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Frascati Wine Tasting

There are a few wine-producing hill-towns just south of Rome known as Castelli Romani or Roman Castles. Travel Editors Hugh Taylor and Moira McCrossan went on a day trip to the most famous one.

Frascati is one of my most favourite Italian wines so when Moira suggested a day trip, from our winter base in Capena, I chose Frascati as the destination. A glass or two of lunch and perhaps buying a few bottles to take home was the plan.

Getting to Frascati is easy. From central Rome you can take a bus or train direct to the main square. As we were going by car it was a forty-minute trip round Rome’s ring road, The G.R.A., before climbing east into the hills. We left the car in the station car park and walked up the steps to Piazza Marconi, located the tourist office and acquired a free street map. We could also have got a free permit to visit the gardens of the Villa Aldobrandi but all we wanted on our first visit was to explore the streets of the old quarter.

Travel Facts


Getting there

By train
Direct trains on a regular basis from Rome’s main station, Termini.

By Bus
Take the metro to Anagnina and then pick up a Coteral Bus to Frascati from the front of the metro station.

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We passed several shops selling local wine but they were aimed at the tourist market and priced accordingly. However a small bakery full of locals provided us with sandwiches for our lunchtime picnic enjoyed on the steps of the Cathedral of St Peter the Apostle.

The Cathedral has a long and varied history. Construction started in the late 16th century and was completed by 1610. A new façade was built in 1700 and afterward the two bell towers were added. It was severely damaged during a bombing raid on 8th September 1943 and the restorations were only just completed in 2001.

Just inside the main door, on the left hand side of the Nave, we found a marble monument inscribed to one Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart. Those of you familiar with Scottish History might recognize that lengthy name as belonging to one Bonnie Prince Charlie aka The Young Pretender, grandson of the Deposed King James II of England and VII of Scotland. Born in Rome and raised there and in Bologna Charlie is best remembered for his part in leading the Jacobite rebellion in 1745 when his attempt to restore the House of Stuart to both thrones ended when his supporters were comprehensively thrashed at the Battle of Culloden near Inverness. Thereafter he took to the heather and his time on the run and eventual escape dressed as Flora McDonald’s Irish maid still inspires stories, songs and films. But that’s just his romantic image. In reality he was an arrogant, indecisive, idiot who failed miserably, retreated back to France and then Italy where he ended his life as a drunken wife beater.

When he died in 1788 his body was buried in the Cathedral because his younger brother, Cardinal Henry Benedict Stuart, was the Bishop of Frascati. Henry died in 1807 and was interred with his father James (The Old Pretender) in the crypt in Saint Peter’s Basilica. At the same time they decided to dig up what remained of B.P. Charlie and move him to the family crypt at the Vatican. But not all of him. Buried under the floor of the marble monument in Frascati is a lead casket containing his ‘ entrails’ and/or possibly his heart.

Fascinating though we found the cathedral it was time to continue our search for a glass of the local wine. We crossed the Piazza and headed down a side street passing more shops selling overpriced Frascati to tourists. Eventually we landed in the small Piazza Dell Olmo where in one corner we spied the rustic Osteria Dell Olmo.

The door was open and in the cantina at the rear were several, large, stainless steel, wine vessels. A man emerged carrying a large plastic container full of wine, saw us, stopped, smiled and in perfect English said “ This is the best wine in the entire area.” So in we went. It was just beautiful. An ordinary, wee old bar with a couple of tables, a small counter and on the wall hung a guitar and a few old photographs including one of a very young looking Frank Zappa. The owner, Remigio, told us that we were welcome to eat there but first we would need to go out and buy the food elsewhere as all he did was sell wine. Just white wine. We had already lunched so ‘just white wine’ was fine and indeed so was his wine which was dry and very fruity.

Moira had a great discussion with Remigio, a total enthusiast, about the making of the wine and how every year it tasted different. He told us that the last summer had not been a very good one and so the wine was a little dryer than usual.

We bought five litres for twelve Euros and he poured it into a plastic container. ‘It’s food grade’ said Remegio ‘fine for wine and oil’. He told us that a good wine in a cheap container was still a good wine whereas a bad wine, no matter how fancy the bottle would still be a bad wine. I don’t know if he was having a dig at the stuff they sell elsewhere to tourists but for our money we would have got just two of the fancy bottles.

We shall be returning on a regular basis and next time we will take along some bread, cheese and prosciutto to go along with the wine and who knows I may take the guitar from the wall and we can have a little music.


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