Some ideas on what to see in Frascati Italy and surrounding areas! Visit the Tusculan Villas and taste the famous wine loved by the Romans
Frascati is the favourite destination for a day trip from Rome. You can visit the Tusculan villas, have lunch in a traditional “fraschetta” restaurant or spend a few days in total relaxation.
The city is located in the Regional Park of the Castelli Romani on the Alban Hills. It is close to Mount Tuscolo with the Tuscolano Archaeological Park, a site of interest for sportsmen, history and archaeology enthusiasts or those who simply want to enjoy nature.
What to see in Frascati Italy? Surely what it is famous for: the 12 Tusculan Villas. In the past these majestic summer residences hosted important representatives of the papal court and the Roman aristocracy.
Frascati is only a few kilometres from Rome. It can be easily reached by train or by car in about 30 minutes.
If you want to reach Frascati by car, enter the Grande Raccordo Anulare (GRA round ring), take the exit 21-22 Anagnina-Tuscolana and continue on Via Tuscolana towards Frascati.
If you travel by train, Termini is the best train station to arrive in Frascati from Rome city centre.
Near Anagnina underground station (Metro A), you can take the “Roma Anagnina – Rocca Priora” bus stopping in Frascati, Piazza Marconi.
In both cases, you will find yourself a few steps from the centre of Frascati.
The history of Frascati
In Roman times, Frascati was not an inhabited centre. It was the place where Lucullus’s patrician villa was erected. Only in 850 A.D. there is information regarding the presence of an urban nucleus and the allocation of funds for the construction of several churches. Among these churches, there was the Church of Santa Maria in Vivaro, which had been the cathedral of the diocese for 150 years and can still be visited today.
Frascati had a very prosperous period: it became the residence of noble families. A wall was built to protect the urban centre. Pope Paul Farnese III gave the city the title of “Civitas” with the name of TUSCULUM NOVUM.
Following the Cateau-Cambrésis agreements for peace between the Habsburgs and the French, Frascati became the ideal place to build the magnificent villas of the Roman aristocrats with large gardens and important works of art.
It must be admitted that it was the great fortune of Frascati: the city still today preserves this interesting heritage, admired by visitors from all over the world.
A nice anecdote about the history of Frascati and its surrounding areas concerns the name of the ancient railway, which is one of the first railways in the Roman castles. It was once nicknamed “the hangover train”. This name was given to it because it brought back the Romans who spent time in the famous “fraschette” and taverns of the area, where it is still common today to drink local wines.
What to see in Frascati Italy?
As we said, visiting Frascati means learning more about the history of the 12 noble Tusculan villas located in the municipalities of Frascati, Monte Porzio Catone and Grottaferrata. Many of them are now institutional locations or hotels. They have admirably preserved frescoes and original objects.
Most of them can be totally or partially visited. They are the mirror of a Roman aristocracy which showed its noble status by building these summer villas.
Tusculan villas have got large Italian gardens with fountains and water features. They give an extra touch of elegance to the residence, which is usually very refined in itself.
What to see in Frascati? Villa Aldobrandini (also called “Villa Belvedere”) is the most important example of these historical noble residences in Frascati. This villa is famous for its magnificent architecture and panorama: from there you can enjoy the view over the whole city.
Today the gardens and the “Teatro delle Acque” (Water Theatre) designed by Carlo Maderno and Giovanni Fontana are accessible.
The Room of Parnassus is also important: it has been recently restored with the majestic water organ and the frescoes by Domenichino and Passignano.
A short walk from Frascati’s historic centre is enough to get to Villa Torlonia: here the collaboration of artists such as Giovanni Fontana, Carlo Maderno and Flaminio Ponzio led to the creation of magnificent fountains and water features that can still be admired today. On the other hand, the building was destroyed by bombing and rebuilt in modern times.
Not far away is Villa Lancellotti, formerly Villa Piccolomini. Part of its magnificent Italian garden has become the public park called “Parco dell’Ombrellino”.
Villa Falconieri is also situated in the municipality of Frascati. Unfortunately, you can see this residence only from outside. It is the oldest of the Tusculan villas (once called “Villa Ruffina”). Borromini’s talent emerges in the structure of this wonderful villa, scenically frescoed in Baroque style.
Moving towards Monte Porzio Catone, it is possible to visit Villa Mondragone by appointment. There you can admire the “Teatro delle Acque” (Water Theatre) with its characteristic Dragon Fountain, the Great Garden and the Grand Quadrangular Court, all works by the Flemish architect Jan Van Santen.
Near Frascati, in Grottaferrata, there is Villa Grazioli. Today it houses a hotel and a restaurant, but it is possible to admire by reservation the works of art by Carracci and Pannini.
Villa Muti, Villa Sciarra, Villa Sora, Villa Vecchia, Villa Parisi and Villa Tuscolana complete the 12 Tusculan villas situated in Frascati and its surrounding areas.
The best places to visit in Frascati
In the centre of Frascati, history emerges from its century-old churches, reaveling all the charm of this city. The Cathedral of San Pietro, the Chiesa del Gesù, the Church of Santa Maria in Vivaro, the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi and the Sanctuary of Santa Croce are the most important things to see.
The Palazzo Vescovile is the Seat of the Diocese and can be partially visited with free admission. It was once the seat of the “Rocca di Frascati”, the place around which the whole city developed.
There are two interesting museums in Frascati: the first is the “Tuscolano” Civic Museum in the Aldobrandini’s stables where art exhibitions, workshops and multimedia spaces coexist. The second is the Ethiopian Museum in honour of Cardinal Guglielmo Massaia, small in size but important to remember Italian colonialism in Africa.
Walking through the historic centre gives the opportunity to admire breathtaking views. Furthermore, you can easily follow itineraries through the alleys of the city to admire the main attractions of Frascati.
For outdoor lovers, instead, the Tuscolano Archaeological Park is the best choice.
A small summary of the best things to see in Frascati:
- Villa Aldobrandini
- Villa Torlonia
- Villa Mondragone
- Cathedral of San Pietro
- Chiesa del Gesù
- Episcopal Palace
- Tuscolano Civic Museum in the Aldobrandini’s Stables
- Ethiopian Museum in honour of Cardinal Guglielmo Massaia
- Historic centre
- Tuscolano Archaeological Park
What to see in Frascati and surrounding areas
The surroundings of Frascati are also very interesting to visit. In addition to the Tuscolano Archaeological Park, it is possible to visit the villages of Grottaferrata and Monte Porzio Catone where you can find two of the aforementioned Tusculan villas.
Detached from the city, there is an important place of prayer: the Church of the Capuchins where the convent is attached. The church is very simple in style and the Ethiopian Museum is located inside the convent, in Cardinal Massaia’s private apartment.
Food and wine in Frascati
If the Romans took a train just to drink in the taverns of this city, there is a reason. It is the wine of the “Tusculum” (the current area of Frascati) which, according to the bottler of Pope Julius II, was the best in the world.
Formerly called the “white wine of the Popes”, Frascati wine DOC comes from the typical Malvasia Puntinata of Lazio and other local grapes. The result is an aromatic straw yellow wine, with persistent hints of elderberry, pear and a mineral note. Frascati wine is slightly savoury and fresh in the mouth. So it has been appreciated by the Roman population and beyond for many years.
There is also a sparkling and superior version.
Another traditional wine of the area is the Cannellino di Frascati DOCG. In this wine, the fruity aromas of apricot, pineapple and honey stand out even more, while the hard notes soften and the wine finds its balance.
A popular snack, often included in local aperitifs, are pork (or horse) “coppiette”. Bright red in colour, they are strips of dried spiced meat. Pay attention because they are sometimes very spicy!
A traditional dessert from this area is the “Pupazze frascatane”, biscuits in the shape of a woman with three breasts (two for milk and one for wine).
As wine is extremely rooted in local tradition, you can take a look at the amazing Frascati wine tours that Italia Delight offers you to learn more about local wine.
A Frascati wine tour allows you to discover the wine and authentic flavours of Frascati. You can also taste the wines of Lazio with the wine expert directly at a renowned Frascati winery.
Did you like the article on what to see in Frascati by Nur Migahed, a graduate student in Gastronomic Sciences and Cultures at the Roma Tre University? Choose your favourite experience in Frascati, it’s easy with Italia Delight! 😉