Holy Week – the most important week for the Catholic faith – is spent celebrating and remembering the life of Jesus Christ. Although this is an extremely busy week for all Catholics, it seemed even more so for the whole community here in Rome. Streets were bustling with tourists, Easter decorations were seen everywhere, and the Vatican once again became the center of the city. With masses being said throughout the week and different celebrations happening throughout the city, there was never a day to rest leading up to Easter Sunday.
After a week spent celebrating and commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Roman citizens treat themselves to a mini vacation just forty-five minutes south of Rome in an area known as Castelli Romani on Easter Monday. The towns of Castelli Romani, as well as the tradition of heading south for the day, have been a part of Roman culture since ancient times. The original purpose of heading south after Easter Sunday was to escape the busy city, but more importantly, to enjoy the beautiful climate of the countryside. When we learned about this tradition, my fellow study abroad classmates and I decided it was an experience not to be missed.
We traveled to the most well known town of Castelli Romani named Castello Gondolfo. Located at the top of Alban Hills overlooking Lake Albano (the product of a volcanic crater), Castello Gondolfo is an extremely small town best known as home to the Papal summer residence. Castello Gondolfo has been the location of the Papal summer residence since the early 12th century and continues to be to this day. We made the summer residence our first stop once we arrived in Castello Gondolfo and were surprised at how large the property is for such a small town. The residence stretches the whole length of town and we learned that the majority of the property is covered in gardens. Unfortunately the gardens are not open to the public, but just by walking along the perimeter of the town we were able to see how expansive they are. We also learned that the Papal summer residence is currently serving as the permanent home of former Pope Benedict XVI since his resignation and the election of Pope Francesco.
Besides the location of the Papal summer residence, the area of Castelli Romani is well known for its welcoming community and amazing food. When entering the town we were greeted by the locals and instantly felt at home. The residents of Castelli Romani made us feel as if we were part of their community and did all they could to welcome us and one way they did so was through their food. There are no big restaurants, but instead small, intimate, family-owned restaurants where we felt as if we were eating in our family kitchen. We quickly learned that the area’s specialty is the assortments of meats and cheeses. Platters upon platters of sliced salami, ham and sausages as well as their locally produced wine were served to us until we were completely stuffed. Even then, more platters of food and a pasta dish were served. We left the restaurant feeling full and we left Castelli Romani knowing that it is a place we are always welcome.
Castelli Romani is perfect for a weekend away or even a simple day trip like the one we took. We were able to escape the busy city and truly experience the Italian country lifestyle. Full of culture and history, it really is a slice of paradise and a piece of Roman culture unknown to the rest of the world.
|Nicole Dillon is a junior Media Studies major at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. She is currently studying aboard in Rome, Italy for four months. Check out her Spotlight to learn more about her time in Rome and her experiences abroad!|