. In the capital city, Istanbul, the wealth of culture can be overwhelming, so take a look at the top attractions.   

1. Garaj
This contemporary performing arts space is hidden in the backstreets of Beyolu, an area known for drinking and mingling. It's at the forefront of the arts scene, producing controversial exhibitions as well as live music.

2. Suleymaniye Mosque
An incredible example of Ottoman architecture and one of the largest mosques in Istanbul, the Suleymainye near the university also offers views of the city from 53 metres above sea level.

3.   Spice Bazaar
One of the oldest spice markets in the world. The myriad aromas of herbs, spices, nuts, dried fruits and vegetables will put a smile on your face.

4. Istanbul Modern
A former warehouse in the Bosphorus area displays a permanent exhibition encompassing the history of modern Turkish art.

5. Basilica Cistern
The largest ancient cistern lies beneath Istanbul. James Bond fans will recognise it from From Russia with Love

6. International Istanbul Jazz Festival
Held each July, this free festival showcases local jazz, as well as notable musicians.

7. Mountain Film Festival
Held in late March, theatrical films and documentaries  with a ocus on diving, mountain climbing and base climbing. dagfilmfest.org

8. Gulhane Park
The former royal gardens, a welcome respite from the Turkish sun. Free concerts are sometimes held here.

9. Rodeo
This modern art gallery hosts avant-garde exhibiitions featuring exciting work from Turkey, Greece, Cyprus and beyond.

10. Erenler Cay Bahcesi
Don't miss a visit to one of the many tearooms. This one doubles as a nightspot, popular with students from the nearby university.

Images by JohnPickenPhoto and Moyan Brenn used under the Creative Commons License.


LAZIO: Off the Beaten Path

The history of Upper Lazio began with ancient Etruscan settlements, which evolved into towns ruled by medieval lords and renaissance Princes. The geography is rich in resources, with volcanic lakes that have left enriched soil and an ideal climate for vineyards and olive groves.These charming ancient towns are all a short drive from Rome, perfect for a day trip, a leisurely lunch and a stroll around. Or make it a weekend excursion and explore three or four of them. These destinations, in the province of Viterbo, are all an easy drive from Rome, and the Cotral bus lines service most of them. www.cotralspa.it By car take the A1 Autostrade del Sole to the Orte exit, turn left towards Viterbo - Montefiascone and follow the signs.
Where to stay: If you decide to make a weekend wander, try Zia Cathy's Country House, a beautifully restored nineteenth century farmhouse in Castel Sant'Elio, with seven charming bedrooms, each with its own bath, lovely gardens and a swimming pool. www.ziacathys.it

For centuries, Marta flourished as a quiet fishing village on the southern shore of Lake Bolsena. As the population increased, fishing gave way to agriculture. Characterized by the muddy taupe color of the volcanic rock, narrow streets and stairways, it's a town of few monuments. Not to be missed: the grand clock tower, the Farnese palace and the Madonna del Monte that rises above the rooftops and dominates the valley below. Beaches stretch for several kilometers along the lake making it an ideal destination for swimming, picnicking and sport fishing. Not more than five minutes away at Capodimonte, you can access a traghetto (water ferry) for a trek around the lake.
The Barabbata festival, one of the areas cultural highlights, takes place on the 14th of May in celebration of the earth's fertility. Legend has it that the festival was created in honor of the Roman goddess Cerere. In later centuries, when Marta came under the jurisdiction of the papacy, the community was obliged to substitute worship of the pagan goddess with that of the Madonna del Monte.
Women watch and cheer on from their balconies as the male population enacts the ritual. Marta is famous for its lake and sea fish and the local wine production, particularly the DOC Cannaiola.

Rising some 500 meters above sea level, between Monte Cimini and the basin of Lago di Vico, the town is surrounded by a natural park reserve with dense forests of chestnut and hazelnut trees. Known as "Little Switzerland," on one side of the town there are two historic areas, the Sopra or upper and the Sotto or lower, which is marked by a medieval bell tower. While on the other side, there is a historic center built by the powerful Farnese family with a monumental gate, the Porta Romana, attributed to Vignola. In the middle ages, Ronciglione was accessible to commercial trading with foreign merchants, due to its strategic location just off the Cassia Road, the Roman thoroughfare that ran from the fringes of Rome north through Tuscany. The French nobleman, Rossillion from who Ronciglione takes its name, established his dominion here in the eighth century. Later the town fell under the rule of a number of regional aristocratic families: the DiVico, the Anguillara, and finally, the powerful Farnese. Under Pope Paolo III Farnese, the town became an
an important ducata, leading in the lucrative production of copper, iron, paper and weapons. The city was devastated by bonfires set by the French army during the political power struggle of 1799 from which it never recovered.
Shop here for handcrafted leather accessories and custom made leather shoes and boots. Not to be missed: Ronciglione is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Central Italy. The bell tower of the Chiesa di San Andrea boasts a 13th century bell tower. The Chiesa di Santa Maria della Provvidenza, built in the 11th century, is still well-preserved, containing works of art and frescoes from various periods. Arrange visit with the custodian in Piazza degli Angeli, 46. Stop in at the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pace to see frescoes dating from the 15th to the 18th centuries. The Baroque cathedral is the work of two master architects, designed in 1671 by Pietro da Cortona and rebuilt by Carlo Rainaldi. Among the works of art, look for the polichrome marble altar; the Madonna del Rosario by Giuseppe Ghezzi and a 15th century triptych by Gabriele di Francesco . The Castello Della Rovere though in need of restoration, is worth investigating, as is the 16th century Fontana dei Liocorni by Vignola.

Where to Eat:
Riva Fiorita, Localita Arenari, Lago di Vico tel 07 61 612 438
A beautiful lakeside spot, offering a full menu of local specialities as well as pizza.

Castel Sant'Elia, Città d'Arte
Nestled between two ancient Roman roads, the Cassia and the Flamina, this little town is set on a rocky cliff with spectacular views overlooking the Suppentonia Valley. Not to be missed:The Franciscan monastery of San Michele Arcangelo. Here you can descend 144 steps, which were carved into the rock during 14 years of labor by the hermiit Rodio at the end of the 17th century. At the bottom, you'll reach the sancturary of Maria Santissima ad Rupes with its 17th century image of the madonna at prayer. In an adjacent area you'll find religious articles dating back to the 13th century. Follow the "strada dei Santi," the way of the saints, to the Basilica of Sant' Elia, where you'll find frescoes from the end of the 11th Century, cosmati floor work, and a pulpit tracing back to the papacy of Gregorio IV. If you're there on a Monday, you can enjoy the weekly market day, held In the historical centre of the town, around the fountains square, behind the bar from dawn until lunchtime.

Where to eat:
Il Contado, Via Civita Castellana km 1,800 tel 07 61 555228
Very basic decor, but hearty country cooking. Luigi generally sings a song or two while serving his customers.
La Vecchia Quercia, Via Nepesina Localita San Lorenzo tel. 07 61 599164
Great on a summer evening when you can dine under the stars in the garden. Excellent pizzas.
Taverna Fantaghirò, Corso Umberto I 49 tel 07 61557644
Home style cooking, outdoor dining area with a breath taking view, excellent value.

The Roman historian Livy called "Nepet" the key of Etruria in 386 BC, when it was surrendered to the Etruscans, and then reconquered by the Romans, making it a colony. Surrounded by thick city walls, the town is dominated by the Borgia Castle, a feudal manor. The The Cathedral of Assunta, built in the 12th Century over a pagan temple, and rebuilt in 1831 having been destroyed by fire during the Napoleonic wars, still houses an ancient crypt, which includes a primitive pagan altar, the sarcophagus of San Romanus by the Bernini School and a triptych with doors attributed to Paola Romano. The cemetery leads to the catacombs of Santa Savinilla, with almost a thousand tombs. Not to be missed: the church of San Tolomeo (started by Sangallo the Younger and left unfinished); and the Palazzo Comunale built in Vignolesco style, which now houses the Civic Museum with artifacts from the many necropolises near the city. Nepi is famous for its delicious mineral water, Acqua di Nepi, which is exported world wide.
Market Day is Thursday, in front of the Aqueduct at Nepi.
Where to eat:
Casa Tuscia, Piazza E. Minio 6 tel 07 61 555070
Maurizio and Patrizia are perfect hosts, with a fabulous collection of jazz background music. A lovely atmosphere, with a spacious and airy interior and outdoor seating on the lawn. Innovative Italian Cooking.
Getting there:
Take the GRA to the Cassia Bis exit, follow the road and look for the signs towards Nepi. About a 45-minute drive.

Civita Castellana
The town dates back to the Etruscans and is famous for its ceramic production. Not to be missed: The Rocca Borgia, built at the end of the 15th century designed by Antonio da Sangallo il Vecchio (The Elder), which now houses the National Archaeological Museum of Agro Falisco. The Duomo (The Cathedral of Saint Mary) built in the 12th Century and modified during the 18th century, with mosaics dating to 1210, represents one of the finest works of famed Roman marble workers Jacopo di Lorenzo and his son Cosmo, and there's a spectacular crypt. The Church of San Francesco has works of art from the 15th Century. The Church of Santa Maria del Carmine is famous for it's cotto bell tower, and its interior, with a nave divided by fluted Roman columns. The Saturday morning market offers fresh produce and great bargains.

Where to eat:
Mignolò, Via Ferretti 101 tel 07 61 513465
Established 1939, this is a family-run trattoria. Ernesto is chief cook and his brother Erminio serves. It's impossible to get a table at lunchtime on a on Sunday, as the Romans like to leave the city to enjoy genuine food in the small towns of Lazio. Authentic local cooking.
Pane e Pomodoro, Via Porta Lanciano 28 tel 07 61 599599.
Situated in the town's historic center, with a nice atmosphere and good pizzas. Try the mini fried dessert pizzas topped with Nutella or ricotta and jam.
La Giaretta, Via V. Feretti 108 tel 07 61 513398
A family run place with a relaxed atmosphere. Terry is the host while brother Fabio runs the kitchen. Excellent homemade pastas.
La Scuderia, Via Don Minzoni 19 tel 07 61 516798
The restaurant is housed in a converted stable. Your host, Sergio, is willing to explain in English the ingredients used for each dish ordered. His wife, Daniela, runs the kitchen, where she creates an modern, innovative Italian cuisine.
La Campagnola, Localita Quartaccio 13/A tel 07 61 514209
On the weekends, this is the local family meeting place. It's worth seeking it out for the great pizzas, cooked in an authentic wood-burning oven. Follow the indications for Corchiano. At the stop sign, you will see the Aldero Hotel. Turn to the right and about 2 kilometres down on the left you'll turn into La Campagnola.
If your wanderings take you through this ancient town, stop at the Church of San Biagio to see the frescoes painted by Lorenzo da Viterbo and his school circa 1468, and the Church of Madonna del Soccorso, with 15th century frescoes by the Zuccari school.

Settled by the Etruscans in the sixth century B.C., Orte expanded during the Pax Romana, benefitting from its position on the only trade route between Rome and Ravenna. It was an autonomous city-state until the fourteenth century, when the plague, the centralization of papal power and internal feuding led to its decline. It saw a revival in 1864, with the completion of the 1864. Today, it connects to Rome with the Autostrada del Sole, the A1 highway. The historical center, set in a strategic position above the Tiber Valley, features a number of ancient churches and palazzi. The city's great cathedral, il Cattedrale di Santa Maria Asuunta was reconstructed in 1713 but still contains paintings of the saints and of the assumption excuted in 751 by Giuseppe Bottani. The cathedral's exterior was remodeled in 1901. The Church of Sant'Agostino, original built in 1335, is worth a visit for its Altar of the Rosary, constructed in with wood, with images of the Madonna of the Rosary in 15 panels, the work of Giorgio da Orte, erected in 1571. The Chapel of Sant'Egidio within the church, is the work of architect Francesco Veramici, built in 1731. The Palazzo Alberti was built by the marchese Pietro, brother of pope Giovianni X in the tenth century, as a refuge from conflicts in Rome. In later centuries it became a center for the farming of medicinal herbs, and at the beginning of the 16th century, a factory for dying wool, under the ownership of the Alberti family. Between 1598 and 1602 five splendid palaces were built in Orte, and the Alberti was incorporating into this complex. The Museo Diocesano, housed in the former Romanic Church of San Silvestro, houses paintings from the 13th to the 16th centuries, as well as an eight century Byzantine mosaic depicting the Virgin Mary. The Museo Civico, currentlyundergoing restoration, displays ancient sculpture and artifacts. Bagni di Orte, offers a thermal sulphur pool for a relaxing day. A medieval festival with shows, fairs, art exhibitions and archery competitions (the "Palio) takes place from August 31 to the second Sunday in September. On Good Friday, a torchlight procession winds through the ancient streets, representing early religious orders.

Getting there:
By car, take the A1 to the Orte exit and follow the signs to the centro storico.
By train
It's about a 45 minute ride from Rome's Termini station. Train service from Trastevere station takes about an hour.
For more information (in Italian) and a virtual tour:

Many travelers know Tuscany for its medieval and renaissance art centers, memorable meals, visits to a vintner's cantina in Chianti country or the romantic visions set forth in films like James Ivory's, "A Room With A View" or "Under the Tuscan Sun". But we marvel at Tuscany for one of its least-advertised territories and last undiscovered jewels: the Maremma.
The Maremma is a territory of hauntingly beautiful landscapes and open skies that form a picturesque backdrop to crumbling medieval towns abandoned to marshland, overrun with wild horses and long horn cattle. (In 1887, Buffalo Bill staked his cowboy-rodeo reputation competing against the local butteri and lost.) Today, the Maremma is an ideal escape for urbanites in search of authenticity, calm and beauty. Only about a two-hour drive from Rome, it is framed at its northern and southern borders by the rivers, Serchio and Fiora respectively. To the east it borders with the ancient Etruscan town of Volterra and westward, it reaches toward the Mediterranean Sea. Isolated from the glam and glitter of Tuscan beach towns, it is more closely linked to the indelible history of ancient Etruria and the indigenous peasant population.
It is said that a pre-historic population settled in the Maremma even before the Etruscans arrived in the 6th century B.C. Through the centuries there have been barrages of military incursions. The lands were absorbed into the Republic when the Romans finally defeated the Etruscans in the 3rd century B.C. In medieval times, governing power passed from the Siennese to the Medici and on to the Hapsburg-Lorraine.

Choose from three itineraries, each focused on a center of exceptional quaintness: Pitigliano, Sovrano and Sorana. All three cities are rooted in Etruscan history, and later became medieval strongholds dominated by illustrious princely families during the era of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

Itinerary 1: Pitigliano
Coming into the town one confronts a postcard view, an enchanting cluster of buildings hoisted above the landscape and resting on a bed of tufo rock. To the right, the terrain dips slightly to a lower valley. In the curb of the landscape, the Jewish cemetery is recognizable by the row of cypress trees that frame it. Off to the left, the scenic road that leads to Sovana is draped with a wall of tufo rock, It's an eerie sensation as the car whiffs along side for at least 2,000 meters. If you're lucky to arrive at Pitigliano just as the sun begins its descent, brace yourself for an unforgettable vision.
Historically, Pitigliano was influenced by three important cultures: Etruria, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany under the Aldobrandini and Orsini, and Jewish heritage.
Caves or grottoes formed from the porous tufo rock, date back to Etruscan settlements between the 8th and 6th centuries B.C. The tradition of wine production introduced by the Etruscans is still carried out in Pitigliano.
During the mid-16th century Jews fearing repercussions from the Papal Laws drawn up in the Counter Reformation sought refuge in Pitigliano, which was at the frontier between the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Papal States. A Jewish community thrived under the protection of the tolerant Orsini prince. In the 17th century, one of Italy's few synagogues was erected here. Both the synagogue and an adjacent library were bombed during WWII, but have since been restored. Under the Nazi racial laws of 1936, Jewish families again sought safe refuge here, where local farmers hid them in caves outside the town. Over the course of the last two centuries, the Jewish population that once stood at 20% has dwindled. Archives and the Jewish Cemetery are currently under the care of Signora Elena Servi, one of the last of Pitigliano's Jewish families.
Strolling through the town, you get a sense of its many layers. Its many-leveled streets are connected by flights of stairs that leave you with a sense of scaling down the steep tufo rock.
What To See:
Etruscan remains
The Church of San and Paolo Pietro
The Church of San Francesco
The Chiesa of San Rocco
The Sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie
Jewish Cemetery
Jewish Synagogue
Municipal Museum in Palazzo Orsini

Itinerary 2: Sorano
Just a few kilometers from Pitigliano, Sorano is a medieval village, whose foundation dates to the pre-Etruscan era. Characterized by a lush landscape, verdant hillside and thick forest, it offers a main street lined with shops displaying antiques, local and exported goods, ceramic ware and handmade articles.
What to See:
Rocca di Orsini, the Orsini castle built in the 14th century and renovated in the 15th century by Niccolò IV Orsini. It is considered one of Italy's most impressive examples of military architecture, and boasts a cycle of 16th century frescoes from the Sienese School.

Itinerary 3: Sovana
Also of Etruscan origin a charming village whose main piazza is dominated by a beautiful Romanesque Cathedral.
What to See:
Rocca Di Aldobrandeschi (Aldobrandeschi Castle) is thought to be built over a pre-existing Etruscan/Roman fortress. Later restoration in the 16th century and dismantling in the 17th has reduced the structure to a portal, tower and walls.
Palazzo Pretorio (13th - 15th century)
The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore houses a splendid and rare 12th-13th century pre-Romanesque ciborium
Cathedral, built in the 11th - 12th centuries over a pre-existing 8th century edifice
The Church of Mamiliano, the most ancient church in the village. Recent arcaeological excavations have uncovered 500 gold coins from the 5th century AD.
Palazzo Bourbon del Monte
Renaissance palazzo built by Cosimo de' Medici

Where to Eat:
Trattoria La Porta, 1 Piazza Petruccioli, Pitigliano
Hostaria della Terrazza Aldobrandeschi, Via del Borgo 44, Sorano tel.0564 638699
Ostria dell'Piano Bar, Sovana tel. 0564 617 008


Sixty km north of Rome lies an undiscovered corner of northern Lazio, Sabina or the Sabine Hills, a fascinating territory, from where the ancient Romans took their brides in the legendary:   '”Rape of the Sabine women” .  The  area  is easily accessible from Rome and makes a perfect  getaway for a weekend or mid week break from the hustle of the city or a great wind down stop after traveling through Italy. For travelers who seek the untouristy,  off-the-beaten-track itineraries, this route from Rome  through Sabina and eventually on to  Umbria will offer splendid scenery, tranquil roads, rolling olive -lad hills dotted with tiny medieval hilltop villages, and small hidden treasures to discover and savour.

The territory of the Sabine hills, perhaps more than any other area of central Italy, has preserved its original rural character.  Rieti, capital of the province, marks the very center of the region, and is one of the  least populated in Italy, notwithstanding its vicinity to Rome. The countryside explodes with color in spring and summer, with yellow broom and fields of sunflowers, as well as the green olive trees, which produce one of Italy's finest extra virgin olive oils with its DOP recognition.  Many of the farms have been honored with prestigious annual awards. The oldest olive tree in Europe, two thousand years old, with a trunk measuring 7 meters in circumference, is one of the natural treasures of Sabina.

A  surprising number of small hilltop villages remain unspoiled and authentic and although there are no “name brand”  monuments, apart from the magnificent Farfa Abbey, and very few  mentions in guide books, the area is steeped in history and medieval architecture.  The Sabine hills offer the visitor  a relaxing getaway,  the chance to discover some of Italy's minor and secret treasures, meet local people in authentic surroundings, and savour the slower pace of life with traffic-free  panoramic roads and plenty of silence.

Using Casperia or Montasola as a base, the area and villages can be divided into two or more itineraries depending on how long you stay, how many villages you want to cover and which of the many activities you would like to include, such as a guided tours or hikes, cooking lessons, free- climbing guided walks, massage.

1. Casperia,  Montasola,  Rocccantica, Poggio Catino , Farfa,  Fara Sabina all offer spectacular views, and maintain their medieval urban structure, so leave your car outside of the walls and explore them by foot with no traffic.

Casperia is a fortified medieval village atop a rocky hill.  Surrounded by mountains and deep valleys, the village commands a wonderful view of the Umbrian Latium Appenines. Peering over the medieval walls at the inspiring landscape of the  Tiber Valley, time seems to have stood still. The village is entirely pedestrian and the winding streets and alleyways create a  labyrinth.
The walls were built for the original castrum in the year 1000 while the outer walls south of the village were added in 1283, preserving the walkways which were for the watch as well as towers, some containing houses which were built into the walls. Thus Aspra, the original name of the village, was made impregnable during the times of invasion. The Renaissance church
outside the walls, built  entirely in brick, houses a painting of the Annunciation, a masterpiece by Sassoferrato, while the 13th century church at the top of the village, San Giovanni Battista, houses a prize-winning Christmas crèche created entirely by a local artisan,  who continues to add to his creation, working from his nearby bottega.
Roccantica Surrounded by the wooded slopes of Monte Pizzuto, Roccantica, which hugs the mountainside, has a medieval castle and several churches dating from different historical periods.  It is a good starting point from which to hike the 1,287 meters to the top of Monte Pizzuto,  or to walk through the woods to the sacred hermitages of the Franciscan hermits.
During  the struggle for the Papacy between Benedetto X and Niccolò II, Roccantica took the side of the latter and was besieged by the Crescenzi family, who supported Benedetto. The siege was lifted by Roberto d'Altavilla (the Guiscard) ally of Niccolò II, and the Pope rewarded the twelve surviving "roccolani" with the infeudation of the village (papal record of 14 may 1060). These privileges, reconfirmed by later Popes down the centuries, provided Rocca de Antiquo with various exemptions and immunities, including tax exemptions. The village still celebrates this event in August with a lively re-enactment of the siege during a medieval festival with costumes, flag throwers and lots of pageantry along with the local specialty: wild boar.

The Abbey of Farfa,  highlight of the area, was founded in the 6th century.  It was one of the most important European religious buildings of the middle ages, protected by Charlemagne. At the  height of its splendor a vast part of central Italy was owned by the Abbey. A visit there is not complete without including the magnificent library, recently refurbished, which contains more than 60,000 volumes and  original manuscripts, including one of the first books  ever printed.  Also noteworthy is the very well-preserved Roman sarcophagus, which was found on the premises on the former site of a Roman villa.

After Farfa, take the small winding road to  the village of Castelnuovo di Farfa where the region’s Olive Oil museum is located, the first of its kind in Italy.  An unusual exhibit with a contemporary interpretation, of the history of the olive, which has always dominated the landscape of Sabina.  International artists have participated in creating the exhibit, which also features  a rare collection of oil presses. 
Fara Sabina The highest village in the Sabine hills, once a Lombard stronghold, it offers the most spectacular and moving view of the rolling plains of Lazio: the land of the Latin and birthplace of our western civilization.  Included in the vista is the green Tiber valley stretching as far as Rome with the dome of Saint Peter's visible on a clear day. The town has various churches, and a civic archeological museum, which houses a collection of pre- Roman artifacts found in the Sabina area.

2.Montasola/ Cottanello/ Contigliano / Greccio/ Cascate delle Marmore
Starting again from the strategic base of Casperia, going towards Rieti,  he following  itinerary  visits the  northern mountainous area of Sabina with dramatic landscapes and more remote villages.

From Casperia, take the road to Rieti and reach the sleepy village of  Montasola located at an altitude of 600 meters.  The entrance gate dominated by medieval towers leads into the tiny stone village of less than than 80 inhabitants, a perfect place for chilling out.

Cottanello,  a stunning hilltop village with two remarkable treasures: The cliff side hermitage of St. Cataldo, carved out of rock, overhanging the road, dates back to the early middle ages;  and  the nearby archaeological remains of a Roman farmhouse, which belonged to Lucius Cotta, the brother- -in-law of Julius Caesar, featuring a well-preserved mosaic floor.  The site is difficult to find and rarely visited, so a reservation  is essential for both of these stops: call the Comune of Cottanello 0746 66122 or Sig. Stefano Petrucci, cell phone 3287425058, for a pre-arranged appointment. 

Greccio From Cottanello take the mountain road to Contigliano and turn immediately left to  reach  the peaceful oasis of Greccio, with its spectacular position and panoramic views stretching across the green plain below. Saint Francis of Assisi, along with the local noblemen, enacted the first live nativity scene here in the 12th century, and each year at Christmas, people come from all over Italy to see this traditional event.  A cast of a hundred participates in the event, each of them  dressed in a splendid costume.  The convent is open from 8:30 am to 1 pm  and from 3 pm till dusk. 
From Greccio follow the road to Terni and, en route, stop at Marmore to admire the “Cascate delle Marmore” the highest waterfall in Europe.  Be sure to check times if you want to see it in all its splendor, since, as with most hidden treasures in Italy, opening times change frequently. On weekends, it is possible to enter the area of the falls and picnic, but during the week the power is used for electricity, so you can’t see the full power of the falls.  The lake and village of Piediluco would be an alternative on those off days.

Getting there:
From Rome take the A1 direction Florence, and exit at Ponzano Soratte, where you will find yourself crossing the ancient Tiber river and leaving the modern world behind.  You’re at the gateway to Sabina, where the scenery hasn't changed much in the last 1000 years; soft hills covered with olive groves, and dotted with medieval stone villages, Abbeys and castles. 
Exit the toll and go straight until the T junction at Stimigliano, turn right onto the 657, until reaching the next T junction where you turn left onto the 313.  Signposts point to Cantalupo, then Casperia, from where you can start your trip or stay for a day or two.

Where to stay:
La Torretta B&B Casperia,  www.latorrettabandb.com tel. 0765 63202
(The Scheda family also arranges guided tours or mountain hikes, cooking lessons, free-climbing lessons,  guided walks, massage).
Montepiano Agriturismo, Letizia Gabbuti, Apartments within the historic center of Montasola.
 www.montepiano.com tel. 0746 675 035
Sabini Si, Agency for villa rentals in Sabina and more.

Where to eat:
Friends Café   Light meals served outdoors in a panoramic location within the historic center.  Casperia, tel. 349 8561300
L'Asprese  Excellent wood oven pizza and local country food.  Casperia, Tel. 0765 63750
Gusto al Borgo  (reservations required) Superior quality home cooking and cooking lessons upon request. Casperia, 
tel. 0765 639026
Quello che C'è C'è  Restaurant  in the historic centre of Montasola, serving good local dishes.
 tel. 0746 675233 cell 3386105514
Hosteria Hoste Mio Typical fare using top quality local products
Via G. Matteotti, 23/P//R –Poggio Mirteto- tel. 0765 22197
Re Burlone Excellent local recipes within the tavern of  a  17th-century palazzo in the village of Castel San Pietro.
Open  from Wednesday to Sunday, tel. 0765 24738

Other activities:
Slow Food Convivium Casperia-Sabina : Based in Casperia since 2005, this branch of the Slow Food organization, headed by Ines Innocentini, arranges and promotes area events in Sabina, including tastings of local olive oils, wines, cheeses, and gelatos.  Slow Food products are available in the store.   Contact:  Ines Innocentini tel. 076563731, Via Roma 80/C
slowines491@libero.it www.slowfoodsabina.it
La Via Lattea , producers of organic gelatos and sorbets, the first of its kind in Italy.  Tastings and factory tours are organized through the Slow Food Convivium and conducted personally by owner,  Fabrizio Prioreschi. tel. 076563731, Via Roma 80/C
www.lavialattea.com  info@lavialattea.com
Tenuta Santa Lucia Wine estate and cellars: Producers of Collis Pollionis, Elodia, Otio
 Località Santa Lucia- Poggio Mirteto – tel 0765.24616
info@tenutasantalucia.com; www.tenutasantalucia.com
Geco Wine Bar,  A wine and olive oil tasting bar within the historic center of Casperia
run by  sculptor, Johnny Madge. Tel. 0765 63518  www.geco107.com  info@geco107.com
Dopolavoro Lounge Club,  Casperia, Palazzo Massari, Within a refurbished renaissance palazzo, a wine bar where live jazz is played every weekend. 
Farfa Abbey, For a guided tour  in English of the Abbey,  including entrance to the library. contact the girls in the local herb store  tel. 0765 277315 ( very little English spoken)
Museo dell’Olio, Castelnuovo di Farfa,  The museum is open weekends and, upon request, for small groups tel. 0765 36370.



Just a ninety minute drive from central Rome, Subiaco, in the Sumbruini mountains near the border of Lazio and Abruzzo, makes a perfect day trip, clear air, good food, and two monumental monasteries covered in frescoes with spectacular views of the countryside. We recommend driving out to Subiaco in the morning, visiting the Monastery of Saint Scholastica, stoppping for a long and relaxing lunch, then visiting the Monastery of Saint Benedict in the aftenoon before heading home, hopefully ahead of the traffic.

The story of Subiaco is inextricably tied to that of the fifth-century Saint Benedict. As a young man from a wealthy Umbrian family, he was sent to Rome to study law. But Benedict was a deeply religious young man, and when he was exposed what he saw as the corruption and decadence of the capitol city, he was so disillusioned he ran off to the mountains, to Subiaco, where he hid himself in a cave. He was kept alive by a sympathetic monk who shared his meager rations, lowering a bit of food down to Benedict's cave in a basket. After three years, Benedict was slowly persuaded to rejoin the world. He became one of the great saints of the Middle Ages, credited with spreading Christianity throughout Europe and founding the monastic movement.
Sadly the old town of Subiaco was severely damaged by Allied bombing during World War II when more than eighty percent of its buildings were damaged or destroyed. But the two magnificent 12th-century monasteries, remain. The Monastery of Saint Scholastica, Benedict's sister who preceded him into ecclesiastical life, is slightly lower down on Mount Talèo. In the fifteenth century, it was inhabited by a great many monks from Germany, who brought with them Guttenberg's press, and so it became the center of the first printed materials in Italy. Tours of the monastery start every half hour, or you can buy a book in English at the bookstore near the entrance, that will take you through the chapels and gardens. Of course, one of the main attractions is simply the view, so breathtakingly majestic and yet so tranquil.
The monastery closes at one o'clock for lunch, so that's your cue to take a break. The monks run a restaurant and hostel at Saint Scholastica, but it's not always open, and there are good restaurants in the town, just a short drive down the mountain.
The smaller, but even more stunning Monastery of Saint Benedict is just a short drive up the mountain from Saint Scholastica. Don't be fooled by the parking at the bottom of the steep hill. You can drive right up to the top and save yourself the walk. The monastery is literally carved into the side of the mountain, on several levels. You will be walked through the rooms, one more stunning than the next, by a guide, who may or may not speak English, but once again, you will find explanations in the English guide book, and even if you don't understand a thing, the frescoed rooms, not to mention the majestic views, are satisfying enough in themselves. You wander through chapel after chapel covered with jaw-dropping mosaics and frescoes painted by an unknown artist in the Romanesque style. The final room, on the lowest level of the monastery, is the sagro speco, the sacred grotto where Benedict hid himself and where he eventually began to minister to the local shepherds.

What to see: 
The monasteries are open from 9 am - 12:30 pm and from 3:30 - 7:00 pm. Vespers are sung at 7 or 7:30 pm, depending on the season.

Where to eat:
The Botte di Bacco, on the ground floor of the little Miramonti Hotel, is a huge favorite of the locals. It has a charming gazebo-like atmosphere, and a garden open in the summer. You'll need a reservation for Sunday lunch, as it's always crowded. Viale Giovanni XXIII 4. Tel 0774 825 029
The hotel and restaurant Belvedere, just one kilometer downhill from the monasteries, has a lovely garden with a panoramic view that makes it a popular site for weddings. If you decide to stay the night the rooms are very simple but they look out over the mountainside. Via dei Monasteri 33. Tel 0774 85531

What to buy:

The monks, who are self-supporting, offer an array of jams, honey, liqueurs and tisanes in their gift shops.

Getting there:
By car, take the GRA to the A24, get off at Vicovaro-Mandela and follow the signs to Subiaco.

Just a short drive from Rome, Sermoneta makes the perfect day trip. The most interesting and well-preserved medieval borgo in central Lazio, it looks nearly the way it did five hundred years ago. Walking along the narrow, winding streets, up and down the hill on which the town is perched, you'll feel as though you've been whisked back in time. The views over the valley from the town's edge are truly breathtaking, and a view of the sunset is spectacular.

Sermoneta sits atop a foothill of the Lepino Mountain Range parallel to the ancient Pontine marshes. The town has changed little since
its medieval conception, and the enormous fortress of Caetani Castle looms over and dominants the town and the valley below. Although archaeology and literature provide intriguing clues to the events from the tenth to the fifth century BC, the rise of ancient Rome provides certainty to the earlier existence of Sermoneta, then known as Sulmo. Virgil mentions Sulmono, presumed to be Sulmo, in his Aeniad; Pliny describes Sulmo, along with Norba (Norma) and Setia (Sezze) as fighting against Rome, and Livy avers that Sermoneta was the last town to surrender in the ultimate Roman domination of the Latins.

Ruins of pagan temples (see Santa Emerenziana) and a villa have confirmed habitation during the Roman period, when Sermoneta's position overlooking the Appian Way gave it a strategic importance.This importance was enhanced during periods when the Appian Way was flooded and impassable, as one of the oldest roads in the world runs below Sermoneta's hill, a few meters above the plain. It was during medieval times that Sermoneta truly flourished, and the perspective of the town still visible today was established. In the twelfth century the Annibaldi built a castle there, and the two towers still standing today attest to its size .

In 1276 the castle was bought for 140,000 gold florins, along with the town of Bassiano, by Pietro Caetani, of Pope Boniface VIII. The Caetanis expanded the property significantly in the thirteenth century, which is when the castle's impressive Hall of the Barons,72 feet long, was built. In the fifteenth century, Cesari Borgia, a notable enemy of the Caetanis, Pope Alessandro VI Borgia — who had poisoned two Caetanis already — besieged and won the property.They reinforced it so that it became the most formidable fortress in the entire region, second only to Rome's Castel San Angelo.The Borgias possessed the castle for only five years, but made significant impression on it. Its towers, bridges, staircases and elegant mullioned windows were now accompanied by thicker walls and semi-cylindrical towers. The Caetani were able to repossess their property through their connections with the next Pope, Giulio II della Rovere, and held it for the following 700 years.

Onorato IV Caetani, Duke of Sermoneta, took Sermoneta subjects with him in his capacity as Captain of the Pontifician troops, when the Christian fleet destroyed the Turkish fleet on 30th September 1571 at the epic naval battle of Lepanto. The castle's significant collection of arms was unfortunately stolen by French troops who occupied the castle in 1798. Restoration work was started in the XXth century by Gelasio Caetani, an architect, historian and World War I hero. With the death of Lelia Caetani in 1977, the main branch of the family became extinct. The castle is now run by the Roffredo Caetani Foundation, which was created by Lelia Caetani in honour of her illustrious family. Today, the castle hosts courses, seminars, and prestigious concerts. In April and May it is occupied by restorers
from UNESCO, and groups from the World Fund for Nature. In July, there are concerts in the castle by well-known contemporary musicians and orchestras.

What to see:
Cathedral of Santa Maria; Church of San Giuseppe; Church of San Angelo; Convent of San Francesco; the 12th century Synagogue, now a private residence.

Where to eat:
Il Mulino, Piazza Cauto, tel 0773 318303
On a tiny street in the historic center, in an ancient building, the restaurant serves typical regional dishes. Their speciallity, "Chicken alla Lucrezia Borgia" is allegedly a topo secret recipe.

Where to stay:
If you'd like to make a weekend of it, and explore the nearby area, Sermoneta has a simple but comfortable hotel, in a restored eleventh century building, reasonably priced at €80-85 for a double room. http://www.hotelprincipeserrone.it
Hotel Principe Serrone, Via Del Serrone tel 0773 30342
A more luxurious is Casa Doull, which offers a beautifully furnished two-bedroom apartment in the historic center, complete with a spacious modern kitchen, a garden with magnificent views and even a pool for soaking or cooling off. http://web.comm-inc.com

Getting There:
From Rome by car: Take the S.S. 148 (Via Pontina), which you can pick up at Eur from the via Cristoforo Colombo. Get off at Latina Scalo - Sermoneta. From Scalo Sermoneta, follow the signs to Sermoneta, which is at the top of the hill.

By train: The Roma-Napoli line stops at Latina. From there, you can take a bus on weekdays only, or grab a taxi to Sermoneta's historic center.

If you’re in the mood for a break from Rome’s hustle and bustle, Caprarola is the perfect day trip, only about an hour’s drive from town. A little known backwater, where the imposing Villa Farnese dominates a Renaissance city of bridges, scalinate andunderground passageways, Caprarola once basked in the regal gloss of the noble Farnese family.
Though little has altered its postcard charm, the town has grown from the borgo that once housed palace servants, to a population of 5,000. In the late 1990’s Caprarola’s original urban design was the subject of study and research at the Prince Charles’ of England School of Architecture.

The old city backs up against the densely wooded volcanic hills of Mount Cimino and edges forward, looming over the Tiber Valley. Although it’s surrounded by territories once inhabited by the Etruscans, the town itself originated only in the tenth century. Before then, any attempt to cross the mountain, was too perilous, covered as it was by an impenetrable forest called the Selva Cimina. And there were terrifying legends of  merciless monstrous forest people.

The Farnese Palace, with its magisterial Renaissance style, suggests the power family had over the region.
Caprarola was but one of the Farnese’s feudal dominions in the region of Lazio known as Tuscia.  In 1504, architects, Baldssarre Peruzzi and Antonio Sangallo,, were commissioned by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese to erect a fortress. The project was interrupted when the Cardinal was called to Rome to be seated as Pope Paolo III in 1534, and construction was resumed until 1559, when the Pope’s nephew, a young cardinal, returned to the area for its strategic location and fresh air. He commissioned Giocomo Vignola in the reconstruction and transformation, expanding the fortress to an pentagonal shaped palace, so impressive, a visit there is worth the drive in itself.

The castle’s Scala Regia, crowned with a dome and covered entirely with magnificent frescoes in the “grotesque style” by Antonio Tempesta,  demonstrates Vignola’s genius for  applying mathematical principles to architecture.
Your Italian tour guide might not explain the importance of the design of the great rooms, expertly stuccoed and frescoed by the Zuccari brothers, Taddeo and Federico, with the participations of other artists of the period,  such as Giacomo Zanguidi, Raffaellino da Regia, Giovanni De Vecchi and Giacomo del Duca, who designed the gardens.  Room after room reflect the circumstances of the Farnese family and the Farnese Papacy in Rome. Borrowing from mythology and classical antiquities, the Cardinal framed his legacy in the Sala di Ercole, comparing his accomplishments to those of the mythical God Hercules. Within the hidden iconography of the Mappamondo Sala, external challenges to Papal authority and Christian ideology can be read.
The formal gardens that flank the Cardinal’s bedroom suites and wardrobe are outstanding examples of Renaissance landscaping and horticultural history. The gardens were planned around spring and winter fruition of plants and flowers.

Other rooms, such as the Sala dei Fasti Farnese provide  further biographical accounts of the life and events that shaped the Farnese dynasty and the papacy of Paolo III. Follow the guide’s directions as he or she invites you to view the spiralstairwell that remains locked behind a secret entrance.This is one more example of the way in which  Vignola utilized space on all five angles of the pentagonal plan. The narrow stairwell, spiraling from the upper to the lower level, was used by the Cardinal’s servants, who were not permitted access through the main quarters of the palace.

The tour finishes in time for you to visit other noted landmarks:
The XVII century Chiesa di Santa Teresa boasts a magnificent Baroque façade and paintings by two great Renaissance artists: Guido Reni and Giovanni Lanfranco.
Palazzo Riario. constructed in 1504  by the Anguillara family, was named after the first vicar of Caprarola. The cardinal’ss tables, Le Scuderie del Palazzo Farnese, also designed by Vignola are used today as offices, cultural and conference center.

For information on tours of the Farnese Palace and other monuments:  tel 0761 645404
or click this link: www.primitaly.it/caprarola


The largest volcanic lake in Europe, an easy 100 kilometer drive from Rome, Bolsena, in the the northwestern corner of Lazio, offers an excellent alternative to crowded and expensive beach resorts. You can choose swimming, sailing, canoeing, camping, scuba diving archeo-trekking, cycling, controlled fishing, relaxing on dark sandy beaches or strolling the scenic lungolago along the water’s edge. And when you get tired of relaxing, you can explore some of Italy's most intriguing historical sites. In ancient times, the area was known as upper Tuscia, the center of much of the Etruscan kingdom, with borders touching the Tuscan Maremma on one side and southern Umbria on the other. The lake was formed more than  300,00 years ago from the collapse of a volcanic cauldron belonging to the Vulsini mountain chain. The oval shape left from the eruption filled the basin with water, creating the lake and two islands— Bisentina and Martana—as well as the river Marta.

Archeological documentation of ceramic and textile production housed in the Museo Territoriale date the first inhabitants to the Neolithic period, between 8,000 and 5,000 years ago. The area was a cultural crossroads of Mediterranean peoples who inhabited these territories for centuries. The Villanoviani, the first documented lake dwellers, occupied the area during the Iron Age of the 8th and 9th centuries B.C. The Etruscan population followed, forming trading alliances with the Greeks. After a series of wars with the Romans, the Etruscans  were finally  defeated in about 265 B.C. and their society was incorporated into that of their conquerors. The towns along the lake boast art and architecture reflecting centuries of conquests and the effects of trade:  necropoli, ceramics, artefacts and even palaces from the Etruscan Paleo-christian, Byzantine, Medieval and Renaissance periods.

Rising 350 meters above sea level in a northeastern position facing the lake, the town of Bolsena was the site of an Etruscan city protected behind an elaborate boundary wall. Writing during the time of Emperor Augustus, the historian, Pliny, described the Vesentini and Etruscans who lived around the lake. During the Medieval period, Dante cited Lago di Bolsena’s eel production in his Divine Comedy, making reference to Pope Martin IV’s love of food.. “...Purga per digiuno l'anguilla di Bolsena e la vernaccia" (canto XXIV, 23/24)..Bolsena’s Renaissance history parallels Papal personalities, historically associated with likes of Cardinal Giovanni de’Medici, who later became Pope Leone X, Pope Pio II (Piccolomini) and Paolo III (Farnese). 

La Basilica di Santa Cristina
at Bolsena traces the city’s paleo-christian history through its architecture. Here you can see the  hypogeal basilica, the Grotta di Santa Cristina, the catacombs, and the primative altar of the 10th century cult of Santa Cristina. The Cappella del Miracolo and Cappella di San Leonardo are associated with the story of a bohemian priest who questioned the actual presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Legend has it that  a revelation during the mass performed in Cappella del Miracolo resolved the priest’s uncertainties. In the 15th century. before heading south to take the papal seat, Cardinal Giovanni de Medici constructed the basilica’s tri-partite Romanesque façade. Rocca Monaldescshi, the  Museo Territoriale del Lago di Bolsena, dating from the 11th century, dominates the Medieval section of the town.

The picturesque penisola Capodimonte is the gem of Lago di Bolsena. Situated on a promontory facing the lake from a southwest direction, it rises 334 meters above sea level. The irregular morphology of its landscape, with undulating hills, rich vegetation, natural streams and brooks, make it the lake’s most enchanting  town. Capodimonte is an offshoot of the ancient Vesentum, the important Umbrian Etruscan city where three culturally diverse populations (Villanova, Etruria and Roman) once dwelled. The city was destroyed in 280 B.C. but later rebuilt by the Romans. Conquests, invasions, refuge, rebuilding continued throughout the Middle Ages. It wasn’t until the unification of Italy in 1870 that the area saw stability. Today, it’s an ideal location for summer vacationers, particularly water enthusiasts, with a port accommodating both motor and sail boats. Archeological sites include La Rocca Farnese, a massive octagonal monument designed by 16th century architect Antonio da Sangallo the Younger; Palazzo Borghese, now the city hall; and Palazzo Puniatowski, designed by Valadier, the architect who designed villa Borghese in Rome.

The Islands:

The lake's two islands can be visited by buying a ticket for one of the fishing boat tours. Isola Bisentina, which is covered in vegetation, was inhabited in the ninth century by mainland settlers seeking refuge from invading barbarians. The scavo della malta, reachable by foot only through a narrow passageway, offers a fascinating glimpse of the island’s anciet history. Isola Martana, located on the lake’s southeast coast, is smaller and barren but worth a visit for its crystal-clear water and the  remaining ruins of a Medieval port.

What to Do:
Cycle Lago di Bolsena  - www.piste-ciclabili.com
Scuba diving
Scuola Sub scuolasub@bolsenanew.it
Egidio 338 9561470 egidio.s@bolsenanew.it
Massimiliano 338 564 1467 max@bolsenanew.it
VolereVela organizes sailing tours of the lake islands; Bisentina and Martana.
Tel. 0763 343793
Cell: 328 872 1863 volerevelare@libero.it

Where to Stay:
Hotel Holiday in Bolsena has a great  location and attentive service. Rooms are equipped with air-conditioning, bath, satellite TV, telephone, frigobar, hairdryer, safe deposit. Therre’s a restaurant, swimming pool and  a special area reserved  for children. Viale A. Diaz 38  Bolsena (VT)
Farm Holidays Cipolloni – Montefiascone (VT)
A country agriturismo complex consisting of 6 apartments, each structured on two levels, with private bath and kitchen. Località Cipollone, 107 – Montefiascone (VT)
tel (39) 761 823 150, mobile: (39) 340 104 7220
Hotel Borgo Le Torrette – S. Lorenzo Nuovo (Viterbo)
Located in a Medieval village, the hotel offers 12 suites recently refurbished. Each suite is furnished with air conditioning, Jacuzzi bath satellite TV, fridge-bar, safe deposit, king size bed.
Via Cassia km 120,00     01020 San Lorenzo Nuovo (VT)
tel.0763-726025 fax 0763-726121
Blu International Camping – Bolsena Lago
Located on the lake’s shorefront, the facility has a swimming pool and beach reserved for boat docking, a market, bar, and pizzeria.
Via Cassia km 111,650 – Bolsena (VT)
Camping Massimo
Situated on the lake shore, offers apartment rental, bungalows and studio apt.
Via Cassia Nord km. 116, 700

For more information:

Where to Eat:
Not surprisingly, the area’s cuisine is heavy on freshly caught lake fish. Most trattorie and restaurants specialize in sbroscia, a fish soup with vegetables,usually prepared with several lake fish— tranci, di tinca, luccio, anguilla, persico, corregone and lattarini —laced with  onion, fresh mint, salt, red pepper and olive oil and served with toasted bread.
Trattoria del Moro
Local dishes are served in a romantic lakeside atmosphere. The owner describes his restaurant as reminiscent of an ancient pagoda or primitive palafitte  One of the chef’s specialties is L’anguilla al Vernaccia, the dish cited by Dante Alighieri in The Divine Comedy. A well stocked enoteca with a variety of regional wines from Lazio.
Piazzale Dante Alighieri 5  (39) 761 798810
Ristorante La Pineta
An elegant restaurant, a bit more upscale than most in the area. La Pineta's well-manicured garden is as much of an attraction as the cuisine.  Apart from dining, the space can be reserved for more ceremonial affairs. An enchanting place to watch the sun set.
Open for lunch only Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Open for both lunch and dinner, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Closed Thursday.
Viale A. Diaz, 48  tel 0761 799 801 www.lapinetabolsena.it
Al Miralgo
A rustic place along the lake front drive. Al Miralgo is your typical banquet-style restaurant with ample seating. the cuisine is typical of the area, with fresh lake fish and homemade pasta. Closed Tuesdays
Lungolago Marconi 58 tel 0761 870910  Marta (VT)


During the Middle Ages in Italy, as well as elsewhere in Europe, convents and monasteries kept gardens where they grew medicinal plants. From these herbal plantings, the idea for more extensive botanical gardens came about. Large sections of the grounds surrounding palaces or great manors were transformed, and the decorative garden became an important symbol of wealth and presitge. In the 16th century, the idea of the University Orto was born. It evolved around the need for medical students to gain a practical and scientific knowledge of plant alchemy. Students were expected to oversee the process of cultivation and gathering before furthering their studies. Today's botanical gardens are museums established for the conservation of plant species. There are several gardnes near Rome, and May is the perfect month to pay them a visit, not just for what you might learn about botany, but for the sheer joy of wandering through acres of blossoms and greenery.

Lake Bracciano: the Gardens of San Liberato
On five hectares of land overlooking Lake Bracciano, San Liberato is one of the estates owned by the noble Odescalchi family, who also own Castello Orsini/Odescalchi in the town of Bracciano. (Yes, it's the castle is the where Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were married.) For centuries, it was Bracciano family seat of one of Rome's most powerful families, the Orsini. Just outside Bracciano's historic town center, on one of the region’s most elegant country estates, San Liberato encompasses a splendid Romanesque church. Chestnut groves, planted in the 16th century, still extend the distance of the property as far as the eye can see. But the botanical garden didn't get underway until the land was acquired by the Countess Odescalchi and her spouse Count Sanminiatelli. The couple entrusted the design and creation of the garden to the celebrated British landscaper, Russell Page (1906-1985), who began planting in 1964. Less than a decade later, the property was lush with rare trees and imported plants: Canadian maples, Japanese cherry, flowering Asian and Central American liquidambar and parrotie persiche grow side by side with camphor, liododendri and nycee. A section of the garden is dedicated to acid-phile plants, beautiful compositions of camelias, rhododendron, fragrant three-leaved Choysia and black bamboo. San Liberato also boasts a paradisical rose garden with innumerable varieties and colors.
Open Saturdays and Sundays from April 1st until the end of November.
tel 06 9980 5460

Getting there:
By car
GRA to Exit # 5 Cassia Veientanna (cassia-bis) direction Viterbo
Exit  the Cassia Bis - Trevignano –Mazzano exit
Drive 11 km in the direction Trevignano on the outer country road called the Settevene Palo for approximately 8 km. This will take you in the direction of Bracciano. At the end of 8km on the right stone arch indicates the entrance to the estate.

By train
St. Pietro station – train to Bracciano – from train station take the local bus that stops just meters from the San Liberato entrance. Thebus can be long in coming on weekends. If you prefer to walk it's a 6 km hike.

Botanical Gardens at the University of Tuscia
The garden extends across the Viterbese  plains reaching from the last folds of Monti Cimini to the nearby Bulicame, ancient thermal sulphuric mineral waters. The area is rich in archeological remains dating from the Etruscan and Roman eras. It is said to have been a sacred place of worship for the Etruscan people. The Bulicame spring is cited three times in Dante’s Inferno, cantos XII and XIV. Officially inaugurated in 1991, the university botanical garden is comprised of sections devoted to a wide variety of plant species. A large section is comprised of green houses, open to the public, where plants , including a wide variety of African succulents, are cultivated expressly for research and study. Other greenhouses re-create a tropical environment, to comfortably house collections of orchids and passion flowers. The fragranced rose garden includes 250 varieties, and other parts of the garden are devoted to collections of irises and the various species of palm, as well as plants indigenous to the Mediterranean.
Università della Tuscia,  Località Bulicame, Strada S. Caterina (Viterbo) 
Monday – Friday 8:30 am – 12:30 pm  tel 0761 357097
For more information (in Italian) click here and follow the links through strutture to the Orto Botanico

The Gardens of Ninfa
Open only a few days each year, the Gardens of Ninfa are a true botanical wonderland. To visit the gardens in May is to be immersed in a world of impenetrable greens — ferns, plants, trees, herbs, and shrubs — among blankets of rare and local species of flowers, a magnificent color palette, an unimaginable range of tints, shades, and fragrances. Ninfa lies to the south of Rome in the province of Latina, resting at the confines of the ancient city of Norba, and butting against Monte Lepini at the north basin, where natural springs produce more than 80 liters of water a second. The history that survives Ninfa takes in many legendary figures, beginning with the earliest documentation when the lands were donated by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine V to Pope Zachary,  a diplomatic power play that placed Ninfa under papal dominance.
In the XIII century, Benedetto Caetani, Pope Boniface VIII, encouraged his nephew, Pietro Caetani to purchase the territory, which was a strategic transit route for marauding gangs of mercenary soldiers entering from southern kingdoms of Sicily.
During the next two centuries, Ninfa was slowly deserted. Internal feuding among Caetani family heirs and malaria from stagnant lake waters wiped out thousands of inhabitants. The re-development of Ninfa began in 1920 when Galasio Caetani began to plant his magnificent garden among ancient and medieval ruins. Spread over seven hectares, it’s a maze-like wonderland constructed around bridges, ponds and lakes. The garden has maintained its sylvan magic, reproducing it’s unparalleled beauty year after year. It makes for a wonderful day trip, a refreshing escape from the city.
Ninfa Gardens,  40 km east of Rome  easily reached by train to Latina Scalo (9km from Latina) From there, bus or taxi service will take you to the site.
Gardens have limited opening days. From April to October, the 1st weekend and 3rd Sunday of each month.

Booking in advance is advisable: WWF via Po, 25 – Rome tel 06 844 97 206 
or Palazzo Caetani Botteghe Oscure, 32 tel 06 687 3056

Click here for more information (in Italian)

Boboli Gardens - Florence
One of the most exquisite gardens of the Renaissance era, the Boboli is no less spectacular than the Pitti Palace with which it is associated. Landscaped by some of the era's most lauded artist-architects, the garden exemplifies Renaissance grandeur and style. Six centuries ago, in 1418, the nobleman Luca Pitti purchased the property. Pitti commissioned Luca Fancelli, a student of Filippo Brunelleschi, the father of Renaissance architecture, to design a palace and lay down the template for the palace's surrounding grounds.

The actual garden was not begun until 1550, when the property was purchased by Eleonora di Toledo, the wife of Cosimo de' Medici, who commissioned Niccolò Pericoli, known as "Tribolo" to carry out the first and defining phase of the landscaping. After Tribolo's death, Davide Fortini and Giorgio Vasari oversaw further developments. The sculptor and architect Ammannati projected the courtyard around a semi-elliptical area described as an amphitheatre, dug from a stone quarry at the foot of the Belvedere hill, which created harmony while visually unifying the palace and garden.

Over time, the Boboli Gardens became grander and grander, celebrating all the features important to the Renaissance aesthetic: shade, sunlight, open sky, earth, box hedges, labyrinth designs of laurel or cypress. The sound and movement of water from spewing from fountains, spilling into basins or rushing over stone grottoes contrasts with cement or resin-bound marble sculptures positioned
against the varying green shades of the foliage. The garden has everything but color. Flowers won't survive Tuscany's hot summers and arid climate, so sculpture is an important feature.

Boboli Gardens
Piazza Pitti 1
tel 055 2388786
November - February, 8:15 am - 4:30 pm
March: 8:15 am - 5:30 pm
April - May and September - October: 8:15 am - 6:30 pm
June - August, 8:15 am - 7:30 pm
€ 11.50, reduced € 5.75

Brandini Gardens
Rising in steep terraces towards the ancient city wall of Florence, the gardens are a delightful surprise, with unexpected features like a Baroque stairway, hidden statues, fountains, grottoes, a small amphitheater and a grandstand view of Florence across the Arno Valley.
Italian and English garden styles are landscaped alongside agricultural areas and fruit orchards, and a path covered in cascading wisterias of various colors leads to a collection of rare hydrangeas, camellias, viburnums and peonies.
The gardens, which date back to Medieval times, were purchased in 1913 by antiquarian Stefano Bardini, who added new footpaths, statues and decorative elements, while leaving the planted areas nearly intact. Overgrown and wild since his death, this wonderful gardens have recently been restored with funds from the private sector.

Brandini Gardens
Costa San Giorgio 4. Entrance from Via dei Bardi, 1r (Piazza dei Mozzi) or from the Boboli Gardens (Pitti Palace).
Reservations: tel 055 294883 055 290112
Open Monday- Sunday 8:15 am - sunset.
€5, reduced €2,50.

Villa Gamberaia
Located on the hillside of Settignano, with breath-taking views of nearby Florence (4 kilometers northeast) and the surrounding Arno valley, the villa is renowned for its splendid gardens. Completed in the early 17th century by the Florentine noble Zanobi Lapi in the Tuscan style, the villa combines architectural features of both an urban palazzo and a suburban villa. By the 18th century, the house and gardens had acquired the characteristic elements seen in a famous engraving by Giuseppe Zocchi: the cypress allée, bowling green, nymphaeum, grotto garden, woods, parterre and lemon tree terrace.

At the end of the 19th century, Princess Giovanna Ghika began the transformation of the parterre de broderie into the beautiful parterre d'eau framed with clipped yew and box hedge stands at its southern end enclosed by a majestic cypress arcade. Elegant interpretations of topiary art were created in the early 20th century by American-born Mathilda Ledyard Cass, Baroness von Ketteler. In 1944 the villa was burned by the Nazis but the garden survived.
After the Second World War, the Villa became the property of Marcello Marchi. Since then his heir, Luigi Zalum and family, have continued with curatorial duties, restoration and conservation.

Villa Gamberaia
72 Via del Rossellino, Settignano
Open by appointment year round 8 am - 5 pm.
€ 7,40 weekdays, €9,25 weekends. tel 055 697205

Where to Eat:
Pitti Gola e Cantina (wine bar)
Piazza de Pitti 16).
tel 055 212704

Enoteca Pincchiori
Via Ghibellina 87
tel 055 242 757

Where to Stay:
J and J Hotel (near the Duomo)
Via di Mezzo, 20
tel 055 26312 www.jandjhotel.net

Casa Howard, Florence
Via della Scala, 18
Firenze www.casahoward.com
06 6992 4555


These days, many travelers are adding active week-end retreats to the traditional schedule of  urban sight-seeing, keeping in shape and enjoying the beauty of Italy’s countryside as well its art, culture, history and gastronomy. A trekking or cycling excursion outside Rome can take  you through a network of hillside towns and medieval villages and into the surrounding woods that clear onto lush green meadows and fertile farmland before trailing off into a rural mountain pass. For those who are ready to explore beyond Rome’s historic center, the options are endless.

A great destination for historical as well as natural treasures, the town rises on a hill at the base of the slopes of Monti Ernici, in the southeast corner of Lazio near the Abruzzo border. The medieval borgo is encircled  by a thick acreage of chestnut, oak, maple, spruce-fir, pine and sequoia forest that extends toward an immense valley of green meadows. In the middle ages the city was structured around the castle that loomed over the landscape from  the promontory.  Several noble Roman families dominated Fiuggi’s flourishing agricultural economy, from the Caetani to the Sforza, to the Borgia, and, finally, the Colonna, who held onto it until 1816. In 1911 Fiuggi’s natural springs were evaluated for the curative elements in the water in 1913 the town became home to one of  Europe’s most prestigious thermal spas. This corner of Lazio is part of the agricultural zone known as the Ciociaria, famous for le cioce, the shoe worn by local farmers in ancient times. It is also the birthplace of Italy’s best loved international screen stars: Marcello Mastroianni and Sofia Loren.

The area has one of the longest bicycle routes in Italy, linking Fiuggi to Paliano, paralleling the the rail line that unites the thermal springs to Rome. A lap of both the Giro d’Italia Tour and Giro del Lazio is often hosted at Fiuggi. From Fiuggi to Anagni to Alatri to the natural reserve of Lago di Canterno, the Fiuggi bike route forms  a loop around the region’s artistic riches and enchanting landscape. The weather is pleasant throughout most of the year, and the hillsides are steep enough to satisfy the most ambitious cyclist. As a bonus, along the trails, you can sample the region’s traditional cuisine; simple hearty and healthy.

Mountain bike enthusiasts go for the rural route, with its many ups and downs, twists and turns. Often recommended for cyclists in training  or anyone looking for a serious physical workout, the route leads towards the town of Fumone and Lake Canterno in the direction of Acuto and Altipiani di Arcinazzo.
Physically challenging, the panoramic itinerary is a spectacular route over uncontaminated slopes covering more than 35 kilometers of downhill cycling with inclines of 350 meters. Almost 800 meters cut through the mountain and the trail remains on the same level before opening onto the vast range. The payoff is the magnificent view of the hills below that spread out onto fields spotted with delicate colors in spring and summer.

Recreational cyclists choose the  bike route that covers 68 kilometers of open verdant fields and  meadows, historic architecture and tour of the area’s Monasteries. The first incline on this route has a maximum of 9% and starts downhill at Passo della Sella  before crossing the high plains area of Arcinazzo

Trekking or hiking in the countryside around  Fiuggi, you can follow an itinerary that immerses you in a deep forest of chestnuts and oak trees girded by the Ernici and Lepini mountains. From Fonte Bonifacio, the trail runs along the Golf Club and the sanctuary of La Madonna della Stella arriving at Lago di Canterno. Starting from the opposite direction, you reach the ruins of the medieval town of Porciano, abandoned in the eighteenth century, which looks onto the panoramic vista of la Valle del Sacco. The route back takes you towards the mulattiera (mule track) of Anlagen. Continuing your journey take in the break-taking panoramic view from Campo Catino. Comb through acres of Monti Ernici’s uncontaminated wilderness. The trail continues over pastures and a thicket of birch trees before reaching the natural oasis of Prato di Campoli or towards the path that rises to the Abbazia of Certosa di Trisulti. This excursion could take around six hours with altitudes varying from 300 to 1,100 meters.

Where to Stay:
Silva Hotel Splendid 
in Fiuggi is part of the Bike Hotel Italian chain, catering to recreational cyclists, tourists and mountain bikers. Guests can return to the four-star comfort of accommodations that offer spa treatments and local cuisine. The bike routes, which begin at the hotel  in Fiuggi is organized around a selection of self-guided multi-level itineraries.  Side trips include visits to  nearby monasteries, castles, Renaissance palaces, artisan’s shops and parks. The Hotel offers complete bike service, maintenance, storage, laundry service for sportswear, emergency medical service and road service pick-up in case of break-down. The hotel sports facilities include tennis courts, swimming and an 18-hole golf course is just five minutes from the property. Minibus transportation is provided from the Anagni-Fiuggi train station.
www.silvasplendid.it  tel  0775 515 791

Albergo Nord Roma
A small, family-run hotel in the center of town, within walking distance of the thermal spa. All the rooms have balconies with views. The restaurant serves typical cuisine of the region. The staff will organize special mountain biking weekend packages in collaboration with the Cellitti Bike Team of Frosinone and Anagni-Fiuggi.
www.albergonordroma.it tel 0775 514223

What to see:
Abbazia di Monte Cassino Corso
Nuovo Italia Originally constructed in the sixth century AD, the Abbey was badly bombed and almost completely destroyed during WWII. The Baroque Chiostro dei Benefattori and crypt are the only remaining original sections.
40 kilometers from Fiuggi  tel 0775 515 791.

Abbazia di Casamari
Rising above the plain between the towns of Frosinone and Sora, the abbey, founded in 1005 by Benedictine clerics of Veroli,  the abbey was constructed in the Gothic-Cistercense architectural style.
50 kilometres from Fiuggi

The ancient home of the Ernici, Anagni is one of the most important medieval towns in Italy, boasting the Cathedral of Anagni, which  dates back to the 11th century, and the historic palazzo of Bonifacio VIII, one of the most illustrious popes.
14 kilometers from Fiuggi

Certosa di Trisulti Included on both cycling and trekking itineraries, the town, constructed in 1204 by Pope Innocent III,  is a splendid example of mountain religious architecture.

Parco dei Simbruini
A 2 kilometer walk, the park is comprised of four grottos. The Campo Staffi is known as the first subterranean grotto with a  formation of alabaster. Grotta Prosepina  or Grotto Nera, with its black asphalt rock slopes towards Fosso Vardana and accesses the center of the village of Filettino via a suspended wooden foot-bridge.

Getting there:
By car: Take Autostrada A1, exit  Anagni-Fiuggi (75 kilometers from Rome)
By train:Trains leave frequently for the one hour trip  from Rome’s Stazione Termini to the Anagni-Fiuggi station.

Bryn Jenkins offers guided countryside walks in the country and lakeside towns near Rome. www.walkinrome.it
For more information (in Italian) about the thermal waters spa www.termefiuggi.it
For more information (in English) about Italy's Bike Hotels www.italybikehotels.it
For biking itineraries (in Engish) www.italybikehotels.it/en/itinerari.jsp

On the third Sunday of May each year, the ancient town of Acquapendente celebrates the festival of the Pugnaloni, in honor of the miracle of 1166, when two peasants sighted the Madonna dei Fiori, inspiring them to begin the rebellion that overthrew Federico Barbarossa. The pugnaloni are large wooden emblems covered with mosaic designs made from local greenery and flowers. Weeks before the festival, pugnaloni teams begin working on their sketches, which then must be approved by a committee to ensure that the spirit and traditions of the festival are properly observed. Then each group begins to forage the surrounding countryside for the foliage and blossoms needed to complete their work. Dried leaves are carefully glued in place to form the background of the piece. On the night before the big day, flower petals are delicately put in place by the team, working long hours into the early morning. The festivities begin on Saturday night, with the procession of the Madonna dei Fiori. Finished pugnaloni are displayed in the main squares of the town on Sunday morning until early afternoon when the parade begins. A panel of judges chooses the six top place winners, whose pugnaloni will be displayed throughout the coming year. Historic costumes, food, wine and music complete the festival events.
Acquapendente (near Viterbo)
Saturday- Sunday May 15-16
For the festival information page (in Italian) click here.

A short drive northwest of Rome takes us to Tivoli, where the natural springs attracted the Romans to build baths, which are still active today, and where Hadrian built his expansive villa. But the main attraction is a smaller villa, the Villa d'Este, whose miraculous terraced water gardens are on the UNESCO world heritage. The villa was built by Cardinal Ippolito d'Este (1509-1572), son of Lucrezia Borgia and Alfonso I Duke of Ferrara, and grandson of Pope Alexander VI. As the grandson of a pope, d'Este had a stellar rise through the ranks of the church hierarchy. (He was made a bishop at the age of two.) By the time he was 41, he was in line for the papacy, but he was elbowed out by Julius III, who effectively exiled him to Tivoli by naming him governor. Ippolito d'Este spent the last twenty years of his life constructing and decorating his Mannerist villa, covering the interior walls and ceilings with ornate frescoes and creating the water gardens, with grottoes, dozens of fountains, statuary, reflecting pools, exotic greenery and fragrant flowering plants. From 1605, his successor, Alessandro d'Este, restored and extended the gardens, with new technological innovations. At one end of the huge gardens, Borromini designed an ornate waterfall several stories high (1650-1670). At the outbreak of the first world war the villa became a property of the Italian State, and during the 1920s it was restored and opened to the public. Restoration of the garden continues to this day. It's a wonderful place to spend an afternoon, or even a full day, although it tends to get crowded on sunny Sundays. A restaurant/café overlooking the gardens is perfect for coffee, lunch or a glass of wine while enjoying the view. If you decide to make a weekend of it, spend the second day wandering the ruins at nearby Villa Adriana, just outside town.
To reach the Villa d'Este, park in the public lot at the center of the town. The entrance to the gardens is just on the other side and the information kiosk in the square will be helpful. You can also reach Tivoli by train from Rome's Stazione Termini, but you'll need to take cab or bus from the station up to the historic center.
Open 8:30 am till one hour before sunset.
For the Villa d'Este information page (in English) click here


Luxury hotels don’t normally have the rambunctious history of La Posta Vecchia, on the Lazio coast at Palo, just a short drive from Rome. A seaside oasis with nineteen luxury suites looking out onto the Mediterranean, the hotel is situated on eight acres of exclusive private park that originally belonged to the adjacent Odescalchi Castle. In 1965, Ladislao Odescalchi sold the property, a 16th century carriage house, which once housed a fleet of postal coaches, to J. Paul Getty. Getty set about refurbishing the interiors with 16th and 17th century Spanish and Italian antique furnishings and 16th century paintings and tapestries, Raphael and della Robbia ceramics are among his collection. After Getty’s death, the property was purchased by industrialist R. Sciò and transformed into the luxury hotel and secret hideaway it is today. The new owners have maintained the Getty aura that gives La Posta Vecchia authentic charm.
Rooms all have a magisterial elegance that exudes comfort. Monumental antique headboards oversee custom-made beds dressed in crisp, white linens. Original wood-beamed ceilings bring a cavernous coziness. Bathrooms are tiled or covered in marble with original brass fixtures. Throughout the corridors and public spaces, walls and alcoves are adorned with works of art, marble sculpture, objects and other fineries.
The building sits atop two second century Roman villas,carefully excavated, and now the hotel’s private museum. The space is made available for private celebrations or conferences.
In ancient times, Palo was an important Etruscan port destroyed by the Romans after VI century B.C. Long after it fell to the Romans, the site still reserved its magic. In more recent times Palo has also been the final destination for trains bringing vacationers to the nearby seaside town of Ladispoli, five kilometers away.
La Posta Vecchia offers a conference room, indoor pool, private beach, business center, internet connection, dining, cable and satellite TV, limousine service, 24 hour room service, air-conditioning, free-parking, bike rental, mountain-biking and snorkeling The restaurant accepts bookings from non-hotel clients.
La Posta Vecchia,
Palo Laziale
Tel 06 994 9601 or 06 994 9507
Hotel open seasonally April to mid-November.

About 50 miles northwest of Rome, the coastal highway turns off towards the  ancient Etrurian city of Caere, today known as Ceveteri. Nothing is left of the antique city but just outside its walls lies one of the most intriguing architectural discoveries of the 19th century: the necropoli of Caere, an ancient Etruscan burial ground. As was their custom, the Etruscans built two cities, one for the living and one for the deceased.
Follow a one lane dirt road lined with century old cypresses that leads to a dead end “park” where several acres of tumulo (tombs) contained within the necropolis overlook a bucolic Roman countryside dotted with flocks of grazing sheep in the valley below.
Cemetery’s are not often on one’s touring agenda but Etruscan cemeteries are cultural barometers, revealing the architectural and artistic development from the seventh to the third centuries BC.
 D.H. Lawrence visited the tombs in 1927 and described them as having a “queer stillness and curious peaceful repose”. Lawrence was enthralled with these tombs, as well as others, further up the coast in Tarquinia.
The tombs were set up to replicate life as it had been. For the Etruscans, death was a continuation of life, a state of simultaneous existence and non-existence. The deceased merited everything that had sustained them in life. An intriguing complex of tombs was laid out according to an urban scheme with neighborhoods, streets and piazzas. The tombs themselves are highly stylized architectural structures with distinctive exteriors, often crowned with a tholos, a conical dome or grassy mound of earth girdled at the base in tufo, the indigenous building stone found throughout Lazio. Interior spaces varied stylistically. Some were noble while others were simple and unadorned.
The Tomba dei Rilievi, one of the largest and more elaborate, is covered in sculptured reliefs portraying mythological figures, armor, hunting implements, animals and utilitarian objects. Most have one or several of the following attributes: barrelled vaulted ceilings, ante-chambers, or chambers with built-in resting places. The deceased were laid to rest there, or placed in an open wooden sarcophagus, with a headdress carved into the stone.  Some are furnished with chairs or stools. Remaining artifacts such as vases, urns, jewelry, arms and statues were removed by archeologists and placed in museums. Many objects were taken by tomboroli, night hawkers who pillaged tombs carrying away whatever contents they could manage.
Ceveteri (Caere) rose in the ninth century BC, and in the following two  hundred years it became an important Etrurian economic and maritime power with three iport cities connecting it to the intense trade along the Mediterranean caravan route.
Today, the port cities of Alsium, Cunicum and Pyrgi are the popular beach towns of Palo, Santa Marinella  and Santa Servera respectively.  Ceveteri is only part of the history of an enigmatic population that settled between the Arno and Tiber rivers and whose origins have been disputed and discussed as far back as Herodotus.

Museo Nazionale Cerite, Cerveteri
Open Tuesday – Sunday, 8:30 – 7:30; last admission 6:30 pm
Tel 06 994 1354
Rail service available from Rome, Stazione Ferroviaria St. Peters.
By car, take the Aurelia or Cassia Vecchia.

Visit the Etruscan museums in Rome:
Villa Giulia, Piazzale Villa Giulia (Parioli)
Gregoriano – Etrusco Museum within  the Vatican Museum

When Rome's sweaty sea level summer weather got to us, we headed uphill, and north to Umbria and the Fattoria di Vibio. In Italian, a fattoria is a farm, but despite the presence of acres of olive trees, and a few contented pigs (well-hidden in a shady glen), this farm feels more like a resort. The old stone farmhouse has been transformed into 14 comfortable guest rooms with private baths, a restaurant and an enoteca. There's an outdoor pool with poolside bar, a stunning new spa, which has already been cited for its architectural elegance, an indoor pool, and best of all, a shady lawn with tables and chairs for relaxing over an appertivo and a glorious view of the sun setting over the valley below. For would-be chefs, this elegant farm offers mid-week cooking classes, and for equestrians horse are available to explore the trails. Summer dinners are served out of doors on a covered patio from a Slow Food kitchen, where all the food is fresh and the menu is varied. We thought we'd found heaven.
Fattoria di Vibio
Montecastello di Vibio (near Todi)
Tel 075 874960

Our new favorite Umbrian retreat is a farmhouse in the hills near Todi, called Entropia, with spacious, comfortable rooms, luxurious baths, a large swimming pool and a restaurant with some of the best food in the region, all at very reasonable prices.
tel 075 885 2249

To explore in Umbria:

Just a few minutes from the Fattoria di Vibio, this medieval town is worth a visit for its Gothic cathedral, and the Palazzo del Capitano, now a museum with frescoed walls. For a really thrilling experience, go to Todi for the Italian International Balloon Grand Prix, in July, which coincides with the gastronomy, folklore and music festival.

Where to stay:
Hotel Tudor Palace, Via Maestà dei Lombardi, 13 tel 075 894 2184
Just down the hill from the city gates, a modern, pleasant three-star hotel with a good restaurant and panoramic views.
Hotel Fonte Cesia, via Lorenzo Leonj, 3 tel 075 894 3737 www.fontecesia.it
In a fifteenth-century palace, this hotel is high on atmosphere, with four-star comfort. Located in the center of town, it allows you to explore the city easily on foot. And the terrace dining area offers both charm and good food.

The Festival of Two Worlds, now in its year brings this sleepy medieval town to life. One of Europe's biggest festival, it's two weeks packed with opera, dance, symphony and chamber music concerts, film and the fine arts. This year the festival runs through July 16th.
Spoleto is slightly under reconstruction at the moment, having been a bit damaged by last year's earthquake, but it's still full of medieval charm and mystery. Like most of the ancient towns, it's built on a hillside, so there's lots of walking up and down. Just inside the city gates, there are a couple of blocks of modern shops, chain stores, restaurants and cafes. The further up the hill you wind, the more interesting and old the town becomes.

Where to stay:
Our favorite hotel is the Palazzo Dragoni, a fourth-century palace converted into a cozy hotel. It's at the top of the hill, just a short walk from the Cathedral and the best rooms have walls of French doors looking over the ancient rooftops and across the valley.
Via del Duomo 13 tel 743-222220 www.palazzodragoni.it

Click here for the Festival of Two Worlds schedule in English

Orvieto is only an hour by train from Rome, and a short drive from the Fattoria di Vibia. The city is reached by means of a funicular that goes straight up the side of the hill from the train station. There are many compelling reasons to visit Orvieto. The first is the Romanesque-Gothic duomo (cathedral), one of the most magnificent in all of Europe, dating from 1290. Inside the cathedral, the Brizio chapel is an unforgettable experience. Riveting frescoes by Luca Signorelli (1441-1523) entirely cover the walls and ceilings with images of the apocalypse, heaven, hell and the resurrection. The town itself is famous for it's food and wine. The local olive oil, grains, truffles, mushrooms, garden fruits and vegetables combine to make a unique cuisine, celebrated each October with a "Gusto" festival. Orvieto is also a center for artesian ceramics. Shops near the cathedral sell all kinds of hand-painted works, from inexpensive dishes and bowls, to costly works of art, many of them copies of medieval designs. Underground Orvieto is equally fascinating. The Etruscans built a city into the side of the hill. Excavations have unearthed intricate grottoes with cisterns, caves, frescoed galleries and an olive oil press. Many artifacts from the site can be seen in the museum opposite the cathedral, and guided tours leave from the Piazza del Duomo.

Where to stay:
The Hotel Duomo is a recently remodeled palazzo just around the corner from the Piazza del Duomo. Some rooms have wonderful views of the cathedral, and all are comfortable if simply furnished. It's small with only 17 rooms, and prices are reasonable. Doubles with breakfast start at €90 - €120 depending on the season.
Hotel Duomo, Vicolo Maurizio 7 tel 0763 341887 www.orvietohotelduomo.com.

Getting there:
Driving from Rome, the GRA to the A1 takes you into Orvieto and Spoleto. To get to Todi, turn off the A1 at highway 45.
Trains to Orvieto and Spoleto from Rome's Termini station take about an hour. To get to Todi, you'll have to change trains at Terni, for a total travel time of about 90 minutes. There are no taxis at the Todi train station, so be warned. It's too far to walk up to the town.

Umbria links:



A string of seven magnificent islands between Corsica and Tuscany, facing the coastal city of Argentario. Legend has it that the islands were formed from Venus’ necklace — seven  pearls dropped into the sea as the Goddess surfaced from a deep sea swim. Each island has its own history that linking it to ancient Mediterranean lore, and together the seven — Giannutri, Giglio, Montecristo, Pianosa, Elba, Capraia and Gorgona — make up one of Europe's largest marine parks with varying flora and fauna, granite rock formations, steep cliffs that plunge into the sea from as high as 1,000 metres, bays, coves, sandy beaches and uncontaminated crystal clear waters.

Montecristo is formed from granite covered under a blanket of brushwood. Because of its harsh make-up, the island is uninhabited and has been of interest to botanists and geologists. It was the inspiration for the island prison Alexander Dumas’ classic novel “The Count of Monte Cristo,” In the book,  Dumas  recalls the smell of thyme and broom from his visit to the island in 1842. In the fifth century, St. Maximilian, then bishop of Palermo, sought refuge on the island. For centuries thereafter, it was populated by religious recluses, and pirates, it has been left very much intact and is protected as an national park reserve. It remains one of the most intriguing and least visited among the group.

Giglio, just 18 km off the coast of Argentario is dominated by a Medieval fortress constructed when the Pisan Republic reigned over the island. Its name, not to be confused with the Italian word for lily (giglio) is, in fact, derived from the Greek word for goat (aegilion). The island was inhabited as far back as the Stone and Bronze Ages. Etruscans lost their lease to the Romans who took up occupancy in the third century B.C.. In 805, Carlo Magno donated the island to the monks of Rome’s the Abbey of the Three Fountains. The Medici’s filed in behind the Pisan Republic but the rise in sea piracy and the fierce Barbarossa forced them to vacate quickly.

Elba, the largest island of the archipelago with eight towns, was a favorite among an international novo-bohemian crowd in the 1950s and 1960s About half of the island is a nature preserve. It ‘s only 10km from land with 147 km of coastline. A massive granite rock, Monte Capanne, dominates the island’s panorama. The Etruscans and The Pisa Republic took over in Medieval times. But it’s most famous as the site of Napoleon Bonaparte’s ten-month exile prior waging the 100 day war that ended badly for him at Waterloo. His former residence, the Villa dei Mulini in Portoferraio, is now a  museum. (Napoleon Museum Tel 0565 915 846.) Elba offers a great choice of vacation attractions: country walks, fishing, sandy beaches, scuba diving, sailing, bicycling, gommome (inflatable boats) camping, thermal baths, museums, artisan crafts, wines and regional cuisine.

Of special interest:

San Giovanni Spa
A renowned thermal spa offering therapeutic mud with a high concentration of minerals and organic sulfur, as well as the usual massages, facials and anti-cellulite treatments.

Marina di Campo

A mile of pristine coastline, possibly the best best in Europe. Rent a kayak here and explore.

Rio Marina is a natural mineral museum. The For nearly 3,000 years its 2,000 hectares were mined for heir iron, a practice which continued until the 1980s. Other minerals on the island include, quartz crystal and  pyrite.

Musei Archeologichi
Archeological museums in Mariana and Porto Ferraio are worth exploring.
Via del Pretorio, Mariana tel 0565 9011215
Fortezza della Linguella, Porto Ferraio tel 0565 937 370

Where to stay:
Portoferraio, the largest town on Elba, is where the ferries dock. Stop for lunch, or spend the night at the Villa Ottone, a gracious and characteristic hotel with a good restaurant and a private beach.

Getting there:
It’s  about a ninety minute drive heading northwest from Rome to the ferry landings. Take the A12 to to Civitavecchia, where you’ll pick up the Aurelia to Venturina, Statal, which brings you to Piombino.

You can also take the train to Piombino from Rome or Florence and then rent a car on the Elba side, but you'll need wheels to get around the island.
More than daily ferry crossings are available  boat Piombino to Portoferraio, Rio Marina and Porto Azzurra.
Toremar Ferry Line: www.toremar.it
Tel. Toremar Call Center – 892 123
Tel. Porto St. Stefano – 0564 810 803
Tel. Giglio Porto 0564 809 349

Maregiglio Ferry Service: www.maregiglio.it
Porto St. Stefano  tel. 0564 812 920
Porto Giglio          tel. 0564 809 309

Hydrofoil (aliscafa) service is also offered from Piombino to Isola d’Elba. Service runs to Cavo in Rio Marina then continues on to Portoferraio.
Tel 892 123

Marina di Campo Airport offers daily flights from Pisa and Milan.

Elba link:


Just 36 kilometers northwest of the city in the back hills of a bucolic Roman countryside, Lago di Bracciano has long been a favorite weekend retreat since the time of the Romans and ruins discovered in the lake basin suggest an earlier history dating back to the Etruscans and further to the first neolithic Europeon villages built 5,500 years ago. In recent years, the magnificent castle on it's shores, Castello Orsini, has hosed dignitaries from John F. Kennedy to the Pope, and was the site of the famous Tom-Katy wedding.

The beauty of the lake and the surrounding countryside is breathtaking, and still amazingly wild. The water is populated with swans, ducks, wild geese, cormorans and coot, and gulls and the woods with porcupines, boar, foxes and hedgehogs who venture out after sundown.

Three towns front the lake, all of them originally 15th century lordships. In the town of Bracciano, the Renaissance Orsini-Odescalchi Castle (1470) dominates the lakefront from its promontorial position. Trevignano wa built above the lake and is still protectd by the ruins of the medieval Orsini fortress. The entrance to the town of Anguilara is a tree-lined avenue ending in a towering 16th century gate.
During the summer months, the lake towns offer a wide variety of recreational activities: sun-bathing, swimming, bicyling, hiking in the surrounding hills, peddle-boat rentals, wind surfing, saling and rowing, horseback riding. It's a great lake for fishing, full of carp, pike, perch and coregone, which is similar to mullet. The lake's beaches, dark and pebbly, are freely accessible to the public, with beach chairs and umbrellas available for rental along the Trevignano strip.

Lakeside Restaurants

Vino and Camino, probably the hippest eating spot on the lake, is a small enoteca facing the piazza entrance to the Orsini-Odescalchi Castle, with a view of  one of its three monolithic towers. . The menu is varied and served à la carte. The spaghetti cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) is, excellent as is the petto di anatra (duck breast) served in season, sautèed until tender with herbs and olive oil, maintaining the flavour of the game. Try the fagioli, (Italian beans), the cheeses and the great selection of wines plus the best pear tart we’ve ever eaten.
Piazza Mazzini  (Castle Orsini-Odescalchi)
Open for lunch and dinner. Closed Mondays. Terrace seating.
Tel 06 998 03 433

Zaira, a charming little restaurant a few meters beyond the city wall, sits in a raised position just opposite the lake. The cuisine, characteristic of the area, includes fresh lake fish and pasta dishes, The profitero (almond pastry tart) is a dessert speciality. meal, A stroll along the point is a pleasant way to digest your meal while admiring the lake’s beauty, watching distant sailboats as they file into the Anguillara inlet. Venture to the end of the point and discover the little house at the end with a magical flower garden. It’s a picture postcard view you won’ t forget.  
Via Reginaldo Belloni 23
Open for lunch or dinner. Closed Tuesdays. Terrace seating.
Tel 06 996 8082


Grotta Azzurra, one of the most popular lakefront restaurants, occupies the lower level and terrace garden area of a beautifully maintained building, which is shaded by giant palm trees and surrounded with pots and beds of planted flowers. Their specialty, fresh lake fish (coregone and lucio) is prepared  grilled, baked or sautèed. Owner and chef, Signora Marcella, experiments with vegetables and herbs gathered fresh from her garden, often presenting new aromatic combinations you really won’t find anywhere else. Top your meal with one of her delicious homemade desserts. Both indoor and outdoor seating areas have spectacular lake views.
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, 18  (Lungo Lago).
Open for lunch and dinner. Closed Tuesdays. Terrace and garden seating.
Tel 06 9999 420

Lakeside Hotels

Villa degli Oleandri is just 200 meters from the banks of Lake Bracciano in the rural neighborhood of Pontevecchio. The complex offers two apartments with private baths for short-term rentals.  For longer vacations, air-conditioned cottages for up to three people with kitchnettes, satellite TV and washing machines are available. A restaurant and public swimming pool are located nearby and a sports Center, tennis camp, mini golf and soccer field  (calcetto) are a short distance away. Horse back riding excursions in the nearby wood are available at hourly rates. Easy access to the battello, a vapour water boat that tours all three lake towns. Tours are available throughout the summer months. 
Via Ponte Vecchio 99
tel /cell (39) 339 482 6849  or 338 752 2289


Bed & Breakfast L’Amaca
L’Amaca, a charming B & B, is set on several acres among fruit and olive trees, on the outskirts of Trevignano in the rural residential  area of Monterosi. Comfortable and spacious accomodations include  two bedroom suites and a vacation apartment with two bedrooms, bath, sitting room and kitchenette which sleeps six. The garden area is equipped with a barbecue grill. Just minutes from the nearest lake beach, it is an ideal location for vacations of a weekend or longer.
Via Pietro Salvatori, 3 (zona Monterosi)
tel 39 0761 6999 21 or 39 348 341 8590

Hotel Recostano Residence
A stone’s throw from the town center, this comfortable and well-kept residence hotel faces the lake. Rooms are air-conditioned and furnished with telephone, kitchenette, TV, and mini bar. Charming and simpatico owner, Davide Stefanelli has expanded his hospitality to include a beauty salon, physical therapy center, sauna and solarium available at the complex’s adjacent Fitness Center. Underground parking available.  
Viale Garibaldi, 141 
tel (39) 06 999 16000

And an educational spot for the whole family:
Museo Storico di Aeronautica Militare Italiana
The aeronautics museum at Vigna di Valle (Lago di Bracciano) is dedicated to the exhibition and preservation of italy’s aeronautic history. The oldest aeronautic site in the country, its history dates back to 1907, when the first Italian airship (a dirigibile) took off from its runway. The museum’s permanent collection of motors, historic aircrafts and documenta


map braccianoGetting there:
To get to the town of Bracciano, the Roma-Viterbo train line departs from the Roma-Ostiense and St Peters stations. (www.trenitalia.com).

To get to the town of Anguillara, the Roma-Viterbo train line's Aguillara stop is about four kilometers from the town center, with shuttle bus service from the station.  

By car:
From Corso Francia  take the SS Flaminia to the G.R.A. (The freeway that  forms a ring around Rome), exit onto the SS. Cassia-Veientana-Viterbo highway towards Viterbo. Continue for 35 km finally exiting at Settevene (signs indicate Trevignano, Bracciano, Anguillara, etc.) and turn left crossing the viaduct. Follow the curving country road of Settevene Palo until you arrive at a bivio with further indication (Bracciano, Anguillara, Trevignano).

Coming through the city, the Via Cassia brings you to all three towns. From Corso Francia take the Cassia (bear to your left at the fork where the Cassia and Flaminia intersect off Corso Francia).. Follow the Cassia past an area called La Storta. Continue several kilometres and take a left at the Braccianense. From there, continue to Bracciano, Anguillara or Trevignano.


Just 100 kilometers from Rome, Viterbo is a one of the best preserved medieval towns in central Italy, with a fascinating history. Built at the at the base of Monte Cimini, the town, which is enclosed in a 12th century wall, is surrounded by rich agriculture lands, Renaissance and Baroque villas, medieval villages, Etruscan necropoli and thermal baths.  

The central square is dominated by the cathedral and the splendid Palazzo dei Papi, the palace of the popes. In 1257, when anti-papal hostility drove Alexander IV from Rome, he enlarged the Viterbo Bishop's Palace to create a suitable residence. The Gothic structure with its imposing staircase and wide loggia, is breathtaking. Looking over the valley below, the loggia is formed by a series of seven arcades decorated with crests, and enclosing a fountain. Viterbo was the seat of five subsequent popes, and remained part of the papal states until 1870. With such an illustrious history, the city attracted its share of important churches and noble families. The Chigi and Farnese built magnificent structures there. Today it's a town of art galleries, charming shops, restaurants and cafes. You'll want to wander through the San Pellegrino quarter, an intact 12th century neighborhood, with medieval houses, arches, fountains and piazzas.

Where to eat:

'L Richiastro
A rustic trattoria in the courtyard of a medieval house, with an enormous fireplace, serves typical local cuisine.
Via della Marroca 16 tel 0761 228009
Closed Wednesdays and Sunday dinner. No credit cards.
La Torre
An osteria and adjoining enoteca well-stocked with a variety of wines, serves simple but beautifully prepared dishes using seasonal ingredients from the local farms, and fresh fish from nearby Lake Bolsena.
Via della Torre 5 tel 0761 226467
Closed Sundays, and throughout July and August
Porta Romana
Local dishes prepared by the proprietor, a spry 84 year-old woman, who cooks with an unerring loyalty to tradition.
Via della Bontà 12 tel 0761 307118
Closed Sundays.

Where to Stay:
B & B dei Papi
A comfortable bed and breakfast in a medieval palace in Viterbo’s historic center, walking distance from the Palazzo dei Papi, restaurants, shopping and major transportation. Rooms are furnished with telephone, TV, private bathrooms and air conditioning.
Suites €90; doubles €80; singles €50
Via del Ginnasio 8 tel 0761 309 039

Getting There:
By car: Take exit five from the GRA (Grande Raccordo Anulare) to the SS 2 (the Cassia Bis and the Cassia), which takes you directly to Viterbo. Or take exit ten from the GRA to the toll highway A1, continue to the Orte exit and follow the signs to Viterbo.
By train: Frequent trains go to Viterbo from Ostiense station, Rome. Alternatively, you can take a train from Rome's Stazione Termini and change at either Ostiense or Orte station. Click here for train schedules and fares.
The Metropolitana Roma Nord line goes to Viterbo from Piazzale Flaminio every 25 minutes from about 6 am - 11 pm. It's 2 hour and 25 minute ride. Click here for more information

Side trip: Cività Bagnoregio
Reaching this beautiful medieval village is an experience in itself. It's accessible only by a foot bridge suspended across a deep ravine. The village gates, flanked by two lions sculpted in tufo, open onto a magical place, locked in time, a village without cars. Not only is it impossible to bring one in over the foot bridge, but motor vehicles are prohibited, in any case, because of the fragile ecology. Known as “the dying town,” Cività Bagnoregio is likely to disappear eventually, as centuries of rain, mixed with falling sand and clay erode the bed rock. Once a thriving commercial center, the village today is inhabited by artists and craftsmen and survives on tourism. In past centuries, two powerful earthquakes destroyed most of the ancient structures.  But the medieval flavor of the village endures, with food shops and osterie offering local wines, cheese, salamis and sausages. The cathedral, built on the ashes of a fifth century church, is dedicated to the Madonna of the Snow and is the home of a parchment bible said to have belonged to the 13th century Saint Bonaventura, the town's most illustrious native son.

Where to eat:
Osteria del Ponte
A family-owned restaurant just a few meters from the access bridge. The cuisine is typical of the area: abbacchio (roast lamb), roasted potatoes, wild boar, pasta dishes and homemade desserts.
Localita Mercatello 11  tel 0761 793565  Reservations necessary on weekends; closed Sunday dinner.

Side trip: Villa Lante, Bagnaia
Only four kilometers from Viterbo, Bagnaia combines a medieval borgo and renaissance city, both dominated over by the clock tower that rises above the city’s walls. Since the 13th century Bagnaia was known as a preferred summer residence for cardinals and men of the church. Villa Lante is a splendid 16th century resdience, surrounded by formal gardens landscaped during the Mannerist period.  The villa was constructd by Cardinal De Gambara in 1566, with architectural plans drawn up by Jacopo Barozzi, better known as Vignola. Its geometrical landscape design was inspired by the Belvedere Palace at Vatican City, while the fountains and waterfalls are inspired the fabulous waterworks at Villa de'Este in Tivoli. 
Visiting hours: 9 am 4:30 pm; closed Mondays and major holidays.

Side trip: Palazzo Farnese at Caprarola
One of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture outside Florence, the palace was the summer residence of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese.  Designed by Antonio da Sangallo in 1520, the construction of the buiding is based on a pentagonal plan. In 1559, the project was handed over to to Vignola (1507 – 1573).  Vignola’s design included wide terraces that opened onto a panoramic countryside. The palace's rooms are decorated with period furnishings and frescoes by brothers Taddeo and Federico Zuccari. Another important building on the grounds is the splendid orto (adjacent to themain building) begun by Giacomo Del Duca in 1565 and finished by Rainaldi in 1630.
Palzzo Farnese  Caprarola (16km from Viterbo)   Open 9 am – 4 pm tel 0761 646 052 or 0761 646 368  

Side Trip: Parco dei Monstri (Monster Park)
Bomarzo Park, a 16th century villa with grotesque stone sculptures of monstrous porportions, depiciting mythological personalities and creatures taken from classic fables: Pergasus, Hercules, Neptune, Cera. Prince Pier Francesco Orsini built the villa in 1552. Mourning the death of his wife, Giulia Farnese, he erected a temple and statuary in her honor on the grounds. The villa was designed by Architect Pirro Ligorio. Giovanni Bettini purchased the property in 1954, eventually opening it to the public. The park can be a fun outing for curious place for children.
Open daily year round, 8 am to sunset tel 0761 924 029 



Just north of Naples and inland from the popular resorts of the Amalfi coast, the Sannio is a fertile region of rolling hills, vineyards and olive groves that stretches into neighboring Molise. Roman ruins stand on distant hills, and frequent signs point out the many vineyards. It's a poor region but its appeal is that it's off the tourist trails, and unlike more affluent Umbria and Tuscany, no buses pull into the ancient piazzas. There are no "menu turistico" signs, and the only language you'll hear in the streets and vicoli is Italian. Driving through the countryside in the fall, you'll see fields covered in red. These are apples, picked early and laid out to ripen on the ground, turned every 14 days to create a hardy fruit, which will keep all winter and which makes an exceptional jam.

What to Do:
Good wines and hearty local cuisine are the main attractions of the Sannio. There are six DOC wines in the region, including Falenghina and Greco d Tufo. Campagnia is the home of the one true buffalo mozzarella and there are many other wonderful local cheeses, as well as local prosciutto and other cured meats. There are olive oils and honey to be sampled, vineyards to tour. For those with a passion for artiginal crafts there are the ceramics producing villages of San Lorenzello and Cerreto and the historic silk factory at San Leucio, closer to Caserta.

Benevento was the major center of the Samnites, a people who lived contemporaneously with the Etruscans. Today, it is the still the most important town of the area. It's rich in history, with many ancient structures, among them,
the Arch of Titus, built in 114;
a Roman amphitheater built by Hadrian, and later expanded by Caracalla;
the Rocca dei Rettori, the ancient castle of Benevento, on the site of a former Benedictine monastery, it got its current name in the Middle Ages, when it became the seat of the papal governors, the Rettori;
the church of Santa Sofia with its 12th century cloisters; and the cathedral, which was built from the 11th to the 13th centuries.

The spectacular hilltop Abbey of Montecasino should be at the top of your list. Founded by Saint Benedict in 529 on the ruins of
a Roman Temple of Apollo, it has survived sacking by the Longobards of Zoton in 577, the Saracens in 883, an earthquake in 1349, and the bombings of World War II in 1944. The grand and ornate Basilica Cathedral was rebuilt after the war according to the original 17th and 18th century design using much of the orignal marble. A cloister attributed to Bramante (which is in any case, stunning) was built in 1595. And the upper balcony of the Paradiso Loggio offers a breathtaking view of the countryside. The benefactors cloister built according to a plan by Sangallo in 1513, honors the many popes and bishops who supported the abbey throughout its history.

Geopaleontologico Park at Pietroroja Fossils of animals killed by toxic gases as long as 200 million years ago have been discovered in an area only a few meters from the center of the village. In 1993, the fossil of a baby dinosaur, was found. It's a great experience for archeology buffs.

The village of Pietralcina is the home of Padre Pio, who was born there in 1887. In 1918 while praying in the choir loft of the Church he is said to have received the stigmata. After the Second World War, he established a hospital at San Giovanni Rotondo. He was beatified in 2002.

Where to Stay:
Your best bet is to chose one of the many local agriturismi. These working farms provide charming rooms and meals at bargain prices- room and board can cost as little as €60 a night. Two to consider:

La Vecchia Torre
San Nicola Manfredi
Offers seven rooms with private bath, a pool, restaurant with local cuisine prepared using ingredients grown on the farm, archery, hunting and horseback riding.

Agriturismo Tufini
San Giorgio del Sannio
Offers four mini flats, each with two rooms and a private bathroom. It's kid-friendly with a merry-go-round, swimming pool, riding school.

The Sannio Experts:
American Barbara Goldfield and her Italian husband Federico Studer, are welcoming, friendly people who live in the Sannio and know its history and its secrets. They are a vital resource to anyone who wants to visit the Sannio, and indispensible to those who don't feel comfortable speaking Italian. They will plan an itinerary tailored to your interests, take you on tours of the vineyards, olive oil presses, or hike with you through the beautiful wooded hills. They are affiliated with an important cooking school, run by chef Bernardo Lombardo at Terra Conca, one of the most prestigious restaurants in Italy, and can help you plan a cooking vacation at the school. You can even stay on the grounds of the restaurant and farm, in charming rooms decorated with antiques.
Their website is loaded with great photos and information:

Getting There:
Take the A1 motorway from Rome towards Naples. Get off at the Caianello exit and follow the signs towards the village of your choice. Driving time about two and a half hours.

The Presepe is an Italian tradition, something like the Christmas crêche on steroids. Not just the manager scene, but the wise men, the livestock, and often, the entire surrounding village, complete with animated workers, waterfalls, bridges and brooks, anything you can imagine. They can be elaborate home decorations occupying an entire table, signed works designed by artists, even living sculptures with real people dressed to play all the parts. In Southern Italy, the real home of the presepe is Naples,. It's less than 90 minutes on the train from Rome, and a real Christmas experience to walk along the via San Gregorio Armeno a Spaccanapoli where stand after stand offers every sort of Presepio item. While you're there you can enjoy the best genuine Neapolitan pizza for lunch, then stop in at the Galleria Umberto, one of the world's most beautiful shopping malls, built in the 19th century with a soaring glass atrium. The Galleria's cafès are a great choice for relaxing over a coffee and that delicious Neapolitan pastry the Babà, a wonderful cake with rum sauce. From here, you can walk up to the enormous Piazza Plebiscito, and then to the edge of the Bay of Naples for a breath of sea air, before grabbing a cab back to the train station.

Via San Gregorio Armeno a Spaccanapoli This street, within walking distance of the train station, is presepe central, a market dedicated to Christmas. In the heart of the historic center, the Spaccanapoli is the stuff of song and legend. You'll find everything along this street from the sublime to the ridiculous—from exquisitely hand-carved figurines, to presepe statuettes made to resemble celebrities of every sort. A lovely stroll takes you from Piazza San Domenico Maggiore and the Tribunali, through Via San Biagio dei Librai to Via San Gregorio Armeno.

Chiesa di S. Lorenzo Maggiore
This is the home of the miniature presepe, which has to be seen to be believed, carved inside a nutshell.

Piazza S. Gaetano

If you're lucky (timetables are unreliable at best) you'll be in town to see the live presepe in this picturesque square.

Click here for an interactive map of Naples.

Great Neapolitan Pizza:
Trianon Pizzeria
A Neapolitan classic, open since 1923, this spacious restaurant on three floors is recommended by locals as the best pizza in the historic center. Run by four generations of the Leone family,
.Via Pietro Colletta, 42/46 (near the Tribunali, just off the Via Umberto)
Tel. 081 553 9426
Pizzeria del Presidente
Via Tribunali . Steps away from San Gregorio Armeno, the place can be crowded. It changed its name a few years back when it was visited by then President Bill Clinton.



Just eighty kilometers northeast of Rome, in the southern Rieti mountain range, bordered to the south and east by the Velino Valley, soars Mount Terminillo, the highest elevation in Lazio, part of the Apennines central mountain chain. In 1938 a group of architects and engineers developed a ski resort on the mountain, which became the playground for Rome’s aristocracy. More recently, it became known as la montagna romana for its close proximity to Rome. Terminillo doesn't compete with Cortina D’Ampezzo, the chic resort in the northern Alps nor can it boast the wide rambling slopes of Selva di Val Gardena but at 1,600 to 2,000 meters above sea level, with narrow precipitous slopes, some walled between fragrant maple and oak, the mountain challenges even the most expert skier.  The slopes are serviced by ski chairs, ski-lifts and a funicular. The cable lift for downhill skiers travels along 761 meters beginning at an elevation of 1630 arriving at 1868 meters. A few other ski chairs transport skiers as high as 2101 meters. Cross-country trails, ranging from 2,500 to 5,000 meters in length can be entered from three trails: the Faggi at Plan de Valli, Cinque Confini on the outer road 10/A and Piazzale Le Malga at Campofrogna which leads towards the town of Leonessa, located at the foot of Mount Terminillo. Snowboarding, is also available through the Togada Snowpark Snowboard Club Terminillo and the Scuola Italiana Sci and Snowboard.

Ski Schools:
Scuola di Sci Cinque Confini  (cross country)
(39) 338 404 5008  (39) 368 54 35 86
Enrico Faraglia (cross country)
(39) 347 356 8534
Scuola di Sci Terminillo  (39) 0746 261 227
Scuola S.A. S. Piccola Balta   (39) 0746 261 289
Scuola Italien Sci e Snowboard S.P.  (39) 0746 258 080

Getting there
Train: Rome Termini to Rieti. Bus service from station arrives at Terminillo. tel 0746 203 143
Public bus: Buses leave from Stazione Tiburtina about every 15 minutes. The journey takes one hour and 40 minutes. CO.TRA.L. Rieti tel 0746 201113
Car: Highway A1 to Roma NORD, then SS4 Salaria to Rieti - Terminillo.

Where to Stay:
Hotel Cristallo is one of Terminillo’s more exclusive hotels with a mountainside location and luxurious amenities: restaurant, sauna, fitness center, solarium, hydro-therapy, massage, shiatsu and parking.
Hotel Ristorante La Luccila
The nearest hotel facility to the slopes, with beautiful views. Restaurant, bar, elevator service for the disabled, terrace, solarium.

Click these links for more information in Italian:


Travelling a bit further to the Abruzzo region, there are a number of resorts in the Gran Sasso mountain range, the highest elevation point of the central Apennine Mountains. Campo Felice offers a choice of snow activities from alpine skiing to cross-country, snowboarding, tobogganing, snow-rafting and dog-sledding with ski chairs, ski lifts and funicular service to some downhill runs ranging between 1400 and 2064 meters. The snow is well maintained, combining artificial snow with the natural snowfall.

Getting there:
Take the autostrada A24 Roma-L'Aquila to Castello di Tornimparte Campo Felice exit at Km 84,500

Where to stay:
Hotel Campo Felice
Nestled against the mountain, the hotel offers a restaurant, a pizzeria, an ice skating rink and a wellness center.
Rifugio Alantino
The hotel sits in the midst of cross-country ski paths. Amenities include TV, bar, solarium, pizza corner. Sleigh rental and ski school services. The restaurant, Il Briganti, serves cuisine typical to the area.

Ovindoli is the home of the ancient community of the Marsi, the first known inhabitants of Abruzzo. Located in the Sirente-Velino, a national reserve in the Apennine Mountains, it towers 1375 meters above sea level. Non-skiers, including hikers, trekkers and mountain climbers, enjoy exploring the protected area with its rich variety of deer, wolves, wild cats, owls and Marsian bears. Downhill and cross-country skiing took hold here shortly after WWI. In 1959 plans to transform it into a modern ski resort began. Usually abundant in snow, the trails range from 1400 to 2200 meters and unwind over a distance of 22 kilometers.

Where to Stay:
Park Hotel
A large, family friendly hotel with restaurant, cafe.
Magnola Palace Hotel
Family friendly, the hotel offers a wide variety of activities from games for the kids to a disco and cabaret nights for the grown-ups. Sauna, massage, gym, turkish bath, solarium, restaurant. Inexpensive.

Other ski resorts in the Abruzzi Mountains, smaller and less engaging yet ideal for beginners:
Campo di Giove is serviced by one cable car, 3 ski lifts, 6 ski runs, ski school, hotels and guesthouse.
Passo San leonardo is serviced with 2 ski lifts and 6 ski runs
Passo Lanciano – Majelletta is small but it's the only ski resort with slopes overlooking the Adriatic Sea. The facility offers 9 ski lifts 10 ski runs and a ski school plus 5 hotels.

It is reported that as early as 1929, M.J. Burchett created the first snowboard apparatus, a plywood plank to which he secured his feet with clothesline and horse reins. Decades later, in the 1960s, an engineer  named Sherman Poppen invented a toy for his daughter called the "Snurfer", a hybrid between a plywood sled and a skateboard deck with  reins attached to the nose, while steel tacks poking through the upper deck held the rider's feet in place as she swifted downhill. Poppen  licensed the idea and produced the first marketable snowboard. By 1966, Poppen had sold half a million Snurfers. Two young-hearted ski enthusiasts, American Jake Burton and Frenchman Dimitrije Milovich perfected snowboard design in the 1970s. Milovich came up with a board designed the way skis work and Burton, borrowing from Poppen's technology as well as bringing his own innovation, added "binding".
Since their first appearance on the slopes, snowboarders have annoyed the orthodox skier. It wasn't until 1997 that rules changed and snowboarding became widely accepted at most ski resorts worldwide. Snowboarding is one of the fastest growing sports today and is expected to overtake skiing in popularity by 2015.
Europe, the bastion of sport skiing, was slow to embrace snowboarding but when it did, world champions and enthusiasts alike began to show up on its slopes.In 1986, French snowboarder Regis Rolland starred in the film "Apocalypse Now". His role in the film launched Europe's new generation of snowboarders. The sport coursed across the continent, from Switzerland, to France, then Germany and finally, Italy. Many snowboarders coming to Italy, flock to the Alps where there is always snow. They take to northern Italy for the variety in ski slopes, many of which link across the Italian Alps and into Switzerland.
Snowboarding is  more economical in Italy than in Switzerland, and the slopes can be less crowded, making it the country of choice to practice the sport. The 2004 Winter Olympics snowboarding competition was held in Bardonecchia in the Valle di Susa to the west of Turin, giving the sport an additional boost. Some resorts have awesome terrain parks, others offer glade runs tailor-made for tight turns, while still others offer open-bowl runs for wide, snow-spraying arcs. Prime conditions, accessibility for all levels, knee-deep powder, it's all here in the Italian Alps.

Livigno is located at Valtellinia in the northern Italian Alps  on the border between Italy and Switzerland. It can be difficult to reach, but once you're there, it is one of Italy's best keep resort secrets with an incredibly well-maintained fun park, a huge area to explore, few crowds, a very vibrant snowboarding scene, wide runs and powdery snow. Due to an ancient law, the entire valley is tax free.
Altitude:  1,800m;  Highest lift:  3,000m;  Runs:  28/36/10 - beginner, intermediate and advanced.
Ski pass Livigno: www.skipasslivigno.com
Tourist information: www.livignoweb.com


Getting there
By train:  Rail FS service Rome to Milan - local train from Milan to Sondrio or Trenitalia from Milan Central Station to Sondrio / Tirano

Where to Stay
Hotel Garni Zodiac - Via Bondi 36
Tel 0342 996 295
Hotel Helvetia - via Plan 415
Tel 0342 970 066

Madonna di Campiglio, one of Italy's vintage winter resorts, was the first to invest in infrastructure to accommodate snowboarders, hosting prestigious international championship meets. The resort offers excellent intermediate snowboarding slopes, while it is also known for its incomparable scenery and reliable snowfall. The Passo Grosté boasts a half pipe built a few seasons ago.
Located in the northeastern Alps, Madonna di Campiglio is part of the Skirama Adamello-Brenta area  and has access to 150 kilometers of downhill skiing and 51 individual runs. A super ski pass will allow you to ski or snowboard in the connecting Skirama Adamello-Brenta ski resorts of Passo Tonale.

Getting there
The village of Madonna di Campiglio is part of  the municipality of Pinzolo, in the province of Trento, region Trentino-Alto Adige. The resort is two hours north of Verona.
By Air: Fly Rome-Verona, Rome-Milan or Rome-Venice
Hire a rental car at the airport and follow indications to Madonna di Campiglio.
From Venice, Terravision bus service will take you to the  Dolomites.
By Bus: A shuttle bus connects Madonna with the main airports in Verona and Milan once every Sunday. Round trip by bus from Verona is €40. Round trip from Milan is €45. For booking and information:
tel 0465-447501
fax 0465-440404
By Car: A1 from Rome to Modena; A22 from Modena to Verona. From Verona take the Trento exit and follow the signs to Madonna di Campiglio.
Or, take A1, Roma - Milano. From Milan take the Brescia exit and follow the signs for Lago Idro, Tione, and Campiglio.
The southern route from Trento or from Rovereto to Riva and then up to Madonna Via Pinzolo is the most visually dramatic.
By train: Rome Stazione Tibertina to Trento  - transfer to a bus (about 50 yards from the Trento station) to arrive at Madonna di Campiglio, which runs on a regular schedule.

Where to Stay
Design Oberosler Hotel (4 stars)
Via Monte Spinale, 27,  Madonna Di Campiglio
Ambiez Residencehotel Hotel (3 stars)
Via Tima Tosa 109 Madonna Di Campiglio

Prato Nevoso Ski Resort
Situated in north-western Italy, facing the slopes of the Maritime Alps, where there is lots of snow and sunshine, Prato Nevoso hosted the 2005 Junior Snowboard World Championships. It is one of the first resorts to encourage boarders in Italy. Snowboarders are well-serviced with a Board Park (floodlit for  night-time use, incorporating jumps and a rail), half pipe and boarder cross courses.

Getting there
Prato Nevoso lies in the Piedmonte region, in the province of Cuneo.
By Train: Take the Roma - Mondivi line. From Mondivi to Parto Nervoso, a direct bus service is available on weekends.
For taxi transportation Mondivi- Prato Nevoso
contact: Sig. Bassomario - cell: (39) 338- 228-3985

Where to Stay
Hotel Galassia  Via Malanotte, 6
tel 0174 334 183
Hotel LaCurva   Via Galassia 115
tel 0174 334 444
Hotel Mondolé  Via Capricorno 1
tel 0174 334 121

Cervinia  Walt Disney's film "Three Men on the Mountain," about the dangerous climb of the Matterhorn, depicted the breath-taking beauty of this area of the Alps. If you are a beginning snowboarder, you might consider Cervinia.  Ravaged by hurried speculation from architects and developers in its infant phase, the town   nevertheless manages to delight skiers and snowboarders year after year. Cervinia's ever increasing popularity is due to its excellent snow conditions, long hours of sunshine, variety of runs and a compact resort center offering plenty of après-ski activity, plus wide-open slopes, the reliable snow and the chance to also ski with an area ski pass on the challenging slopes of Zermatt, Switzerland. Skiers and snowboarders from Milan and Turin arrive for weekend jaunts.
Getting there
Cervinia is located in the Val d'Aosta region of northwestern Italy.
By Air: Fly Rome - Turin, take a train from Turin to Aosta, then a bus to the ski resort.
By Car: A1 Rome-Piacenza-Turin
By Train: FS Rome to Turin, change at Val d'Aosta

Where to Stay
Cervinia is located in the Val d'Aosta region of north-western Italy.
Hotel Furggen  Cervinia, Italy
Hotel Meynet



The Alban Hills, just 45 minutes southwest of Rome, have been a favorite vacation spot for centuries, the site of villas and palaces built by the rich and powerful as retreats from the heat of Rome's summers. The hills are covered with vineyards, and until recently, horse-drawn carts loaded with barrels arrived in Rome daily to deliver the cheap local wines. Today, the Castelli Romani produce many more than respectable vintages as well as excellent olive oils, an a variety of fruits and vegetables. It's an area of rolling farmlands, ancient villages, and monuments, whose intriguing history dates as far back as the Neolithic era.

Albano Laziale, the largest town in the region, was known in ancient times as Alba Longa. It was the capital of the Latini population, founded in  the 1st millennium B.C., and the the legendary birthplace of Romolo and Remos, the twin brothers who are said to have founded Rome in 753 B.C. In the Aeneid, Virgil describes Alba Longa as the link between the Mediterranean civilizations of Troy and Latium, and later Rome. 
It's location, just off the ancient Appia Antica road, made it a convenient destination for the Roman empowers. In the theirs century, Septimus Severus established established a military camp there to house the Roman legion’s reserve army. During the Middle Ages, the city was abandoned. In the 12th century it became a feudal territory belong the Savelli family, who controlled most of the Castelli territories until 1697 when the lands were turned over to the Vatican Apostolate. The Vatican implemented an urbanization plan, constructed palaces, churches, piazzas and municipal centers. By the 18th century, the city has again become a favorite summer residence for affluent Romans, including many in the church hierarchy.

What to see:
Santa Maria della Rotonda
Modeled on the Pantheon in Rome, is constructed over the remains of a ninfeo from Emperor Domitian’s villa. The church was consecrated in 1060, but in succeeding centuries, embellishments were added. In 1938, all of this was stripped away and the church was restored to its original splendor. Over the central altar there is an ancient icon of the Madonna and Child in Byzantine style, which was repainted in the 15th century, while in the vaults to the right of the altar there are traces of wall-paintings, of which the best preserved one, datable to the 14th century.

Roman Amphitheater
Built just outside the military camp, during the first decades of the 3rd century, it reached a height of 22 meters. In the Middle Ages, like so many other monuments, the amphitheater was scavenged and bits and pieces of it were used for other structures. At one point, it was used as a Christian cemetery. What's left is the first floor, supported by more than 30 arches, part of the triumphal entrances and the entire cavea.

The Albano Museum
In the neoclassical Villa Ferrajoli, set in the midst of a park of giant magnolias with interior frescoes by Giovanbattista Caretti inspired by classical and Renaissance art. The 23 exhibition rooms display archeological finds from the Paleolithic the Middle Ages.

The Baths of Cellomaio
Smaller but no less preserved than their counterpart in Rome, these baths were also built by the Emperor Caracalla as a means of appeasing the legionnaires after his brother Geta was murdered.

Click here for more information in English about Albano

The town’s history evolves around the founding of the San Nilo Abbey (1004) by two monks, Rossano  Calabro and Bartholomeo di Raossano who followed the teachings of San Basil Magno, archbishop of Casarea in the IV century. Often during the Middle Ages monasteries played a vital cultural and economic role in communities, this one was no exception. The monastery of San Nilo lies at the cultural core of Grottaferrata. The abbey  was founded fifty years before the advent of the great schism that divided the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches in the Middle Ages, and Byzantine-Greco liturgical practices are still carried out there today.

San Nilo is built on the ruins of am ancient roman villa overlooking the panorama del Vallone. The abbey is  enclosed behind a 15th century wall punctuated by four soaring towers. Cardinal Giuliano della  Rovere (later Pope Julius II) constructed a moat in 1480 and commissioned noted architect Antonio Sangallo to construct the portico.
The monastery's antique scriptorium where manuscripts were created, is also known for a particular style of calligraphy called "tachigrafia greca silbibica niliana." In the middle of the last century, a printing press was installed for the production of liturgical books for the Eastern Church. The monastery is also the custodian of the valuable manuscript of the first monks of San Nilo. The Codice Atlantico di Leonardo was restored behind these walls. On the monastery grounds the Museo in Palazzo del Commendatario houses objects and artifacts excavated from pre-historic and Roman eras, Greek and Roman statues, sarcophagi, cenery urns. 

What to see: 

Abbazia of San Nilo
The Monastery and Church are open to public visits daily from 8:30 am – noon, and 3:30 –5:30 pm
Guided visits Saturday and Sunday, 3:30 pm
Group reservations necessary tel 340 9619 736

La Chiesa di Sana Maria – 1024 (within the monastery compound)

Romanesque Bell Towers 12th century

Claudius' Villa: built during the Republican period, it is the oldest remaining structure from ancient Rome in this area. During the reign of the Emperor Claudius, a sort of environmentalist lobbying effort was initiated to halt its construction, since it was built on the sacred site of ancient Alba Longa, founding fathers of both the Latini and Roman cultures. What remains of the villa’s foundation lies on the park grounds of Villa Santa Caterina.

Doric Nymphaeum, located along the lake, dates to the middle of the 1st century B.C. Its origin unknown.
Diana's Baths, built by Domitian. the baths were inspired by the baths of Tiberius at Sperlonga on Lazio’s southern shores. The Baths were transformed from a grotto at the edge of the lake and converted into a nymphaeum. Pope Alexander VII, used it as a depository.

Where to Eat:
Da Nando
Located in the historic center, Da Nando specializes in Roman cuisine and offers a wide choice of meat dishes — deer, rabbit, lamb, beef, veal, poultry— as well as lake and sea fish.
Via Roma 4 tel  06 945 9989

Castel Gondolfo
This picturesque hideaway tucked in  the Alban Hills looks out onto Lake Albano and the sweeping Alban landscape has been a favorite getaway, known in contemporary times as the summer residence of the Popes. During Middle Ages, the territory was in the hands of feudal lords. Then in 1597, through the Camera Apostolica purchase of the properties was arranged, passing ownership into the hands of Catholic Church. Archeological excavation of tools, stone artifacts, and the remains of prehistoric pachyderms date activity in the area as far back as the Paleolithic Age. The discovery of Millstone Village in 1987 identifies that inhabitants of the area passed from ancient practices of hunting through farming and into the Bronze Age

Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, late Pope Urban IIX, began the transformation of the Savelli family compound, the Rocca Di Savelli into the Papal Summer Palace. The residence built by Carlo Maderno, incorporated the medieval Savelli castle and ancient ruins into the complex. Pope Alexander VII completed the expansion, commissioning Gian Lorenzo Bernini  to design the main square with the palace posed center stage, flanked by the Church of San Tommaso da Villanova also designed by Bernini (1658 – 1661). In 1825 n French painter Jean-Baptiste Camille Carot painted a splendid landscape of the area, capturing the serenity of the a bucolic countryside. Castel Gandolfo remains one of the least populated towns in the area with little more than 10,000 habitants. Ristorante Bucci offers a terrace with a panoramic view.

What to do:
Castel Gandolfo Country Club has an 18-hole golf course equipped with restaurant, bar, swimming, tennis court, cinema  and conference room.
Country Club Castel Gandolfo,  Via S. Spirito, 14
Around the lake: Pedal boat rental, windsurf, swimming, canoeing, bicycling, trekking, horse-back riding and archeological  walks.

Where to Eat:
Antico Ristorante Pagnanelli
Four generations of the Pagnanelli family have owned and operated this elegant country restaurant since 1882. Located next door to the Papal Summer Residence, Pagnanelli offers interior dining on three levels. Outdoor dining from their beautiful flowered terrace with a spectacular view of the lake, is nothing less than memorable. Much care goes into the preparation of foods. Fresh vegetables are brought in daily from the family’s garden. The menu offering local and regional cuisine, includes a variety of meats and fish. The restaurant has an extensive wine list that includes many of Frascati’s superior labels.
Via Gramsci 4   tel 06 936 00004  www.pagnanelli.it

The attraction in Ariccia is the Baroque Palazzo Chigi, designed by Bernini for Pope Alexander VII.The extravagant period interior is open to the public. Some of the scenes of the film "Il Gattopardo" (the Leopard, which stars Burt Lancaster) were filmed here. Gian Lorenzo Bernini was commissioned to re-construct the palace. The Chigi Palace Museo Barocco was founded in 1999 from paintings bequeathed to the by the late art critic Maurizio Fagiolo dell’Arco. The collection includes works by Cavalier d’Arpino, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Pietro della Cortona, Il Baciccio, Andrea Sacchi and others. Palazzo Chigi in Ariccia  Piazza di Corte 14  tel 06 93 30 053

Aricia is a popular destination on the weekends for Romans escaping the chaos of the city. And it's famous for its porchetta. Once in town you'll be immediately recognized as an outsider and forcefully dragged into one of the osterie-trattorie where you'll let yourself go in front of so much temptation. Then you'll just want to hang around sluggishly all day, take a walk in town view the spectacular panorama over the Latium plain.

Where to eat:
Ariccia is know as the”pork “ capital of the Castelli Romani. You won’t need to hunt for the many vendors selling slices of freshly roasted pork around the city. They truly make themselves visible. The many small osterie serve popular local dishes such as fagioli, pasta, cinghiale (wild boar).

Emperor Augustus grew up in the noble house of the Gens Ottavia in Velletri. The first churches were built in the 10th and llth centuries. when the first churches were built. The town was devastated by heavy bombing in 1944 but was immediately rebuilt. One can still see the Cathedral of Saint Clemente and the Church of Sant’Antonio Abate, both dating to the 14rh century. The Diocesan Museum is worth a visit. Located in a former seminar dating the 15th century, it was founded by Cardinal Basilio Pampilhi in 1927, to house works from the Treasury of the Capitol and the Cathedral of Velletri. The collection includes several works by Gentile da Fabriano, including the "Virgin and Child with Angels" completed in 1427. The Camellia Festival which takes place every March, includes displays from growers, sales and guided tours of local gardens.

This charming village is an easy train ride from Rome's Stazioni Termini, and many people actually commute. The leafy streets are cool and pleasant on a summer day, and there are plenty of trattorie offering the local specialties. You can also pick up some nice wines and "porchetta" to take back with you. The village is surrounded by massive villas, and although they are usually closed to the public, the gardens are generally open. You can pick up a pass at the tourist kiosk in the main square. The Villa Aldobrandini is the one to see. Designed by Giacomo Della Porta, and Carlo maderno, built by the 12th century pope Clemens VIII, the former Cardinal Aldobrandini. It boasts an amazing "water theater."

Where to eat:

Ristorante Cacciani
The restaurant within a small hotel prides itself on presenting a menu representing the classic flavors of the local cuisine.
Via Armando Diaz 13  tel 06 942 0378  www.cacciani.it

High on the hilltop, the ancient village of Nemi has a breathtaking view Lake Nemi and the surrounding countryside. The city was named after the sacred forest of Diana, Nemus, as in pre-Christian times the people in the area belonged to the cult of the goddess Diana. In the ninth century, the Emperor Constantine gave the forest to the Catholic Church, which built the Basilica di S. Giovanni Battista di Albano there. From the tenth century on, Nemi like much of the region, fell into the hands of the powerful Conti di Tuscolo family.

It's a short drive from Rome and makes for a relaxing Sunday outing, and there are wonderful little restaurants offering a leisurely lunch. The town is famous for its tiny Fragole di Nemi, little wild strawberries. During the season, they're sold all over town and made into delicious pastries, liquors and syrups. After lunch, stroll through the old city. Walk down to the panoramic park overlooking the lake, climb to the top of the castle walls for an even better view, pick up some treats from the local shops and bakery. A naval museum, and the ruins of Diana's Temple on the shores of the lake are worth a visit.


Where to Eat:
La Scalinetta
This small, family-run restaurant up a little staircase from the piazza, is a cozy choice for Sunday lunch, and the food is never less than outstanding. The selection of salumerìe is a great way to start, thin slice of smoked meats, salamis and sausages. They make a wonderful polenta. And the desserts are all homemade.
Via Salita Garibaldi 8 tel 06 936 8110
Bar del Fragole
Stop in for some fresh gelato made with the local strawberries.
Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 7 tel 06 936 8102

Getting There
By car: Roma – Nord - Freeway A1 Roma – Napoli to the GRA (grande racordo anulare) exit Tuscolana and follow signs for Frascati on the N215
Or take the Metropolitana Linea A direction Anagnina to the end of the line. From there you can board Cotral buses to Rocca di Papa.
Frequent trains leave Termini station for Frascati or Albano Laziale

Click here for more information in English about the wines of the region.








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