Guide to Lazio

A dive into the past
Lazio is one of the regions in Italy with the greatest biodiversity: the variety of landscapes includes plains, coasts, lakes, mountains and hills but it is also a region steeped in centuries of history, represented best of all by Rome, the Eternal City.
The region boasts just as many cultural sights as its capital too. It has a large number of archaeological monuments to offer, such as the majestic Villa Adriana in Tivoli, built by Emperor Hadrian from 118 to 138 AD. The extensive Alatri Acropolis is built high on a hill, and the Roman temple of Jupiter Anxur (312 BC) perches on the mountain of Sant’Angelo above the town of Terracina, both dating from the fourth century before Christ. There is one route in particular along the coast south of Rome, which is perfect for traversing this part of the country so rich in history: wafted by a sea breeze, travellers can explore fascinating ancient sites such as the ruins of Ostia Antica, with the Aurelian forum and the remains of the Neptune baths from the time of Emperor Antonino Pio, the WWF nature reserve at Tor Caldara and the unmissable biosphere reserve Parco Nazionale del Circeo. The park contains Mediterranean shrublands and cork oaks alongside large pine groves, oak forests and reed wetlands. Four salt-water lakes near to the coast and 22 kilometres of sandy beaches with dunes. The intellectual and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini and the novelist Alberto Moravia were passionate fans of this coastline’s very individual beauty. Further south, beyond the elite resort of San Felice Circeo, the silhouettes of the Pontine Islands glimmer on the horizon. This small archipelago in front of the Gulf of Gaeta is popular with tourists, but has still retained much of its original character. Close to Viterbo, visitors will come across a very interesting curiosity: the famous sculpture park of Bomarzo that houses huge stone sculptures of monsters, dragons, fantastic beasts and mythological figures – a most bizarre experience. But the territories of Tuscia, once settled by the Etruscans, the majestic Castello Odescalchi on the banks of Lake Bracciano and the Lake Bolsena, the largest volcanic lake in Europe, have also plenty of surprises in store.
“Caput Mundi” – the capital of the world – was the name the ancient writers and philosophers, such as Cicero, Horace, Ovid and Vergil, gave to this city. Italy’s capital is the absolute dream destination for tourists and one of the world’s most photographed city. There is no escaping falling in love with the city – this huge al fresco treasure trove of cultural history, where almost 3000 years come alive on the streets and squares, as if on a marvellous journey through time. Key historical monuments such as the Coliseum (72-80 AD) have stood the test of time. This majestic arena from the age of the Roman Empire housed up to 70,000 people to watch the famous gladiator battles. Along with the Coliseum, the city preserves important historical monuments such as the second-century Pantheon, the best example of Roman architecture. Or the marble Trevi Fountain (18th century), where many tourists throw a coin into the water so that fate will bring them back to the eternal city. The Forum Romanum (built 46 BC to 113 AD), with its ruins of colossal temples and squares, gives a vague idea of the power of the Roman Empire and its rulers. The remains of the Domus Aurea, Nero’s magnificent residence built in the year 62 AD. The streets of Rome with all their many sights have provided the backdrop to films, including such iconic cinema greats as William Wyler’s ”Roman Holiday” (1953), starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Or Federico Fellini’s ”La Dolce Vita” (1960) featuring Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg, which had an unmistakable influence on the 1960s image: the breathlessly glamorous existence of the high society and the international jet set – beautiful women, fashionable places, and at every turn the flashes of photographers on the hunt for the latest scandals of the rich and famous. In the heart of Rome, is Vatican City that not only houses the pope’s residence, but also art treasures of inestimable value: the unique collections of the Vatican Museums or the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s famed frescos.
Anyone looking for culinary experiences can do no better than an expedition to the Alban Hills. The pretty, quaint villages in the hills are also called Castelli Romani. In the local family-run osterias and restaurants, the region’s simple dishes are at their very best: ‘Spaghetti alla carrettiera’ with tuna and mushrooms, roast lamb, Roman suckling pig known as ‘Porchetta di Ariccia’, or braised dried cod in tomato sauce. To wash all these specialities down, there is nothing better than a young Frascati from the local vineyards.

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