Frascati: true holiday pleasure
Frascati has been a place of delight since the dawn of time thanks to its location.
It was chosen by the Latin peoples to create one of their largest settlements, Tusculum. Preferred by senators and scholars in the age of Republican Rome. Later the centre of the papal summer court during the Renaissance when the fairy-tale villas with spectacular gardens to still admire today were built in its surroundings.
How can one resist such charm?
What to see in Frascati
Frascati can be reached from Rome by train along a railway partly built by the Papal State in 1856. The station is located close to the historical centre, a few metres from Piazza Roma and St Peter's Cathedral, with its beautiful façade with two bell towers, and the Tuscolan civic museum in the Scuderie Aldobrandini, renovated in 2000 by the architect Massimiliano Fuksas to make it a multifunctional space with permanent exhibition of archaeological finds from the Tusculum excavations.
On the opposite side of the historical centre stands the medieval Rocca, remodelled in the 15th century, housing the Bishop's Palace. A beautiful walk through the greenery leads to the church and convent of St Francis where the Cardinal Massaia Ethiopian Museum is housed, displaying an ethnographic collection of East African objects. The visit to Frascati is completed with a tour of its extraordinary villas built in a dominant position around the town.
The Tuscolane villas of Frascati and surroundings
The 10 Tuscolan villas from the Renaissance period that rise between Frascati, Grottaferrata and Monte Porzio Catone constitute an extraordinary architectural ensemble, evidence of a time when the area became a privileged place for the leisure activities of the papal court.
All the facades of the villas face Rome, visible on the horizon. The greatest architects of the time were hired to build them, designing princely residences with gardens and parks.
All that remains of Villa Torlonia is the monumental park, now municipal, with the Water Theatre, fountains and steps: the villa was completely destroyed during the WWII. All the others, on the other hand, have survived almost intact to the present day, albeit for different functions.
The monumental Villa Aldobrandini, which stands on a rise just outside the town, was designed by Giacomo della Porta but completed by Carlo Maderno and Giovanni Fontana in 1604, the superstars of the time. Its spectacular nymphaeum, with water features and statues covering 2,500 square metres describes its magnificence: inside, it preserves important Baroque fresco cycles. The villa was a gift from Pope Clement VIII to one of his cardinal nephews. Today, it hosts major happenings, ceremonies and cultural events.
Villa Falconieri (or Rufina), the oldest of Frascati's villas (1540- 1550), built on the site of an ancient Roman villa, was enlarged by Francesco Borromini and today houses a prestigious classical studies academy. Villa Tuscolana, the most scenic, is a charming hotel. Villa Sora, which also welcomed Pope Gregory XIII and Cardinal Carlo Borromeo, devolved to the Salesians in 1900, who made it the college that still exists today. Next to the Parc dell'Ombrellino in Frascati stands the private Villa Lancellotti. In Grottaferrata you will find Villa Grazioli, another prestigious hotel, and Villa Muti, while in Monte Porzio Catone you will find Villa Parisi, severely damaged during World War II, and the splendid Villa Mondragone, summer residence of the popes until 1626 when Urban VIII preferred Castel Gandolfo, a decision that condemned Villa Mondragone and the complex of the Tuscolane villas that prospered thanks to the papal court and its retinue to decadence. Today, Villa Mondragone is the representative seat of the University of Tor Vergata in Rome. The villas (except Lancellotti and Muti) can be visited through the Regional Institute for Tuscolan Villas.
The Tusculum Archaeological Park
From Frascati, a beautiful scenic road takes you to the Tuscolo Archaeological and Cultural Park, on a hill between Frascati, Grottaferrata and Monte Porzio Catone, which preserves the remains of a city older than Rome, Tusculum, dating back to the 10th century BC, was one of the major centres of the Latin League. Defeated by the Romans, it soon became a favourite summer residence for intellectuals and senators, including Cicero, for many centuries until it was destroyed by Rome in the 12th century.
Of Tusculum, in a natural setting of rare beauty, you can see the basalt road of the Sepolcri, recently emerged thermal complex, the sacellum dedicated to the god Mercury, the forum, a Roman theatre from the 1st century BC, where theatrical performances are staged in the summer, up to the acropolis. From there, you can see the entire Castelli Romani area, with Rome in the distance.
You can also take a whole day to visit Tusculum, equipped with a picnic area, playground, and a wide range of guided archaeological and nature tours.