01 of 04
Medieval Villages, Unspoiled Natural Beauty, Fine Food and Authenticity
With history beginning 2,600 years ago and its unspoiled landscape dotted with ancient medieval villages and monasteries, the Rieti Province, part of the Lazio region directly north of Rome, is an exciting destination for the independent traveler.
Part of its charm is due to the lack of mass tourism which you often encounter in other Italian areas. Authenticity is what the Rieti Province is all about.
Where to Go in Rieti Province
Rieti: The city of Rieti is the capital of this province. In ancient Roman Times it was called Reate and still today there is a Roman bridge and Roman city gates. The historic center has magnificent Renaissance palazzi, especially those surrounding the main square, Piazza Cesare Battisti. The cathedral nearby is from the 12th century and has an interesting crypt with frescoes. A bike lane and walkway help you discover the Velino River, the clear waters of which cut through the ancient part of the town.
Toffia: One of the earliest villages in the region, Toffia has a spectacular position on top of a stone cliff. It has 3 ancient churches and a great variety of early renaissance palazzi with colorful frescoes. The historic village center has been restored carefully over the past few years and it preserves its untouched medieval structure. Toffia has an interesting home-museum (Museo Maria Petrucci) where furniture and farming tools from 100 years ago are displayed.
Farfa: The monastic village of Farfa, in the Sabine Hills, dates back to the 6th Century AD. As a monastery, it was granted independence from Rome by Charlemagne in person. Its medieval church and cloister are ancient architectural gems and the surrounding village is picturesque and well kept, with rows of craft shops. There is also a linen factory which utilizes 100 year old looms and produces the finest fabrics.
Castelnuovo di Farfa: Once owned by the monastery, this walled castle village was built to defend the monks from potential enemy attacks. The Palazzo Salustri-Galli has beautiful gardens which are a fine example of 16th century renaissance landscape architecture. Castelnuovo has an interesting Olive Oil museum housed inside an old olive mill, which also displays contemporary art on the olive oil theme.
Monteleone Sabino (Trebula Mutuesca): This village was once a prosperous ancient Roman town. Archaeological excavations have been carried out recently to reveal ruins of the Roman Forum, a stunning theater, an amphitheater and temples. Just opposite from the archaeological area is Santa Vittoria, a 1000 year old stone church with fine medieval frescoes. The surroundings are magnificent.
Lago del Turano (Turano Lake): This lake was created as the result of a dam being built 100 years ago. On the lakeside there are several villages, the prettiest being Castel di Tora with its ancient fortress, the Palazzo Orsini. There are beaches on the lake and you can swim in the clear water or rent a small boat from one of the restaurants.
Mount Terminillo: Often called "The mountain of Rome", Terminillo (2,217 meters above sea level) can be seen all the way from the Italian Capital. It is a ski resort during the winter, with all the necessary equipment to spend a fun day in the snow, as all ski gear can be rented even just for a few hours. Slopes are available for both beginner and advanced skiers. Trail walks and horse riding are just some of the popular activities available in the warmer months.
Continue reading to learn about the food and wine of the Sabine Hills, the region's climate and history, or how to get to Rieti province from RomeContinue to 2 of 4 below.
02 of 04
Olive Oil, Food, Wine, and Water in Rieti Province
The culture of olive oil is all important for the Rieti province and there is evidence that people have been producing the "green gold" here for at least 2000 years. Olive groves literally cover each and every hillside, with windy roads and pathways making their way between the old, majestic trees. The beauty of the landscape is often associated with Umbria, and in fact Rieti and its territory was once considered part of this region and was under Perugia's rule until the 1930's.
Rieti province has great culinary traditions. Apart from the DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) olive oil which is light and flavorsome at the same time, this is the land of pecorino cheese and ricotta, produced from fresh sheep's milk. The local producers also take pride in their cured meats, including prosciutto, capocollo and, above all, guanciale (cured pork cheek), an essential ingredient of Carbonara and Amatriciana pasta sauces. Cooking classes and olive tours are available from Convivio Rome, in Toffia. Wine production is also gaining momentum in terms of high quality, popularity and awards and there are several wineries you can visit.
The Rieti province and the Sabine Hills are among the greenest areas of Italy, due to the abundance of water springs, rivers and lakes. Its main aqueduct, called Peschiera, is one of the largest in Europe and provides pure spring water to three quarters of the City of Rome and of course to the Rieti province as well. The large availability of pure clean water is a blessing for those working in agriculture, and in particular to a young generation of 'neo-rurals', who have recently moved from the city to start organic agriculture in this area.
Lakes are mostly found in the eastern part of the province, the most popular one being the Lake Turano. Its clean water makes Turano a great destination for day excursions especially in summer where you can swim, take a rest on the shores and enjoy lunch or dinner on the lakeside.Continue to 3 of 4 below.
03 of 04
History and Climate of the Sabine Hills, Rieti Province
The early inhabitants of this area of Italy were the 'Sabines', a highly civilized population that thrived in this region, east of the River Tiber. The Sabines left some truly refined art from 600 BC, including gold jewellery, Greek-inspired pottery and bronze chariots. Most of these precious items are today found in Fara Sabina Archaeological Museum. The Romans took over the Rieti province and the Sabine Hills in 290 BC.
Cities were built or improved and still today this is one of the most interesting areas of Lazio from an archaeological point of view. During the middle ages the Rieti province grew prosperous and became densely populated, which explains why there are so many 1,000 year old villages built on hilltops for defense.
While the climate is generally Mediterranean with mild winters and warm, sunny summers. As you move towards the east of the region the territory becomes more mountainous, with the highest point reaching Monte Terminillo, 2,217 meters above sea level. Terminillo is a winter resort that is fully equipped for ski holidays during winter, while in summer it can be a refreshing escape from the heat and is especially popular with Rome's inhabitants.
Because of the variety offered by its geography, this province of Italy is a hiker's heaven. You can chose easier walks through valleys or more challenging hikes to the top of hills and mountains from where you can enjoy majestic views over the whole region.Continue to 4 of 4 below.
04 of 04
How to Get to Rieti Province From Rome
Fara Sabina is the best place to begin to explore the Sabine Hills and Rieti province. A direct train departs every 15 minutes from several stations in Rome (Ostiense, Trastevere and Tiburtina), taking 39 minutes from Roma Tiburtina to Fara Sabina-Montelibretti Station, where there are buses to many villages in the Sabine Hills. There is also a direct bus from Rome Tiburtina station to Rieti, that stops at many destinations in the Rieti-Sabina area.
By car, take the Rome-Florence (A1) autostrada to Fiano Romano exit, then follow signs to Rieti and Via Salaria, and then to Fara Sabina/Toffia/Farfa.
This article was written by Guido Santi who offers cooking classes, wine tours and olive tours at Convivio Rome in Toffia, Sabina. Some of the tours and classes can be taken on a day trip from Rome.