The Lake at Castel Gandolfo — Photo courtesy of RacchioWhenever temperatures start to rise, on the weekends Rome virtually empties out. Clear skies and lots of sun is the perfect excuse for the locals to head to the park for a picnic, the beach or even one of the nearby lakes to enjoy their weekend afternoons. A popular place for both the locals and tourists looking for a break from the big city to get some fresh air and some good food is Castel Gandolfo.
Castel Gandolfo is a small town southeast of Rome located in the Castelli Romani (Roman Castles) area. The town is perched up on a hill and overlooks Lake Albano. Nearly 9,000 people live in this lovely town, though on the weekends it feels much bigger when locals love to come to sunbathe, eat at any one the local osterie along the lake, to take a stroll or simply to enjoy the view. One can also rent bikes to ride around the lake or even kayaks. Aside from the lake, perhaps, the town is best known for being where the Pope's summer residence is located.
Unfortunately, there aren't many 'touristic' sights or attractions for visitors to take in while visiting this sleepy but lovely town. That's because a majority of the palazzi,the astronomical observatory and the Papal Gardens are dedicated to the Vatican and other religious foundations. On occasion though, the observatory can be visited by school groups or with special permission. Sadly, the Papal Gardens which happen to be truly amazing, are off limits to the public.Taking a stroll through Centro Storico at Castel Gandolfo — Photo courtesy of rosemarydukelow Despite that, the centro storico is definitely worth taking a stroll if anything, at least to admire the beautiful piazza. Or you might fancy doing a little shopping for local produce and other specialties and take in the beauty of the church of San Tommaso da Villanova, designed by the great mastermind Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
A Bird's Eye View of Lake Albano — Photo courtesy of blucoltIf you get hungry, a great place to eat is Ristorante Pagnanelli. The restaurant has been around since 1882 and boasts perhaps one of the best views of the Lake Albano. It's also conveniently located right next to the Pope's summer residence. The restaurant is best known for serving up the region's freshest fish and exquisite pasta. Pagnanelli is not only popular with the locals, but it's also got a long list of famous clientele such as Catherine Zeta-Jones, Robert DeNiro, Nicholas Cage. Otherwise, there are a number of little restaurants and kiosks where you can grab a plate of pasta or a simple sandwich down by the lake.
Castel Gandolfo is located about 15 miles from Rome. One can reach this pretty village by taking the train from Rome's Termini train station. Trains leave almost every hour and the ride itself takes about 40 minutes to get there. Tickets cost €1,90 each way.