In the heart of the rolling Sabina hills northeast of Rome is a hamlet you may have never heard of.
If you’ll pardon the well-worn cliché, Farfa is one of Italy’s hidden gems. Built around a historic church abbey, it is one of the most rewarding day trips from Rome.
Discover why you should visit Farfa and how to get there from Rome.
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Where is Farfa in Italy?
Farfa is a hamlet in Rieti in northern Lazio. By road, it is around 28 miles northeast of Rome.
Why Visit Farfa?
The main reason to visit Farfa is for its historic abbey church. This sleepy hamlet of around 50 inhabitants has a small number of excellent shops and a few restaurants.
Farfa Abbey (Abbazia di Farfa)
Farfa Abbey is the beating heart of the village.
This basilica dedicated to Mary dates from the 9th Century, replacing an earlier 6th Century building. It was one of the most important churches of the Carolingian era (750 – 887 AD), when this dynasty, notably Charlemagne, ruled western Europe.
As part of the S. Francesco pilgrimage route from Florence to Rome (The Way of St. Francis), the Abbey of Farfa draws walkers and pilgrims.
The basilica’s façade features fragments of pagan and early Christian sarcophagi. Its ornate 14th Century Romanesque portal is topped by a lunette fresco depicting the Madonna and Child (1508) and the coat of arms of the Orsini family.
The House of Orsini was one of the most influential families in medieval Italy and Renaissance Rome. Their members included five popes, 34 cardinals and many other significant political and religious figures.
Several chapels line the church’s Renaissance interior. These include the Crucifix Chapel, which is home to the much venerated 13th Century image of the Madonna of Farfa, and the Angel chapel, which is the church’s baptistery.
On the interior wall of the façade there is Henrik Van Der Broek’s oil fresco of the Last Judgement (1561). The Orsini coat of arms shines bright in the gold coffered wooden ceiling.
Inside the abbey complex, there is a fine Renaissance cloister which is home to the Civic Archaeological Museum.
But one of the highlights of a tour of Farfa Abbey is the State Library. This preserves a number of rare volumes, including De Civitate Dei by Saint Augustine, one of the first books printed in Italy.
How to visit Farfa Abbey
Although you can wander around the church under your own steam, I recommend joining one of the guided tours to access the abbey and library.
Guided tours of Farfa Abbey take place from Tuesday – Sunday from 10 am to 12 pm and from 3 pm to 4 pm (during winter). During summer, afternoon guided tours operate from 3.30 pm to 4.30 pm. You can buy your ticket from the herbalist’s shop on arrival.
These tours are available in Italian and other languages on request. Our guide, Ricardo, conducted his tour in a mixture of Italian and English to accommodate my poor Italian.
You can find out more about visiting hours and tours here.
Modest dress is required.
Other Things to Do in Farfa
The village has a handful of shops selling ceramics, textiles and local food produce.
The textile house still uses traditional looms to create linen and cotton fabrics with original medieval patterns.
Farfa holds its renowned antique market on the first Sunday of each month from March to December
Eating & Drinking in Farfa, Italy
There are a couple of restaurants and bars in or near the village plus a bakery.
How to Get to Farfa from Rome
By far the easiest way to get to Farfa from Rome is by car. The journey will take you around an hour and there is a car park just outside the hamlet.
The nearest railway station to Farfa is Fara Sabina-Montelibretti, located at Passo Corese, six miles from the village. This station is served by the Roman suburban railway line FL1 Orte–Fiumicino from Tiburtina station.
From Fara Sabina-Montelibretti, you will need to catch a bus to Farfa, bound for Castelnuovo di Farfa, from the square in front of the train station. Whilst trains are frequent, buses run hourly at best.
Buses in the Lazio region are operated by BusCotral. You can check the timetable here.