Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP is the ambassadress of a deeply fascinating land worthy of description. We have put together this travel itinerary for the discovery of the DOP towns and villages.
Let’s set off towards Lazio, where the area of farms and manufacturing of DOP Buffalo milk extends towards the southern part of the region in the provinces of Frosinone and Latina.
The itinerary is twofold, between the sea and the mountains: first we’ll head along the inland roads, crossing natural parks and fascinating villages, and then we’ll move to the Tyrrhenian coast of Lazio where we can abandon ourselves to romantic walks and astonishing sunsets. Are you ready?
What to put in your bag
Whether you choose to follow the coast or the inland paths (or both, why not!), the essentials for your suitcase are:
- Comfortable sports clothes suitable for long walks
- Some headwear (a hat, bandana or headband)
- Trekking shoes
- Swim suit, flipflops and a beach robe
- A couple of smart evening outfits (but take a jumper because mountain air can be quite cool)
- Some casual outfits for visiting the villages in the daytime
- A camera
Southern Lazio: between nature parks and delightful towns
Our journey begins with the natural beauty that dominates the greater part of southern Lazio and gives us fabulous views.
The first stop we’re proposing is the Aurunci Mountains Natural Park, an area covering almost twenty thousand hectares. The Park provides a surprising variety of landscapes that follow on from each other without ceasing. Those not to be missed are:
- in the Monte Petrella beech forests
- the forests of green holly oaks of Mounts Ruazzo and Campone
- the Costamezza cork forest
- the prairies of the Sciro valley.
The Park does not only provide a great variety of landscapes but also floral variety: its sufficient to consider that up to 1300 species of flowers (just the recorded ones) exist in the park, making it a great attraction for researchers, botanists and the fans of nature photography.
The Park has mountain tops higher than 1,500 metres from which you can see the Tyrrhenian Sea.
For the lovers of trekking, there are numerous possible excursions amongst the peaks of the Aurunci Mountains. One of the most well-known and fascinating trips is that which leads from Maranola (Pornido refuge) up to the peak of Monte Petrella, linked to the peak of Monte Redentore. This follows the classic journey of the pilgrims who travel to the stature of the “Christ the Redeemer” that looks out from on high over the gulfs of Formia and Gaeta.
Amongst some of the noteworthy places in the Monti Aurunci Natural Park, of note are:
- the small lake of Settecannelle in the Municipality of Fondi
- the Montecassino Natural Monument
- the historic centre of Esperia, adjacent to the park. Of considerable interest is the museum path of Karstification, a journey through the discovery of the marvels under the ground, of the rocks and the millennial old phenomena that create them.
Castro dei Volsci, in the heart of the Ciociaria
The DOP area of Lazio extends throughout the Ciociaria, a territory that corresponds more or less to the province of Frosinone.
The name “Ciociaria” derives from the word “ciocie”, the typical footwear once worn by the local peasants and shepherds of this land which still preserves the vivacity of its strong traditions and a rich and varied folklore.
Amongst the many enchanting towns and villages of this area of lower Lazio, we’ve chosen to take you to Castro dei Volsci, also called “the Balcony of the Ciociaria” because it looks as if its floating in the sky when the clouds are low hanging.
Entering Castro dei Volsci through the evocative Porta della Valle, you immediately enter a maze of narrow streets paved in terracotta, interspersed by pretty squares and flanked by stone houses. Immersed in this poetic scene, you can take long walks, visit the ancient churches strewn along the way and take a leap back in time in the archaeological area of Santa Maria del Piano. In this area, not far from the town centre, you can still see important evidence of its antiquity: the remains of Roman villas, the thermal baths and the necropolises of various eras.
One of the obligatory stops in our tour of Castro dei Volsci is the statue of Mamma Ciociaria, requested by the Ciociaria people and unveiled in 1964 in memory of all the women who, during the Second World War, died defending their own dignity and that of their daughters who were violated by the French troops. The director, Vittorio de Sica, narrated these terrible events in the momentous film “La Ciociara”.
When you’re in Castro dei Volsci, it’s vital to stop off in one of the osterias to enjoy the wonderful gastronomic traditions of the Ciociaria, land of Mozzarella di Bufala Campana Dop and amazing food!
Amaseno: I love Buffolo cheese
Continuing on our trip, we arrive at Amaseno, a village of around 4,000 inhabitants and 14,000 buffalos, located in the heart of the Amaseno Valley in the middle of the Ciociaria.
The historic centre of the town is typically medieval: surrounded by a stone wall with towers, complete with a feudal castle and run through with an architecture that is all mullioned windows, pointed arches and noble coats of arms. Of the monuments, the Chiesa di Santa Maria is of particular interest. Dated 1165, it is a notable example of Gothic-Cistercian architecture: made in local limestone, squared, chiselled and, according to local beliefs, the site of a miraculous event. In effect, it would appear that the blood of San Lorenzo is contained in an ampoule set in a crown and, for centuries, between the 8th and the 9th of August, the blood dissolves and a fragment of skin appears. Every year, once the anniversary of the martyrdom and the celebrations of San Lorenzo are over, the blood in the ampoule coagulates once again.
Sezze was founded on a hill at the foot of Monte Semprevisa. The ancient village has a mild climate in the winter and is cool in the summer, and can also boast a highly enjoyable, traditional cuisine.
The origins of Sezze have blurred into legend. It is claimed to have been founded by Hercules who arrived in Sezze after beating the Laestrygonians. The etymology of the ancient name, Setia, refers to the Latin word “setis” indicating the bristles of the Nemean lion which was Hercules’s pride and joy. The bristles make their appearance today in the city’s coat of arms that figures the Nemean lion holding a cornucopia filled with fruit surrounded by the words
“Setia plena bonis gerit albi signa leonis” (Sezze full of good things bears the emblem of the white lion).
Sezze is a city of immense historic and architectural value: the walks through the city centre and a visit to the monuments and churches is strongly advised. For those who want to immerse themselves in the florid and marvellous nature of lower Lazio, an excursion to Monte Semprevisa is highly recommended.
Before moving to the coast, here are a few more delights of this area. We recommend:
- the Castello dei Conti
- Dante Alighieri’s Monte Cacume in Ceccano;
- the Roman archaeological sites and the Canterano lake in Ferentino
- the natural thermal baths of Suio Terme.
Lower Lazio via the sea: Sperlonga, Terracina and Sabaudia
Our itinerary along the coast of lower Lazio begins with a unique experience, the poetic path “The voice of trees”.
We find ourselves in the Regional Park “Riviera di Ulisse”, a strip of land that protrudes from the coast, extends along the gulf of Gaeta and includes the areas of protected land belonging to the enchanting towns of Gaeta, Formia, Minturno, Itri and Sperlonga.
Immersed in the Regional Park “Riserva di Ulisse”, you can enjoy a permanent poetic installation curated by the Associazione Culturale Leggendarie and designed by Giovanna Iorio. Walking along the paths, by scanning a QR code, you can listen to compositions by 20 Italian poets from 1900 to today and also some by contemporary local artists. In this technological installation, culture and nature come together and give life to a multi-sensorial experience that starts with the eyes, continues with listening and dissolves into the dense perfumes of the park.
We now move on to the lively town of Sperlonga, the ideal destination for tourists looking for both relaxation and culture. One of the town’s unmissable features is the Villa di Tiberio. The emperor Tiberius was so enamoured of the coastal views provided by Sperlonga that he built a spectacular, monumental complex here. Its terraces over the sea are absolutely enchanting as the gaze gets lost in the view with Monte Circeo and the Pontine Islands on the distant horizon. The Villa di Tiberio covers 300 metres in length and includes barracks with stables for the troops, residences for the entire court, a thermal bath and fishponds in front of the decorated grotto that hosted the drinking parties. This latter is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and spectacular parts of the Roman villa in Sperlonga. Take a look and you definitely won’t regret it!
Amongst the beaches in Sperlonga where you can pass a morning at the sea with sun and a refreshing swim, are:
- Canzatora, a small beach with fine sand that is very popular and also suitable for families (but not for those wanting peace and quiet);
- Fontana, one of the locals’ preferred beaches, close to the town centre and easily reached (the name comes a special tank that collects spring water that then pours onto the beach);
- Salette, one of Sperlonga’s main beaches, with light coloured, fine sand and crystalline waters.
A very ancient town that rises up and looks over the sea, Terracina intercepts the Francigena way of the South.
This small town enchants all who arrive here due to its atmosphere of antiquity and its sea air.
The main square offers an exciting view: on the one hand is the immense and shining sea and, on the other, the imposing remains of the Temple of Jupiter Anxur. An exceptional panorama that embraces the gulf and the Pontine islands and which, on a clear day, reaches as far as Ischia and Capri.
The Circeo National Park
The Circeo National Park is a protected area that extends for around 8,500 hectares: its special characteristic is not so much the variety of its environments but the clear distinctions that are created between them and makes them distinguishable even to the inexpert eye. Aside from its huge biodiversity, the Park also contains many stories and legends, such as the myth surrounding the Circeo Promontory. According to tradition, this 541-metre-high limestone mound was the home of the Sorceress Circe: it is said that Ulysses entered what is today the Cala dei Pescatori, on the lake of Paola, with his ship, and then remained enchanted by the sorceress whose profile can be seen in the contour of the mountain.
This little town was created together with the Park in 1934 and preserves the best examples of Italian, rationalist architecture. For this reason, it is a destination place for academics and urban planners from all over the world but who are also treated to excellent food and entertainment.
If you’re ready to go, start thinking about the perfect place for your next selfie in each of the towns of southern Lazio. Have a good trip