Discover the Countryside Near Rome
When we first moved to Rome we made a decision about how we would spend our time here. Instead of using Rome as a base to explore Europe's great cities we chose instead to stick close to home. In our first years, we drove to charming hill towns and soaked in sulfury hot springs. We explored beaches in summer and deepest winter and found places to eat on country roads and next to volcanic lakes. Nothing was more than a two-hour drive and we rarely left the region of Lazio.
After a few years, we got busy with life and found favorite places that we returned to over and over. Our exploring deepened instead of widened.
When I got the invitation from Italy Indeed to join a Camera di Commercio di Roma endeavour to highlight some of Lazio’s lesser-known places I was thrilled to ignite that exploring spark again.
When you are planning your visit to Rome, consider adding a day or two to your trip and do some of your own exploring in the Lazio countryside.
Agriturismo L’Oca Bianco
Do you remember that episode in Portlandia where the diners grill their server about the chicken? If you loved the joke, you will certainly love Agriturismo L’Oca Bianco. You will find it near the town of Palestrina with its ancient cyclopean walls and magnificent mosaic. Come for a meal or stay the night at this working farm. We were met by Lucca who showed us baby donkeys, noisy geese that were herded by a charming goat who thinks he is a dog and flocks of egg-laying hens happily pecking in a field next to newly baled hay. He talked about the challenges and costs of growing healthy and sustainable food while we swiped the last of the Summer blackberries off prickly bushes and kicked the first of the Fall chestnut from our path.
Fattoria la Sonnina
Do you love cheese? Of course you do. During a visit to Fattoria la Sonnina you can try your hand at making it yourself. While we waited for the litres of freshly gathered sheep's milk to heat to the appropriate temperature we were served such on a shady veranda of the farmhouse with a view of Genazzano. We ate the local pasta dish, gnocchetti a cod’e soreca, that isn’t gnocchi at all but a long pasta shape said to look like a mouse tail! After many more plates of farm-grown vegetables and home-baked sweets, it was back to cheese making. There was lots of stirring, with a special tree branch, and vigorous pressing into plastic forms and voila we had made primo sale, a fresh soft cheese.
Agriturismo Colle Tocci
The road to Subiaco twists and turns as it climbs the steep Monti Simbruini and when we arrive at the Agriturismo Colle Tocci the cool mountain breeze is most welcome. As were the plates of goat cheese we snacked on before rolling and twisting the strozzapretti pasta that would be our dinner. I watched the sunset over the mountains turning from hazy blues to deep purples and soft pinks that reminded me of my Smokey Mountain hometown. For dinner, we drank a crisp Cesanese rose with our pasta and pork roast. A severely bitter Genziana delle Pecore digestivo provided the perfect balance for a day full of eating. I fell asleep to the summer sound of crickets in the trees.
Torrino dei Gelsi
Just outside of Tivoli is the tranquil Torrino dei Gelsi. This 10-hectare country escape comes complete with a stone farmhouse with a sleeping dog at the threshold, silvery olive groves and leafy mulberry trees. We visited a renovated structure with looms and moth rearing houses and learned about the silk cultivation that served as the farms main activity in the 18th century. Today the farm produces award-winning olive oil. Before we headed back to Rome we had what was promised as a “light” lunch of orzo risotto with chunks of sausage served in a bread bowl, paccheri carbonara and cheese stuffed involtini. Our glasses were never empty of cold white wine. If stargazing is your thing, know that there is very little light pollution here and there is a very powerful telescope available to overnight guests.