The orchid festival of Monte Porzio Catone marks the onset of spring

The festival of orchids from 13 to 15 April are three days not to be missed in the centre of Monte Porzio, one of the villages of the Castelli Romani, when the streets are filled with the colours and sun for the ‘orchidophiles’ – the fans of these flowers.

What better occasion to celebrate the arrival of spring than to participate in a spectacular international exhibition of orchids from all over the world?

The route begins by crossing the ancient entrance to the village incorporated into the elegant Borghese palace and winds through the streets of the historic centre. The old cellars and historic rooms are opened and completely covered with colourful flowers of wonderful form.

Exhibitors come from all over the world, Italy, France, Germany, Holland, Ecuador, Malaysia displaying unique specimens of rare beauty. Collectors of these flowers and enthusiasts gather to choose their favorite specimen.

The history of the orchid is special and this flower is widespread throughout the planet thanks to its incredible strength, although most of the flowers are found in tropical areas where it traditionally grows on the trunks of trees. In fact this flower is able to have aerial roots capable of absorbing water from the environment. The darkness of tropical forests is surprisingly lit by these flowers.

The name “orchid” appears for the first time in a treatise on pharmaceutical botany written by Theophrastus who lived between the sixth and fifth centuries BC.

The first treatise on the cultivation of orchids was written in the eleventh century and published in China. The Chinese love this flower so much they use it to celebrate spring and to ward off negative influences as well as to fight against sterility.

This is linked to the particular shape of the flower that recalls the male reproductive organs. It is no coincidence that one of the masculine infections has the name orchitis. The orchid is a beautiful, delicate and refined flower that has no distinction between the calyx and the corolla (male and female parts) and for this reason it is said to consist of 6 tepals: 3 petals and 3 sepals (modified leaves).

In the 16th century the first tropical species of orchid from the Indies arrived in Europe thanks to a Jesuit priest while the passion for this flower exploded thanks to Charles Darwin who studied the species and the reproduction techniques.

Their history and their beauty make it even more special and orchids also take on a great symbolic value: in China they represent the purity of children, they are given to us to emphasize a strong feeling or a special wish.

They are also linked to a Christian belief the orchids are used in the Easter period to decorate the altars: it is said that the spots on some species of flowers represent the blood of Jesus.

The blooming of wild orchids in the area of the park of the Castelli Romani marks an even stronger link with this great opportunity that Monte Porzio Catone offers us: a journey to ‘kilometer zero’ in the fantastic world of orchids.

Monte Porzio Catone

It is the last town of the Castelli Romani Park and is perhaps the most curious for the history of the war against Austria that was declared autonomously during the First World War, in keeping with a strong patriotic spirit, and peace that was never signed.

The territory of Monte Porzio is dotted with the most beautiful Tuscan villas of the nobility of Rome, Villa Parisi, Villa Mondragone residence of Pope Gregory XII, Villa Lucidi, Villa Angelina.

But its history is much older and the Tusculum ruins with its archaeological area are the most interesting and attractive place in the whole area for tourists who love archeology and nature.

The Roman period also dates back to the Barco Borghese, an immense artificial esplanade built on about 180 underground rooms with concrete vaults, which perhaps hide the remains of an ancient villa and where it is easy to recognize cisterns and warehouses.

It is known by ‘astrotourists’: Monte Porzio hosts the Astronomical Observatory with a cultural and educational centre. Few people know that the centre had been built with an agreement between Hitler and Mussolini: Hitler wanted the statue of the discus thrower that was in the Roman museum and in return proposed the construction of a very large equipped observatory.

These and other stories can be heard walking through Monte Porzio, especially during its festivals, while tasting the Roman cuisine and its Frascati DOC wines.