Grottaferrata is located to the south west of Rome, near the airport and city of Ciampino. It is a small town of around 20 thousand inhabitants and is mostly known for its abbey, the Basilian Monastery of Saint Mary, also known as the Abbey of Saint Nilus (Abbazia di San Nilo). It is part of a group of small hill towns known as the Castelli Romani.
Grottaferrata (province of Rome)
There is no tourist information office in Grottaferrata. The town hall is at Piazzetta Eugenio Conti , 1. ZIP Code: 00046.
How to get there
By car: Grottaferrata is on the Via Anagnina (Provincial road SP511, exit 22 from the Grande Raccordo Anulare ringroad around Rome).
Grottaferrata gets its name from the remains of a villa that used to exist where the Abbey was later constructed.
Grottaferrata tourist attractions
The main street of the city is the Corso del Popolo, which ends in front of the Abbey of Saint Nilus.
There are several villas that were erected between the Renaissance era and the 18th century and can boast beautiful frescoes (Villa Cavalletti, Villa Muti, Villa Grazioli, Villa di Campovecchio and Villa-Palazzo Passerini aka Santovetti).
The “Ad Decimum” catacombs: Christian cemeteries from the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries, carved in the tufa stone. Unlike many Roman catacombs, these are well preserved. Of the one thousand tombs, nine hundred are still intact. They are spread out over 5 hallways, measuring 225m altogether.
A 5km walk along the Via dei Sepolcri will bring you to the ruins of Tuscolo, with a.o. an amphitheater and a forum. The view from the hilltop is gorgeous.
A brief history of Grottaferrata
The history of Grottaferrata starts in the year 1004. In that year, St. Bartholomew and St. Milus of Rossano, both fled from the Turkish invasions in Calabria, founded the abbey around which the town subsequently developed.
Gradually the monastery gained prestige. In the 15th century Pope Pius II donated the complex to a Greek cardinal called Bessarione to run and later cardinal Giuliano della Rovere fortified the community. Giuliano della Rovere was later to become Pope Sixtus IV (1503-1513). The reason he turned the monastery into a fortress was to protect the place from the Borgias.
During the following centuries Grottaferrata became property of the Colonna, the Farnese and finally the Barberini families.
In 1869 Pope Pius IX returned the abbey to the Greek orthodox monks, who still reside there.