Outside Rome, Rome
FANCY A DAY WALKING THROUGH AN (ALMOST) INTACT ROMAN CITY?
Pompei (or Pompeii) was destroyed almost instantly by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Now, with a little extra time, you can walk its streets and enter the courtyards of Roman Villas. You do need an EARLY START. Buy your tickets the day before at Termini Train Station to go to the PIAZZA GARIBALDI in NAPOLI (Naples). You want the ‘Rapido’ or Eurostar Train that will take about 1 ¾ to 2 ½ hours depending on which train you select. At the station in Naples you come into the lowest of 3 levels. Go up one level to find the ticket counter for the CIRCUMVESUVIANA Train. This operates like an inter-city metro and you have about 30 seconds to get onboard. Get off about 30 minutes later at POMPEI SCAVI. You are 100 meters from the entrance. Someone may say there is another Pompei stop. Ignore them. This is it! You can see the site properly in about 4-6 hours and be back in Rome for dinner.
Some helpful websites/links:
Unesco World Heritage information on Pompei:
UNESCO - POMPEI PAGE
A HELPFUL TRAVEL DIALOGUE:
The Cole Family
***Please feel free to add this to your "Custom Travel Guide" and print it off before you go! ***
About 160 Km north of Rome on the Tyrrhenian coast is a mountainous promontory, the peninsula of the Monte Argentario.
Monte Argentario was probably an island which became linked to the main land by strips of sand forming a laguna. The town of Orbetello is located on the middle strip.
There are two nice ports Porto Santo Stefano of the north side and Porto Ercole on the south side. The Mediterranean vegetation (dwarf palm, maritime pine, olive trees, vineyards, orchards) of the Monte Argentario is very nice so that there are similarities with the well known Portofino in Liguria.
Furthermore there are also extended sand beaches bordered by pine trees all along the coast from Ansedonia to Talamone.
Nowadays Monte Argentario is a place of tourism, essentially Italian tourism. Many Romans have here vacation residences going from luxury villas, apartments to small bungalows. There are many camping's and well developed marinas.
Actually there are not many hotels; international tourism is less developed here than on the Ligurian or Adriatic coasts. That’s probably why Romans like this place: no invasion of international tourists!
The area is very crowded in summer and on week-ends (by Romans), I would advise to visit in low season.
For more info ref. my pages on Orbetello, Porto Santo Stefano, Porto Ercole & Talamone in Tuscany.
See the Villa d'Este and the terraced gardens there built in the 16. century by Cardinal d'Este and the Villa Adriana the country retreat of Emperor Hadrian.
Buses go to Tivoli from Rome, Ponte Mammolo metro station with a stop near Villa d'Este and Villa Adriana, there are also trains but you have to walk a bit more. City bus # 4 goes from the city to the Villa Adriana.
Buy a train ticket and head to Orvieto for the day. In just over an hour, you'll go from swirling, exciting Rome to beautiful, serene Orvieto. Both are wonderful and completely different. Orvieto is what I pictured Italy would be like--quaint, charming, a visual delight. It's worth at least a day--postcard perfect views of rolling Tuscan hills from a little gem of a town with a huge, black & white cathedral.
Adorable shops, excellent gelato (never actually had any bad gelato anywhere in Italy), friendly people...do yourself a favor and go! Love to shop for unique items and found clothing, artwork and gifts that I didn't see anywhere else in Italy. Of course, plenty of shops with "staple" tourist items, too. Plenty of info on the internet--just google "Orvieto". I'm only sorry I didn't spend a night or two there. It's also perfectly located for an overnight between Rome & Florence. Enjoy!
A short train trip from Roma's Termini Station will take you to a beautiful piece of heaven called Frascati. The white wine there is infamous and it is full of little Cantinas where you can enjoy a beautiful day eating in Italy. Wine can be purchased fresh from the barrel for something like .90 euro cents a little. Ask the staff what cheese and meat goes well with their wine. From Frascati you can see all of Rome and enjoy peace and relaxation that tastes incredible.
Regional trains are actually pretty affordable in Italy. If you're planning to make a one-day trip outside of Rome, go to the Trenitalia site and see for yourself! You can go to Florence from 14.31 euros one-way (3.5 hour trip), thru a 17.31 euros one-way rate (2.5 hour trip) up.... reducing your trip to some 2 hours one-way, for much bigger bucks. The round-trip tickets are slightly discounted.
Uhhhhh, by the way..... if you go from Rome to Florence in your own car, you're going to spend some 20 euros each way (gas + highway charges).
40KM away from the Eternal City of Roma.... on the southern shore of Lake Bracciano, the Castello Odescalchi di Bracciano reigns majestically as one of the most beautiful medieval castles in Europe.
The 14th century medieval Odescalchi Castle belongs to the noble Odescalchi family, whose ancestors include Benedetto Odescalchi, the 17th century pope Innocent XI. It once hosted princes but is used nowadays for conventions, gala dinners and receptions for up to 1,400 guests.
The castle has also hosted several celebrities' weddings. Worth mentioning: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' wedding in November 2006. Also, CNN international correspondent Christiane Amanpour and the former U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin held their 1998 wedding reception there, attended by 180 guests including the late John F. Kennedy, Jr. That same year, Italian pop megastar - Eros Ramazzotti tied the knot with model Michelle Hunzicker (now his ex-wife), held their reception at the castle.
Bored staying at the Castle... and don't know what to do?
Worry no more, my friends!
The little medieval town of Bracciano boasts of a mere 14,000 inhabitants and is perched 280meters above sea level . The town's most famous landmark must surely be the majestic Castello Odescalchi di Bracciano.
In case you get too bored staying in the Castle, you must wish to explore the Botanical Gardens of San Liberato where you can also admire the oldest bell-tower in the world.
For the more adventurous, I'd like to highly recommend taking a boat trip on the lake with the "tragetto"....
For the artsy folks, how about a visit to the Aeronautical Museum at Vigna di Valle
It's something that people often miss while in Rome, but it's for sure worth visiting as it's unique. Ostia Antica is a city that dates to II cent. A.D. It's all discovered not so long ago, all the ancient city with the Terms, Theated, streets, houses, markets ecc. WHOLE ANCIENT CITY complex in one place. I doubt you can see something like that soon.
At least it's worth visiting because of fresh air if anything else does not interest you, it's close to the sea, real refreshement.
The Castelli Romani (Roman Hills) region - located just 40KM away from bustling Rome - is famed for its production of wine and local cuisine. This region also boasts of many interesting castles and villas from Villas Torlonia, Falconieri and Aldobrandini to the Castle of Santa Severa and Castello Odescalchi di Bracciano - which I'll be introducing to you very shortly.
We were there for a weekend of fun at our company's private dinner.
The Castello Odescalchi di Bracciano, one of the most beautiful medieval castles in Europe. Built sometime in the 2nd half of the 1400's, the castle is located in the little town of Bracciano and overlooks the volcanic lake of Bracciano.
Here's the full address of the Castle:
Piazza Mazzini, 14 - 00062
For more photos, please check out the Travelogue: A Weekend at Castelli Romani (Roman Hills). Grazie mille!
We know we wanted a day at the beach to relax (i.e. fight off the jet lag). Originally, we wanted to go to Sperlonga, which is more than 1.5 hours away. True to our frugal selves though, we decided to take advantage of our 3-day transit pass (included in the Roma Pass) and visited the beach at Castel Porziano, which is supposed to be nicer than the public beach at Ostia Lido.
First things first: Directions! You can take the metro to the Pyramide station. From there, follow the signs and change to the Roma-Lido line. This is covered by the transport pass. Take the train to the Cristoforo Colombo Station (end of line). Based on the directions from one website, we were supposed to take the 61 bus. When we got there, we couldn't find the bus (it is actually there, just farther away from the entrance). We ended up hoping on the bus called "Mare 1" (The real number is 07). I don't think it really matters, basically, all these buses with the "Mare" name run along the beaches.
Unfortunately, we had no idea where to get off to get to the beach (apparently the beaches near Castel Porziano are famous for sand dunes), so we just followed the beach going crowd and got off when they did. Afterwards, we found out we got off at the Litoranea (Cancello 2) and arrived at "Free" Beach. Yes, that's the name of the beach, and we confirmed that it is indeed free to enter as well. We rented a decent sized umbrella for 5 euros and spent a few hours just laying in the soft sand and chilled. The beach was quite nice, maybe the sea isn't as blue as hoped (it is sort of near the airport), but the beach goes on forever. All in all, it was a perfect remedy to our sleep deprived, whirlwind tour of Rome on Day 1. Most of the beach-goers that day looked like locals. The place wasn't very crowded, although it could be a result of it being a Monday. We saw people windsurfing and para-gliding (?), so there is definitely other stuff you can do.
There isn't much around that area, so you probably want to bring a picnic and some drinks with you. If you feel obligated to do some sightseeing (since Rome seems to be the first stop for a lot of people I know), you can combine this with a visit to Ostia Antica a few stops before C. Colombo. Just make sure you don't go on Mondays. We did, and was promptly turned away by not 1 but 2 staff sitting at the ticket booth. Ostia Antica is one of the participating sights on the Roma Pass.
P.S. I found out from a sign at the lifeguard station that we indeed made it to Castel Porziano, though we did not see the dunes. There is also a naturalist beach in the area, but we did not come across that either.
St Benedict founded the abbey of Montecassino in 529. It was sacked and burned in about 577 by the Longobards, and again around 883 by the Saracens. An earthquake destroyed it in 1349. During World War II, Allied forces were bogged down by German troops, who were well dug in on a defensive line running through the rugged mountains of southern Italy. After months of fruitless attacks, the Allies, thinking that the Abbey was being used by German artillery observers, bombed it. The rubble provided better cover and concealment than the Abbey would have. But there has never been any evidence that the Germans ever had anyone up there.
It's been beautifully and lovingly restored. One can only hope that it does not become necessary again. This is one of the true gems of southern Italy.
It's perched on a hill the offers a commanding view of the entire valley. The entrance cloister is on the site of an ancient Roman temple to Apollo. St Benedict dedicated it to St Martin, Bishop of Tours. Bramante, the next cloister, is named for the Renaissance architect who designed it. It was built in 1595. Fansago designed the 17th century Cathedral, also carefully restored to its original splendor. Finally, lest we forget, take a look at the nearby military cemetery, with the graves of Polish soldiers who died fighting for the Allies in the Italian campaign of World War II.
Visitors are asked to be quiet and respectful, to refrain from flash photography, and to dress conservatively (this is still a functioning monastery). To reach it, follow the traffic signs for the town of Cassino. From Rome or Naples, you can get there by the A1 railway.
If you are staying more days at Rome and want to see the nearby beach and/ or taking a breath in a nearby mediterranean landscape, follow this tip!
Near Rome it is very difficult to walk free in the countryside, because all the fields by the roads are closed by fences. Also the seaside is closed by private holders.
Here a tip to see both seaside and a mediterranean forest:
Take the train to Lido from Porta S. Paolo (Piramide) until Castelfusano or the last station Cristoforo Colombo. The metro ticket is valid until there. At Castelfusano, go out of the station to the left side and cross a bridge to the left side. There you enter a vast park in which once pine trees were planted to grow pignoli (pine nuts). It is an area to walk, and going down from the asphalt way you will breath very fresh air.
Seaside: If you go out from Cristoforo Colombo, you can wait for the 61 to drive further the littoral road. Some way further the non privatised area will begin to walk free to the sea. But if you don' t have so much time, step ahead and enter the Venezia. Before entering the pub/ bistro, go down the left side and find the way between two lions to the beach.
One more green site is the Valle della Cafarella:
Take the busses to Appia Antica, leave the bus at Domine Quo Vadis and step further on the left side. There you will find one of the entrances. The next one would be at St. Urbano.
Nice to visit places are also Albano (by train) and Rocca del Papa (bus 85). For both, the metro tickets are valid.
Ancient tile work takes center stage at Ostica Antica. It's at the last stop on the Black Line of the Roman subway, and a 10 minute walk over the highway onto the grounds. [Don't bother with a horribly overpriced tour. In fact, we, and the tour group, ate in the same (and the only!) restaurant on the grounds. We saw exactly the same things that they saw, and we only paid the subway fare.] Many facets of ancient life remain for us moderns to marvel at, the most enduring of which is the seemingly indestructible tile work. We can tell, from the tilework in photo 4, that it was the floor of the gymnasium. The most striking aspect of strolling around this dead town is the solitude, but not in a morbid sense. It's not loneliness in the modern sense, but the ability to hear yourself think without cars honking, trains screeching, and TV blaring. We "moderns" are so used to letting other people do our thinking for us.
Most people head to Florence, Tivoli and Ostia Antica - and rightfully so. However, if you have been there - done that - many hidden gems are at hand right close to Rome - accessible by car or by comfortable, inexpensive tour busses (i.e. Cotral). Here are my top hidden gems - New pages and tips in each:
- ROCCA DI PAPA - ROCCA DI PAPA one of the towns in the Southern Castelli Romani region - close to Lago Albano - here is where you will see a medieval town and interact with locals.
LAGO BRACCIANO - North of Rome - super castle - enchanting, pristine lake (BarryAir favorite)
CASTEL GANDOLFO - no secret as this is the summer residence of the Pope
RIETI - Norther tip of Regione Lazio - the Sacred Valle of St. Francis - This is where St. Francis spent most time and it remains now as it was 800 years ago - here you can walk the steps of St. Francis - or simply hike among the serenity of nature.
Photo 5 The Sacro Speco is a kind of cave or crevice in the rock, and it marks the place in which Francis retreated in solitude and prayer in order to write the Later Rule. This is the cave where Brother Leo spent much time. Beside the cave is the stump of a tree where Jesus is said to have appeared to Francis and where Francis fasted for forty days and completed the Rule.
These destinations are best seen by car but readily accessible by train and tour bus (inexpensive Cotral is best as they offer many stops and good schedules).