Farfa, Italy: One of Lazio’s Hidden Gems

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.

row of low stone buildings with flowerpots outside in farfa in italy

Where is Farfa in Italy?

Farfa is a hamlet in Rieti in northern Lazio.It is around 28 miles northeast of Rome by road

map showing the location of farfa in italy
Farfa, Italy. Map data @ Google 2023

Why Visit Farfa?

The main reason to visit Farfa is for its historic abbey church. This sleepy hamlet of around 50 inhabitants also has a small number of excellent shops and a few restaurants.

2 cypress trees in front of medieval stone abbey
Farfa Abbey

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.  

main entrance to farfa abbey in italy with stone exterior and painting over the doorway

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, home to the venerated 13th-century image of the Madonna of Farfa, and the Angel Chapel, which is the church’s baptistery.

interior of church of farfa abbey with painted walls and gold coffered ceiling
interior of old basilica with painted walls and ceilings

Henrik Van Der Broek’s oil fresco of the Last Judgement (1561) is on the interior wall of the façade. The Orsini coat of arms shines brightly on the gold-coffered wooden ceiling.

massive fresco painting of the last judgement
Last Judgement (1561), Henrik Van Der Broek

Inside the abbey complex, there is a fine Renaissance cloister which is home to the Civic Archaeological Museum.

cloisters with grassy central area with bronze statue

But one of the highlights of a tour of Farfa Abbey is the State Library. This preserves several 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 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

woman walking a dog along a narrow cobbled street in farfa in italy
row of medieval stone house lining a cobbled street in farfa italy

Shopping

The village has a handful of shops selling ceramics, textiles and local food produce. The textile house uses traditional looms to create linen and cotton fabrics with original medieval patterns.

quaint shop in a low stone building in farfa italy with benches and flowers outside

Antique market

Farfa holds its renowned antique market on the first Sunday of each month from March to December

street in a village in italy with rolling hills in background

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

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.

You will need to catch a bus to Farfa from Fara Sabina-Montelibretti, bound for Castelnuovo di Farfa, from the square in front of the train station. Whilst trains are frequent, buses run hourly at best.

BusCotral operates buses in the Lazio region. You can check the timetable here.

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