Called "garden city" for the beauty of its environment and its archaeological history, Grottaferrata, near Rome, is a wonderful centre of the Castelli Romani region, located a short distance from the city of Rome, on the slopes of the Alban Hills. The city was entitled to the remains of a Roman villa, of which remain part of the walls and a railed window, used as a shelter, in 1004, by San Nilo from Rossano and his followers when they took possession of these lands, donated to them by Pope Gregory I.
In Roman times, the city was a preferred residential area, chosen by the rich and noble families to build their villas and relax in this superb environment. The main centre developed around the Exarchs Monastery of Santa Maria di Grottaferrata, sharing the same fate and history.
Sites of Interest:
- the remains of the ancient Latin city of Tusculum. In particular, a paved road that skirts important vestiges of the past (a forum, an amphitheater and a theater, all in good conditions);
- the catacombs Ad Decimum, divided into five archways decorated with wall paintings of the IV and V centuries, that remained intact until its random discovery;
- the Abbey of San Nilo, founded, in 1004, by a group of monks of Byzantine-Greek rite, followers of San Nilo, to whom Pope Gregory I assigned these territories. It stands on the ruins of an ancient Roman villa, whose traces are still visible in criptoportico. Over the centuries, due to its strategic location, the abbey was occupied several times by troops marching towards Rome. To try to put a stop to the continuous devastation, Cardinal della Rovere, in 1480, decided to fortify the architectural complex: today, the abbey is surrounded by a high walls, four watchtowers and a moat, designed and bult under the supervision of Antonio da Sangallo and Baccio Pontelli. Next to the monastery is located the Basilica of Santa Maria, consecrated in 1024 by Giovanni XIX of the Counts of Tusculum and features an entrance with a portico surmounted by four columns, a narthex and a portal in Byzantine style (XI-XII century).
The building features three naves, and contains inside XIII century mosaics and an icon of the Virgin Mary Theotokos. In the Chapel, entitled to St. Nilo, it is possible to admire frescoes of the artist Domenichino, masterpieces of the Italian 600'. The Basilica is flanked by a Romanesque bell tower, restored to its original form in 1930;
-the beautiful villas, built between the Renaissance and the XVIII century, owned by nobles and cardinals, some of which are decorated with wonderful frescoes, such as: Villa Cavaletti, Villa Muti, Villa Grazioli, Villa of Campovecchio, Villa-Palazzo Passerini later renamed Santovetti);
- the remains of the Castle of the Savelli, currently privately owned and located in the district of Borghetto. It was an important outpost, built to defend the Abbey;
- the remains of Castel de 'Paolis, built in the XI century, on the ruins of the Roman villa of the Scribonius-Libones.