Top 5 Towns to Visit in the Castelli Romani

For centuries Romans have been heading to the Castelli Romani for its clean air, good food and relaxing atmosphere. Each of the 16 towns in the Castelli Romani has something unique and beautiful to offer and all merit a visit.  

Narrowing it down to 5 was a challenge and this list is subject to change, but if you have never been to the Castelli Romani, here is a beginner’s list:

1) Castel Gandolfo

Whenever family or clients come in from abroad, we always head to Castel Gandolfo. With its beautiful main square, panoramic lake views, quaint streets and numerous genuine restaurants, Castel Gandolfo is an adorable small village, perfect for a day trip.  


Castel Gandolfo is known for being the summertime residence of the Pope; the Papal Palace was built in the  17th century for Pope Urban VIII’s seasonal getaway. Thanks to Pope Francis, the palace is now open to the public and can be visited on weekends along with the Papal Gardens


The church of San Tommaso di Villanova and the decorative fountain were both designed by the Gian Lorenzo Bernini and are found in the main square.  Cafes, restaurants, artisan and souvenir shops are found in the piazza and along the main picturesque cobblestone street.  Lake Albano, located directly below the town, is worth a visit to take a walk, or in summertime to sunbathe, rent pedal boats and kayaks.

Where to eat:  Pagnanelli, Il Grottino or La Quintessa  found at at the lake level.

How to get here: By train, Roma Termini- Castel Gandolfo

2) Nemi

Home of the fragoline di bosco and temple of goddess Diana Nemorense, Nemi is one of the most attractive towns in the Castelli Romani.  Perched on the top of a volcanic crater, it has spectacular views of Lake Nemi, small village charm and a preserved medieval center.


Although it is one of the smallest comune of the Castelli, the town is filled with artistic, gastronomic and natural wonders. Admire the medieval Ruspoli Palace and more recent artwork,  such as Diana the huntresses statue and the Gorgone (Medusa) fountain. Take in views at Piazza degli Innamorati (Lovers Plaza) and don’t leave without trying  the crostatine crema e fragoline (cream tartlets). If you are history or an archeology buff, include a visit to the Museo delle Navi Romane (Museum of Roman Ships) and the Temple of Diana, both found at lake level. The Temple is not generally not open to the public, you need a certified guide/scheduled guide to enter. 


Where to eat: Ristorante La Fiocina for lunch or dinner. Stuzzico & Vinello Bistrot and Bar Belvedere for an aperitivo and Forno f.lli Cavaterra & Margani and Da Spartaco al Grottino for cream tarts.

How to get here:   From Roma Anagnina take the Cotral buses for Genzano di Roma. Once in Genzano di Roma, change buses to Nemi or take a taxi once in Genzano.  

3) Genzano di Roma

Famous for its stunning infiorata festival and IGP pane Casreccio,  Genzano merits a visit even without these virtues.  If you come on a weekend, start with a visit to the town’s castello, Palazzo Sforza-Cesarini and its adjacent Palazzo Sforza-Cesarini.   


Wander through the town's medieval borgo, take in views of Lake Nemi,  admire the two twin Clementine fountains and the La Fontana di San Sebastiano. Stroll the town’s bustling main street, or the Olmata, a quieter, tree lined pedestrian walk.  Try the pane di Genzano and pizza Bianca.  Drive or walk down to Lake Nemi or include a visit to the Museo delle Navi Romane. Perhaps Genzano is not as quaint as Castel Gandolfo or Nemi, but it has its unique authenticity and vibrancy.


Where to eat:  A Casa di Nino, Ristorante Capodiferro, Enoteca Ristorante I Castelli,  Osteria Pietrino e Renata, Da Titto'

How to get here: By Contral bus, from  the Anagnina station towards Genzano di Roma  

4) Frascati

Some consider Frascati the crown jewel of the Castelli Romani. With its grand villas, parks and views of Rome, it’s oozing with aged Italian glamour. The dominant Villa Aldobrandini, located on the hill over the main square, and its sweeping gardens welcoming you into town. Adjacent to the main square is Villa Torlonia, an elegant public park in town that has sculptures, fountains, decorative vases and dramatic staircases.  


The charming centro storico is perfect for a passeggiata; its quaint streets are dotted with shops and cafes. Be sure to have an aperitivo or dine in Piazza San Rocco, a historical piazza and the heartbeat of nightlife. Frascati is home to many churches, the most notable being the 16th-century Cathedral of Saint Peter with its baroque facade. The area is famous for its wine, book a visit the gorgeous Cantina Imperatori, located 5 minutes from the main piazza by car, to taste award winning wines from the area.  


Where to eat: Ristorante Belvedere, Trattoria Pizzeria Piave

How to get here:  By train, Roma – Frascati train station.

5) Ariccia

Ariccia is a master of combining its gastronomic and artistic offerings. Often synonymous with its famous product porchetta (slow roasted pig), Ariccia also has a town center that was transformed by famed artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the 17th century.  


Start your visit in the main square, Piazza della Repubblica, and admire Bernini’s masterpiece the Chiesa Santa Maria Assunta. Continue to the impressive Palazzo Chigi (Chigi Palace), a palace/castle/villa that has been converted to a museum of Roman Baroque. Walk along the monumental bridge, a three-tiered arched viaduct and one of the most important engineering works of the 19th century, while you look out on the Palazzo Chigi park. No visit to Ariccia is complete without a stop to a fraschetta (a rustic roman osteria/tavern), a jubilant and inexpensive experience which involves tasting the famed porchetta, wine from the region, abundant antipasti, local cheeses,  cured meats and typical roman pasta dishes.


Where to eat: Fraschetta Antico Grottino, Fraschetta da Angelo

How to get here: By Cotral bus, from the Anagnina station towards Aricia


First published: August 11, 2020
Last updated: March 30, 2021

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