Post-Tour Day 2
Today will surely be our adventure day, as we are taking a train south of Rome to the town of Frascati, for the Old Frascati Wine Tour.
We travel by Metro to the Termini Station. Wow. As bustling as an airport, Termini is Rome’s travel hub, with subway, trains, and buses converging in on place. Train tickets can be purchased at kiosks, but we wait in line to speak with a ticket agent. The courteous agent explains the schedule, and helps us purchase the proper tickets. The fare to Frascati costs 2 Euros each way. We have arrived early, so we have time for people watching during Monday morning rush hour. We find a gigantic bookstore. The police make their presence known at the station.
The train arrives as scheduled, and we scan our tickets at a kiosk before boarding. The train is clean, quiet, comfortable, and fast. What a great way to travel. Frascati lies about a half-hour south of Rome. Apartments and houses on the outskirts of Rome gradually give way to farms and open country. We have the most amazing view of the remains of Roman Aqueducts. It is startling to find them popping up behind parking lots and new construction. Later, we learn that Frascati is located on a volcano, with several crater lakes that the Romans used for water supply.
At the Frascati station, we are met by Dominique from the Old Frascati Wine Tour. We see St. Peter’s Dome at a distance, and Rome’s sprawling suburbs, from the lovely park above the station. Dominique clues us in on Frascati’s history, beginning with ancient Romans who built villas in the area to escape the heat of Rome. The stately Villa Aldobrandini dominates the town, former summer residence for Popes and other dignitaries. Nazis occupied the area during World War II, when half of the buildings were destroyed by allied bombing, and a thousand Italians died.
Dominique takes us on a tour of today’s Frascati, where she knows everyone, and we are warmly greeted. We learn about Miss Frascati, the Three Breasted Woman. (Two for milk, one for wine!) We visit Ceralli Forno a Legna, an amazing bakery with a wood burning oven, and meet Nonna Rosanna, the beautiful 90-year matriarch. Frascati is known for its porchetta, slow-roasted pork sandwiches, and Ceralli makes some of the best. My traveling companion and I sample heavenly fresh bread and cheese. We purchase cookies from Nonna’s son Eugenio at the bakery.
We are transported to the vineyard for the Old Frascati Wine Tour. The view from the mountain is stunning: row upon row of grapevines, and hundreds of old olive trees. Wine has been made in the area since 1000 B.C. Volcanic ash enriches the soil, giving the Frascati wines their distinctness. The vines are grown without irrigation, fed by mist that settles over the vines on the slope, and the grapes are hand-picked during harvesting. We meet Paola, head of a small cooperative of family run wineries. She is the 7th generation to work in her family’s vineyard.
The charming farmhouse on the property is covered with wisteria in full bloom. We visit the wine cave underneath. We see where wine was hidden during World War II. Dominique explains the certification process for Frascati DOCG wine, and how the winery strives to improve the quality of their products.
And then the tasting. Our fellow wine tasters are from Toronto, Australia, Florida, and Texas. We sample Frascati white, a red, and a sweet dessert wine. We sample more bread, pizza, and cookies from the bakery, along with olive oil. All are delicious. We purchase our favorite wine from the vineyard to take with us.
Tour over, we are transported to town for a lunch of pasta, olives, bread, and more Frascati wine, at a local cafe. My traveling companion and I sample gelato on our walk back to the train station. Our trip back to Rome is too short for a nap, although we are full and sleepy from lunch. The bucolic peace of Frascati is gone, and we are back at Termini Station.
We have time for another adventure this afternoon. “You’re going to love this,” I tell my traveling companion. We walk out of Termini, and head toward Via Veneto to the Capuchin Crypt.
Located beneath the Church of Santa Maria della Concezione, five chapels contain thousands of human bones arranged in intricate, decorative designs. The chapels have colorful, descriptive names, like Crypt of the Skulls, or Crypt of the Pelvises. Photography is not permitted. When the Capuchin friars moved from an old monastery to the church in the 17th century, they brought the bones of their deceased, filling 300 cartloads. The display is grotesque and compelling at the same time, a reminder of our mortality. “What you are now we used to be … ” I am intrigued by the macabre display, but my traveling companion is not thrilled.
“What you are now we used to be …”
We end our afternoon escapades at the top of the Spanish Steps, taking in a view of the crowd. We walk down the steps, and back to our hotel to recharge. Tomorrow will be our last day in Italy.