This is one of our most scenic tours with stunning views throughout the day as we explore the ancient Sabine territory.
An itinerary designed around ancient and Medieval history, where you will discover the authenticity and character of the area with pristine natural beauty of the Sacred Valley (Valle Santa). To step back in time you will visit La Foresta sanctuary - with optional wine-tasting and estate visit at a small family-run winery - followed by a chocolate-tasting. If you have a particular interest for ancient cultures we can include a brief visit to the St. Vittoria sanctuary at Monteleone.
At weekends lunch will be in a country house restaurant offering a unique atmosphere set amidst the hills below Greccio, where you will be served the best of traditional local cuisine with a surprising variety of flavors and aromas refined and reworked in a modern way to add a new element to your tour. During the week lunch will be in one of the delightful restaurants in the centre of Rieti.
During the day there will be visits to the sanctuaries at Greccio (a small mountain town twinned with Bethlehem) and Fonte Colombo, situated a short distance from each other. Greccio was the site of the very first 'living nativity' in Europe (1223). You will be able to visit original wooden dormitories and hermitage offering up magnificent views of the entire valley. Descending part way down the mountain we arrive at Fonte Colombo which is where Saint Francis of Assisi's eye operation was performed, and it was also here that he received the Rules of the Minor Friars and you can visit the hermitage where he and his first followers slept.
Saint Francis of Assisi waited for his eye operation at La Foresta sanctuary in 1225 AD. The setting is absolutely charming and has a tranquility hard to find in our busy modern lives. There is a tiny chapel dating to the 1400's with frescoes partially in tact, and an original alter of circa 1000 years old.
OPTIONS - visits to all of the Franciscan sanctuaries in the area (the 3 mentioned above, plus the Sanctuary and ancient Sabine site at Monteleone - each offering something different - or omit the sanctuaries altogether to focus on wine, chocolate and a gourmet lunch.
This will depend on your start location (which can be Rome or Rieti), and inclusions in your itinerary, but we normally recommend a full 8/10-hour day.
Interested in the wines?
The Panoramic Vineyard
The vineyard is one of very few in the Rieti province and produces wines from the Cesanese grape; the typical Malvasia del Lazio; Violone and Sangiovese to name a few. It's vineyards are located on attractive hills between the Rieti basin and Monte Terminillo at an altitude of 650 mtrs asl.
The Lazio variety is known as 'Aleatico di Gradoli' - Gradoli is a nearby village overlooking lake Bolsena of north Lazio. It is generally believed that the grapes were introduced by the Etruscans. They are traditionally used for red wines. Tasting notes: aromatic, floral, hints of roses and violets, black cherries, velvety, smooth.
This wonderful grape has many synonyms (in Lazio it can also be known as Arciprete or Cacchione. It was cited by Pliny the Elder: proof that Bellone has been present in Lazio since ancient times?). Tasting notes: fragrant, rounded, smooth, peach, apricot, sometimes banana, honey, bitter orange, hazelnut.
Originating in France, introduced into Italy in the 1800's (parent of Cabernet Sauvignon, used as a blending grape in the famous Bordeaux blend), Cabernet Franc does extremely well in Lazio as a single varietal. Tasting notes: peppery, dark aromatic spices, red fruits, licorice, sometimes tobacco and violets.
Of uncertain origins, with recent studies suggesting a spontaneous cross-breeding between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc during the 18th century, although Pliny cited a vitis caburnica, which could be a reference to the same grape. Tasting notes: dark fruits, chocolate, earthy, velvety tannins.
One of Lazio's 3 DOCG wines produced by this antique autochthonous varietal. The Piglio valley has been used for growing grapes since Etruscan times. Earliest records date to the Roman era (133 BC). Tasting notes: intense cherry and forest fruits, black pepper, floral (violet), mineral, tobacco and juniper.
Opinion differs re the origins. Some say a native of Burgundy (after Roman soldiers planted Gouais Blanc there which crossed with Pinto Blanc); others say it came from the Middle East, brought to Italy by returning crusaders. Tasting notes: fresh, crisp, smooth, acacia, peach, exotic fruits, apple, vanilla, honey.
A central Italian grape variety (Greci genus) and probable Greek origin brought to Italy by Greek colonists into Magna Grecia (southern Italy). It is often used in blends but also as a successful single varietal. Tasting notes: exotic fruits, white flowers, aromatic, buttery, hazelnut, vanilla, subtle woody flavours.
It is said that since ancient times two varieties of the Greco Bianco (Greci genus) were cultivated in a small territory of south-east Lazio, but over time had almost become extinct. Today these varieties are revived and thriving in the same area. Tasting notes: peach, pear, almond, vegetal, mineral, tropical fruit.
There are 3 varieties in Lazio, predominantly in the Frascati/Castelli Romani volcanic complex, but also elsewhere in the region. Used in blends (single varietal in passito). An antique Peloponnese vine thought to have arrived in Venice via Crete. Tasting notes: apricot, floral (acacia, lavender), citrus and dried fruits.
A well known Bordeaux grape from Gironde, the Merlot grape reached Italy late 1700's/1800's. Often produced in Lazio as a single varietal - finding ideal conditions in both terrain and climate - as well as in blends. Tasting notes: summer berries, vanilla, warm woody spices, dark fruits, velvety, sometimes herbaceous.
This well documented autochthonous grape most likely originated in Tuscany and represents one of the best of central Italy reds (not to be confused with the Sangiovese grape of the famous wine Nobile di Montepulciano). Tasting notes: black cherry, blackberry, licorice, spices (nutmeg).
The Nero Buono grape has obscure origins but is believed to have been cultivated around the Cori territory for two millennia. The micro-climate and geology of surrounding volcanic hills are ideal for this rediscovered and revived grape. Tasting notes: complex spiced, full-bodied, dark berries, cocoa.
Origins of the Passerina are uncertain - a rare autochthonous grape producing a well regarded wine of the Ciociaria. Named after a small bird (Passera - of the Sparrow family), which likes to eat the grapes. Tasting notes: golden apple, citrus fruits, fresh floral aromas with a good balance of sweet and savoury.
Originally from the Mèdoc are of Gironde and used traditionally in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it holds its own in Lazio as a single varietal, adapting perfectly to the micro-climates of this region. Tasting notes: red berries, myrtle, juniper, full-bodied with velvety tannins, incense and a peppery finish.
Taking its name from the blood of Jupiter (sanguis Jovis) this central Italy grape gives us the famous Brunello di Montalcino and the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Well known by the 16th century but probably dating to Roman times (reference to the god Jupiter). Tasting notes: red fruits, earthy, strawberry, spices.
There are two schools of thought re the origins: that the grape came from Shiraz, Ancient Persia, or from Syracuse, Italy (imported from Egypt by Emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus). Used in blends for Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Tasting notes: cherry, blueberry, warm spices, vanilla, black pepper, cinnamon.
Lazio has two predominant varieties: Toscano (also known as/related to Procanico) and Giallo (known as/related to Roscetto). Pliny the Elder named the latter "Vinum Trebulanum" (Romans were already calling the vine Trebula - meaning 'farm'). Tasting notes: aromatic, woody, almond, melon, apricot.
Origins are unknown but presumed to be an ancient grape. One legend states that Emperor Marcus Aurelia Probus brought vines to the Rhone Valley probably from his home-land, Dalmatia/Sirmium (an ancient Roman province). Tasting notes: fresh floral and mineral aromas, creamy ripe peach, sensuous.