Get out and explore Lazio
There’s no denying the old adage “all roads lead to Rome”. But there is a reason Roman emperors Tiberius, Nero, Caligula and Hadrian all chose the Lazio countryside as their destination of choice. This central region of Italy includes a wealth of enchanting villages, artistic, cultural and culinary treasures and fascinating Papal history, all waiting to be discovered.
In the past, Lazio has often played the role of Cinderella, overlooked in favour of its much sought-after sister regions of Tuscany and Umbria. Thanks to the region’s rich Mediterranean charm and evocative landscape, it’s now getting some action. Beat the summer heat (and those vexing Roman traffic jams!) and take off on a countryside jaunt, exploring all those paths leading…away from the Eternal City! You can thank us later when we meet up for an aperitivo at La Posta Vecchia.
A half hour drive from Rome, in what feels like a world away, lie the Castelli Romani, sixteen hillside towns located within a pretty pocket of verdant hills and volcanic lakes. Since ancient times, the charming hamlets have been a refuge for Roman elite and are the perfect day trip. Fresh air, great food, and a wide range of archaeological and architectural sites abound.
Famous wine town of Frascati is where the local DOC classified Trebbiano grape variety is king, the hilltop village of Castel Gandolfo home to the Pope’s summer residence and the Vatican’s last remaining secular papal dominion, and the scenic Lake Albano.
Ariccia is widely known for its famous porchetta, a delicious recipe of roasted pork often made into a sandwich with Genzano di Roma DOP bread, a specialty from bakers in the neighbouring town and best paired with a glass of Romanella, a sweet effervescent red wine made local vines. Be sure to try Porchetta del Ponte and don’t forget to say Yes to the extra crispy crust! For cultural sites, the Abbey of Santa Maria di Grottaferrata in Grottaferrata and Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati are two gems to visit before finishing in a visit to Lake Nemi and Nemi’s fascinating Roman naval ship museum.
The medieval town of Viterbo, an hour north of Rome, offers a peaceful provincial getaway and is easily accessed by train. Originally inhabited by the Etruscans, Viterbo was conquered by the Romans, becoming one of the most important medieval centres in central Italy. Wander the narrow alleys of San Pellegrino area, visit the Duomo and take in the gorgeous panorama from the upper Loggia.
Stop for lunch at Antica Taverna and a gelato at the family run gelateria, L’antica Latteria before heading outside the city to visit the Parco Dei Mostri di Bomarzo (Garden of Bomarzo Monsters). This dark, forested, moss-covered park is home to 24 immense grotesque 16th century stone sculptures by famed artist and architect Pirro Ligorio, best known for having completed Rome’s St. Peter’s following the death of Michelangelo. Designed to shock the viewer, they do not fail.
For a calming respite, head to Terme di Bullicame or Terme dei Papi, the thermal bath complex used by the Popes, to take in the thermal waters. For a late afternoon stroll, check out the medieval town of Vetralla, famous for its mushrooms which spontaneously grow in the ancient surrounding woods. If you’re visiting in September, make sure to help the town celebrate their Porcini Mushroom Festival.
Civita di Bagnoregio
The magical Civita di Bagnoregio, a town suspended in space and time, is also a lovely little stopover and can be reached by crossing a narrow pedestrian bridge. From there you can enjoy stunning panoramic views of Lazio. A final stop at the aristocratic retreat of Villa Farnese (also known as Villa Caprarola) is a must. The delightful villa and mannerist wonder is a fortified residence designed by Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola. Alessandro Farnese, one of Rome’s most famous patrons, commissioned the estate in the mid 1500s and contacted some of the most important painters to decorate his luxurious home, including Taddeo Zuccari, Antonio Tempesta, Jacopo Zanguidi and Raffaellino da Reggio.
Another enchanting mountain town well worth a weekend spree is Tivoli. An hour’s train ride from Rome and you’re immersed in native flora, cascading waterfalls, and pristine gardens. Tivoli’s many historical villas and parks have all been classified UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Walk to the top of the terraced hillside to visit Villa D’Este, famous for its magnificent fountains, waterfalls and pristinely landscaped gardens. A short trip outside Tivoli via public transport brings you to Villa Adriana, an estate filled with ancient Roman ruins, including marble pillars and remnants of the main palace. A few minutes away lies Parco Villa Gregoriana, the park commissioned by the Pope in 1835 in an effort to rebuild after a devastating flood, offers expansive manicured gardens, caves and cascading waterfalls. Make sure to book lunch at Sibilla (Temple of Sybil), a restaurant located in an ancient Roman structure build in the second century BC located near the Temple of Vesta, on the highest point of Tivoli’s acropolis.
Giardino di Ninfa
Lazio is filled with mystical secret treasures and the magical Giardino di Ninfa (Garden of Ninfa), built on the ruins of the medieval town of Ninfa in the Pontine Marshes of Agro Pontino, is a must see. The garden derives its name Ninfa (Nymph) from a Roman temple dedicated to the Naiad Nymphs, goddesses of spring water, which is still located in the garden. The city of Ninfa was destroyed in the fourteenth century and in the centuries since, various families, including its current benefactor the Roffredo Caetani Foundation, have protected the precious botanical varieties, pools of water and fountains.
Classified by the New York Times as one of the most beautiful and romantic gardens in the world and declared a Natural Monument by the Lazio Region, the garden has limited access, so be sure to book in advance.