Castel Gandolfo is one of several small scenic towns bordering Lake Albano. The town, a hidden gem located a train’s ride away from the city-centre of Rome, hosts beautiful views of the lake and mountains, a large nature preserve, a charming town, and territory of the Vatican City. Residents and visitors are even able to tour the Pope’s summer residence; the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo.
Castel Gandolfo is the perfect destination for a day trip away from the busy city. It is very calm and quiet, and has fewer visitors than other neighboring towns. It hosts some lesser known Bernini architecture and fountains, as well as beautiful art located in the Papal Palace.
If you are able to visit Castel Gandolfo, I also suggest visiting neighboring Albano and Ariccia. Ariccia, a baroque-style town, also hosts many Bernini pieces. The easiest way to reach the lake is by car (depending on traffic) or bus. I left from Termini station in Rome, and went through the Ciamino Airport station, which took less than hour collectively. I suggest visiting on a clear day, as the view is spectacular. No pictures could ever do it justice.
Apartments in Rome are very different from apartments in the United States. I quickly learned that in Rome, landlords must completely furnish their units before renting them out. This includes not only beds, chairs, tables, and wardrobes, but also basic essentials like bowls, silverware, appliances, paintings and wall decorations, linens and towels, and lights. Unlike in the United States, this ensures that the renter will not need to bring their own furniture and other basic items.
The apartment I am living in while in the city is rented through CIS Abroad, and has three bedrooms (one of which I am sharing with my roommate), a bathroom, a kitchen, a balcony, and an entry room. There is also a small collection of English, Italian, and Greek books and movies in the hallway that have been left behind by past residents.
According to folk stories, La Befana (the good witch) delivers candy and small toys to children on Epiphany Eve, which is January 5th. The following day, January 6th, brings the end of the Christmas celebrations in Italy. I was fortunate enough to experience some of the festivities for Epiphany Day (also called “Three Kings Day”) in Rome. If you’re interested in learning about Three King’s Day, you can read this article by the Huffington Post.
In the Piazza Navona, a public square built during the 1st century AD, features the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, Fontana del Moro, and the Fountain of Neptune. During the celebration of La Befana (which you can read about here if you’re interested), children played on a carousal, bought colorful balloons, watched street performers, and got their faces painted by a Befana, all while enjoying the beauty of the piazza.
I visited the celebration with my roommate, and while we arrived too late to see the parade and the majority of the festivities, it was fun to see everyone celebrating. The fountains were beautiful (just like the rest of Rome’s architecture), and the sky was crystal clear (if only for a few moments, since it rains often in Rome). Visiting the Piazza Navona was well-worth the tram ride and city navigation.
The Villa d’Este in Tavoli, Italy (on the outskirts of Rome) is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. If you are familiar with it,the Villa is far more beautiful than Versailles (located outside of Paris in France). For only 8€ (4€ for visitors living in the European Union under 30), you are able to walk around a beautiful Renaissance-era interior villa and leave through balconies to the expanse of garden behind the building.
The gardens are picturesque and very scenic, with an incredible view at every turn. The gardens are filled with various sculptures, fountains, and pools of water. It was very difficult to capture these sights on camera, although I tried. It was almost overwhelming to see all of the stairs, walkways, and levels visitors meander through.
My roommate had the idea for visiting the Villa d’Este, which is a two-hour train ride from the city center of Rome, from the Lizzie McGuire Movie. While I visited the Villa during its off-season in January, it was still beautiful. I suggest looking at Google images of it during the summer, when everything is green and in bloom.
I definitely suggest you visit the Villa d’Este if you’re visiting Rome. It’s definitely worth spending a day taking the train to see Tivoli, which is more easily walkable than the city center of Rome, and the incredible Villas and parks within it.
Places we've gone, things we've seen, stories worth telling