Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The home of cheap wine I used to drink

Now that we are home, expect some rapid fire posts I created while we were "off line" for the last few days in Rome. At first, I tried using my iPhone as a tethered high-speed connection, but it was so not-fast to load pictures that I couldn't achieve much.

When I was younger, the only wine we ever drank was Velletri and Colli Albani. It tasted OK, it was cheap, and... well, it was cheap.

"Colli Albani" means the Albano Hills which are just south of Rome. It turns out there's a commuter train out of Rome that goes there, another that goes to Velletri, and another that goes to Frascati (home of a light white wine of the same name). Who knew?

So we went there. Turns out that its also home to Castel Gandolfo, the Pope's summer residence. What a spot. The Albano Hills are in fact the slopes of an extinct volcano, and in the crater is Lago Albano.
Castel Gandolfo on the crater rim
The crater, but full of water.
Pope's house on the left. His church on the extreme right
It's the top of the crater. Meaning you have views across the coastal plains, too.
That be the ocean
Just like I mentioned in my post on our two visits to St. Peters where I thought St. Peter's less than it could be, this church was very similar.
Small, and fairly stark 
The floor 
The inside of the dome
Castel Gandolfo is a pretty little town, with spectacular views. But what struck me was the cool little mosaic signs that many businesses has hanging out front.
Very stylish
Baskets on nice buildings 
Looking back to the Pope's house 
Interesting perspective on a trapezoidal building 
The 2nd main drag 
The Pope's house on the edge of the cliff. Railway station lower right
That astronomy tower is mentioned in Dan Brown's "The DaVinci Code", by the way.

Okay, the place also had killer views.
Looking back towards Rome
Lakeside living
A K1 and a C1 out practicing on the lake 
A restaurant terrace 
Nice patio on this house 
Views above, beaches below 
Looking back over to the ocean
Castel Gandolofo isn't very big, so we walked from here to Albano Laziale, the next town down the road. Can't really recommend that walk. This is a one lane road (coincidentally, the original Appian Way again, which we were on weeks ago closer to Rome) only with a fair amount of two way traffic and no sidewalk or shoulders. The whole way, we alternated sides hoping to catch those extra inches of space between us and the Italians hurtling along in their way to somewhere at 50 km/hr above the speed limit.

Eventually, we got to Albano Laziale, and the first place to get off the narrow pedestrian unfriendly road was, coincidentally, the cemetery. Allegedly open from 8 AM to 7 PM daily, we found it closed (one entrance, electric gate, closed). But the caretaker took pity on us poor non-Italian speaking folks who claimed we were just there to look ("Voraie vedere", which in fact literally translates to "I would like to see" but in fact is just meaninglessly bad grammar) and let us in. Quite the pretty and interesting place, and very different from cemeteries where I live.
High density 
Higher density 
Very little empty space
In Albano Laziale, there's a bunch of Roman ruins, but you can't really see any of them, as none are open to the public. Lots had signs on them that you could see them by making arrangements through the Civic Museum, but who knows how that would work.
An abandoned amphitheatre, only an oval one 
Original city wall and gate 
Ruins in the middle of town 
A baths complex... 
Modernized for 20th century living
A couple of strange tombs 
The entrance to the necropolis, or underground burial tombs
There wasn't much else noteworthy about Albano Laziale, thought it is the end of the commuter train line. So we continued on to Ariccia, another 2 km walk down the road, this one a pleasant walk along a wide tree-lined boulevard. The town sits on the crest of yet another cliff.
Life on the edge 
And what an edge
To get into the town, you have to cross a big viaduct. Lots of history too, as it's been built and rebuilt 4 times since the 1500's, including in 1946.
A big sucker
There's supposed to be the remains of a Roman aqueduct down in the valley somewhere, but we couldn't find them. The historic centre of the town is quaint, pretty, small and typically Italian elegantly crowded. However, we were there at 3 PM, when the town was still shut for lunch. The town's centrepiece is a church designed by Bernini -- not one his more ornate works.
Not a bad place 
The main drag 
More of the main drag 
Typical Italian distressed 
An original city gate 
Plant on your deck? 
A typical back street 
Another back street
Being on a hillside, they have the occasional set of stairs.
Nice railing 
How to get to your house 
Another. Note there are 2 apartments serviced by these stairs 
Round the corners 
Another house access
Oh, and they grow grapes in this whole area.
On the train up 
In a church back yard 
Vineyards on the hillsides 
I like the ivy on the building 
His setting 
More vineyards
And more
 And finally, if you had to have a carport, wouldn't you like a vineyard to cover it?
Heck of a parking spot
This was a heck of a day, walking wise. I tracked it on my iPhone. We walked 15.9 km (though I ran the last ~1.5 km), and climbed/descended a total of 1,051 m. It's the side of a volcano, with a lot of up and down.

We had trouble with train tickets on this trip. We bought our ticket to Castel Gandolfo with ease in Termini from an automated machine. But on board waiting for the train to depart, we realized they had not been validated (time stamped), and we had no time before departure to run back and find a validation machine. I found a conductor, he gave me a hard time about validating them when I bought them, but stamped them for me. And wandered through the train checking tickets on the journey up.

As we took the train into Castle Gandolfo and back from Albano Laziale, we couldn't buy a return train ticket. To come home, we arrived at the Albano Laziale train station at 4:32 to catch the 4:44 train, and the train was sitting there. But there was no ticket machine in the train station. We asked two folks on the platform where we could get tickets. They didn't know, but suggested a tabacci in town. So I ran -- ran -- to a find a tabacci. First one I came to was closed. Next one I ran to didn't sell train tickets. Next one I ran to didn't either, and didn't know where I could buy them. So I ran and found one more -- coincidentally next door to the gelateria we had been at 30 minutes earlier -- and they had them. I bought two -- she said I didn't have time to catch the train -- and ran back, making the platform 60 seconds before the train pulled away. But the machine on the platform you use to validate your ticket wasn't working, so our tickets were technically "illegal".

But no one even checked I had a ticket on the ride home at all.

1 comment:

Edwin said...

Lovely views on several pics.

Would never walk on the hard shoulder of an italian road!It usually brings about a very unpleasant death....pedestrians aren't held in high regard in the south of Italy #Cazzo!