After leaving Naples and the Amalfi coast I decided to head north back toward Rome for the second week of my adventure, but instead of staying in Rome I opted to try something a little different, although at the time when I booked I had no idea about what I was going to get myself into.
The start to my second week was anything but ordinary, having survived a case of the flu which was then combined with a healthy dose of vomiting followed by a head cold clearly I was in need of some rest and recuperation. Hard to believe given that I was already on vacation 🙂
Hey, you take the good with the less good when you’re traveling and find a way to nurse yourself back to health. After all it can only suck so much when you’re in Italy!
Using my favourite booking site – Bookings.com, I scanned towns within 40 km of Rome for suitable accommodations and came across a villa in the little town of Frascati. Hhhmm – I liked the name of the town right off the bat and so plunged in.
So with the coordinates punched into the GPS (yes, I always rent a GPS when I get a car in a foreign country) I set off toward what would be my home base for the next four days – Villa Tuscalana.
Making it into Frascati was the easy part, cos’ as you know the streets in some of these little Italian towns can be both narrow and a bit of a maze with lots of one way streets and alley’s barely wide enough for a car. Definitely easy to lose your sense of direction until you’re stuck and have to back out of a laneway with little room on either side. Didn’t I say it was always fun in Italy???
During Frascati’s 2000 year history its been the summer home and sanctuary to many famous dignitaries including Cicero during the ancient Roman period, and in more recent time a number of Pope’s and their entourage (yes, even in those days he had a trail of Cardinals as long as your arm following close behind). Then because of the climate (remember it’s in the mountains overlooking Rome), a significant number of Rome’s elite and wealthy also had summer villa’s here. And up until the middle of the 19th century Frascati was an obligatory stop on the Grand Tour of Europe as witnessed by the likes of Mark Twain, Goethe, Ibsen, Emile Zola and the like. Who knew?
Frascati was surprising in a number of ways, firstly, it has an enormously impressive Duomo (Cathedral) on the main Piazza which was a gift from the Pope, as well it was the first official rail destination from Rome when they constructed the Italian rail system in the mid 19th century. In fact, even today it has a regularly scheduled train service that runs directly to Roma Termini (main rail station) and even has its own special little platform at the station. Isn’t it amazing what a little Papal love can do for the fortunes of a little town…
My plan was to use the villa as my home base and set about taking daily road trips, to familiarize myself with the local area and to discover what types of things I could recommend to my friends who might want to come visit.
My first day trip was down to the coast some 40 km’s away to the seaside town of Anzio, again another important place in the annals of WWII history as it was the place where the allies came ashore to go around Cassino and the Gustav line (remember my recent Cassino story) and take Rome. It was one of those picture-perfect, sunshine filled afternoons as I strolled with my camera around the port and its downtown area, few visible reminders remain in the town of Anzio from those dark days in 1944 except for the incredibly large American War Cemetery just outside of town.
As I made my way back toward Frascati I meandered through a number of little villages (as you do), getting out and exploring the streets and back alleyways or as I like to say “getting lost before getting found”. 🙂
My favourite was a town called Marino, not to be confused with the principality of San Marino some 200 km further north. No, this sleepy little hillside village was the perfect place to capture the afternoon light before finding a café to have a well-deserved glass of vino. Yum!
The next day I took the train into Rome, this 30-minute trip was a breeze as Frascati is the final stop on the line, so no confusion as to what train to take etc. The Trenitalia service was absolutely outstanding and incredibly cheap at €2.10 each way (just over $3.00) and dropped you right in the center of Rome, just a 25-minute walk or short metro ride from the main attractions. At the end of the day departures are hourly until the last train (winter schedule) at 8:00 pm.
So if you’d like to avoid the traffic and crowds of Rome but still have access to all Rome has to offer Frascati is the place to stay. This little town provides you with the best of both worlds, small town Italy coupled with access to one of the most historic and enchanting cities in Europe at a fraction of the price.
I’m working on developing a 10 – 14 day tour of Italy for late October, early November so stay tuned for details as I work with my two Italian travel partners to create the once in a lifetime behind the scenes tour of Rome, Florence and Tuscany. Piqued your interest yet?
Until next time arrivederci!