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From Frascati, Grottaferrata to Tuscolo: walks between nature and art

The Castelli Romani are one of the most loved and appreciated destinations by the inhabitants of the Capital and by those who, after having finished their visit to the Eternal City, decide to explore also the surroundings of Rome. The territory lends itself to walks that allow to associate the naturalistic, historical-archaeological and artistic aspect of the volcanic area of ​​the Alban Hills, formed by the collapse of the Latium Volcano, active until a few thousand years ago and which gave life to the lakes of Albano and Nemi.

The Regional Park of the Castelli Romani, established in 1984 to preserve, enhance and promote this area, has begun the recovery of the ancient connecting routes once used by shepherds and the inhabitants of the various residential areas to move and move in this area. The ancient mule tracks and primitive sheep tracks, which gradually fell into disuse with the advent of modern means, had been almost completely erased from the local memory, causing these communication routes to fall into oblivion. The Regional Park has had the merit of recovering the ancient roads and offering them, cleaned and well maintained, to the visitor who today decides to travel them by bicycle or on foot.

The entire area affected by the Castelli Romani Regional Park covers an area of ​​15,000 hectares, including 15 municipalities and a resident population of 350,000 inhabitants. We are in an authentic treasure trove of biodiversity that has seen the reappearance of species that had abandoned this area such as the bat, the badger, the spectacled salamander, the porcupine, the marten, the peregrine falcon and the wolf. The volcanic soil favors the growth of forests consisting of maples, beeches, oaks, hazels, laurels, linden trees, hornbeams, ash trees and of course chestnut trees, introduced by man and now become the most consistent vegetation. In this complex of variety and richness could not miss the presence of archaeological finds, Renaissance villas, hermitages, convents and historic buildings. The trail network was taken care of by the CAI section of Frascati which adapted it to international standards, allowing the Park to offer visitors 26 different routes.

The path indicated with the number 501 connects the area of ​​Frascati to the ancient Roman city of Tusculum, combining the historical and architectural interest of the artistic heritage with the landscape aspect of this route. We immediately say that the excursion to the Castelli Romani from Frascati to the ancient Tusculum presents no difficulty and can be experienced as a relaxing walk of just over two hours to discover the archaeological site of Tusculum. It starts from Frascati and more precisely from Piazza Marconi, which overlooks the imposing Villa Aldobrandini, the symbol of the town that saw architects of the caliber of Giacomo Della Porta, Carlo Maderno and Giovanni Fontana as well as painters such as Cavalier d’Arpino and Domenichino.

The path indicated with the number 501 connects the area of ​​Frascati to the ancient Roman city of Tuscolo,

From the square go up along via Catone until you cross the provincial road and then follow the signs for the wonderful Villa Falconieri, where you reach it after just one kilometer (15 minutes from the start of the route). If you are lucky enough to find it open, we recommend a stop at the mansion, which houses the Vivarium Novum Academy, an institution for promoting ancient languages ​​in which communication is only possible through Latin or ancient Greek. Here Borromini and Sangallo the Younger worked on the renovation of the building

new owner.

Leaving the villa, continue past a bar next to the palace wall and proceed for another kilometer (about 15 minutes) to the Madonnella del Mondragone. From here, walk to the right until you reach the driveway that leads to Tusculum.

Go along a very short downhill stretch and then immediately turn right, continuing on the dirt road of the path that climbs up almost to the entrance of the Camaldoli monastery (on our left). The path 501 continues on the right through an uphill dirt road that leads us through a forest dominated by chestnut trees and we proceed until we reach a fork that crosses the path 502, coming from Monte Porzio Catone. He turns to the right and now he misses very little on arrival. In just 5 minutes you are in front of the archaeological area of ​​Tusculo, with its Roman theater dating back to the 1st century BC and already immortalized by some painters between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.


Tusculum, according to legend, was founded by the son of Ulysses, Telegonus, twenty years after the destruction of Troy, and the thirty communities that took the name of the Latins lived here on agriculture and pastoralism. With the rise of Rome, the territories and populations of Lazio were subjected by the people of Rome but the Tuscolans entered into a pact with the winners, the Foedus Cassianum with which the population of Tusculum was considered equal to that of the Romans. The city became a rich and flourishing residential center where even Cicero himself lived. Villas and spas were built and theaters, amphitheaters and temples were erected. The fortune of the city collapsed with the dissolution of the Roman Empire, suffering the looting by the Visigoths who decimated the population. The city returned to life in the Middle Ages, around the year 1000, thanks to the settlement in this area of ​​the Counts of Tusculum who managed to raise three of their family members to the papal throne, increasing the prestige of the family. The decline of the Counts of Tusculum began in 1049 with the election of a pontiff, Leo IX, outside the house and on 17 April 1191 the last act took place: Tusculum was definitively destroyed by Rome because it was found guilty of treason for having hosted the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. The city was razed to the ground and plundered, its inhabitants went down to the valley and traces of the town were lost until the nineteenth century when the first excavation campaigns began. Between 1994 and 2010 the archaeological investigations were resumed which allowed to recover part of the acropolis, the forum and the theater of the Roman city.

After stopping in the acropolis we can start again towards the last stretch of the track, continuing uphill on a lane that, after just 5 minutes, makes us reach the top of Mount Tusculum with its cross of steel pipes placed at 670 m.s.l.m. From here the view opens onto the surrounding mountains, the Apennines and the pre-Apennine chains and, continuing to look, one can observe the profile of the Alban Hills with the dense forests of the Faete, the Vivaro valley and the Tyrrhenian Sea. The charm of this landscape is enclosed in the union between the Lazio countryside and the remains of the surrounding ruins, in a scenery of hills and cliffs where absolute silence reigns. After having rested and having captured with the camera this landscape so loved by the landscape painters of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as the Hackert, the Keiserman, the Didier-Boguet and the Campovecchio, one traces back the path of the outward journey and in about an hour we find ourselves on the main square of Frascati.


Distance: 5,500 Km (one way)

Difference in height: 340 meters

Difficulty: T (tourist)

Journey time: 1 hour and 30 minutes on the outward journey – 1 hour on the way back


Villa Falconieri in Frascati, a jewel in the heart of the Castelli Romani

The ships of Caligula: visit to the Museum of Nemi

Grottaferrata and the Abbey of San Nilo, a church with a Byzantine heart.