Fiuggi

I am much more familiar with the more northerly provinces of Lazio (Roma, Rieti and Viterbo),  but when I ventured out to Fiuggi in the province of Frosinone I was in for a surprising treat that has definitely whetted my appetite to go back for a longer visit.

Fiuggi is about 16 km off the A1 motorway and the first surprise is that the surrounding countryside is very pleasantly elevated and wooded: almost pre-alpine.

Fiuggi is most famous for its mineral water – Acqua di Fiuggi. The town has been famous for its water’s healing properties since the middle ages, when Pope Boniface VIII claimed it had cured his kidney stones. In the town’s heyday thousands flocked here to take the waters in the town’s spas and grand hotels grew up.  No doubt its popularity was helped by the fact that the care offered by the Italian NHS used to include spa visits.

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Grand Hotel Palazzo della Fonte in Fiuggi was started by Charles Forte, father of Rocco Forte, who went on to become one of the the UK’s main hoteliers.  The fact that there are so many hotel beds in Fiuggi and that it has declined in popularity means that you can get very good value packages to stay in some very grand digs and there is plenty to do in the area (apart from lazing around the hotel pool and spa, that is) to justify a weekend visit.

My impression was of a friendly bustling place with plenty of bars and restaurants. The town has clearly made an effort to promote other tourist amenities to make up for the declining popularity of the spas. One attraction that really caught my attention was a wine trail, Strade del Vino Cesanese, which is well signposted but can also be visited as part of an organised tour. There are two options including a 9 hour all day trip for €55 including a guided tour of the Benedictine  Monastery of Subiaco, where the monks run their own shop and erboristeria selling all manner of medicinal herbs and liqueurs followed by a tour of the wineries and tastings on a special tram – or a shorter five hour afternoon tour on the tram alone, which costs €35.

Near Fiuggi, you can visit the spectacular cave system of the Grotte di Pastena e Collepardo as well as a huge natural well, the Pozza d’Antullo. The website says the caves are open 10 am to 4 pm Monday to Friday and 10 to 5 pm at the weekend in winter and 9 to 7 pm every day in summer. The last guided tour leaves an hour before closing on both days. Entrance cost is €9 for the Pastena caves, €6 for the Collpardo caves and €2 for the Pozzo (which is closed from 1 December to 28 February). Children under 5 go free and there are reductions for children aged 5 to 12.

The nearby Lago di Canterno nature reserve also looks well worth a visit for its bird-life, flora and also carp fishing. The area has been a no-kill zone since 2014, meaning you have to throw your catch back. You need a fishing license (information on getting a licence as well as other information on fishing in Italy can be found here) and and a booklet or tesserino issued by the Provincia to record your catch, which can be obtained from the Bar/Ristorante del Pescatore.

As I said, plenty to do for a good weekend away.