Go ‘off the grid’ when in Rome and travel to nearby places for a truly special experience, says Torjus Roberg
Italy is a common holiday destination for many. Its food, wine and romantic landscapes can be said to be among the best in the world. There is certainly something to be appreciated in every region of the boot-shaped country, but the most popular place for tourists is, of course, Rome. This will come as a shock to no-one, as every time you visit Rome there is always something you missed on your last trip, which is what makes it such a timeless and eternal city. In between the striking, old, Roman buildings, embellished churches and rustic piazze there is always a new sight waiting for you. A common misconception is that all of the sights are confined within the city walls. Lazio, the region where Rome is located, is a beautiful area which is not given the attention it deserves.
There are many delightful villages and historic places which surround Rome that are well worth a visit should you find yourself in the vicinity. A good way to really experience a country is to detach yourself from the normal tourist routes and go ‘off the grid’ so to speak, and you might find that your holiday takes a turn for the better.
We have done the legwork for you and found the three best locations within day trip distance of Rome that are worth visiting.
Less than an hour outside the Grande Raccordo, which is the highway around the Metropolitan City of Rome, there is a small, but charming village up in the mountains called Tivoli. Looking like a quintessential Italian postcard, the city is placed on top of a mountain overlooking the Rome area. If you are looking for a place to get a good view of the region, this is the place to go.
Italy is known for its narrow streets and Tivoli is no different. Some streets are so narrow they are only wide enough to fit two people. However, this only adds to the charm of the city and can be quite picturesque. Tivoli has many good restaurants and the food is cheap, but very tasty.
The most famous attraction the town has to offer is the astonishing Villa d’Este. At the very top of the city is the former residence of the influential d’Este family. The classic renaissance palace is home to many beautiful pieces of art and its rooms have been decorated by several famous artists. Each room has a theme, such as the Hall of Glory and the Hall of the Hunt, which all have corresponding artwork and colours. Despite being rather magnificent, the main reason people come is not the palace, it is the gardens.
“An example of graceful fusion of stonework and water, the fountains are absolutely the highlight of the attraction”
Water, water everywhere. The garden is home to countless fountains and waterworks and is perhaps best known for The Fountain of Neptune and the Oval Fountain. An example of the graceful fusion of stonework and water, the fountains are absolutely the highlight of the attraction. Between the well-trimmed hedges and fragrant flowerbeds, you will always hear the gentle, smooth rumbling of water in the background. The composer Franz Liszt was so bewitched by the gardens he even dedicated two compositions to it.
This calm city lies about half an hour by train to the south-east of Rome and is perfect for a day excursion. A travel to Ariccia is more than anything a culinary journey. The town is famous for its porchetta – a juicy pork roast. Although many Italian cities have their own recipes for porchetta, the original is said to come from Ariccia and has set the standard for the dish. Its taste lies in its simplicity, it is ordinarily just salted and lightly seasoned before being slow roasted for as long as up to seven hours.
This is a classic example of good Italian street food and is usually simply served in a ciabatta. It is not the most luxurious dish imaginable but it is served in generous portions and will prove to be a hearty lunch.
“The city bears the touch of the Italian artist Bernini who has designed several of its structures”
The city bears the touch of the Italian artist Bernini who has designed several of its structures. He designed the church Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo and the Porta Romana on the outskirts of the town. When first seeing the church, you will probably think, ‘It looks like the Pantheon!’. And you would not be too far off, as the Pantheon was used as inspiration for the design of Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo, it is, however, about 1,500 years younger than its inspiration and has a completely white façade.
If you prefer to get away from the noisy, crowded big city for a bit and enjoy a quiet, calm afternoon in the countryside, then Ariccia is a secret gem.
If you feel like unwinding from the hectic delights of sightseeing and simply taking a day to relax you should consider a trip to Civitavecchia – a quaint harbour town whose name literally translates to “ancient city”. Arriving in Civitavecchia you will quickly notice life moves at a more sedate pace here then in Rome. The streets are not crowded, people are not in a rush and even from within the city you can hear the waves of the ocean rolling into the harbour.
By the harbour there is a boardwalk promenade where you can enjoy a great view of the ocean before having a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants. By the waterfront there is the Forte Michelangelo, a renaissance bastion partly designed by the famous artist which is the city’s most popular attraction. Civitavecchia has functioned as Rome’s main port for centuries and is still very much active. A good way to take advantage of this is arrive in Civitavecchia by train and take one of the boats back into Rome so you can enjoy a view of Italy’s beautiful coastline on your return.
“This stretch of the Tyrrhenian Sea has soft, sandy beaches, water the colour of sapphires and picturesque surroundings”
If you fancy a swim or or a day by the sea there are two beautiful beaches close by, Santa Marinella and Santa Severa. This stretch of the Tyrrhenian Sea has soft, sandy beaches, water the colour of sapphires and picturesque surroundings. In Santa Severa, for example, you can be lying on a sun bed by the foot of Santa Severa Castle which dates back to the 9th century. You may have seen it on the popular Netflix TV show, Medici: Masters of Florence. A good alternative for some well-deserved relaxation on a busy holiday.