Lazio: The Roman Countryside
From The Etruscan To The Romans, The Roots Of Italy
Even before the birth of the city of Rome, this countryside located in central Italy along the Tiber River was called Latium. The history of this region is intertwined with the destinies of the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church and the Italian Republic. The Lazio countryside boasts an extraordinary artistic and archaeological heritage, delicious medieval villages, as well as natural sites of outstanding beauty.
It is a destination easy to reach, but at the same time unusual. Mass tourism crowds the streets of Rome, but not of the Roman countryside. Here, between monasteries and typical taverns, you can still find the authentic Italian lifestyle. Lazio also boasts an extremely diverse territory, with beautiful valleys, famous seaside destinations, of both of sea and lake, and interesting mountain areas.
Boating holidays, horseback riding vacations, ski vacations, cultural itineraries, faith journeys and wine tasting tours: in Lazio anything is possible. The hospitality of the people, the honest cuisine and local crafts make this land an ideal destination for travelers looking for true-to-life experiences. Precisely for the diversification of its tourist offer, every season is good to visit this ancient country.
Lazio has two airports, both close to Rome. The main is the International Airport Leonardo Da Vinci (called Fiumicino), well connected to the capital by an express train. The second airport, the International Airport of Ciampino, is smaller and often served by charter flights. Lazio is also easily accessible by train from all over Europe.
‘All roads lead to Rome’ said the Romans. Maybe it is not true, but they certainly left us an extensive road network. The main highway, the A1, cross the region north to south. The A24 heads east from Rome to the Apennines and the A12 follows the coast north. The main road to Southern Lazio is called Pontina. Good rail network north-south.
Lazio is extended from the Apennines to the Tyrrhenian Sea in central Italy. Its territory is predominantly hilly, with a low and sandy coast. The inland is characterized by woods, pastures and mountains. The biggest river is the Tiber and the largest lakes are the Lakes of Bolsena and Bracciano. Off the coast lies the splendid Pontine Archipelago.
Lazio has a diversified climate, as well as diversified is its territory. The coastline features a typical Mediterranean climate, with average summer temperatures of 24-25 ° C, and mild winters. The Inland has a more continental and rainy climate, with winter night temperatures approaching zero. In winter it can snow on the highest mountains.
Top 5 Things To Do In Lazio
Even without mentioning the artistic heritage of Rome, Lazio is a paradise for culture lovers. From the Etruscans to the Romans, from the Popes to the Renaissance princes, all of them left a tangible mark in this region. Stroll in the Etruscan necropolis or among the Roman fountains of Villa Adriana. Visit the Abbey of Montecassino and the amazing crypt of the Anagni Cathedral, ‘the Sistine Chapel of the Middle Ages’. Discover extraordinary medieval villages such as Civita di Bagnoregio or Calcata.
Paradise islands, pristine forests, majestic mountain ranges – the Lazio nature offers a variety of landscapes that you would not expect from the region of Rome. Dive into the crystal waters of the island of Ponza, sunbathe on the Circeo beach, enjoy the calm waters of the lakes of Bolsena and Bracciano, do trekking in the mountains of the Natural Park of Gran Sasso or in the woods of the reserve of Veio, discover the Gardens of Ninfa. These are just some of the natural beauty that Lazio has to offer.
Lazio has a simple cuisine originating from folk traditions. Taste bucatini all’amatriciana (pasta with tomato sauce, chilly and pecorino cheese), spaghetti alla carbonara (pasta with eggs and parmesan cheese), abbacchio alla cacciatora (baked lamb with flavors), saltimbocca alla romana (veal with ham and sage), baccalà al guazzetto (cod fish), porchetta (pork) and fried artichokes alla giudia (traditional Jewish recipe). Among cakes, try the maritozzo, a soft roll with peanuts, raisin and orange peel.
The Lazio vineyards cover around 25,000 hectares and are dominated by white grapes. The region boasts 3 Appellations of Origin Controlled and Guaranteed (DOCG) and 27 Appellations of Controlled Origin (DOC). The province of Frosinone produces the DOCG Cesanese Piglio. From the area of Castelli Romani come two white wines: Frascati Superiore and Cannellino di Frascati DOCG. Taste also the red wine Est! Est!! Est!!! from Montefiascone. Among the wineries we recommend Casale del Giglio.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Lazio
Villa Adriana & Villa D’Este
Built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the second century, Villa Adriana is a monumental building structure that puts the glories of ancient Rome in the scene. The villa was built near Tivoli, in an area rich in water, as evidenced by the magnificent fountain surrounded by Roman statues, the nymphaeum and the baths. Villa Adriana is listed among UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as well as Villa D’Este, nearby, a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance. Built by Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, the villa has an extraordinary concentration of fountains and water features. Admire the Hundred Fountains or the Neptune Fountain by Bernini and breath this enchanted atmosphere.
Civita di Bagnoregio
Famous worldwide as ‘the dying village’, Civita di Bagnoregio is build on a steep tuff hill dramatically dominating a lunar countryside. The village is accessible only via a footbridge and owes its nickname to erosion, eating 7 centimeters of ground each year. In the beautiful medieval village of Etruscan origin time seems to stand still. Wear comfortable shoes and go through Porta Santa Maria (the village gate). Visit the main square and walk through the picturesque narrow streets. Sit in one of the village bars, enjoy the enchanted atmosphere and admire the view from the huge clay walls of Civita di Bagnoregio. From here the scenic valley crossed by canyons is a breathtaking sight.
Listed among UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri and Tarquinia are an exceptional example of a much older civilization than the Roman. Having to choose between the two archaeological sites, we suggest the necropolis of Cerveteri La Banditaccia, whose foundation dates back to the ninth century BC. The vast archaeological site has thousands of mounds scattered in a scenic natural landscape. The site is rarely visited and probably you happen to wander alone among these immense circular constructions covered by greenery. The necropolis of Tarquinia is known for its beautiful frescoes depicting the daily life of this mysterious population.
In the province of Viterbo, the Park of Monsters of Bomarzo was designed by the famous architect Pirro Ligorio in mid-1500. It was commissioned by the Prince Pier Francesco Orsini, who dedicated it to his beloved wife Giulia Farnese, just died. The park is also called Villa of Marvels or Sacred Wood and covers an area of 3 hectares coated with coniferous and deciduous trees and dotted with enigmatic basalt sculptures. Dragons, sphinxes, exotic animals, elephants, lions, ogres and dragons mesmerise visitors with their grotesque style. Stroll in the Italian style gardens, admire the water games and the impossible architectures, grab a coffee at the bar. Ideal for a day trip with family or friends.
Abbey Of Montecassino
The Abbey of Montecassino can be called the cradle of Western monasticism. Founded in 529 by St. Benedict of Norcia on a hill of over 500 meters, repeatedly conquered, destroyed and rebuilt throughout history, this abbey was razed by the Allies during World War II – legend says that the only thing that came out unscathed from the bombing was the statue of St. Benedict. Today the abbey has been meticulously rebuilt according to the original design. Admire the Cloister of Bramante, the Loggia del Paradiso overlooking the valley and the 24 large statues of popes, saints and kings who supported the abbey. But among all this beauty does not forget the severe spirituality of St. Benedict.
Known as ‘the city of the Popes’, Anagni is located in the countryside called Ciociaria. Its foundation dates back to before the Romans, who conquered and surrounded it with walls. In the Middle Ages it became part of the heritage of the Church, which chose it as the papal retreat building the most important works of the city. Do not miss the magnificent Cathedral of Santa Maria and the extraordinary crypts covered with sparkling frescoes on the creation and the apocalypse (‘the Sistine Chapel of the Middle Ages’). Visit Palazzo Bonifacio VIII, the Town Hall and Palazzo Barnekow. Enjoy squares, restaurants and craft shops. If you are in the area in August, do not miss the traditional Palio parades in medieval clothes.
If you have time available, make no mistake and run to the island of Ponza, which boasts one of the most beautiful seas in the Mediterranean. Ponza has a coastline mostly rocky and rugged, with underwater caves, cliffs and some spectacular sandy beaches. Sunbathe on the beach Chiaia di Luna under the huge cliff, discover the extraordinary island’s sea floor and its warm waters. The best way to enjoy the sea in Ponza is by renting a boat. Do not miss a day trip to the neighboring island of Palmarola, a masterpiece of Nature. In the evening enjoy the charming village of Ponza, with its colorful houses, craft shops and delicious seafood restaurants. Expect lots of nightlife in the summer.
Bracciano & Bolsena Lakes
Located in Upper Tuscia, Bolsena Lake is the largest volcanic lake in Europe. Its low and sandy coasts interspersed with beautiful cliffs are perfect for bathing. The lake is also ideal for sailing, water skiing, windsurfing,bird watching and even scuba diving. Cycle paths allow long rides on flat and shaded paths. The coastal towns of Bolsena, Marta and Capodimonte are worth a visit. Lake Bracciano, smaller, is located in Bracciano-Martignano Regional Park. The area is ideal for swimming, sailing (motor navigation is forbidden), canoeing and cycling. Do not miss a walk along the lake, a visit to the splendid Orsini-Odescalchi castle and to the small Lake Martignano nearby.
Gran Sasso National Park
With its 150,000 hectares, the National Park of Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga is one of the largest in Italy. It covers three regions (Abruzzo, Lazio and Marche) and includes the highest peak of the Apennines, the Corno Grande (2,912 meters), reachable with a walk of a few hours. Along the way you will meet even the Calderone, the southernmost glacier in Europe. Do not miss a breathtaking ride on the Gran Sasso cable car and a visit to Campo Imperatore, ‘the Tibet of Abruzzo’. The park has an enormous biodiversity and is inhabited by chamois, deer and wolves. Fortified villages, abbeys, castles and archaeological sites dot this pristine land, ideal for hiking, riding and skiing.
Veio Regional Park
The Veio Regional Park is the Etruscan park par excellence. The protected area is a green spur that enters the city of Rome, covering the territory of the ancient Etruscan city of Veio. The landscape is typical of southern Etruria: steep valleys, ditches dug by erosion, clear rivers, waterfalls, hills covered with dense forests and tuff plateaus. Visit the Valli del Sorbo in Campagnano and admire the wild horses. Discover the Belmonte area and the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Sorbo, a medieval fortress that became a place of pilgrimage. Do not miss the Cascate dell’Inferno (Hell Waterfall) and the remains of the city of Veio, today an important archaeological site. Ideal for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
Called ‘the most beautiful private garden of Italy’ (in fact belongs to the Caetani Foundation), The Garden of Ninfa was declared a Natural Monument of the Italian Republic. This typical English garden with an informal and romantic charm is in the province of Latina. It was begun by Gelasius Caetani in 1921 on the ruins of the medieval town of Ninfa. The charm of the ruins and crystal clear streams mix with the lush vegetation. The garden is populated by more than 1,300 plant species, including Japanese maples, magnolias, cherry trees, roses and wisteria, hydrangeas and beautiful bamboo. The garden is accessible only on guided tours. Buy tickets online well in advance of www.giardinodininfa.eu.
Circeo National Park
On the Tyrrhenian coast of southern Lazio, about 100 km south of Rome, stands the unmistakable profile of the Circeo promontory, a limestone relief of 541 meters where legend has it that the sorceress Circe lived. Today the cape is the icon of the Circeo National Park, a beautiful area overlooking the sea and characterized by a great diversity of natural environments. Discover the coastal dune, a long sandy beach with a crescent shape and, behind it, a wetland populated by herons. Walk through 3,300 hectares of pristine forest, called the Forest of Circe, or explore the beautiful island of Zannone. For a typical dinner choose the charming village of San Felice Circeo.
A Short History Of Lazio
Inhabited since the Paleolithic, in the second millennium BC Lazio underwent a major wave of migration from the Indo-European peoples (the so-called Italic peoples, including the Latins). But the most important local civilization was the Etruscan, of mysterious origin, perhaps oriental. This people was not Indo-European and had a tryly refined culture. Between the seventh and sixth centuries BC the Etruscans gained the undisputed dominance over the region, so that in this period the Urbe of Rome had an Etruscan dynasty.
In the fifth century B.C., with the decline of the Etruscan supremacy, Lazio was shocked by a series of wars. The Romans had the upper hand. They subjugated the Etruscans and Italics and made the city of Rome the center of the region. They built great roads and aqueducts that branched radially from the capital, holy temples and beautiful villas. The Imperial Age is the one that has left more traces. Between the third century BC and fifth century A.D., the Lazio history overlapped with that of Rome. Lazio became the center of the world.
With the barbarian invasions began a rapid decline for Lazio. After the Gothic conquest (535-553), Lazio became part of the Byzantine Empire. But soon, because of the long wars fought against the Lombards, the territory was left defenseless. He took advantage of the bishop of Rome, now more and more powerful and independent from Constantinople.The Papal State was born in the eighth century, subjugating the local aristocracy. From this moment the history of Lazio becomes that of the Roman Church.
The Unification of Italy (1870) finally ended the papal domination. Despite the artistic richness of Lazio, the newborn State had to see the extreme poverty besetting the region, characterized by a depressed economy and a underdeveloped agriculture. With the shift of the Italian capital from Florence to Rome and the beginning of the reclamation work of the countryside Agro Pontino, the fate of Lazio began to recover. Today Lazio lives of tertiary industry, trade, tourism and income of public administration.