The beauty of Rome is well known, but so are not the many villages and realities in its surroundings, forgotten by tourists and obscured by the brightness of the Italian Capital. I want to give these off the beaten path places all the attention they deserve as there are several possibilities to choose a perfect day escape from the bustling city of Rome. You can go hiking, dig deep into archeology or to relax at the beach, I'm sure you'll find the option that best suits you. And if you have a camera with you, you'll find plenty of subjects to show to your friends back home, no need to be a professional travel photographer!
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Off the Beaten Path, Near Rome
Calcata is one of my favorite places around Rome: not only is it set in a scenic environment, standing over a cliff made of volcanic rock surrounded by green forests, but it houses an alternative lifesty community of artists that took possession of the village. Not long ago in fact, this place was almost abandoned, because of stability issues and risk of collapses. Starting from 1960, some artists began to first squat and then began to buy and restore the properties in the historical center, bringing it to its actual glory.
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There is nothing in particular that I can suggest to visit in Calcata, it's more about the experience: getting lost in its winding streets and alleys and entering in every single atelier. Nowadays the village is quite popular, the more strict would define it “commercial” so, if you want to experience the real spirit of Calcata, you better don't go there during holidays when it's packed with people.
Tivoli: Villa d'Este
The town of Tivoli is just 30 km far from Rome and easily reachable by bus or train for the price of a Cappuccino. You'll be amazed of so much beauty concentrated in a small town: the natural park of Villa Gregoriana, the Renaissance style Villa d'Este with its garden, and the ruins of the rural retreat of the Emperor Adriano, Villa Adriana. Tivoli is also famous for its thermal baths: the smell of its sulfurous water is so strong that sometimes it's perceivable even from Rome.
Villa d'Este was build during the 16th century for the famous and wealthy family of “Este” and its mansion and gardens are part of the UNESCO world heritage list.
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The garden will make you drop your jaws: it is decorated with a series of allegorical fountains, cascades and pools, with up to 100 water sprays in the same tank. The big amount of water required is naturally supplied by the river “Aniene” without the use of any mechanical pump. The garden is built over a slope, thanks to the use of several terraces, overlooking the city of Rome.
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Tivoli: Villa Gregoriana
Compared to Villa d'Este, Villa Gregoriana has a much more natural taste: a luxurious vegetation is growing on the steep slopes going down into the valley. It owes its existence to the river Aniene that was passing too close to the town, before falling down with a fall of 130 m. The river was the cause of several floods, and that's why Pope Gregorious 16th, that gave the name to the park, ordered during the 19th century to modify the track of the river, and with it the park itself, transformed into one of the best example of “romantic garden”.
Eventually Villa Gregoriana sunk into oblivion for long time, until it was restored, brought to its original splendor and reopened less than 10 years ago. On top of the park it's still possible to see the ancient ruins of the temples from the Roman Acropolis.
Rome is definitely not famous for his beaches and (non) crystalline water. During summer, local inhabitants invade the closest beaches of Ostia, about 30 km away. But if you are craving for a deep into the sea to refresh from the 40°C temperatures, a good option is to go a little bit further to the town of Anzio. Here you will find a nicer setting with small cliffs, caves and plenty of Roman ruins directly on the beach. After the beach is over, two possibilities for a nice stroll are the center of the City, famous for its fish economy, or even better the WWF nature reserve of “Tor Caldara”, about 8 km far away from Anzio.
Genzano is a little town on the edge of a volcanic lake called “Lago di Nemi”. It has a nice small historical center with tiny alleys and cobbled streets, a massive palace from 18th century and a beautiful view over the lake. But the main reason why you want to go there is the “Infiorata di Genzano”. It's a religious event happening every year during Corpus Domini celebration, in June, and lasting from Saturday to Monday. Its peculiarity is that one of the main street of the town is covered with 13 carpets of flowers representing religious or civil scenes. During the last day the event is ending with a parade in traditional costumes, after which kids are allowed to destroy the carpets, and starting a petal fight!
Lago della Duchessa
Literally the “Lake of the Duchess”, it is a popular destination to go hiking not too far from Rome. It's a mountain lake at an altitude of 1788 meters above sea level, settled in a protected area that can be visited hiking during the warm season, or with snow shoes in winter. It's an easy hike suitable also for not too experienced hikers.
Lago del Turano
It's an artificial lake, built in 1939 as a reservoir for a hydroelectric plant. It's a good destination for a summer day trip, sunbathing and relaxing on its shores, probably the best choice for lazy people. Not to be missed a visit to the scenic villages of Castel di Tora and Colle di Tora, with small alleys and terraces from where it's opening a beautiful view over the lake.
A smaller Pompei, but in proximity of Rome, that was used as a seaport during Roman times. First colony of the Roman Empire, it was an important commercial and port center that reached, during its biggest expansion, a population of 75 000 inhabitants. Nowadays the sea moved forward, and it now lies 3 km far from it, on the Tiber river. It's very well preserved and it's still possible to see many residences and public buildings: thermal bath, amphitheater, gym and forum, as an example. But what left me more impressed where the beautiful mosaics decorating the floors of the city, so you better walk looking at your feet!
From Allumiere, taking its name from the potassium-alum extracted in the local mines, is starting another easy hike: a good option for a one day break from the chaotic city. It is prevalently a flat track following a dismissed railway, blocked in 1961 by a landslide. The rails have been removed, but it's impossible to get lost just following the trail. It's a good hike through nature and a way to experience an unusual path: while walking in fact you'll see abandoned train stations, you'll pass through a tunnel with a peculiar micro-climate and fauna, and walk over a big metal bridge. If you are planning to reach Allumiere by public transportation, it's possible to start from one end and reach the other end, otherwise it's better to go back in Allumiere.
Being a flat route, it's also a good option for cyclists, that can follow the whole abandoned railway track, that in this case is starting in Monteromano, and ending after about 50km in Civitavecchia.
Even if in Rome everything is talking about the Roman Empire, there were populations established in the area way before the venue of Rome. One of the most important is the Etruscan civilization, active in the north of Latium and in the south of Tuscany.
In Cerveteri it's possible to visit the UNESCO site of the Necropolis of the Banditaccia, a complex of over 1000 tombs, built starting from 9th century BC using the local volcanic rock called “tuff”.
Many of the graves are mound shaped, and some are continuing underground, built over several levels. The jewel of the Necropolis is the Tomb of the Reliefs, built in the 3rd century BC, decorated with interesting frescoes depicting contemporary life.
A 3D video, that is part of the visit, is giving interesting visual and historical information about the place and the Etruscan population.
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Davide Vadalà is a travel blogger from Rome, that loves to explore the world through the lens of his camera. He dreams to become a professional travel photographer, and help people to love and protect our planet. He just finished an amazing travel around Europe without flying for 954 days, and he is getting ready for his next adventure! You can follow him at his travel blog and connect with him in Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
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