The Castelli Romani, or 'Roman Castles', is the name given to a collection of towns to the South-East
. They are all located in the Latium range of (now extinct) volcanoes
, and as such are higher than Rome itself. For this reason, the towns have long been a favourite place for the Romans to visit during the summer
, since they offer an escape from the stifling heat and smog of Rome in August
The title Castelli Romani has been in use since at least 1879, but the first settlements existed in these areas long before that. From the 14th century, noblemen from Rome were building extravagant Villas in these towns, to act as their vacation homes, and, in keeping with the fashions of the time, the more lavish these homes were, the better. Many of these Villas are still standing, and can usually be visited by curious tourists (although you sometimes have to book in advance).
The towns have always had a strategic significance, a result of their location overlooking the city of Rome itself. This has led to much bloody history occurring in the area, including a particularly intense battle in 1944, during the liberation of Rome.
Nowadays the Castelli Romani are much quieter places, but still worth a visit from Rome if you get the opportunity. Highlights would have to include the Pope's summer home at Castel Gandolfo, with its spectacular view over a natural volcanic lake (which you can also sail on), the pinnacle of Rocca di Papa, from which you can see all the way across Rome to the sea, the wine in Frascati, and the regular food and drink festivals that happen in all of the towns. If you're in the area, ask someone local when the next ones happening - they seem to be on almost all the time.
The towns included under the label Castelli Romani are: