It is often said that Rome is crowded with tourists. We had known that before we went there but perhaps one has to see those masses of people in the Italian capital with one’s own eyes to comprehend the idea. Rome is literally bursting at the seams! It’s total madness!
The authorities of Rome reported that in 2016 the city was visited by 56 million tourists (compare that with around 13 million that came to Cracow). The Colosseum itself was visited by 6,5 million of tourists during the same year what reportedly poses a huge threat to that monument. Everywhere you go in Rome, you meet enormous numbers of fellow tourists and after a few days you’ll feel a need to escape the city despite its undeniable beauty. We are going to tell where you can go.
Castelli Romani is a name for small towns-pearls scattered among the picturesque Alban Hills. They are a great alternative for the noisy and exhausting Rome.
A dozen or so charming little towns are hidden mere 20 kilometers from the Italian capital city and they will do just great for short trips as well as several-day long chill out in a truly Italian style. Citizens of Rome also frequently escape to Castelli Romani for weekends. Each town has its own history and is renowned for something different. We chose a few favourite ones which made the greatest impression on us. It’s best to rent a car when you visit Castelli Romani; in that way you will move from one town to the next quickly and comfortably. You may also take a train from Rome.
1. Roca di Papa
The panoramic view offered by this town made a huge impression on us. Rocca di Papa itself is an inconspicuous old town located on a hill. It might seem that a great viewpoint is the only thing that the place has to offer. However, we recommend that you make some effort and wander along the winding streets going right up the top of the hill to see the common way of life of the local residents. You’ll experience the typical Italian atmosphere: a cup of tea on a street corner, ladies shouting from windows, honking scooters and the smell of pizza. Such typical small-town sights are what we like best. Nuts’ Festival is held here annually on the third weekend of October and we heard it’s a really interesting event.
Rocca di Papa bathed in the rays of the setting sun
View from the centre of the town
Panoramic view from the viewpoint located at the altitude of 680m.
Atmosphere of provincial Italy
Views from Rocca di Papa
Typical residential street in Rocca di Papav
Panorama with Lake Albano in the background
A deckchair with a view
2. Castel Gandolfo
This tiny town is known mostly as a place where popes spend their holidays in their papal holiday residence erected in the 17th century. Yet it would be equally charming even without the palace. It’s a perfect place for a slow cup of coffee or lunch. Castel Gandolfo is located on a hillside with a wonderful view of the volcanic lake of Albano. You can get there by a direct train leaving from Vatican as well as Rome. We recommend staying here for a little while.
Castel Gandolfo towering over Lago Albano
Mini plaza in Castel Gandolfo.
A table in a restaurant with the best view
A side street in Castel Gandolfo
Such view, sun and fizz of prosecco – a perfect plan for afternoon
Every weekend Frascati is visited by crowds of citizens of Rome who single out the town as their favourite place for weekend chill out. It’s also where many rich Romans have their summer residences. The town is famous for its wonderful white wine and porchetta, which is a roast pork sandwich – delicious and not fit at all. Apart from tasting the local delicacies, you may also admire the town’s beautiful mansions with gardens. Some of them were constructed as early as 15-16th century.
One of the famous Frascati’s villas
Bread roll with delicious meat called porchetta – totally inimitable!
This charming little medieval town renowned for its unique wine is located only 21km from Rome on one of the hills of Alban. Every year on the first Sunday of October the town of Marino holds a Wine Festival (Sagra dell’Uva). The wine literally flows freely here! The whole town is decorated with bunches of grapes. In the morning the people participate in a procession and in the afternoon there is a great fiesta. During this particular day of the year a huge fountain situated in the centre of Marino flows with wine instead of water. Everyone may taste the wine to their hearts’ content. Wonderful! A funny thing happened during the festival in 2008. All the citizens gathered around the fountain were waiting impatiently for the jets of delicious wine to gush from it any minute. Unexpectedly, the saw water instead of wine filling the fountain. There was an awkward moment of silence interrupted by a woman shouting from her balcony. She discovered that there was wine instead of wine in her tap! Everyone burst out laughing and had a great time during that festiwal.
A street in Marino
Economy of this town is based on strawberries. They are said to bear fruit here all year long. Every local pub or cafeteria tempts you with sight and smell of miscellaneous cupcakes, cookies and sweet desserts with big strawberries or wild strawberries in the main role. There is even a strawberry festival organized here at the beginning of June. Yet Nemi is interesting not only as a place where you can stuff your tummy with strawberries. We recommend coming here to admire a wonderful view of Nemi Lake which can be seen from the town located on a hill in all its magnificence.
Nemi from afar
A town of strawberries