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An escape from the city to small villages and noble residences to eat good food and try Castelli Romani wines.
Fresh air from the hills, volcanic lakes, noble residences, green trails and lots of fine products: Castelli Romani, a series of wine-producing hilltop towns, are a favourite weekend destination for many Romans, who often choose this location instead of the seaside. A quick drive from the capital, this constellation of small villages is an easy escape from the city, and offers insight into the region’s ancient history and great culinary tradition. Here you can taste the famous Frascati Superiore DOCG white wine, the fragrant Genzano IGP homemade bread and the tasty Ariccia IGP porchetta.
Castel Gandolfo is home to the Papal Palace, a former summer retreat for the Pope, now open to the public by Pope Francis who eschewed the luxurious property. The palace was built between 1624 and 1626 by Pope Urban VII Barberini and designed by Carlo Maderno with the collaboration of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Similar in beauty is the nearby Palazzo Chigi, overlooking Piazza di Corte in Ariccia, and the Scuderie Aldobrandini in Frascati, a 17th century building renovated by architect Massimiliano Fuksas which now houses a permanent archaeological exhibition and numerous cultural fairs.
There’s an array of thematic itineraries to choose from, ranging from the sacred theme, discovering sanctuaries and places of worship, to the natural theme, exploring the forest pathways around Lakes Nemi and Albano in the heart of Castelli Romani’s natural park. For a truly local experience, seek out a “Fraschetta”, a simple and informal tavern with noisy yet fun atmosphere, whose name derives from the ancient practice by farmers and wine producers to place a “frasca”, a bough, above the restaurant entrance to indicate that the wine was ready for consumption. Here, you may feast on cold cuts, cheese and traditional Roman dishes like carbonara, paired with the typical Castelli house wine.
Local products interpreted in a modern way: a quality address for those who want something a bit different than traditional cuisine. Good wine list and very tasty desserts.
An extensive repertoire of homemade appetizers from porchetta to pecorino cheese, and delicious main courses (if you’re still hungry) like the Amatriciana or Carbonara pasta in this authentic family-owned fraschetta.
The Cacciani family have been in the hospitality business since the 1920s, and this hotel and restaurant, which also doubles as a farm producing olive oil and wine, is one of the landmarks of all Castelli Romani. Terrace with a view over Rome, professional service and above all, an exquisite cacio e pepe prepared (in the dining room) to perfection.
Massimo Pulicati is a host in the fullest sense of the term: he not only welcomes, but pampers you, recommending the best dishes, including (depending on the season) tagliolini with broad beans, pork guanciale and pecorino cheese or Roman-style tripe. Extensive cellar and pleasant atmosphere thanks to the library room and a nice collection of records.
Surrounded by a forest of chestnut trees, this venue is a classic for seafood lovers (the Port of Anzio is just nearby). Do not miss the selection of raw dishes and tagliolini with clams and sea bass. Amazing wine cellar, even in terms of bubbly options.
For many, the best porchetta of all the Castelli (the whole pig, emptied, boned, seasoned with herbs and baked) is the one by the Norcino Vitaliano Bernabei. The guanciale and dried sausages are just as delicious too.
Definitely the best ice-cream parlour in the area (it arrived in Frascati having launched over ten years ago in Rome) thanks to the attention to seasons and research on raw materials. Classic flavours are excellent but don’t miss the “gastronomic” savoury variants including cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) or ricotta, zucchini flowers and anchovies.
Genzano homemade bread, Lariano bread and focaccia, ciambelle and pies, all made following the old recipes, craftsmanship and exclusive production chain. The shop of Simone Moroni is the right one to discover the local art of baking.
Open from 6.00 am, it is the perfect stop – before starting the tour of Castelli Romani – to have the first espresso of the day, accompanied by a filled croissant. The other pastry options are delicious too, from mignons to the Mont Blanc cake.