Outside Rome, Rome
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.
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! ***
Take the time to go to Ostia Antica, the harbour city of ancient Rome, said to be originating as far back as 7th century BC. It is a nice day-tour with so much beautiful to experience!
Be sure not to be in a hurry, we were strolling the area for hours, bringing a picnic. There are so many fascinating details, remarkable frescoes and individual decorations, mosaics and old inscriptions and inspiring messages from the past such as "As long as ye are thirsty, drink from the bowl." We brought our own bowls but were not late to follow the instructions.
The city has gone through a lot and it is fascinating to follow the everyday life through the remnants: visit old shops , temples and and baths with wonderful mosaics in black and white.
Being a harbour, Ostia used to be situatied by the sea, at the mouth of the Tiber, about 30 km west from Rome. Today, the sea has withdrawn three kilometres. Rome´s closest beach, Ostia-Lido lies there today (continue furter on the train-line to get to the ocean-breeze). The sea may be gone somewhere else, but Ostia stays.
Take the Metro to station Piramide. Go up the escalator, turn left and take the stairs down to the Roma-Lido station. Exit at Ostia-Antica. A normal metro ticket should take you all the way.
Entrance fee about 7 €
You could seriously overdose on a daily regime of beautiful buildings and crowds in Rome. With a week in the city at our disposal, we decided we'd take a day out, admittedly for more sightseeing, and one of Italy's major ancient sites at that but in a completely different environment - the Bay of Naples and the extraordinary excavations at Herculaneum - the town that was drowned in an horrific river of hot gas, ash and rock that slowly filled the place from the ground up, entombing it in a completely different manner from Pompeii, where ash and debris rained down on the town from above.
Pompeii is justly famous, it's a fascinating site, and receives a constant flood of visitors but Herculaneum, which is actually better preserved and offers a far more complete picture of a Roman town, attracts a trickle in comparison. Certainly the day we were there, the number of fellow-tourists couldn't have been more than thirty or forty in the whole time we were there.
Naples is an hour and a half from Rome by train. To get to Herculaneum takes another 20 minutes via the Circumvesuviana line, getting off at Ercolano Scavi station. From the station it's a 10 minute walk straight down the hill to the site.
The approach to the entrance brings you high above the site and around two sides of it for a wonderful birds-eye view before you even enter. Once you've made your way into the site itself, you really feel you've have stepped back in time as you walk the streets, enter house after house, baths, shops, the forum, the cisterns and more. The way the town was inundated has left buildings in an amazing state - some two stories high, roofs intact, door and structural timbers carbonised, metal window grills still in place.
I'm not even going to try to give more information here - the web-site below will give you a fantastic overview of the site. Hopefully, it, and the bit I've written here, will give you both an idea of the site and the desire to go and see it for yourself.
The excavations are not as extensive as those at Pompeii, you can easily see the whole site in the time at your disposal on a trip from Rome such as ours. Check the Trenitalia timetable here for train times. It's a good idea to buy your train tickets a day or two in advance. You can do this from self-service ticket machines at Termini station.
Fortunately there are several cafes between the station and the scavi - that downhill walk to the site might be a pleasant stroll - uphill on the way back definitely calls for a refreshment stop along the way.
Villa Adriana is very near to the hilltop town of Tivoli. It is a vast retirement home for the Emperor Hadrian, who was a cultured Roman and great collector of Greek art.
The Villa is more like a small town. It will take you a long time to explore it. Unfortunately that meant I ran out of time to explore Tivoli and the famous (Renaissance) Villa d'Este.
Villa Adriana is described in the guidebooks as 'romantic' but I would describe some of it as spooky. Full of ghosts! Very tranquil.
Some of the ruined buildings are big enough to climb up to the upper floors.
Watch out for the large underground passageway (cryptoporticus) which has been a destination for tourists for at least 600 years - you can see the graffiti written by very famous people (and me to *wink*) on the walls and ceiling!
At the very opposite end from the entrance is the tranquil 'water feature', the Canopus, is an exact copy of a famous Greek work of architecture.
There is a gift shop at the entrance. They sell guides and books on the Villa.
I caught a bus towards Tivoli from Rome's main bus station. Villa Adrian is about 40km east of Rome. Get off the bus about 1km before Tivoli, at the bottom of the hill. Ask the bus driver to stop there for you!
About 30 miles South of Rome & 2 miles from Anzio Beach Invasion on the northern edge of the town of Nettuno, Italy, you will find The American Cemetery & Memorial. This Memorial & Cemetery honor those killed in the liberation of Italy during the World War II This cemetery is also called Sicily-Rome American Cemetery at Nettuno.
Allan & I visited here one grey & misty morning & were visibly "moved" by this tribute. The allies (mostly American) came by sea to Anzio Beach on January 22, 1943 to liberate Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, Nettuno, & Rome from the Nazi German Military.
It was a bloody battle; sacrifices were many. This cemetery & memorial pay tribute with 7,862 white marble crosses & Stars of David which serve as grave markers.
Sadly, 488 of these crosses & Stars of David are for unknown service members.
Most of these young men died before their 20th birthday!
In the Chapel at the center of the cemetery, there are 3,095 names of missing service members from this general area. Their names are carved into the walls of this chapel.
It is indeed a sobering experience to see row after row of crosses & stars & then to touch the engraved names of so many young men whose lives had hardly even begun.
It was a poignant moment that left us with admiration for my own father who served in this war & gave us a renewed respect for that special generation.
A simple bronze plaque reads:
"1941-1945 In proud remembrance of the achievements of her sons, and in humble tribute to their sacrifices, this memorial has been erected by the United States of America".
Just recently (2004), Egyptians were arrested near Rome because it was found that they planned to attack the American Cemetery & Memorial in Anzio/Nettuno among other high profile places nearby. They wanted to make a statement against the American military. How very sad.
Note:Panoramic photographs of the cemetery & chapel; therefore, please CLICK on the photographs.
This villa was commissioned by Ippolito d' Este; son of Lucrezia Borgia in the late 1500. It is listed as UNESCO world heritage site.
Its interiors are decorated with beautiful frescoes, but this place is mostly known for the gardens. These have five hundred fountains, built in various shapes. Some of these are activated during the day. Check the time at the entrance. The gardens are dotted with notice boards with historical information about the fountains.
Inside Villa d' Este there is a room where you can watch a video about the villa and the gardens before your visit; toilets, a self service cafe and a museum shop.
Villa d' Este is open daily; from 9 a.m. until one hour before sunset. It is closed on mondays.
This villa is situated in the center of Tivoli; some 32 km. east of Rome. You can go to that town by direct bus from via Tiburtina, in Rome.
For a spa experience sililar to that beloved of the ancient Romans, head out of Rome to the Terme dei Papi in Viterbo. There you benefit from water of nearby springs famed for their healing properties. Treatments are numerous and non-gimmicky, and the spa's piece de resistance is a spectacular grotto carved out of the rock which forms a natural sauna.
Best for those who want to make at least a day of it: the spa is situated out of Rome, offering a real get-away-from-it-all experience. It's not the place for a quick facial between shopping and sightseeing. Book treatments individually, or choose one of the spa's programs, which last up to a week, for serious pampering. Also recommended for those with nagging aches and pains - expert masseurs will sooth them away.
A shuttle bus service runs Mon-Sat between Piazza Mancini in Rome and Terme dei Papi. Buses leave Rome at 8:30 a.m. and depart from Terme at 1:15 p.m. - phone in advance to book a seat Euro 8. By car, tak Via Cassia - Orte exit.
Termi dei Papi, Strada Bagni, 12 - Viterbo.
Ostia Antica Scavi (= the excavations, because there is also a medieval village and the "new" Traian harbour to see) is a surprise: it is quite a good and rich ancient site, less famous than Pompei or Ercolano, but you can easily "read" its roads, its houses, its blocks, its shops... You can nearly feel like living in Roman age...
Just walk along a 2400 years old road....
To go there (about 20 km, near the sea) you can just take metro B to Piramide, and than jump on a train of the Ostiense line: all with the same metro ticket. Stop at Ostia Scavi and cross the walking bridge.
The pictures were taken in december (ok, not exactly high season) but the place was really empty in the morning... To stroll around nearly alone is a big plus
Update: If you are a Google Earth user (if not consider, it... it's a real useful toy for travellers) you may find here some
Google earth landmarks on Ostia Antica: click on the file after having installed the google earth software, and you will be macigally walking across the ancient Ostia!
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).
We rented a car in Rome and drove to Lago Di Bracciano to see the Italian Air Force Museum. The price was free and the collection fantastic! The museum is right on the shoreline of the lake making it accessable to sea planes. Its about 30 miles north of Rome and be sure to tour the castle just up the shorline from the Museum.
Ostia Antica is 26km southwest of Rome and is Romes ancient seaport. Take the Metro Line B from Stazione Termini to the Magliana stop. Change here for the Lido train to Ostia Antica. The trip takes about 20 minutes. The Metro lets you off across the highway that connects Rome with the coast. It's just a short walk to the excavations. You can see all of the typical Roman ruins here including a great ampi-theatre. There is also a very nice beach to sun yourself on.
Imagine a quiet Italian hilltop village about an hour from Rome that's been taken over by hippies. This town may not be the most visited or well-known excursion out of Rome (such as Ostia Antica, Viterbo, Assisi) but maybe it should be. I found out about this place after havng read in article in NY Times. So when we went to Rome a few months later, I mentioned that I'd like to see the town to the guy we rented our flat from. He was so amazed we even knew about the place he actually drove us up there one night. During the week, it's an enchanting ghost town, where you'll see maybe a cat or the occasional local (likely barefooted in a sarong). On the weekends, the arts and craft shops come alive as Romans head to the hills to buy some funky Calcatan art. The views are really nice, as the town itself is perched on a cliff. All of the village houses have caves underneath of them so it makes for an interesting experience when visiting the local restaurant, butiques. The town square is also interesting....the Church Clock no longer functions...so it's as if time stands still here. Also, there are signs of modern art, placed amongst the oldness of the village (a Jimi Hendrix painting on a building, concrete modern chairs in the square). It's a really nice, relaxed deviation from the noise and vastness of Rome. The history of the place and how the hippies arrived is also very interesting.
Take Metro to Piazzale Flaminio. Outside the square is a train station (Ferrovia Roma Nord) for urban/extra-urban trains. Take train to Saxa Rubra (direction Prima Porta). Tickets can be purchased from the machines or the tabaccaio inside the station. After you get off at Saxa Rubra, you go to bus terminal (COTRAL Pullman), buy ticket in office and go to platform #2 (ask to be sure). Bus goes in direction Civita Castellana (ask to make sure it stops in Calcata).
The emporor Hadrian's Villa is located near Tivoli, about an hour outside Rome. The whole villa is very well preserved. You can wander around all day, in and out of buildings almost 2000 years old. This place is also not too crowded by tourists. At times you can find yourself all alone surrounded by Roman history.
Too hot in Rome? most people will head to the seaside in Ostia, but if you want my humble opinion that's nothing to die for.
The lakes are a much better choice instead.There's plenty of them within 1h drive from Rome, and almost all of them make for a special and quite unique (if quieter) swimming and sunbathing venue.
The largest lake is Bolsena, but that's a bit far away for a day trip, so I recommend Bracciano to the North and Albano to the South.
Nemi and Martignano are much less known and harder to get to, but will pay back with excellent views.
All the lakes lie in former volcano craters, andh thus are of almost circular shape. No danger now, as all these volcanos are long extinct.
See also my travel pages for Bracciano, linked below.