Castelli Romani Dream Tour is born thanks to you, to you, tourists and travelers who have taught me to see the area where I live with new eyes, you have forced me to you with your questions to be interested in the stories of these places. And so I fell in love: and it is this love that I want to convey is that I want to share with you. Castelli Romani Dream Tour is a tribute to this land which, while not being my native land, I was welcomed with its many traditions and beauty of its landscapes, its ancient culture and its culinary delights, with its one thousand folk traditions that attract so many legends.
Actually, the Agro Pontino Valley is the home to beautiful tourist destinations, and the two cities of Latina and Sabaudia are two big examples of rationalist architecture.
This area, which extends from Lepini and Ausoni Mounts to the Tyrrenian Sea, and from the roots of Alban Hills to the Gulf of Terracina, was largely occupied by marshes.
This was because the water coming down from Lepini Mounts and also spring waters cannot reach the sea due to the low slope and the barrier created by the costal dunes.
The first attempts of reclamation of the Pontine Marshes date from the 6th century B.C.. One legend has it that the swamp was the work of the Goddess Juno, who wanted to punish the Mymph Feronia that lived there and was one of the many lovers of Zeus.
The Romans, thanks to their hydraulic knowledge, managed to regain numerous land. However, the most part of the area remained cover with water for longtime. And the marshes even increased during the barbar invasions.
To escape the barbarians the people took refuge in the mountains and the Pontine Plain was completely abandoned. The Via Appia, one of the major roads built by Romans, who crossed the Pontine Plain, was completely submerged and the passage of goods to the South was interrupted. The commercial traffic were obliged to move on the piedmont way transiting near Ninfa.
The imposition of a toll on anyone who wanted to use the road turned out to be a sourse of wealth and soon became Ninfa a small but rich urban centre, with numerous houses and churches.
In the 16th Century the enterprise to reclaim the Pontine Marhes, considered impossible, also fascinated by Leonardo da Vinci, who studied a system of canals and water-scooping machines: the project, although approved by Pope Leo X, never went into port for the death of the Pope. The system studied by Leonardo, is remarkably correct and was the point of inspiration for subsequent reclamation projects of the fascist period.
During ‘600 and ‘700 Pope Sisto V and Pope Pio VI realized a network of canals that still exist (line of Sisto and line of Pius).
In the following centuries the area, despite the danger of malaria, was populated with small villages that stood in the drained areas.
The boundless forests, also attracted many nobles of Rome which guests of the Caetani who family dabbled in long hunting trips in the 18th Century, hunting in the Pontine Marshes, spread troughout Europe. Among the most famous visitors, the german poet Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, who wrote: “The Pontine Marshes are the most wild and fascinating corner of Europe”. The hydraulic reclamation was enhanced by the fascist propaganda as one of the most extraordinary merit; after the war, however, was evaluated mostly in a negative way because destructive of a unique ecosystem, especially for rare wildlife species living there.
To try to preserve the last strips of wilderness was created the National Park of Circeo. During the 2nd World War the Germans, in an attempt to delay the advance of the allies, had deliberately damaged and destroyed many reclamation works, causing the flooding of acres of land, resulting in many areas even the dramatic return of malaria.
Nowadays, you can only have a little idea of the original marshland visiting the National Park that offer you the opportunity for a beautiful and long bike through the forest, a pic-nic in the equipped areas. For its special characteristics, the forest of Circeo, in 1977, was declared a “biosphere reserve”, and included in the program “MAB” (Man and Biosphere).
The whole story of the Pontine Land is reconstructed and told in the Museum “Piana delle Orme”, Via Migliara, 45 Latina (museo.pianadelleorme.com).
The south western part of the ridge that surrounds Lake Albano is incredibly wild and mysterious.
The vegetation forms an intricate agglomeration of branches and leaves sometimes impenetrable.
In the spaces between the thick trees and shrubs you can see glimpses of the lake
The lake is part of a very ancient volcanic system (see “Interview with the volcano) so the ground is unstable, often the rain causes landslides that uproot and drag the trees on the paths steep slope.
during these events even large boulders are sometimes dragged.
Many meet along the paths.
Over time they cover themselves with moss and sometimes with ivy.
Thus covered they tend to resemble a soft pillow.
the atmosphere in the forest is mysterious, fascinating and disturbing at the same time.
In this season, autumn, which in my opinion is the most beautiful in the forest, are the hedgehogs and chestnuts along the paths.
Beautiful mushrooms grow on the fallen and decomposing trunks
many shrubs are thorny and make it difficult to pass on the less traveled paths.
The many landslides that occur from time to time erase the paths and you must always create new steps to walk in the woods.
Some passages are dangerous because they overhang the steep slope.
For this reason it is better not to go after a heavy rain because it could be dangerous.
Sometimes, under a thin layer of heart there is a slab of Peperino (typical volcanic material) the rain infiltrates the earth and the rock and suddenly the earth detaches and slides along the rock and falls downstream.If you’re hosted in Castelli Romani and want to explore the wild forest you can contact us. Be careful if you go alone! You’re not expert and the place is very very wild.
Villa Doria it’s a public park in Albano Laziale, one of the biggest town in Castelli Romani. It’s a beautiful and big park with avenues, delicious corners, a sporting club with beack volley, tennis, swimming pool, restaurant and caffè.
The park is very popular with families, couples, human and dogs, but is also very important because hosts the ruins of a huge Roman Villa: the Villa of Pompeo Magno.
The Villa was built with great pomp by Pompeo (roman soldier and political) between 61 and 58 b.C.
The ruins, still majestic, occupay an area of 340 meters in lenght and 260 in terms of width equal to 9 hectares.
The central body of the Villa reached three floor high.
it’s fascinating walking with the dog or the baby around such a magnificient Roman ruins.
Between the 1700 and 1800 the Villa became property of the powerful Doria Pamphili Family. One of the most important noble families in the story of Italy.
If you love gardens, you absolutely must not miss the oasi of Ninfa.
Ninfa was a medieval city abandoned by its inhabitants because of malaria and slowly fall into disrepair.
The town was deserted for 600 years until the twentieth century, when three generations of the Caetani family decided to revive the city (that belonged to the family) like a garden. They realized that the crumbling buildings and stone bridges of the town were a dreamlike setting for a garden.
In 1922 the English born Duchess of Sermoneta, planted the roses which still cascade over trees and ruins, scrambling to enormous heights. Her son, Prince Gelasio, planted the ilexes, cypresses, black walnuts and magnolia grandiflora which, now mature, give the garden its air of timelessness.
After the prince’s death his brother Roffredo and his American wife Marguerite, lived at Ninfa for twenti-five years, adding collections of flowering trees and creating more streams to criss-cross the garden. They were followed by Lelia Caetani, an artist, and her husband Hubert Howard, who added more magnolias, paulonia fargesii and began an arboretum outside the walls.
Since 1976 the garden has been transformed into an oasi managed by the W.W.F.
Ninfa is an authentic paradise where history, art and nature have reached an equilibrium and a truly unique fusion.
Roman cisterns are a masterpiece of hydraulic and constructive architecture engineering that have merged in a superb way with military purposes of the Ancient Imperial Rome.
There are many tanks of the roman era that can be visited on different Regions of Italy such as those of Miseno, Pozzuoli or Formia.
Remains of ancient cisterns are also found in Tunisia, Turkey and Syria.
But the fascinating Cistern of Albano is the only source for water supply of the Roman era still perfectly working. The structure dates back to the first century before Christ, and is the one of the biggest cistern of drinking water ever built in the world of Ancient Rome.
The tank fueled the bath of the officier and petty officier and the drinking water system of the Second Parthian Legion, the Imperial Guards of the Emperor Septimius Severus (193 – 211 A.D.), the father of Caracalla.
In the military camp, located where now stands the modern Albano, lived 12,000 people (5,000 soldiers and 7,000 relatives).
The Ancient Roman Cistern consists of five gigantic underground naves with barrel vault supported by 36 giant pillars. It can contain more than 10,000 cubic meters of water and has been built within a natural bed of peperino, a vulcanic rock that has hydrophobic properties, and the pillars also have been coated with “cocciopesto”, a special waterproof cement that nowadays the modern manufacturing techniques are rediscovering.
You can book a visit throwgh the City Museum. Tel.: (0039) 069325759
Rocca Priora is situated on the external border of the area hosting Castelli Romani. The village overlooks on one side via Anagnina which leads to Lariano and on the other side the beautiful valley crossed from the motorway A1 that offers to travelers the view of Monti Prenestini which are the first mounts you can see white in case of snow.
The village still retains a medieval structure perched on the steep hill and look decadent….. but perhaps this is its charm.
Several aristocratic families owned the castle (the Counts of Tusculum, Annibaldi, Colonna, Savelli) up to the family Rospigliosi who held the property until 1870 when Rocca Priora became municipality.