The term Castelli Romani (in english, roman castles), indicates a group of small cities located in the nearby of Rome (above the Colli Albani, in a landscape once called Latium Vetus), each one of them rich in historical and artistic heritage.
The tour of Castelli Romani will bring the visitors to discover the hidden treasures of Frascati (with Villa Aldobrandini and the marvelous Basilica of St. Peter Apostle), Castel Gandolfo and the Papal Palace, Nemi, Grottaferrata and Monte Porzio Catone.
The tour of Castelli Romani will begin in Grottaferrata, by visiting the Exarchic Greek Monastry of Saint Mary (from italian Monastero Esarchico di Santa Maria), also known as Greek Abbey of St. Nilus (Abazia Greca di S. Nilo), which was built on 1004 by a group of Greek monks, who was leaded by St. Nilus of Rossano.
Today, this monastery is of the Italian Congregation of Basilian Monks, an institution created in the Catholic Church to reunite the monasteries of Byzantine rite that in the Middle Ages spread throughout southern Italy and Rome itself.
Second step of the Castelli Romani tour will bring us to the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo (also known as Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo), the summer residence of any Catholic Pope, also used as vacation retreat. It is located within the extraterritorial zone of the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo, in the Alban Hills, about twenty kilometers south of Rome. The palace is part of the area of over 55 hectares that constitute the complex of the Pontifical Villas and is visible only from the outside.
After a look to the Papal Palace, we will move to the town of Castel Gandolfo, where we will pay a visit to the Church of St. Thomas of Villanova, commissioned from Pope Alexander VII and designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the same artist who realized the columnade outside the Basilica of Saint Peter, in the Vatican City.
Leaving Castel Gandolfo, our tour to the Castelli Romani will bring us to Nemi. The Lake of Nemi is an area of great value for its many environmental, landscape and historical qualities. Of course, it is also a very important archeological site.
The agricultural use of the land has helped keep intact the environment of the Castelli Romani, making the lake area a veritable outdoor museum.
Frascati, a small town in the nearby of Rome, is the next stop on our tour of the Castelli Romani. We will visit the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter the Apostle, located in the historic center of Frascati. The basilica is the fifth of a succession of cathedrals that, in over the centuries, were the seat of the chair of the bishop of Tusculum, together with the labicana quintanense at the Statio ad Quintanas, roman post stop on the Via Labicana at the fifteenth mile, that of the City of Tusculum, the church in the Monastery of Santa Maria in Rome on the Esquiline and, from 1538, the old church of Santa Maria in Vivario, in Frascati.
We could see the exquisite tiered facade, which has been built with tuscolana stone extracted from the quarries of Monte Porzio Catone and travertine of Tivoli and its two towers, each of which has a clock on the front; while the right clock tower is at twelve, left of the bell tower shows six o’clock.
Then, we will continue the tour to Frascati in Villa Aldobrandini, italian architectural masterpiece of the ‘500, designed by Giacomo della Porta, Carlo Maderno and Giovanni Fontana. Villa Aldobrandini, also known as Villa Belvedere, is situated on a panoramic hill overlooking the city entrance.
Monte Porzio Catone, where is the biggest part of the archaeological excavations of Tusculum, will be the very last stop of our Castelli Romani tour.
The archaeological site of Tusculum was a pre-Roman, Roman and medieval latian city, located in the Alban Hills in the Castelli Romani. The legendary origin of Tusculum has been traced according to the tradition to Telegonus, son of Ulysses or to the Latin King Silvius, nephew of Aeneas, as the founder.
After a visit in the very heart of Monte Porzio Catone and the remains of Tusculum, we will move to the Wine Museum, a collection of tools and equipment for viticulture, illustrating the main processes of the wine industry: the cultivation of the vine, the grape harvest, vinification phases, bottling and sale of the finished product. Not least one gets a slice of life of the traditional trades that revolved around the production and sale of the product.