Rome is hot in the summer and I didn’t think I’d ever willingly choose to pay it a visit at the end of July. However, flight prices to our chosen summer holiday destination of Le Marche were sky-high so we ended up flying to Rome (much cheaper) and taking the three hour scenic route to the east coast. On our way back, we spent three nights in Frascati so we could have a quick day trip to Rome and also catch up with some friends who live there.
I knew Frascati was a wine growing region but what I hadn’t realised is that the town is a magnet for Romans who nip over for a weekend, day or even just an evening to indulge in the town’s gastronomic delights.
In Frascati, once the sun sets (which it does in quite magnificent fashion), unassuming street corners are transformed into eateries and diners flock in. This is BYO (bring your own) territory with a difference: some places serve just food while others, the cantine (wine cellars), serve just wine so you’re welcome to bring your own drinks or your own dinner. Lots of people were buying food from one of the many porchetta stalls where all manner of piggy products were on sale (pork is a regional speciality here). We saw others feasting on takeaway pizza, all washed down with litres of Frascati white wine.
Vineyards in Frascati produce predominantly white wine although red can also be found there. It’s not the most sophisticated tipple but it’s refreshing and undemanding on a warm summer’s evening.
Frascati is the perfect place to experience that age old Italian tradition, the passeggiata. Even with sleepy children in tow, we enjoyed wandering the vibrant streets and watching others do the same. The many gelaterie were very useful for keeping the kids going, ice cream is like a fuel. I can’t wait to return when our boys are a bit older so we can fully immerse ourselves in this wine and piggy heaven.
There’s a brilliant playground in town for kids, a great diversion if your children are struggling with staying up late for dinner and parking is pretty straight forward if you’re not staying in the centre of Frascati.
There is a good variety of hotels, agriturismos and B&Bs in and around Frascati depending on what facilities you need. We stayed in an apartment at Pietra Porzia, 10 minutes drive from the town centre. Some of the hotels offer a complimentary transfer to Frascati’s railway station for day trips into Rome.
Frascati is a scenic 30 minute train journey from Rome’s Termini station and it’s a popular day trip from the Eternal City. Wine aside, the town is a great base for excursions into the wider area known as the Castelli Romani, a collection of towns situated on hills of volcanic origins. There are castles, museums and affluent villas including the former summer residence of the Pope at Castel Gandolfo. The main attraction for us initially was Frascati’s elevated location making it noticeably cooler, especially in the evenings. And by staying outside Rome we could afford reasonably priced, family-friendly accommodation with the luxury of a swimming pool. Frascati is also just a 20 minute drive from Rome’s Ciampino airport and 45 minutes from Fiumicino (the main airport).
On our final day in Frascati it was 40 degrees so we eschewed the many cultural diversions on offer and instead drove twenty minutes south to the serene Lake Albano, ringed by green hills and overlooked by Castel Gandolfo. A volcanic crater lake, Albano is muddy around the edges but clear, deep and blue in the centre (which we reached with help from a pedalo).
Lake Albano is perfect for a day of relaxing: there are beach clubs just as you’d find at an Italian coastal resort plus plenty of bars and restaurants including the kitsch and cavernous La Perla where we enjoyed a quick lunch before heading to Ciampino airport.
Our children played on slides and had fun in the mud with some of the local kids. The waters of Lake Albano are surprisingly warm and incredibly refreshing and if you gaze at the surrounding landscape you could almost imagine you’re swimming in an Austrian alpine lake rather than on the outskirts of a smoggy city.
So, if you’re planning to visit Rome in the summer months and fancy a cool and vibrant retreat at the end of the day, Frascati is worth considering.