We've decided to include something for the men in this post - fine Italian apparel and where to find it in Rome - in no particular order although many you will find in and around the fashionable Via Condotti just down from the Spanish Steps. Each of these family run companies has a proud Italian heritage that has stood the test of time.
Temperatures in central Italy can be unpredictable around September/October. It could be sunny and even hot or chilly and wet. So layers is the way to go. Thin cashmere tops are good because they're lightweight and pack small into a suitcase but keep you very warm. A fleece or waterproof jacket with a hood would be one of my top choices, which (although I don't like doing this) can be worn tied around the waist if the temperature creeps up. You're also going to be grateful for lightweight waterproof baseball boots or trainers, which provide good comfort for all the walking you'll be doing. I was in Naples recently and forgot my own advice regarding the footwear and I totally underestimated how much walking I'd be doing.
We have a couple of courtesy umbrellas, which we lend to customers on our day trips, but also many of the higher end hotels will loan you one for the day if you ask. For men and women those zip-off trousers that convert into shorts or vice versa are great and look pretty cool. I particularly like Craghoppers.
As part of your survival kit you might like to include mosquito repellent and after-bite since they can be quite aggressive in September.
I've listed my top tips for staying cool at home during high temperatures, based on living in Italy so we have shutters (indispensable) and high ceilings.
How I keep the cat fresh.
The Ancient Appian Way Beyond Rome
The Appian Way, which was built as a military road, starts in Rome, passes through southern Lazio and eventually reaches Puglia: the “heel” of Italy, in the direction of Greece and the Middle East. It’s a route that remained strategic for centuries. The Lazio towns along the route were as follows: Rome, Ciampino, Marino, Castel Gandolfo, Albano Laziale, Ariccia, Genzano, Nemi, Velletri, Cisterna di Latina, Latina, Sermoneta, Sezze, Pontinia, Terracina, Monte San Biagio, Fondi, Itri, Gaeta, Formia and finally Minturno.
The Appian Way (Via Appia / Appia Antica) was first among all roads and, in its day, was the longest, most attractive and most imposing road ever built and for this reason it was named “Queen of All Roads” or Regina Viarum. It was 365 miles long (530km) and took two weeks to travel the entire length.
The poet Stazio, who lived at the time of Domitian, used this appellative in his famous verses:
"FLECTERE IAM CUPIDUM GRESSUS, QUA LIMITE NOTO APPIA LONGARUM TERITUR REGINA VIARUM "
(Anxious to direct his steps where, for a known path runs the Appia, the queen of long roads)
(Statius, Silvae, Lib.II)
As mentioned before, the Appian Way was a military road which facilitated faster communication with the southern borders of the conquered territory. The consul Appio Claudio Cieco was the one who made the road, at the time of the wars against the Samnites in 312 BC, from Rome to Capua, for a distance of 124 Roman miles, using his own personal capital for the construction.
The first section was built from Rome to Capua, but the stretch between Rome and Albano had been in existence for some time. Appius Claudius restored the ancient road as far as Bovillae (Albano) then extended it to Capua, through the Pontine Marshes and Formia, thus diminishing the importance of the Via Latina, which until then had been the main route, and from then on became a simple service route of secondary importance.
The Via Latina (already in use in prehistoric and Etruscan times) whose name is directly connected to the territory through which it crosses (that of the old Latina League, subdued during the fourth century BC), was one of the roads most exploited by the Romans in the conquest of Lazio and of Campania. The Via Latina separated from the Via Appia south of Porta Capena, passing the Aurelian walls through the Porta Latina. It stretched over 200 Km to the south-east, through southern Lazio and northern Campania, crossing the Sacco valley, the Liri valley and along the slopes of the Lepini, Ausoni and Aurunci mountains. It was only later, in 268 AC, that the Appian Way arrived as far as Benevento and on to Brindisi, making it the most travelled road of the Mediterranean.
The road began in Rome at Porta Capena (parte of the ancient Servian walls, between Porta Capena and the Marte hill) although in antiquity it was not called the Appia but the Semita, which meant “sinuous uneven path”, in fact Via di Porta San Sebastiano is still very winding all the way to Caffarella.
It took the name Appia only at the sepulcher of Priscilla, shortly afterwards the road became straight as far as Bovillae, at the foot of the Alban Mountains. From here the road climbed and descended until Ariccia, passing through Genzano, leaving the area with Velletri on the left. The road then continued through the Pontine Marshes on an artificial bank (30 Km of marshland was crossed thanks to incredible reclamation work and road engineering), continuing on through the Appio Forum, passing near Pomezia and on towards the centre of Terracina. Here the road climbed up the hill of Anxur and descended to the plains of Fondi. (the section from Rome to Terracina was almost 90 Km of straight road). The road continued through Liri (now Garigliano) and Minturno, then, leaving modern Lazio behind, it reached Sinuessa, then Volturno, Casilinum, and finally Capua.
Fourteen years after the beginning of the works (in 298), Tito Livio informs us that the Appia extended to Porta Capena at the Clivio di Marte and that it had been paved with polygonal blocks of basalt or lava. After three years (in 295), the route had extended from the Clivio di Marte to the ancient city of Bovillae.
The prefect Caio Gracco erected milestones showing the distance from the city. He built the viaduct of Ariccia and expanded the paving. At the time of Caesar and under Augustus the road was paved up to Capua, and shortly afterwards the rest of the way to Brindisi.
Via Latina (what to see):
Rome: Porta Latina, is among the most impressive and best preserved among the original doors of the entire city walls and its name derives from that of the homonymous street that crosses it and that, in Roman times, led to Capua.
The archaeological park of the Tombs of Via Latina is one of the most important funerary complexes of the suburb of Rome which still preserves the traditional aspect of the ancient Roman countryside.
Ferentino: the city walls remain intact for 2.5 km (pre-Roman and Roman walls with medieval alterations) around the centre of the town and the gates are spectacular, including that of S. Agata: here passed part of the Via Latina, which ran the entire length of the city as the main axis of the urban structure with east-west direction.
Aquino: The road reached Aquino where, leaving the village, it passed through the Republican doors (still well preserved) and under an honorary arch (from the 1st century BC) near the church of S. Maria d'Aquino; for 300 m of this stretch some remains of the ancient paving are visible.
Via Appia (what to see):
Rome: Appia Antica Park
From Frattocchie to Albano: the Appia coincides with the SS7 Appia state road. On the right are the remains of the ancient Boville (Bovillae), while on the left there are two sepulchres. The most important ancient monuments of Albano: the Porta Pretoria and the Mausoleum of the Orazi and Curiazi.
Terracina: The ancient Appian Way climbed over the mountain behind the hill where is the sanctuary of Anxur (visitable). The emperor Trajan changed the course of the Appia by cutting the cliff, called Pesco Montano, still visible for those travelling along the coast. The ancient city is located high up, while the village built by Pope Pius VI remains at the ancient port of Trajan. The Via Appia entered the city via Via della Stazione, Via Porta Romana and Corso Garibaldi. the watchtower on the Via Appia before entering the Roman circle, from the Republican era, is perfectly preserved. Piazza del Duomo, the ancient city forum, preserves the original floor, part of which consists of the paved base of the Via Appia that crossed it on one side.
Sperlonga: here starts the Via Flacca, for Gaeta and Formia, a coastal variant of the Appia, built by L. Valerio Flacco in 184 BC, which passed through Sperlonga, near the ruins of the villa of Tiberius.
Fondi: remarkable Roman walls with large towers. The chessboard plan of the town follows the Roman one. Here, as in Terracina, the Appia crossed the city. There are also notable medieval monuments including the castle of the Caetani and the Colonna. The current road perfectly follows the ancient up to the Valle di Sant'Andrea.
Formia: Tomba di Cicerone, is located along the Via Appia towards Rome at Km. 139. The mausoleum dates back to the Augustan age and even today the attribution of the sepulcher to Cicero remains doubtful, even if some clues confirm this hypothesis, such as the presence of one of its grandiose villas.
Minturno: archaeological area. Set on a hill overlooking the seaside areas of Scauri and Marina di Minturno, it has very ancient origins. Its settlement, built along the Via Appia stretch, stretched on the right bank of the Garigliano river (ancient Liris).
This post first appeared in the Laran Tours Spring/Summer Newsletter.
We read a fair amount between us during the year of mainly historical factual topics, but when it comes to relaxing at the beach or lake I have my favourites - easy reading that doesn't require much from me as I get baked in the sun. However, this year I've decided to make my vacation educational and following a wonderful recent weekend to Naples, and a quick visit back home, I found these...
Here are cafe-bars around the Lazio region that serve our favourite Italian coffee brands, and/or have a nice atmosphere or something attractive about them - in no particular order other than by province... And not to be confused by the word 'bar' since cafe-bars in Italy also sell alcoholic beverages.
The "Old Masters" are well-covered in the Eternal City - but when it comes to contemporary art it's perhaps not as easy to know where to go to purchase something from emerging or lesser-known artists, so I've been exploring some small galleries, which are definitely worth a look.
Starting in the Monti district - often described as "cool" or "arty" and popular with a younger crowd (when I first came to live in Rome I had an apartment here and spent a lot of time enjoying the area) - there is a high concentration of small galleries tucked away between independent boutiques, bars, restaurants and attractive buildings with hanging plants and flowers. Even if art isn't your thing, it's an intriguing zone to wander around.
So first up is SCRIPANTE GALLERY on Via Panisperna. The venue is very laid back, with a small bar serving cocktails from 6pm - 2am, or slightly earlier if all you want is a cold beer.
MAXIMA GALLERY on Via Agostino Depretis, currently has some challenging pieces of both sculpture and wall art.
GALLERIA CHIARI on Via Napoli had some tempting items. I couldn't find a website but they seem to be closed at weekends and on national holidays.
In the area between the American Embassy and the British Embassy I found ROSSO CINABRO on Via Raffaele Cadorna, in the district known as Sallustiana. They exhibit work by figurative and abstract artists, photographers, digital artists and sculptors.
FRANCESCA ANTONINI not far from Piazza Barberini, has some nice work. I personally like Alessandra Giovannoni, born and working in Rome, plus several other Italian artists.
If you're an artist looking for somewhere to exhibit your own work, take a look at some of the links below:
NVMEN not far from the Colosseum.
MAKEMAKE in the Monti district towards the Roman Forum end.
These are just a few from one or two areas of the city, with more to be added as I get chance.
In the locality of Serapo, not far from a rocky spur in the inlet of Fontania, we can still see the remains of the sumptuous Roman villa of the consul Gneo Fonteo, from which the place takes its name. A number of small caves resembling rooms of different depths originally served as storage for the villa's private port. Across the mouth of the tiny bay you can still see the foundations of massive rectangular constructions [see photo below]. The villa, built in the 1st C BC, was rich in nymphaea and exedras, so it would have been rather grandiose and extended as far as the " Devil's Hole" (Pozzo del Diavolo) which has an impressive 50 metre drop into the sea below. There would be more to see but partly due to extensive erosion the area remains somewhat precarious.
These photos are taken from a small cafe directly above the cove, which also has an attractive sun terrace with grass lawn and hot showers and has direct access for those who wish to descend to the small public beach, which as far as I can tell hasn't had many non-Italian visitors so it's a great little place for feeling like a local. Below you can make out a small part of the Roman villa on the right and in the distance is Monte Orlando where the Sanctuary, Split Mountain and the Turk's Cave are located.
Places to visit & things to do:
Where & what to eat & drink:
Without doubt we will gradually be adding to the above and updating opening times, etc.., so do check back from time to time.
We know that for many travellers a romantic city-break is "short and sweet"...often arriving on Day One and departing on Day Four, leaving only two 2 full days in which to explore.
With that in mind, I gave some thought to where I'd want to be taken if it were my first time in the city - places that lend themselves to the idea of romance but don't need prior booking (keeping that lovely spontaneous feel).
So, first up...
Romantic Beauty Spots
My first instinct was to say Villa Borghese and the Pincio (overlooking Piazza del Popolo), but it can get busy and difficult in the clement months from May - July to find a quiet spot all to yourself - unless you get up very early.
So instead I'd suggest the following:
Fall in Love over a Cappuccino!
For me the café is a place to reflect, people-watch, work, relax and above all - enjoy that caffeine kick. But if all you want to do is gaze into each others eyes, here's where I'd go:
Lunch with a View or Dinner by Candlelight
Al Fresco or tucked away in a booth ...
Leave your hotel room for at least one night during your romantic getaway!
One Must-See Sight!
We decided that if you're on a tight schedule and you're with a special someone - the one monument we would recommend (despite the throngs of tourist) would be the Colosseum - more so if this is the first time for both. It's unique and even more impressive from the inside.
I will be adding a map with all of the location indicated.
It's that time of year! Late April through May or June, when many old villages in the Italian countryside, and throughout the Christian world, suddenly burst with technicolor. These "infiorate" - sometimes referred to as Corpus Christi Carpets - are liturgical celebrations of the Corpus Domini.
The Corpus Domini is a Catholic festival with processions and rich spiritual representations that take place on the streets of Italian towns. The Blessed Sacrament (Eucharist) is placed in an open or transparent religious vessel and held aloft by a member of the clergy during the procession. The beautiful flower carpets animate historical centres giving a distinctive mark to the solemnity. Afterwards parishioners return to the church for benediction.
The most impressive Flower Carpets [Infiorate] in Lazio
Vignanello will be holding their "Festa del Fiore" on Saturday 28th April.
Itri - 31st May
Bolsena - Sunday 3rd June at 09:00
Genzano di Roma - 9th -11th June is the most famous of the Lazio region
Alatri - as far as I can tell the date will be Sunday 3rd June. In the past their Infiorata has entered the Guinness Book of Records for being the largest in the world.
Casamari Abbey near Veroli also Sunday 3rd June might be worth a look.
Tarquinia usually has a nice Infiorata but dates for 2018 to be confirmed.
Other flower festivals
Priverno - Saturday 28th & Sunday 29th April. Not an "infiorata" but staying with the flower theme this is a Camilla flower show which will take place in the old part of Priverno (province of Latina) with stalls, events, artistic displays and a competition for the most beautiful balcony.
Vitorchiano Peony Gardens - are late blooming this year on account of the colder weather but they should be bursting with colour mid-April, lasting throughout May, June and most of the Summer.
Some of the plants chosen for their particular coloured petals, berries or seeds: Acacia, Carnations, Camellia, Cyclamen, Chrysanthemum, Crocus, Dahlia, Gerbera, Hibiscus, Lotus, Iris, Ivy, Mimosa, Narcissus, Orchid, Poppy, Petunia, Primula, Roses, Tulips, Valerian.