Sometimes a trip takes an unanticipated turn – and your experience is richer for it.
That’s what happened on our wine tour in Castelli Romani, the wine-making area outside of Rome in Italy’s Lazio region. We booked this tour through Viator.com, and the local tour operator was “When in Rome” Tours. The tour advertised that we would explore the region and to go the Santa Benedetta Winery to taste three of the estate’s finest wines. Alongside the wines, we would taste a selection of regional delicacies such as cheeses, olive oil, and cured meats.
According to the tour’s description, the winery is the oldest in Castelli Romani and had once been a convent. The winemaking traditions had been passed down by generations of the Benedetti family.
However, when we were picked up by our driver, we learned that the winery was unavailable - perhaps it was because it was December 31st. Instead, we would go to another winery in Italy's Lazio region.
Initially, I was disappointed because Santa Benedetta sounded interesting. But, my opinion completely changed once we arrived at the substitute winery. It was tiny Tenimento Casamara in Frascati, about an hour from Rome.
This was also a family-owned winery. Andy, one of the owners, gave us a tour of the winery and vineyards.
While this winery wasn’t originally a convent, it was built on ancient Roman ruins. Andy showed us Roman artifacts, such as pieces of stone, that he keeps on finding in the fields.
Due to the winery’s location in the middle of Italy, Andy also periodically finds artifacts from World Wars I and II, including helmets, guns, and gas masks. It really brings war close to home.
Rather than just getting a taste of regional delicacies, as originally advertised, we were given a feast – and in the family’s own farmhouse kitchen! Andy’s mother served us artichokes, pork, prosciutto, cheese, fruit, salami, croissants and cookies. We could not finish it all.
Lunch was, not surprisingly, accompanied by wine. We tried their white wine, Frascati Superiore, light and fruity (half a smiley), their red wine, Casamara Rosso, more full bodied (a smiley), and their olive oil (two smileys).
This was one of the nicest, and most unique, wine tours I’ve been on. It was like being honored, welcome guests in a friend’s home. Plus, it was fun, personal, and full of conversation.
Unlike so many wineries, this was not at all commercial. Andy’s mother spoke no English, but she was a full participant of our discussion using maps, photographs, and Andy’s translating skills.
A quick internet search indicates that visiting is by reservation, but I got the impression that this is not something they did routinely. We stayed for quite a while. We bought a couple of reds (five euros each) and a bottle of the olive oil (ten euros each).
The two bottles of wine are long gone, but we’re still thoroughly enjoying that olive oil.
I’d still like to get to Santa Benedetta winery one day. But I’m really glad we had the chance to go to Tenimento Casamara. We had a great time learning more about this history of Italy’s Lazio region. Overall, it was a truly unforgettable experience.
This winery is off the beaten path. If you’re in Italy’s Lazio Region and can make an appointment for a tour, I highly recommend it. If you’re scheduling a tour with an operator, you might want to ask if Tenimento Casamara can be included in your itinerary.