Villa Aldobrandini is one of the first sights you see after arriving to Frascati by train. The town is just thirty minutes away but there are virtually NO tourists. In fact, there are so few tourists that when the 9:49am train arrives there are retirees waiting at the top of the steps above the train station to say 'buongiorno!' to the Old Frascati Wine Tour attendees.
The Villa was built in the 1550's, and is still owned by the same family. Popes and Cardinals have stayed here along with other Villas in town, because it is a popular place for people from Rome escape the city. Although the current Pope has not and will not visit. The Bishop of Frascati thinks that the new Pope is too liberal so invitations have been extended (papal drama...).
The church was bombed during WWII, but the facade remained standing. It is believed that the igneous rock used to construct the church absorbed the impact. Frascati was the Nazi headquarters for the Mediterranean and so it was ordered by the US to be destroyed. More than 50% of the buildings were destroyed or badly damaged.
The Minardi family is famous. A plaque of the father of the current owner of the winery is located inside the church.
We visited a bakery that has maintained a sourdough starter for over 70 years.
It is natural to notice the breasts on this doll, there are two for breast milk and one wine. It is their signature piece, and Frascati's advice on how to get their children to sleep...
We started off sampling the Frascati wine sold at a local Fraschette, as well as sampling cheese and bread from the bakery. Fraschettes are little establishments that make wine and have tables inside. You bring in your own food and order by the pitcher or jug. A liter of wine is 2 euro.
Frascati wine is made from Malvasia di Candia, Malvasia del Lazio, Grechetto, Bombino bianco, and Trebbiano grapes. In order to be classified as Frascati it does not only contain this mixture of grapes but has to be grown here, in this volcanic Frascati soil. Wine has been cultivated here since the 5th century BC.
Our tour guide, Dominique (who married into the wine family), is from Fallbrook.
Traveling is always a reminder that it is such a small world.
The next stop was just a short drive away; the Minardi winery is one of the oldest family run wineries in Frascati.
Umberto happily showed us how the wine used to be made, before modern day equipment.
During WWII, when the city was being relentlessly bombed, people hid in wine shelters. This is where Umberto met his wife.
Umberto is standing in front of a picture of himself when he was younger, although he is still the farmer for the vineyard.
With a view of Rome, we drank their white and red wine (although 'Frascati wine' is only white they make red as well), and ate bread dipped in their homemade olive oil.
Frascati is the Rome's signature wine. It is light and refreshing. And unfortunately very difficult to find in the US so if you go... buy as much as you can!
Our last stop as a tour group was back in town for an amazing pasta and gnocci lunch. 55 euro for all of this; all of the wine outside of the winery and at the winery, the snacks, the lunch, the transport (besides the train), the olive oil, and the tour. What an incredible deal.
Our group voluntarily extended our Old Frascati Wine Tour, to drink more Frascati wine, before heading back to Rome and parting ways.
I felt it necessary to do the touristy thing and come to Fontana di Trevi to throw in a coin, in order to ensure my return. Maybe it is more of a curse than a tradition since Rome is my least favorite city in all of Italy, but Rome is the gateway to the country so there is little avoiding it. Plus, now that I know about Frascati I would be more than happy to return to Rome.
I know there is a specific way to do it, right hand over your left shoulder, and maybe you have to throw three and not one... but since this is my third time and I don't think I did it right any time before so I figure that it really doesn't matter.
Ciao for now.