“After breakfast, we either ventured into Rome or took day trips. A friend of the owner, Simeone Ricci, offered excellent guided adventures specifically created to our wishes. We definitely would never have found intriguing locations like these on our own. Some of the trips included Campo Imperatore, St. Stefano di Sassiano, Mount Livata, Castelli and more.”
Touring and Sightseeing
The Casale Sonnino is the perfect home base for visiting Rome and touring the diverse landscapes, towns and historic sites of Central Italy. Whether you plan your own itineraries or you go with one of our tour guides, many famous towns and UNESCO world heritage sites are reachable on day trips. The regions of Lazio, Umbria, Tuscany, Abruzzo and Campagna – all have beautiful destinations, delicious food and offer chances to explore Italy off the beaten track. The stunning Amalfi Coast, the clean sandy beaches at Sabaudia and Sperlonga, unspoiled Abruzzo and the Parco Gran Sasso, Orvieto, Civita di Bagnaregio and up to Siena and the famous Chianti wine region in between. Nearby the Casale are the incomparable Tivoli Gardens and Hadrian’s Villa. The high speed train from Rome Termini station (1 ½ hours each way) even makes a trip to Florence possible in a day. The Uffizzi Gallery with it’s priceless art collection, Michaelangelo’s David, the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio – they are all in the center of town and easy to reach from the station. Of course, there isn’t enough time in a week or even two to see all the glorious places in Italy. However, with some planning with co-owners Claire and George and if you don’t mind getting up early, you will have the grandest vacation that you will remember forever.
FABULOUS ROME – La Dolce Vita
Rome is at the top of everyone’s list for at least 1 or 2 days of sightseeing. It takes about 45 minutes by car/Rome metro or train (Colle Mattia station is 1K from the Casale) to get to Rome Termini Train Station. From the station, you can walk, take the metro a taxi or a bus to sites all over Rome. By metro, go three stops to the Spanish Steps and the Via Condotti, the center of the famous designer shopping district, or continue on across town to metro stop Ottaviana near the Vatican City. We recommend visiting Rome on a Saturday or Sunday when there are less commuters on the trains.
Every corner of Rome has a story to tell. There are wonderful museums like the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and the Borghese Gallery and awe inspiring archeological sites such as the Coliseum and the Roman Forum. Not to be missed are St. Louis of the French and the Caravaggio Chapel painting of St. Matthew and St. Clemente, a 12 C. church with 18 C. renovations. St. Clemente is most interesting not only because of its architecture and frescos, but also because it’s built upon the ruins of a 3rd C. church that is built upon the ruins of a 2nd C. house – three layers of history to explore. While it takes several lifetimes to truly know Rome, one can experience the charm of the Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, elegant Via Veneto, Campo Dei Fiori, and charming Trastevere even on a short visit. For nightlife and great restaurants, it’s Testaccio and Monti for the latest cuisine and scene.
OUR REGION OF LAZIO – So much to see nearby
In our hill towns of Frascati, Monte Porzio Catone, Montecompatri and Colonna you can immerse yourself in the local Italian life by just walking around the charming streets and taking it all in. There are many wonderful restaurants, trattorie, take-out pizza and tavola calda, ice cream parlors and bakeries. Each town has its church, piazzas, and unique vitality; however, Colonna and Monte Compatri are also interesting structurally. Both towns wind and wind upwards in the shape of a nautilus shell, so cars can only go part way up. A striking palazzo on the hill overlooking Frascati is the Villa Aldobrandini, the only nearby villa still in the hands of the princely family. While this villa remains private, the garden is open to the public and the stables have been transformed into a cultural center housing a museum and an auditorium for concerts and theater productions. However, the Villa Falconieri and the Villa Mondragone, once summer homes of Popes, Princes and Cardinals, can be visited. Both have lovely frescoes and enchanting secret gardens.
On the ridge of the hill above our village of Monte Porzio, stood the town of Tusculum. Cicero made his home there. Tusculum, which was taken over by barbarian nobles who eventually became Roman, was in perennial rebellion against the Pope. It was finally destroyed in 1191. Today, the original Roman theatre, the Roman access road, ruins and the glorious view are well worth an afternoon visit.
Around thirty to forty minutes away are the other towns of the Castelli Romani which deserve a full day of exploration. Grottaferrata has a magnificent abbey, partially dating from the 11-12th Century when it was founded by Byzantine monks under the guidance of St. Nilo. Refurbished by Pope Julius II in the 1500’s, it is part fortress –the outer walls – and the basilica itself is part Byzantine and part Renaissance. Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence hugs the shores of Lake Albano, a deep vulcanic lake that is nice for swimming and small boating. There is also a jogging trail that circles the lake and a good family restaurant right on its shore. The church in the village on the main square was designed by Bernini. Recently Pope Francis opened the the gardens and a museum of pope-memorabilia to the public. Not to be missed is the charming town of Nemi, perched on a pedestal above a smaller volcanic lake and featuring the Ruspoli Castle with its old round watchtower. Nemi is also famous for its sausages, porchini mushrooms and wild strawberries.
In the opposite direction to the North is the beautifully restored Villa D’Este and Tivoli Gardens with its more than 1000 flowing fountains. By day or lit up at night, the entire complex is breathtaking. Twenty minutes away from Tivoli is Hadrian’s Villa with its spectacular ruins. An intriguing fact is that most of the Villa during the time of the Emperor could be reached by underground paths and roads. The Museum of Palestrina is housed in the Barberini Palazzo, itself carved 400 years ago from the monumental Temple of Fortune in existence from 500 BC. Among other treasures it contains a breathtaking mosaic from 250 BC depicting the effects of a flood on the Nile. It reads like an ancient Roman style travelogue. After your visit, lunch on home cooking in the Medieval village of Castel San Pietro, a town that time passed by, just a few minutes away at the top of the hill. The view towards Rome seems endless.
Subiaco and its two splendid Benedictine Monasteries built on the side of a hill are also worth visiting. While the site reminds us of a lamasery in Tibet, you are clearly in Italy as the gothic cloister and Sienese Renaissance frescoes are an art lover’s must see.
Ostia Antica, Rome’s ancient seaport is less than an hour away, but you will want to devote an entire afternoon because there is so much to see. There is a theater which is still used, temples, baths, private houses, warehouses and even a brothel. The ingenuity of Roman engineering is alive and well in Ostia Antica. Have lunch at the fine restaurant that is nestled in the ruins.
A super website for all the wonders of Lazio: www.visitlazio.com