Exploring Rome can take a lifetime, but if you can carve out time to see what lies just beyond the city, here are some easy day trips from the Eternal City. You can reach most by train or bus, as well as by car and private driver, see suggestions at the end.
Ostia Antica, Ancient Ostia, gives you a chance to see the ruins of a 2000-year old Roman city that is one of the best examples of what ancient Rome must have looked like. Much of the ancient city has yet to be excavated but visitors can enjoy a less touristy atmosphere than at the Roman ruins within the city. Read a nice overview from Rick Steves. Ramble about Ostia’s Roman amphitheater and adjacent city ruins that, in many ways, is a good alternative to a much longer trip to Pompeii.
The Etruscan Necropoli of Cerveteri and Tarquinia. You can’t go to Rome without learning about the fascinating Etruscans, an amazingly sophisticated society that was the predominant civilization in the Italian Peninsula from about 800-300bc. (Guess where the name for the region Tuscany came from?) The Etruscans preceded the Latin/Roman civilization and passed on to Rome the alphabet and art that they had learned from the Greeks while they traded throughout the Mediterranean. They even invented the arch used so well by the Romans. The necropoli, UNESCO World Heritage sites of these two “cities of the dead” consist of “towns” of house-shaped tombs in Cerveteri and underground tombs in Tarquinia depicting the deceased partying in the afterlife. Visit the museums in the towns of Cerveteri and Tarquinia for displays of the wonderful art and relics from the tombs.
Villa d’Este in Tivoli (not to be confused with the Villa d’Este hotel in Lake Como or the Tivoli park in Copenhagen) is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The gorgeous gardens and spectacular water fountains were created during the Renaissance. More details in Italy Perfect February 2016 blog.
The small city of Viterbo is a medieval city rich with architecture and art. If you’re hankering to see a bit of the countryside and a more mellow-paced medieval town, put Viterbo on your list. It is somewhat undiscovered as a tourist destination that offers a bite-sized experience for the day as well as some excellent restaurants for a relaxing lunch. The city center survived WWII bombing and remains a charming experience. The famous Palace of the Popes is where the popes escaped to for 24 years in the 1200s due political opposition and violence in Rome.
To reach all of these there are train and bus options, easy to check online. You may find a small group tour or a private car and driver both convenient and a good value in terms of time, convenience and if you are more than just one or two people. Here are some resources:
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