When they hear the word Castelli, many people automatically think of castles, since this is the literal translation of Castelli. However, the Castelli Romani are not castles, but rather refers to the villas and hill towns located in a forested, green countryside located a short distance from the major city of Rome, Italy.
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Located at the base of the Alban Hills, Castelli Romani is made up of 17 towns scattered throughout the countryside. Nestled in between the lakes of Nemi and Albano, Castelli Romani is a tranquil place where ancient wealthy families and nobility came for a vacation. The area of Castelli Romani was named as such because there is at least one mansion or castle-like home located in each of the 17 towns. Unfortunately, over time some of these have been destroyed. The cities of this area include: Albano Laziale, Ariccia, Castel Gandolfo, Colonna, Frascati, Genzano, Grottaferrata, Lanuvio, Lariano, Marino, Monte Compatri, Monte Porzio Catone, Nemi, Rocca di Papa, Rocca Priora, and Velletri. While it may be hard to check out every one of these places, one could choose the most interesting to explore. These villages and towns extend over a 50-square-mile area.
One of the most visited towns of the Castelli Romani is Castel Gandolfo. This town was built on top of volcanic ash. The family Gandolfo was the original family who built their homes in this town, hence the name of the town. For years, this town has served as the top vacation destination for the Pope and the Palazzo Apostolico served as the papal home away from home up until 2016. This palace now serves as a public museum.
Ariccia is quaint town among the Castelli Romani and has one of the most spectacular parks in the region, the Parco Regionale dei Castelli Romani. Before Rome rose to fame, Ariccia was a prominent city that was quickly gaining power that could have overthrown Rome. Unfortunately for Ariccia, Rome took the upper hand and became the powerhouse of Italy. The Church of Assuntawas built in the early 17th century. The amazing frescos on the walls were painted by Ambrogio Borgognone, whose other works can be seen at the National Gallery in London and the San Simpliciano in Milan.
The town of Rocco Priora houses one of the many castles throughout the region of Castelli Romani. The amazing green hills are a nature lover’s paradise. This castle is called the Baronial Palace and has been slowly deteriorating over time. The town has called upon famous architects to fix the structure, but it would seem that nothing can be done. It is now a symbolic monument to some of the towns greatest accomplishments.
In Lanuvio, the Fountain of the Scogli has become a true gem of the town. The fountain was built by Carlo Fontana and has been admired by locals and tourists for over 400 years.
The town of Genzano is filled with art and culture artifacts that have withstood the test of time and the Palazzo Sforza Cesarini is the main focal point of the village. The last Roman emperor was born in Genzano and the walls of his former home can still be admired at the Villa of the Antonini. In June of each year, a traditional feast called an Infiorata is held to celebrate the beauty of the flowers surrounding the village.
The town of Nemi is the closest town to Lake Nemi, which is a volcanic crater lake and features Castello Ruspoli, a 16th-century castle that was built for the noble family of Ruspoli. This castle has been well preserved over the years by the people of the town. Nemi is quite possibly most famous for its delicious strawberries, which are grown in the rich soil of the volcanic hills nearby. The gorgeous blue water of Lake Nemi can be tempting, but unfortunately swimming is prohibited here.
The villages surrounding Castelli Romani are famous for making the most delicious wines in the region and the village of Lanuvio in particular makes the most succulent vintage, freshly picked from the Languini Hills. In fact, what was once the town jail in the city center of Lanuvio is now a local wine making company.
The village of Lanuvio is not the only town that makes wine. The village of Frascati is also a popular destination for wine lovers. The white wine made here has been cultivated in the same way since the 5th century B.C., and ancient Romans always had a glass of this crisp white wine to drink with their meals.
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