‘We’re going for an aperitivo,” says our information, Valerio, “however first we have to store.” In Frascati’s historical centre, we head to a norcineria (pork butcher’s) for a choice of cured meats, then a deli for olives and panzanella (crunchy bread salad with tomatoes and plenty of oil and aromatics) and the all-night bakery for sourdough bread.
We settle with our goodies at a battered desk outdoors Osteria dell’Olmo and order a carafe of chilled white. Proprietor Remigio Sognatesori doesn’t bat an eyelid, as a result of bringing your personal meals is a time-honoured customized within the fraschette (maker-run wine bars) of the Castelli Romani, 17 small cities on volcanic hills south-east of Rome, of which Frascati is the liveliest.
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Remigio tells us that from at the least medieval instances winemakers would hang around a laurel department (frasca) when their new wine was prepared. Locals and passing farmers would flock to those cellars to carouse and quaff, taking their very own snacks and nibbles to take in the wine. And if these nibbles had been salty and spicy – olives, salami and coppiette, the jerky-like strips of cured shin meat with numerous chilli that we’ve introduced – effectively, that simply led to extra jugs of wine, merry drinkers and joyful house owners.
“It was genius,” provides Remigio. “Folks liked them, and so they gave makers an area marketplace for their wine.”
By the 1800s, he says, there have been greater than 1,000 fraschette in Frascati alone, and their fame had unfold to the large metropolis. Notably after the railway from Rome opened in 1856, escaping scorching, crowded streets for a night in a rural vineyard turned a cool choice for city-dwellers, because it nonetheless is. At the moment, most fraschette additionally do meals, however they’re nonetheless all about native wine and specialities.

Wine and nibbles at La Fraschetta, Castelgandolfo. {Photograph}: Valerio Ciaccia
The Castelli Romani cities sit atop hills at the least 320 metres excessive, with splendid panoramas so far as the dome of St Peter’s. After our aperitivo, we stroll not far away to Cantina Simonetti on sloping Piazza San Rocco. I gaze on the view, and on the solar setting over the cobbled sq. with its paper-covered tables stuffed with joyful prospects – and admire but once more the Italian knack for la dolce vita.
I like the way in which the traditional cellar door at Simonetti is bowed on the sides, to permit large barrels out and in. Frascati wines have lengthy had a bulk-and-boring picture however latest efforts to enhance high quality have paid off. A carafe of appley-almondy white is an ideal foil for traditional amatriciana pasta and a tasty if reasonably out-there essential of coratella (lamb entrails). Offal is as cherished right here as in Rome, however I nonetheless wimp out of ordering trippe.
For a facet journey from Rome, the Castelli Romani, half an hour away by rail, are laborious to beat. In addition to Frascati, trains additionally run to Albano and Lanuvio. And whereas it could be tempting to spend all day consuming and ingesting, the world’s volcanic topography and turbulent historical past imply there’s lots to see and do between meals.

Lake Albano and Castelgandolfo {Photograph}: Jacek Sopotnicki/Alamy
Historical past can largely be loved by strolling streets reasonably than doing museums. Albano, on the Appian Approach, has a second-century navy gateway, large Roman water cisterns and a well-preserved amphitheatre whose acoustics we take a look at out with claps and yells. In smaller Lanuvio, a seventh-century BC temple to Juno shares a inexperienced hill with a canine park and youngsters’s playground, and the water fountain in its city sq., between butcher and chemist, is a richly carved second-century Roman sarcophagus, repurposed by villagers generations in the past.
Earlier than weary metropolis staff began coming right here to drink, these ethereal hills had been a bolthole for Roman nobles together with Cicero. Within the Renaissance, rich households spent fortunes upgrading their summer season villas, and a number of other of those are actually open to the general public, providing an eyeful of 16th-century conspicuous consumption. Rooms within the Chigi Palace, for instance, have “wallpaper” of richly embellished leather-based – which may be seen in banquet scenes from Visconti’s the Leopard, filmed right here.
I doubt whether or not that was a lot comfort within the 17th century for the 10 daughters of Agostino Chigi, banker and finance minister to the pope, who had been all made to turn into nuns. Their portraits, veiled and wimpled, line one room. Just one appears content material along with her lot.

Ariccia is the porchetta capital of Italy. {Photograph}: Getty Pictures
I think about the poor loves obtained to benefit from the toothsome speciality for which the city outdoors their palace partitions has been famed since Roman instances – porchetta. Most Italian markets have a van promoting this boneless stuffed roast pig, however Ariccia (walkable from Albano station) is porchetta central. Fraschette on By way of Borgo San Rocco all have aromatic home-cooked porkers outdoors. At Sora Ines (no 19) a €14 antipasto consists of mounds of porchetta with shiny brown crackling, prosciutto, mozzarella, melon, mushrooms, roasted aubergines and extra.
We do our greatest with that, then drag our bellies up the hill to an extension of Ariccia’s fraschetta quarter, in rows of former wine cellars flanking the palace. One, Osteria di Corte, has a particular declare to fame: younger chef Marco Liberti’s cacio e pepe pasta got here high this 12 months in TV meals present four Ristoranti. This can be a bit like profitable MasterChef, and the dish doesn’t disappoint: creamy sheep’s cheese coating fats spaghetti, with successful of black pepper.

Marco Liberti, cacio e pepe champion. {Photograph}: Liz Boulter
We additionally try a fraschetta referred to as Hosteria la Fraschetta in papal retreat Castel Gandolfo, then head for Marino village – whose fountain runs with wine at pageant time. Right here we style Marco Fabi’s scrumptious straw-coloured whites in a wine museum he has arrange in a disused cellar. And naturally he, too, has a fraschetta: Fòr de Porta within the village centre has all of the favourites, plus a tasty vegan choice: truffles, bean purees, fennel, wild and cave-grown mushrooms and extra.
These wooded hills disguise two deep greeny-blue lakes and plenty of scenic trails. The bigger lake, Albano, has seashores on one facet, with kayaks and paddleboards, however I lengthy to strive the biking/strolling paths on its wilder east, or hike to Monte Cavo at nearly 1,000 metres.
As a result of it’s laborious to take advantage of these Roman hills except you’ve labored up a really massive urge for food.
• Lodging was supplied by Resort Colonna in central Frascati, which has doubles from €75 B&B. Practice journey to Frascati was supplied by Trenitalia. Extra info at Go to Castelli Romani