Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Nemi, Rocca di Papa, Castel Gandolfo

flowers in Castel Gandolfo
On the last day of their visit (10 days ago), I went with Massimo and his family to see some of the Castelli Romani, villages in the Alban hills south of Rome: Nemi, Rocca di Papa, and Castel Gandolfo. Earlier that day, Massimo's brother had texted him at 5 a.m. with the news of a large earthquake near their home in Bologna, so that was on our minds the rest of the day.

Nemi, famous for its fragole di bosco (wild strawberries), is a popular weekend spot often frequented by Romans. 

wild strawberries, anyone?
One of my favorite villages, I first encountered Nemi last year.You can read more about that visit by clicking here: Nemi, 2011

cyclists on a Sunday ride through the Alban hills
Next, we drove to Rocca di Papa, where Massimo had read there was a panoramic view worth visiting.  We walked up steep winding streets barely wide enough for a Fiat Panda, asking people along the way how to find the "rocca." Everyone seemed surpised by the request, then pointed up. When we finally reached the top, there was a ruin of an old fortress, which seems to be frequented by local teenagers rather than tourists. The view? Not  much to write home about. On the way back down, we happened upon a Roman history re-enactment in a local park.

A Roman couple with an ancient machine used to grind grain into flour
Last of all, we drove to Castel Gandolfo, another popular weekend spot. Like Nemi, it is situated by a lake, Lake Albano, and is the summer residence of the Pope. During his absence, the town is often empty.

Castel Gandolfo and Lake Albano
There were few people in town that day, and we had a leisurely stroll down the well-tended centro storico.

Erika and Sofia walking towards Lake Albano
Once we got back to Zagarolo, it was time for my guests to leave, just as it started to rain. They had spent three full days visiting sites in Tivoli and Rome before our drive to the Alban hills, and were pretty wiped out from their excursions. They were also worried about the earthquake damage they might encounter back home. I enjoyed having them around, and I was happy to be able to reciprocate the hospitality they showed me when we spent time together in  Bologna and Vinci several years ago. Ciao, amici!

Erika, Massimo, and Sofia

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