The curious tourist loves to visit places less traveled by mass tourism. One of these is the Roman Countryside, a place that, once visited, remains in the heart. But where is our beautiful Rome countryside? Its territory extends southeast of the capital and comes up to Ciociaria, once historical fiefdoms of the papal kingdom.
Today we want to give you a brief description of some countries of the Roman Countryside, places where our Grand Tour takes place.
Bellegra: Perched on Mount Celeste at 815 meters above sea level, the village was built on the ruins of the ancient Vitellia, of which some traces of cyclopean walls are still visible. It has been named City of Panoramas, as it offers a breathtaking view that starts from the surrounding mountains, allowing you to see the Tyrrhenian Sea in the distance. Do not miss the visit to the Convent of San Francesco, where in 1223, was hosted by St. Francis during his journey to the monastery of San Benedetto di Subiaco. The country is known throughout Italy for the Arco Grotto, born from a phenomenon of natural karst and almost 1,000 m long. The visit of the caves is extremely suggestive due to the wealth of stalactites, stalagmites, swallows and rooms for the observation of cave fauna.
Olevano: the country has very distant roots. It was inhabited since Roman times, of which the city walls remain intact in polygonal work. On the highest part of the village stands the Castle, dominated by the watchtower that the inhabitants call the Picocco. A fertile land, rich in olive groves and above all vineyards, from which the Cesanese DOC wine is produced every year, a ruby red wine with a dry and full-bodied flavor. For the happy panoramic location, Olevano, was the chosen destination of many artists, in particular, northern Europeans who loved to praise their beauty through their pictorial works. Do not miss a visit to the Museum of Landscape Studies.
Genazzano: the town stands on a spur of volcanic tuff at 375 meters above sea level. The city is known for being the birthplace of one of Peter’s successors. Oddone Colonna, rose to the Papal Throne in 1471, with the name of Martin V and was the 206th Pope of the Catholic Church. The streets of the village echo with historical past. Do not miss the visit to the Colonna Castle and to the Parco degli Elcini where you can admire the ancient aqueduct. The crowning glory of the city is the Nymphaeum, which bears the hand of Donato Bramante, one of the most important Italian architect and painter of the Renaissance, who designed the basilica of San Pietro in the Vatican. We recommend a visit on the first Sunday of July, when the traditional Infiorata takes place; the streets, alleys and squares are covered with an enchanting carpet of flowers of many colors and scents.
Cave: At the foot of the Prenestini Mountains, surrounded by chestnut villages we find Cave, elevated to the title of City on August 1, 2003 by Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, President of the Italian Republic. For 80 years, the last weekend of October, here is celebrated the chestnut, fruit of ancient origins and also praised by Hippocrates in IV a.C. The city has the honor of hosting and preserving the Monumental Nativity made with the tallest statues in the world, by the restorer and synodologist Lorenzo Ferri. But in addition to all this Cave hides within it a real unicum of the area, the Liberty district; let yourself be immersed in a walk through the villas and the buildings of the district, among floral and eclectic motifs.
Palestrina: central town of the Monti Prenestini area, the city has behind it a thousand-year history that starts from the ancient Praeneste and reaches the modern Palestrina. The archaeological finds of the ancient tombs date the origin of the city to the VIII century BC. Famous in today’s world, as in the ancient one, for the Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia, datable around the II century a.C., and dedicated to the first-born goddess of the sons of Jupiter. The city maintains its ancient splendor intact, alongside quality gastronomy. Since 2014, Giglietto di Palestrina, a traditional biscuit with simple ingredients, has become Slow Food Presidium, and is identified in Italy by the quality label.
Zagarolo: southern tip of the Monti Prenestini, presents a historical center of medieval origin and rare beauty; renovated in the sixteenth century is a regularity that does not find easy comparison in the towns of the time. Do not miss a visit to the Doge’s Palace, which stands in the place of the ancient medieval castle. The palace has been inhabited over the centuries by important Roman families, from the Rospigliosi to the Colonna, many were those who alternated within it. Today a part of the Palace hosts a real rarity in the Italian and International panorama, the Toy Demoanthropological Museum, which has become over the years, the largest toy museum in Italy and one of the largest in Europe.
San Vito Romano: it is one of the most evocative medieval villages of Lazio. It was thanks to the Benedictine Monks that the Castrum San Viti was formed, which remained in their hands until the Colonna’s arrival. The embellishment of the village, however, is not due to the Colonna family, but the singular Theodoli dynasty, high-level architects who looked after every aspect of the historic center. The most successful work is undoubtedly the imposing castle that dominates the city center with its “ship” shape. The particularity that characterizes today San Vito Romano is the oldest part of the country, exclusively pedestrian, walking through its alleys seems to take a dip in the past.
Capranica Prenestina: immersed in the green of a quiet and verdant landscape rises to 915 meters of height Capranica Prenestina. The small medieval village is dominated by the elegant dome of the Church of La Maddalena, attributed to the school of Donato Bramante. The element that characterizes the village is the Civic Naturalistic Museum, strongly desired by the inhabitants, its objective is to spread and re-launch this silent and uncontaminated heritage. Pride of place is the Santuario della Mentorella, located on top of a cliff, was the destination chosen by Pope John Paul II, who fascinated by the enchanting and pleasant landscape, he used to retire in prayer.
Rocca di Cave: the modern village developed around the year one thousand by the Benedictine monks of Subiaco, close to the watchtower, built on pre-existing Roman structures with the function of defending the Saracen invasions. To visit the Astronomical Observatory, whose observation station is located at the highest point of the Roccaforte keep, more than a thousand meters high. Next to this is the interesting “Ardito Desio” Geopaleontological Civic Museum, dedicated to the geology of Lazio and its millennial history which attests here the presence over 100 million years ago of a rich coral reef.
Paliano: is one of the countries of the Roman countryside to be located in the Province of Frosinone. Over the centuries it was one of the most important fiefdoms of the Colonna family, which together with Palestrina and Marino made it one of the most important centers of the Agro. In its territory it hosts La Selva, a wide and evocative nature reserve rich in vineyards, meadows, woods, lakes and dozens of animal species. The intent of the park is to create a deep and uninterrupted contact with the earth, in absolute respect of Mother Nature.
Gallicano: tradition traces the foundation of the city to San Gallicano, consul in the times of Constantine, a martyr in Alexandria. The presence of the ancient Romans is testified by numerous remains of buildings. Do not miss the itinerary of the Roman Aqueducts, an interesting archaeological and environmental itinerary, a walk in the footsteps of the Anio Vetus, the aqueduct leading to Rome the waters of the Aniene. The city also houses the Castle of Passerano, a medieval fortress with imposing corner towers with double walls, hardly looted in the sixteenth century, then purchased by private individuals, was completely restored in its original parts and is currently home of the farm of Passerano.
Castel San Pietro Romano: small countryside town, has represented for many centuries the last defensive bulwark of ancient Praeneste. Ancient traditions tell of the preaching of St. Peter’s in these places. Imposing polygonal walls welcome the visitor to the entrance of the village, on the top of which stands the Rocca dei Colonna, which over the centuries was the extreme defense of the family in its struggles against the papacy of Rome. The country became famous throughout Italy in 1953, when it was chosen as the film set of the film Pane Amore and Fantasia, starring the Oscar winner Vittorio De Sica and the unforgettable Gina Lollobrigida, offers a fresco of post-war Italy.
Valmontone: the city badly damaged during the Second World War, preserves in the highest part the memories of a glorious past. The oldest known settlements are from the Roman period. To visit the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, inside which there are interesting frescoed rooms and decorated by some of the most significant artists of the seventeenth century Roman painting, such as Gaspar Dughet and Mattia Preti. Some rooms of the building are occupied by the Archaeological Museum (MAV), which houses the finds discovered by the Superintendence for the Archaeological Heritage of Lazio on the high-speed railway line. In recent years it has assumed a central role in the Monti Prenestini area thanks to the construction, first of the Valmontone Outlet, one of the largest shopping centers in Lazio, and subsequently, the Rainbow Magicland, amusement park with over 40 attractions linked by theme of magic, which will enchant your children.