The 12 Best Day Trips From Rome

From medieval cities to volcanic lakes discover la dolce vita outside of the Eternal City.
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©Livia Hengel

Whether you’re a tourist or a local, there is a lot to see beyond the Italian capital—both in Lazio and its neighboring regions. There are dozens of day trips near Rome that offer a great way to decompress from city life. They bring a sense of adventure and offer the opportunity to learn more about regional culture, history, and gastronomy.

I’ve lived in Rome for (almost) my entire life and have had plenty of time to visit the small towns and cities that surround it. These outings are particularly welcomed when the city just feels too chaotic. Below are 12 unique day trips from Rome that are within a two-hour drive of the Eternal City, or accessible by train. Happy exploring!

Castelli Romani

©Livia Hengel

The Castelli Romani are a group of wine-producing hill towns set along the volcanic lakes, Albano and Nemi. Located an hour southeast of Rome, the area has some of the easiest day trips near Rome. There are a number of charming towns to visit in the Castelli Romani: Frascati, Grottaferrata, Rocca di Papa, Castel Gandolfo, Marino, Nemi, Ariccia as well as Genzano di Roma.

Castel Gandolfo is one of the area’s most popular destinations. It is best known for being home to the summer residence of the popes, with landscaped gardens that overlook Lake Albano. Nearby Frascati is well-known for its fraschette, casual eateries that serve porchetta, local cheeses, and a variety of antipasti. Frascati also produces light, dry wines thanks to a tradition that dates back to ancient Rome.

The town of Nemi overlooks the lake it shares a name with and is known for its small, succulent strawberries. Marino is a quaint wine town and is considered to be the beating heart of the Castelli Romani’s wine production. Every October, Marino hosts a four-day Sagra dell’Uva (Grape Festival) which draws a large crowd. The town is decorated with grape vines and holds processions while locals and visitors enjoy local food and wine. On the last day, for one glorious half hour, the town’s fountains spew wine instead of water.

Calcata

Located less than an hour north of Rome, the medieval village of Calcata sits atop a 150-foot-high volcanic stump in the middle of a dense valley. Its natural surroundings lend the village an ethereal, fairytale feel. Each spring, the smell of Jasmine clings to the air while lush vegetation climbs up the sides of ancient buildings. Less than 100 people live in this car-free town, also known as the paese di frichettoni (village of hippies) because it has long been a hotspot for artists and bohemians.

Condemned in the 1930s by the Fascist-era government over fears that the cliffs the city rested upon were eroding, the town was completely abandoned by the 1960s. Its residents had either moved to the newly built Calcata Nuova or to Rome. In the 1960s and 1970s, Italian artists began squatting in the historic center’s abandoned houses and caves, eventually buying the dilapidated buildings and restoring them into homes and thriving artistic businesses.

Today, the ancient town’s winding stone roads are peppered with al fresco cafés, art galleries, and shops. Here, you can find everything from homemade jams and fortune-telling crystal balls to flowing kaftans and local wines.

Monterano

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Sitting atop a tuff plateau within a natural park, the deserted village of Monterano traces its origins back to the Bronze Age. Monterano was a flourishing Etruscan town before the Romans conquered it in the 2nd century BC. All that remains from this period is an aqueduct and a few Etruscan tombs. The town reached the height of its splendor in the Renaissance when much of its architecture was designed by the great Baroque architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Monterano was abandoned shortly after 1799 when a French army sacked the town. They set its buildings on fire, and later a savage outbreak of malaria swept through the population. Today, a few of the town’s structures remain including a fortress, the church of San Bonaventura (which houses a picturesque tree that grows through its center), as well as a Baroque fountain topped with a lion statue. The church and fountain were both designed by Bernini. To arrive, make sure to follow directions for Antica Monterano which will lead you to a small parking lot. From here, look for the trail that takes you through the natural reserve to reach the deserted village.

Giardino di Ninfa

A short drive south of Rome lies one of the most beautiful and romantic gardens in the world. The Giardino di Ninfa—the Garden of the Nymphs—covers 8 hectares (20 acres) that include medieval ruins, meadows, and hundreds of exotic flora and fauna. With crystal-clear streams of fresh water and beautiful flowers everywhere, it certainly lives up to its name. The garden is only open on specific days each year. Plan your visit in the spring during wisteria season to see the grounds at their most beautiful.

Todi

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Umbria is filled with dozens of charming medieval towns, and one of our favorites is Todi. Perched on a hill with a panoramic view of the countryside, the town is known for its main square. Piazza del Popolo is dominated by the 10th-century Todi Cathedral, the 11th-century Palazzo dei Priori, as well as other buildings that make up the town hall.

One of Todi’s most unique attractions is its large network of underground water management systems. These date as far back as the ancient Romans. This underground world of water architecture comprises nearly 2-mile-long water tunnels, cisterns, and wells. Tickets are just €2.

Climb up the 14th-century bell tower of the Church of San Fortunato for an aerial view of Todi and the surrounding valley. The bell tower was originally used as a strategic watchtower for the defense of the city. Additionally, the church of San Fortunato rests upon existing Etruscan and Roman structures. Tickets for the belltower, which only takes 153 steps to reach the top, can be purchased online for €4.

Assisi

©Livia Hengel

The hilltop town of Assisi needs little introduction. Famous for being the birthplace of Saint Francis, the patron saint of animals and the environment, it’s a popular pilgrimage site and one of the most beautiful day trips near Rome. The Basilica di San Francesco is one of the town’s principal attractions. This 13th-century church is unique for its architecture and marvelous frescoes, many of which were painted by Giotto. It also offers panoramic views of the town and the countryside. Nearby, the ancient Roman temple of Minerva is a testament to the town’s ancient roots. It dates back to the reign of Emperor Augustus and it is now part of a Christian church.

Beyond visiting its churches, you should spend some time aimlessly wandering around Asissi’s charming stone streets. You’ll find many small boutiques that sell a variety of rosaries, mosaics, ceramics, and paintings which bear St. Francis’ face. Don’t forget to sample some mostaccioli, a local cookie made from grape must, almonds, honey, orange, and cinnamon.

For an immersive experience in nature, pay a visit to the Lavandeto di Assisi. This lavender field is located just outside the city and features more than 60 species of lavender. Go on a guided tour and or shop for soothing lavender oils in the boutique (or online).

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