Albano Laziale, an unexpected pearl of the Castelli Romani
Albano Laziale was constructed on the remains of a Roman imperial villa commissioned by Domitian and built around an army camp.
The convenient connection to Rome, thanks to the Via Appia, makes the town easily accessible. The beauty of the landscape makes it worth a trip. In addition, Albano preserves extraordinary vestiges of its past.
Roman vestiges in Albano Laziale
There is no historic building in Albano Laziale that does not have its roots in the civilisation of the ancient Romans.
The Porta Praetoria was the entrance to the camp of the Roman legion: incorporated into other buildings, it re-appeared after the bombings of the Second World War in 1944.
The 6th-century Church of St Peter was built on the remains of a large hall of the Cellomaio thermal baths, and the building houses several Roman remains such as the marble fragments in the portal and Romanesque bell tower, and the Roman sarcophagus used as an altar. Fragments of the mosaic floor of the baths can be seen in the sacristy. Leaving the church, on the right, you can see the remains of the thermal baths, which have survived to the present day in a well-preserved condition. The baths house the Second Parthian Legion Museum, which, with the tools of experimental archaeology, reconstructs the equipment of the legionnaires and documents their daily life.
The most extraordinary legacy of the ancient Romans in Albano is the so-called Cisternone, built in the highest part of the town; it's a huge cistern, partly excavated in the rock, where the water distributed to the camp was channelled. It still functions today, and is used for irrigation purposes.
Also worth seeing is the Severian amphitheatre, which is elliptical in shape, and could seat up to 16,000 spectators, with the tiers of seats partly dug out of the rock and partly built of masonry.
The Catacombs of San Senatore preserve frescoes from the Middle Ages. To visit most of the archaeological sites, visitors must go to the Albano Roman Civic Museum, housed in the 19th-century Villa Ferrajoli.
The Romanesque church of Santa Maria della Rotonda was also erected on the nymphaeum of Domitian's imperial villa: with a round layout, it has the same proportions as the Pantheon in Rome. Also worth a visit is the cathedral of San Pancrazio, which dates back to the time of Constantine, but which has been redesigned in Baroque style.
Lake Albano is of volcanic origin and has an unusual elliptical shape, which can be explained by the complex history of its formation, due to various eruptive occurrences. The lake has an artificial outlet, the work of the ancient Romans.
Note the remains of the Villaggio delle Macine (Millstone Village), which dates back to the Bronze Age, a millennium and a half before Christ; it is a rare example of a village on stilts.
Today it can be visited along the beautiful path through the woods. It is 11 kilometres along the entire circumnavigation of the lake, all on level ground, which can be covered on foot or by mountain bike. On the lake, you can enjoy water sports (canoeing) and pedalo rides, and then enjoy refreshments in the many restaurants on its shores.
If you are fascinated by the lake, take the Via dei Laghi (state road 217), which deviates from the Via Appia Antica at Ciampino to reach Velletri, skirting Lake Albano on the Marino side and the nearby Lake Nemi.