If we had it to do again, I wouldn’t visit Frascati on Sunday, because the few shops that are open in the morning close at noon, most of the tourist sights are closed, and the lovely little hill town about 12 miles southeast of Rome becomes dead quiet. But we did visit Frascati on Sunday, and we had a nice day.
Frascati is perched atop one of the Alban Hills (which are extinct volcanoes), and the view north to Rome is beautiful. According to Fodor’s Rome tour book, “Frascati was the chosen sylvan retreat of prelates and princes, who built magnificent villas on the sun-drenched slopes overlooking the Roman plain.” Most of the villas were built in the 16th century. They are enormous, but few remain today.
During World War II, Frascati was the German General Headquarters for the Mediterranean Zone and the Italian Headquarters. In 1943 the Allies bombed the heck out of Frascati in an attempt to obliterate Field Marshal Albert Kesselring and the German troops. Kesselring survived, but 50 percent of the buildings and monuments and 485 Italian civilians did not.
Foodies know Frascati for two reasons—porchetta (roast suckling pig) and Frascati white wine—and we wanted to try both. Although many restaurants were closed on Sunday, we found one, Cantina Grappola d’Oro, and snagged a table outside. After appetizers typical of the region, which included yummy porchetta, cheese, salami, and prosciutto, Michael had the best cacio e pepe so far (I was too full for pasta, or anything else for that matter). Cacio e pepe is one of the regional dishes of Rome and is simply (and divinely) spaghetti with pecorino cheese and pepper. For dessert our server brought us each a ciambelline frascatane (ring-shaped cookies made with wine), which we dunked in a glass of Frascati—delicious! We were going to buy some Frascati for home, but the wine shops were closed by the time we finished our lunch.
If you have only a few days in Rome and want to visit some of the nearby hill towns, skip Frascati and visit Tivoli or Castel Gandolfo. If you’re staying in Rome for a few weeks and you want some porchetta and Frascati wine, visit Frascati—just not on a Sunday!