A picture of Italy through Roman Castles.
The volcanic activity of Latium, occurred 130.000 years ago, took place to Alban Hills, a region that is located in the south-east part of the modern Rome.
The Alban Hills were the cradle of Latin civilization as is proved by the myth of Alba Longa: this was the mother town of all the peoples who later spread all over the region. In facts, when Rome was only a shepherd village, Alba Longa was the political and religious heart of Latium.
The first settlements date back to Neolithic Age and permanent settlements evolved during the Bronze Age.
By the end of the first millennium B.C., this area already had its volcanoes and craters thickly covered with woods: these wood have always been connected either with the cult of ancient or primitive mythis.
In the 8th centuries B.C. the foundation of Rome and its ascent determined the decline of Alba Longa; but, in the Republican and Imperial Age the Alban Hills flourished again: the ruins of some rich villas show that this was a favourite resort of noble people. As the Roman Empire declined, the Alban Hills turned into country villages thanks to the operate of some rich families, such as the Counts of Tuscolo in the 10th-11th century and as Savelli, Colonna, Annibaldi (the descendants of Counts of Tuscolo) and Borgia during the middle ages and the Renaissance.
At the end of the 16th century, some of the castle disappeared and others developed, till they reached the present urban lay-out of Roman Castles (Castelli Romani). Today the Roman Castles are composed of the following group of towns: Albano Laziale, Ariccia, Castelgandolfo, Frascati, Genzano di Roma, Grottaferrata, Lanuvio, Lariano, Marino, Montecompatri, Monte Porzio Catone, Nemi, Rocca di Papa, Rocca Priora and Velletri.
All these towns are characterized by specific traditions such as feasts and village festival and they have their historical centres full of churches, castles, fountains, villas, old monuments and ruins.
The shape of the towns is that of a group of hills in which the higher are Rocca Priora (768 m. above the see level) and Rocca di Papa (730 m. above the see level), while the biggest town is Velletri (49.000 inhabitants).
When you are walking along the streets of Castelli, you often see beautiful landscapes that enjoin yourself; in facts, for example, when I look out of my window in Monte Porzio Catone I can see Rome and even the sea on the horizon in the sunset, when the sky is clear. Besides, the zone is famous for the wine and the good Roman cooking.
The lands among the groups of houses are covered by olive and vine cultures from which the typical wine, named Frascati, rises.
The tradition of wine is documented by the village festival of grapes (sagra dell'uva) that occurs on October in Marino and in which the fountain of the four Moors gives wine. The Roman cooking is known above all for the pasta, that is composed of many types and it's cooked in a lot of different ways.
But in spite of common aspects, each place can offer some traditional dishes. For example, Lariano is famous for its bread, Ariccia for its pork (porchetta), Nemi for its little strawberries and the most of Castelli Romani presents their typical sweets. The natural aspect is already an attractive; in facts, there is an important protected area named Castelli Romani Park that can be visited by tourists.
The gentle slope of the hills, the orography, the naturalistic and archaeological beauties of the territory ask for trekking and excursions.
Every requirements can be fulfilled by a thick network of paths easy to follow and by further routes for mountain biking and horse-riding.
The sport of riding is practised especially in Vivaro, a famous and historical place where national and international races take place.
In the park there are the presence of two lakes of volcanic origin, Albano Lake and Nemi Lake.
People, who are keen on canoeing, will be able to go along the two lakes' shores, rich in botanical species and old ruins.
Also, we remember that the summer residence of the Pope is seated in Castel Gandolfo near Albano Lake.
An other important part of Castelli Romani Park is repesented by Tuscolo, a little hill where there are old Roman ruins.
According to an old legend, the city of Tuscolo was found by Telegono, Ulysses's son, in 616 B.C.
Famous Roman personalities such as Marco Porcio Catone, Fulvio Nobiliore, Lucullo, Cicerone and, perhaps, Nerone lived in Tuscolo, especially during their summer holiday.
So, nowadays, we can see a lot of Roman buildings in this area, such as an important amphitheatre dating back to the 1st century B.C.
Moreover, there are beautiful views you can enjoy walking along the path which skirts the hill and than it's possible to have a lunch in the picnic area under a wood of hazels and chestnuts.
In the Park the trees are inhabited by many sort of singer birds among them we remember: red wood-peckers, hoopoes, cuckoos, blackbirds, nightingales.
While you visit the Ferentium wood in the Park, you might catch sight of the small mammals that live in the area of Castelli Romani.
Among these, foxes, which are reproducing out of control, dormice, "moscardini" (like small dormice, with tawny-yellow backs), harvest-mice, field-mice, hedgehogs and badgers are counted.
If a tourist is interested to visit Rome and its Castelli can find many hotels and restaurants for a good stay in Italy.
Let's come to visit Castelli Romani!