All roads might lead to Rome but, thanks to its central location, Italy’s capital is the perfect departure point for day trips in the Lazio region, Tuscany, Campania and Umbria.
It’s easy to see why Rome is known as the Eternal City, with a seemingly limitless itinerary of things to experience. However, while Italy’s capital city has a wealth of art, culture and history, there’s plenty more to explore with many beautiful towns and cities a short direct train ride away. In fact, Italy is tied with China for having the most UNESCO World Heritage sites, with cultural and natural landmarks dotted up and down the country's famous "boot." When in Rome, also make sure you get out of Rome, from coasts to cradles of culture, vineyards to hilltop hideaways. All within 30 mins to 1 hour 30 mins by train.
For a hauntingly beautiful glimpse back in time, head to Cerveteri, only 38 mins by train from Rome. Home to the Necropoli di Banditaccia, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Italy’s greatest Etruscan treasures, these ancient tombs are the only remaining traces of the powerful Estruscan city that once stood there. Venture down one of the many walking trails and take in 400 tombs of this ancient civilization, some dating back to the 9th century BCE.
Florence, the Cradle of the Renaissance, oozes romance and beauty. Reachable by direct train from Rome in just 1 hr 22 mins, Florence’s wealth of art and architecture will fill a day of sightseeing, and then some. From 15th and 16th century palazzi, to fresco-adorned churches and museums bursting with masterpieces, Florence is breathtaking in every way. It’s unsurprising then that the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage site. For a grand finale to your trip, walk up the 2km path from Ponte Vecchio to Piazzale Michelangelo at sunset for dazzling panoramic views of the city dappled in every shade of pink and amber.
Take a 30 mins train ride from Rome to Frascati, one of the capital’s nearby hilltop towns, collectively known as the Castelli Romani. Once a summer playground for noble Romans, Frascati is now known for being a peaceful, green refuge from bustling Rome and a favourite weekend getaway destination for those living in the capital city. Also famed for its villas and viticulture, take in Frascati’s magnificent 17th century homes with a stroll around town and end the day with a glass of the town’s famous white wine.
Naples, just 1 hr 10 mins from Rome, throbs with culture and character. The city’s intense blend of modernity and history both clashes and weaves together in an energetic frenzy quite unlike any other European city. Wander down the Spaccanapoli, a UNESCO World Heritage district, where men play card games in medieval piazzas and pizza havens are hidden beneath crumbling porticos. For a sea breeze, meander down the 3km Lungomare promenade before heading back to Piazza Bellini for a glass of Aglianico. Aside from experiencing its own castles, frescoes and food, Naples is also the perfect springboard to visit the glamorous Amalfi Coast and Pompei.
For an off-the-beaten track adventure, take a direct train from Rome to Terni (50 mins). Known in the 19th century as the “Manchester of Italy,” this former industrial town is now known more for ruins than rivets, with a Roman amphitheatre as one of its highlights. Romantics will enjoy a visit to Terni’s Basilica San Valentino, where the remains of St. Valentine are housed, while nature-lovers will adore hiking and cycling through the Parco Fluviale del Nera, a green haven where the spectacular Marmore Falls takes centre stage.
The hilltop town Tivoli, just 35 mins from Rome, is a true treat for the eyes. Home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites, this former summer retreat for ancient Romans is lusciously green and lovely in every way. For archeological treasures, visit the Villa Adriana, the ruins of Hadrian’s sprawling country estate built between AD 118 and 138. For eye-boggling botanics, don’t miss the 16th century Villa d’Este, and its surrounding gardens. With its fountains, grottos, cascades and ornamental decorations, the Villa d’Este gardens are not only one of the first and finest examples of a giardino delle meraviglie (garden of wonder), they are also one of the most impressive Renaissance gardens in the world.
Image credits top to bottom: Charming narrow streets of Florence iStock ©baratroli, Sunset over Florence at Piazza Michelangelo by Jiuguang Wang reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons 2.0 SA licence, Streets of Naples iStock ©javarman3, Villa d'Este fountains, Tivoli iStock ©rgbdave
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London is one of Europe's top places for a city break, but there is lots to do beyond the capital. Thanks to its location in the south of England and good rail links, you are spoiled for choice for day trips from London by train.