My Roman Wine Experience
High above the hills of Rome, just twenty minutes outside of the capital, you’ll find the small town of Frascati. It’s a charming wine town with a strong aristocratic past and a reputation as a summer retreat for wealthy Romans. After one day of experiencing the stifling heat of the Eternal City, I was ready to change scenery and temperature (it’s 10-15 degrees cooler there!) and get an out-of-town tase of Rome’s surroundings.
Before I knew it, I had arrived at the tiny train station along with other foodies ready to taste the town. Our beautiful guide Paola introduced herself, and instantly, her vivacious energy transformed the shy group of strangers vibe to a more familiar and festive one. Once we set off towards the town, she started explaining the history of Frascati by pointing out the massive villa and its gardens towering over the town. I gawked at the grand Villa Aldobrandini (built in 1550) and its impressive sloping gardens standing high above the hill valley; I was already happy I joined.
Disclaimer: This tour was part of a collaboration for this blog; all thoughts and opinions are my own.
wine and dine Airbnb Experience
Once I booked my first food tour in Rome, I got to thinking about Rome’s countryside and what I could do and see there. It doesn’t take much to convince me when wine is involved, but when I saw the rave reviews and description of this experience, I was sold. Dominque, a California native founded the tour in 2012 with the desire to bring history, wine, and food to other travelers. I loved the idea of an American rooted in Italy and working in food and wine. I also couldn’t wait to experience a 7th generation artisanal winery (not open to the public), and well, drink the wine of course! Here’s the Airbnb experience listing itself.
Frascati wine is known as the ‘Golden Wine of the Romans’, the ‘Pope’s Wine’ and the white wine of Rome. Each stone building, cobblestone street, and the ancient church tells the story of the centuries of people who have called Frascati home. -The Old Frascati Wine Tour website
Frascati, A historic City of Faded Grandeur
The tour kicked off with a stroll through the small town of Frascati. Immediately I felt its slower pace and cleaner air. The restaurants and shops were buzzing with older locals and we stopped to take in the buildings and churches along the way. We learned that during WWII, the buildings endured heavy damage due to air raids, especially its stunning cathedral.
Paola, a savvy chef herself, turned the conversation to food and mentioned the importance of combining good wine and food for the most pleasurable experience; that it’s not one over the other, but the marriage of both that Italians appreciate most. We continued walking through cute, quiet streets and got down to the wine history that makes this city so rich. Frascati alone has over 20 wine families involved in wine production.
Our last stop in town was at a 4th generation bakery run by 90-year-old nonna Rosanna. Sure, it was only 11:00 am but there we were dunking delicious Pisciotta cookies into fresh house white wine, a custom of the area.
Visiting one of the oldest family-run wineries in Frascati
After touring the town a bit, we jumped in a van and arrived at the Frascati Vineyard property. Stepping out, I was instantly wowed by the Italian charm and rustic feel; lush olive trees (they make olive oil, too) and gorgeous rows of lush of grapevines. The day couldn’t have been more beautiful.
We gathered under a beautiful tree and began our Frascati wine education with a different Paola, a 7th generation winemaker. It was inspiring to learn about the deep traditions that are still infused into their production of one thousand bottles per year. Of the 100 different grapes in Italy, this wine is made mostly with a Malvasia grape that flourishes in the volcanic ash soil of Frascati. The history of the property is pretty astounding as well. Dating of medieval pipes in the cellar (pictured below) go back to 1500. Even more impressive, an area in the cellar served as a refuge for people fleeing persecution in WWII.
After seeing the incredible wine cave, we went upstairs and dined in the gorgeous dining room with its balcony overlooking the vineyard. We tried three different wines (Frascati Superiore DOCG, Red Vagnolo IGT, and Sweet Cannellino DOCG.) and tasted their olive oil with focaccia and flatbreads, as well as Pecorini cheese beautifully decorated with edible flowers and acacia honey. Frascati wine is not necessarily known not for its complexity, but I found it easy to drink and the white wine so refreshing! I personally enjoyed the Sweet Cannellino most.
Italians like emotion they don’t want perfect wine…a little imbalance is okay!
Ristorante La Vecchia Frasca
As the afternoon at the winery came to a close, we jumped back in the van and headed into town for a large lunch at a local spot: La Vecchia Frasca. We enjoyed two homemade plates of pasta (ravioli and linguini) and a plate of cheeses, vegetables, and different salumi paired with wine from the vineyard. And if that wasn’t enough, a plate of typical Italian cookies ended the meal on a super sweet note. The owner was lively and didn’t miss a beat when he saw an opportunity to teach a guest the real way of eating Italian Pasta – yes, without a spoon!
Honestly, for the price, this experience is a steal. Visiting Frascati, an idyllic Italian town, would be worth the trek and price alone. But once you get to the winery itself, the experience is taken to a new level. Both Paola’s were the highlight of the day for me; they were full of Italian flare and their passion for food and wine is infectious. The only thing I found was that it was a bit hard to understand Paola (the winemaker) at times. The winery itself was definitely the highlight, and lunch at the end of the tour back in town was a satisfying and nice way to end the afternoon. The tour does a great job of featuring local family-run businesses, winemakers, artisans, and restauranteurs. Delizioso!
I would recommend this experience 100%
The tour need to know’s
Tour duration: Half-day
Cost: 55 euros / Train ticket from Rome Termini to Frascati: 2.10 euros
Group: Up to 15 people