FrascatiFrascati (m. 320, 22,000 inhabitants) is a town really worthy of attention, due to its heritage of natural and artistic treasures. Its origin dates back to the year 1191, after Tusculum (see below) was put to fire and sword. The Tusculum survivors had to leave town and moved downhill to a village at that time named `Frascata the Bowery'.
Frascati is the most well-known of the so-called `Castelli Romani'. In fact, when one speaks about Castelli, one often thinks of Frascati. This is especially true concerning wine, since the Frascati `Golden Wine' is the best known of the Castelli vintages. There are countless `Cantine' (the Italian name for wineries or cellars) that make excellent and renowned wine, which is exported all over the world. The wine known as `Frascati' is a DOC wine (Denominazione di Origine Controllata, namely a proven-origin wine).
Pastry cakes from Frascati are equally renowned: `pupazza' is a honey cake shaped like men, women or animals. Women are always given three breasts, which is probably memory of some ancient fertility cult. Commonly, one says that one breast is used for milk and one for wine. Likewise, Frascati wine cakes are are worldwide renowned as well.
Yet, it is not just wine that has brought credit to this town: Frascati hosts magnificent patrician villas in marvelous parks; on clear days, one can enjoy wonderful views, seeing the Tyrrhenian sea as well as the Sabine Hills. Sumptuous villas were built on the slopes of Mount Tuscolo already in ancient times: even Lucullus and Cicero had villas there.
Villa Torlonia, which is now public domain, features a splendid Water Theatre built by Carlo Maderno. Unfortunately, nothing remains of the old original building, since the bombing during World War II razed it to the ground.
Villa Aldobrandini is the most illustrious example of Mannerist architecture. It acts as a theatrical backdrop to the visitors in Frascati. It was built for Cardinal Aldobrandini by Giacomo Della Porta, Carlo Maderno and Giovanni Fontana, at the end of the 16th century. It exhibits magnificent rooms with paintings by the Zuccari brothers, Giuseppe Cesari, also named Cavaliere d'Arpino, and Domenichino. Its sumptuous grounds are adorned with statues, grottoes, fountains and waterfalls.
Villa Falconieri (on the road to Tuscolo), designed by the architect Francesco Borromini, is the most exquisite and refined example of Baroque art. It exhibits rich frescoes and is surrounded by a vast park.
Villa Tuscolana (also on the road to Tuscolo) was built in the 17th century by Luigi Vanvitelli. Thanks to its strategic position on the Tusculum hillsides, this Villa enjoys a breathtaking view of Rome.
Villa Mondragone (on the road to Monteporzio) was erected for Cardinal Altemps in 1572. It was begun by Martino Longhi `Il Vecchio' at the end of the 16th century and then continued by Giovanni Vasanzio, Carlo Rainaldi and Flaminio Ponzio. It now belongs to the University of Rome `Tor Vergata'.
The Frascati town centre hosts the Cathedral Church of St. Peter, featuring a facade by Girolamo Fontana from the 18th century. Henry Stewart, Cardinal Duke of York, was bishop in Frascati and was buried in this cathedral. The picturesque fountain in the square is also by Girolamo Fontana. The Church of the Jesus is instead attributed to Pietro da Cortona.
5-km drive from Frascati takes one to Mount Tuscolo: on this hill (610 m) the
ancient Tusculum stood. It is said that Tusculum was founded by Telegono, Ulysses's
son and by the sorceress Circe.
An amphitheatre, remains of the forum, a well preserved theatre,
a cistern, and an arch topped with a metal cross date back to the ancient Roman era.
From Mont Tuscolo one can admire the beauty of the surrounding mountains, the Castelli and the Roman countryside.
Thanks to its peaceful and calm surrounding environment, the Frascati
area hosts a few of the most important research institutes in Italy: INFN, ENEA (Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development), CNR (National
Research Council) and ESA (European Space Agency).