Friday, 21 October 2011

Italy 2011, Frascati and Marino

Frascati, another of the Castelli Romani, is a busy dormitory town for nearby Rome and being the location of several international scientific laboratories is closely associated with science and technology. In 1943 it was heavily bombed and approximately half of its buildings, including many monuments, villas and houses, were destroyed. Many people died in an air raid on 22nd January 1944, the day of the battle of Anzio. Towards the end of the war the city was finally liberated from the Nazi German occupation on 4th June 1944 by the advancing American infantry.

What Frascati is best known for is its famous white wine, also called Frascati, which enjoys a Denominazione di Origine Controllata status. The vineyards where the vines are grown are volcanic and well drained with a micro climate influenced by the Alban Hills. The Romans referred to it as the Golden Wine both for its colour and its value and it has become embedded in the cultural and economic traditions of the town. In the fifteenth century there were over a thousand taverns in Rome and producers of Frascati owned almost all of them. It is said that Frascati is the most often mentioned wine in Italian literature.

The bus suddenly reappeared so we quickly finished our drinks and walked back to the bus stop just in front of one of the most impressive buildings in the town, the Villa Aldobrandini and known also as Belvedere because of its charming location and excellent view overlooking the whole valley up to Rome, twenty kilometres away. The bus left on time and as we still had a couple of hours or so before we needed to leave for the airport we felt confident enough to get off at Marino and have a look around there as well.

The bus dropped us off in a square with a curious fountain depicting slavery and a monument to celebrate the naval battle of Lepanto that took place on 7th October 1571 when a fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of Catholic maritime states, decisively defeated the main fleet of the Ottoman Empire. I’m not sure what it was doing here in this provincial town? We were still looking for Christine’s souvenirs so we left the square and walked along a main street which looked promising but proved fruitless.

Marino was clearly not a tourist place but instead a traditional Italian living and working town with shabby narrow streets, care worn but brightly colour- washed buildings with washing lines strung outside windows and across the streets dripping and flapping above little shops and small bars. In the heat the atmosphere was slow and lazy and no one appeared to be rushing to do anything very much at all. The greatest activity was at the bottom of the hill where there was a small market with a few stalls selling fruit and vegetables where there was a bit of trade but a lot more conversation.

We returned to the square on the main road where, although we couldn’t be certain, because there was no timetable, we estimated that if buses ran every hour from Frascati then one would be due in twenty minutes or so from now so we found a bar with a clear view of the road where we could keep look out and ordered some drinks from a waitress who seemed surprised to see English visitors in town on this Tuesday morning.

A couple of blue and white buses came and went but these were not ours and twenty minutes came and went and we began to wonder if we had guessed correctly as a further ten minutes passed by and we started looking around for a taxi rank. The waitress had no idea of bus times so we waited a few minutes longer and then finally a bus for Albano came along the main road and we hailed it to stop and jumped on board back to the town.

After we had collected our bags we needed another bus, this time to the airport. Micky and I were all for getting a taxi but at €50 but Kim considered this excessive and I have to say that she was correct because a ticket to Ciampino was only €1 each and a bus arrived and took us the twenty minute journey to the entrance to the airport and, if we hadn’t worked it out before, we knew then that we had been ripped off by the taxi driver when we arrived on Saturday morning.

Ciampino turned out not to be the best airport in the world but the flight was almost on time and we didn’t have long to sit and reflect on four excellent days in Italy and the wonderful city of Rome. It had been busy, it had been rushed and it had been hot but we had enjoyed every single minute of it.

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