Everyone has heard of Naples and the Amalfi Coast but few seem to know about one of my favorite islands there, the picturesque island of Procida.
Procida is part of the Flegrean island chain in the Gulf of Naples, and sits just behind Ischia. Exquisitely beautiful and relatively untouched, Procida is one of the 10 most colorful places on earth.
Luckily the island is off the main tourist radar and hasn’t been ruined by mass tourism. It is mostly a weekend getaway for the people of Naples, which is just 40 minutes away. Many of the homes on the island belong to Napolitans. With the exception of August (Europe’s summer vacation month), for the most part if you are coming Monday through Friday the island isn’t too busy.
On January 18th 2021 the island was named Italy’s Cultural Capital for 2022.
Procida is tiny. It only measures 4 square kilometers, its longest stretch of coastline is a mere 16 kilometers long. Its highest point, Terra Murata is only 91 meters high.
Unless coming by private boat you arrive into Marina Grande, famous for its lively and vibrantly painted pastel houses. The same color scheme is visable on the opposite side of the island, with the houses painted in bright colors so fishermen can see their homes from far away.
The houses along the marina have a tall archway on the ground floor to store the family’s boat during the winter months, and an outdoor staircase gives access to the upper floor, saving interior space.
The main square along from the marina is home to the incredibly pretty Santa Maria della Pieta church. Built in 1624 and notable for the clock on all four sides of the tower, the lemon and white church is one of the islands most recognizable landmarks.
The body of the island is made up of a web of very narrow streets. Locals come whizzing through on vespas and the occasional 3 wheeled ape. Everywhere you look you are surrounded by vibrant, pretty colors.
Because the island is so little you can easily see a lot in one day. The walk from Marina Grande (where you arrive) to Marina Corricella on the opposite side only takes a few minutes.
The crossroads between the villages of Marina Grande, Marina Corricella and Terra Murata meet in a piazza known as the Terrace of Procida, (Semmarezio, la terrazza di Procida) also known as Martyrs Square. The terrace is anchored by another lovely yellow church, this time the baroque Santa Maria della Grazie, built back in 1679. From here you can turn left and wander up to the Terra Murata with the fortress, Palazzo d’Avalos and another church with an amazing view, Santa Margherita Nuova. Palazzo d’ Avalos was built in 1500 for the d’Avalos family who ran Procida until around 1700. In 1830 the palace became a prison, up until 1988. You can visit and take tours but need to book ahead online.
Alternatively you can turn right and weave your way down the hill to he lovely little Marina Corricella, passing houses and clothes hanging out to dry along the way. Corricella is the oldest part of the island.
Marina Corricella is a working fishing marina. On the hill above you can se the fortress and at the end the church of Santa Margherita Nova. Not only is the waterfront punctuated with colorful fishing boats but you also see piles of fishing nets drying in the sun.
This stretch of the marina is full of fabulous little eateries. The food is excellent and very inexpensive. The movie Il Postino was shot here, and you can sit out under the umbrellas and take in the views from the movie while you eat.
Portions are huge, so beware when you order. This seafood platter was an antipasti for one, but fed 3 of us. I think we paid about 10 euros.
There are several beaches to choose from. There are a couple at the tip of Marina Grande, but you have to figure all the detritus from the ferry and the hydrofoil is also floating in that water.
The most popular beach is probably Chaia beach, a long sand tongue further along from Marina Corricella. You can reach it by sea or by foot. From piazza Olmo you duck down an alley and then take 186 steps to the sand, earning yourself a gelato when you get back! From the beach you can look back to Terra Murata at the other end and the marina below. There is a restaurant and a bar at the far end of the beach. You can take the C1 and C2 buses to and from Piazza Olmo
Chiaiolella and Ciraccio Beaches
This is a gorgeous beach at the far end of the island, shortly before the causeway to Vivara island. It is separated by two huge tuff rocks from another beach, Spiaggia Ciraccio. Prior to a landslide they were one single long stretch of beach.
Behind Chiaiolella beach is the Marina Chiaiolella. There are 3 hotels and 2 restaurants, and this is the marina used by most private craft coming in from Naples. You can use the L1 and L2 buses to get to and from Chiaiolella.
Pozzo Vecchio Beach
Also know as Postman’s Beach or Il Postino, this is the beach used in the movie. This horseshoe shaped beach has both private and public sections, and due to its position and typography is known also to have incredibly blue water. As with Chiaiolella beach it gets non stop sunshine all day. It is on the west side of Procida and can be reached with the C1 bus.
When you arrive on the island take a few minutes to stop for un caffe and una lingua di procida. These “tongue” shaped pastries are light and fluffy and are filled with a custard cream made from Procida lemons. This is definitely not to be missed! See more here at NoChef.it.
Every restaurant offers endless seafood. Everything is caught fresh that morning and I have never had anything that is less than outstanding.
Also not to be missed, anything made with Procida lemons. Try the fresh and light summery lemon pasta made with fresh mint, lemon zest and a little chili pepper (it’s unbelievably good!) and be sure to try the famous Procida Lemon salad pictured above. Procida lemons have a particularly thick pith under a very sheer rind. This thick white mass is known locally as lemon bread due to its texture. The salad is prepared with lemon slices that have softened in a coolwater bath before being mixed with fresh mint, garlic, pepperoncino and local olive oil. It is out of this world.
Procida is a lovely day trip from Naples and is a great place to not only escape the tourist crowds but to also absorb some authentic Italy. There are a few small hotels on the island as well as some airbnb’s, should you fall in love with the island and never want to leave! (or if you want to plan ahead and stay for a few days.) Procida is very close to Ischia, so you can combine the two islands over the course of a few days vacation.
Getting there: From the Beverello port in Naples you take the hydrofoil to Procida. It takes about 40 minutes and costs 15 euros.
Want to know about more fabulous places to visit in Italy? Join my private members newsletter for a monthly email about a secret place you’ll want to add to your itinerary! You can join the newsletter HERE
If you are planning a trip to Campania chances are you are just thinking about Capri and the Amalfi Coast, and maybe a quick jaunt into Naples. Problem is, these are the places that everyone goes to, which means the crowds can be brain-bendingly overwhelming.
There is much, much more to see and do in Campania than just the big tourist spots. Whether you want to take a half day or day to do something different, or whether you may want to add an extra few days to your Amalfi Coast trip, here are 8 places to consider when planning your trip to the Amalfi Coast.
Be sure to read to the end as you probably haven’t heard of 6 through 8!
If you enjoy visiting European palaces this one is a must see.
Built to rival Versailles, Caserta is the largest palace in all of Europe. Like
Versailles it is a gaudy display of too much gold, over the top frescoes and somewhat
crass excess, all of which make it completely fantastic!
Rent a bike and explore the beauty of the garden and fountains
which extend 3.5 kilometers in front of the palace, have lunch in the café and
explore the royal apartments.
One thing I learned while there was how fascinating Marie Carolina was. Her well known sister Marie Antoinette gets all the attention, but Marie Carolina was a tremendous character, much, much more interesting. This was her palace and her story unfolds throughout the royal apartments.
The palace at Caserta is a quick and easy train ride from either Naples or Salerno.
2. POMPEII, HERULANEUM AND OPLONTIS
While in the area of Naples and the Amalfi Coast take a morning to visit the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum and Oplontis
If you are not familiar with these incredible sites these are the ruins of three towns taken out by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The towns vanished from the face of the earth for 1700 years.
Over the centuries when people tried to find the fabled Pompeii they looked along the coast line, as it had been a port city but the eruption of the volcano moved the ocean 2 kilometers out to sea. Pompeii was discovered in the 18th century when a farmer inland had been digging for a new well.
Pompeii is Italy’s most unique archaeological site, its 109
excavated acres giving us a snapshot of 1st century Roman life.
I recommend visiting in the morning at opening time (8:30am)
as for much of the year Pompeii gets overwhelmingly hot. Be sure to wear good
walking shoes and a hat and bring a water bottle to refil at the fountains
staggered around the site.
I suggest doing Pompeii first as this will give you insight into the life of 1st century Romans, their social structure, the absolute genius of their technological innovations, and the devastation caused by the eruption.
Herculaneum/Ercolano is only 3 stops away on the local train (the Circumvesuviana) and makes an incredible second excavation to visit.
After seeing the destruction of Pompeii, much of which was crushed down to one level, Herculaneum lets you experience the multi storied homes replete with their red Pompeii style frescoes. Resplendent in its own right, this site is jarring also because it gives you greater insight into the way Pompeii would have looked up until the day the volcano blew.
Herculaneum is about 1//3 of the size of Pompeii, and rather
than being an important merchant port city was a luxury resort town for wealthy
Romans, so features more elegant villas than commercial buildings.
The caves at the beach level are filed with skeletons. When Vesuvius erupted the people of Herculaneum were certain rescuers would come by sea, so the women and children were waiting in the safety of the caves while the men waited on the beach.
Unfortunately for all of them a pyroclastic current of trapped gases at a heat of more than 500 degrees Fahrenheit (and up to 900 degrees) blew their way, instantly vaporizing their bodies.
Their instant death meant they were in fact luckier than their neighbors in Pompeii who suffocated and in many cases took multiple hours to die.
From the 1st century B.C Oplontis was a super
elegant suburb of Pompeii where the uber-wealthy had their country villas. As
with Pompeii it disappeared for 17 centuries and was only rediscovered in the
18th century. There is just one villa is open to the public, but it
is spectacular and well worth the visit.
Poppea Sabina was Emperor Nero’s second wife. This is thought
to be her villa due to an amphora with the name of her freedman and a vase with
her mark on it being found on the grounds.
This is actually the largest Roman suburban villa ever
discovered and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, largely due to
the sensational frescoes. This villa is enormous, with large portico opening to gardens lined with
statues, a swimming pool, loads of rooms, passageways and cubicle as well as a
kitchen still recognizeable.
One of the most extraordinary features of the villa is the wealth of frescoes and mosaics all remaining in situ rather than having been carted off to a museum somewhere.
Interestingly there is no sign of life here at the time of the
eruption. Some of the statues were found on a storeroom, suggesting that
perhaps the villa had been closed up for renovations after the earthquake of 62
An alternative to the frequently overcrowded and always
expensive island of Capri is the delicious little island of Procida. Almost
completely off the tourist radar this one is a weekend getaway for the people
of Naples, but with the exception of August the streets are delightfully empty.
So try to come here on a weekday if possible.
Procida is one of the most colorful places on earth. As you
arrive into its little harbor your eyes don’t know where to land – all the
fishermen’s homes lining the seafront are painted in bright pastel hues, the
sunshine sparkles off the sea, which like the sky is a completely impossible
shade of blue. Procida is visually stunning.
This tiny island is part of the Flegrean island chain, off the
coast of Naples. The island is between Capo Miseno and Ischia, and occupies a
mere 4.1 square miles. Its history dates back as far as the 16th century BC with Mycenaean objects having been discovered there, although the
first known settlers were Greeks in the 8th century BC.
More than 30 movies have been filmed here including Il Postino
and the Talented Mr. Ripley.
If you take a day trip to Procida be sure to wander the waterfront
and the streets of the Marina Grande, then head over to the back side of the
island. Walk along sun-bleached little streets (but watch out for vespas
zipping around) and head to Marina Corricella for lunch. This darling fishing
village was one of the locations in Il Postino.
A variety of eateries line the waterfront, picturesque with
fishing boats bobbing at their moorings, fishing nets lying out to dry and
colorful buildings all around. Lunch here is authentic, inexpensive and
wonderful. I recommend having a long, leisurely lunch with a view, then having
a swim before heading back to the mainland.
Procida is easily accessible by hydrofoil from Naples.
Another absolute treasure lies at the bottom end of the Amalfi
Coast, the lovely medieval town of Salerno. Not only a wonderful place to take
a day trip to, Salerno is also a tremendous place to base your Amalfi Coast
With train access (including the high speed AV trains) you can
move around much more easily than if you are staying in any of the towns along
the coast road, yet still have ferry access to the entire coast and Capri.
The crowds, tour buses and cruise ship travelers don’t come here, (well, maybe a few small cruise ships do, but not the monsters that invade the rest of the coast)so you can wander around freely, enjoying the beauty, the history, the ambience.
If you stay in Salerno the local nightlife is infectious.
Everyone comes out at night to enjoy a glass of wine and see friends in the
cafes and bars dotted around the piazzas and the picturesque little streets.
The restaurants are fabulous – I love evenings in Salerno.
Along with the castle, the Duomo, the medical school (the first in Italy, it dates back centuries) and the medieval town center, another benefit to staying or visiting Salerno is that it is the gateway to the beautiful Cilento region.
Only 30 km or so south of Salerno you will find one of the
coolest and most un-touristed places you have never heard of, the Greek temples
The 8 best preserved Greek temples in the world are in
Southern Italy. Five of them are in Sicily, the other 3 are here in the former
town of Poseidonia, now known as Paestum.
2500 years ago this was part of Magna Grecia. Greece sent its
young men out to discover and conquer new land. Southern Italy and Sicily were
hot favorites, benefitting from amongst other things, incredible Greek
architecture. Be warned that these three temples are breathtaking.
I love arriving by car (you can also get here by train)
because as you drive through the countryside surrounded by open fields and buffalo
mozzarella farms, these 3 giant temples erupt up out of nowhere. And they are truly
Built in 550 B.C, 500 B.C and 480 B.C the temples of Hera, Athena and Hera II are in unbelievably good condition.
Also still in place are a heroon, a pool and various other
structure dating back to the Greeks.
The temples are surrounded by the remnants of a Roman town.
Romans loved Greek architecture so instead of pulling it down opted to build
around it. Roman roads, houses and apartment buildings can still be seen here.
If you have been to Pompeii and understand the layout of a Roman home, you will
appreciate being able to walk inside the ruins and identify the front and back
doors, the views from the homes as well as their layouts.
As if that weren’t enough, the cats eyes and mosaic floors are
still intact. Not a cigarette butt, coke can or McDonald’s wrapper inn sight –
it is all just here for you to enjoy.
If at all possible try to be here at sunset – it is just unbelievably beautiful. Also noteworthy are the famous roses that bloom here in the spring, famous since antiquity, bathing the temples in their gorgeous perfume and draping the area in even more beauty.
If you enjoy seeing really ancient sites and are in the area,
not too far south of Paestum there is another treasure, the town of Velia.
Velia (originally named Elea) was founded around 540 B.C by
Phoenicians from Corsica who fled the island after a brutal battle with the
Etruscans ad Carthaginians. The town had a long period of economic prosperity
as well as being an important cultural center. Home to philosophers such as
Parmenides who founded the Philosophical School of Elea in the 6th century B.C, and Zeno, who was around in the 5th century B.C
The Romans took over in 88 B.C. The citizens of Elea were
recognized as Romans but were allowed to maintain their Greek language and
Things to see here include the monumental Porta Rosa gate.
Dating back to the 4th century B.C it is thought to be one of the
only intact monuments of the ancient world. It is perfectly preserved too, cut
blocks of volcanic tufa perfectly placed together without the use of lime to
hold them in place, reaching a height of 6 meters. Interestingly it is the only
example of a rounded arch in Greek architecture to be found in Italy.
The gate leads to an ancient road and paved steps that take
you down to one of the town’s 2 ports.
In the other direction from Porta Rosa there are 2nd century Roman baths, and a lovely town square.
The acropolis has a medieval church sitting atop a Greek
temple, and just below it a small theater dating back to the 3rd century B.C.
Also to be seen here are remains of ancient homes and frescoed buildings.
7. BADIA SANTA MARIA DI PATTANO
Not far from Velia you can find the best preserved
Italo-Albanian monastery in Southern Italy, the Badia Santa Maria di Pattano.
Although the first known mention of this site was in a document dated to 933
A.D it is thought to be much older.
The complex is noteworthy for its church of Santa Maria, an
example of Angevin architecture with polygonal apses and ribbed groin vaults.
The bell tower is one of the most ancient Early Middle Ages bell towers in
Southern Italy. Standing 15 meters tall it may have been built in stages,
because it has 5 different decorations, making it fascinating from an artistic
point of view.
The Church of San Fidelfo was built on top of Roman ruins. (A thermal structure can be seen under a glass floor.)
The interior walls are decorated with some amazing Byzantine frescoes, in my opinion, alone they make the trip worth while.
8. THE CILENTO COAST
If you are not one for stone beaches, the crowds, high prices
and overly manicured visage of the Amalfi Coast, this could be the area for
Stretching 65 miles from Salerno to the Tyrrhenian coast of
Basilicata, the Cilento coast is a beautiful alternative. With sandy beaches;
pristine, clean ocean, affordable accommodation and dining options, this stretch
of coast is authentic, a little erratic and the antithesis of the Amalfi Coast.
Don’t expect glitzy hotels or the lamorous posturing of the uber rich, instead
think of ancient port towns with the local fisherman still taking their boats
out at dawn and fishing with handmade nets.
Break your days up with mornings spent discovering ancient Greek
and Roman ruins, lunches in quaint little piazzas and afternoons on the beach.
Some of the towns to look for:
Agropoli, the largest town in the area can be a great place to base yourself.
Only 15 minutes away is Castellabate. The castle ruins and the views of the ocean are fabulous, as is the main piazza. Although pretty tiny it is buzzing with cafes, a wine bar and restaurants.
Acciaroli is a lovely little seaside village you won’t want to leave.
Interestingly it is known for the longevity of its inhabitants, with around 300 centenarians wandering the streets, 20 percent of whom have reached the ripe old age of 110!
Pioppi is another lovely seaside village. Ancel Keys lived here for 28 years studying and living the Mediterranean diet.
Palinuro is yet another beautiful coastal village with a rugged but spectacular coastline broken up with sandy beaches, the ruins of a medieval castle, a blue grotto – it has a lot to offer.
Do you belong to my Private Member’s Newsletter? This newsletter comes out each month with special, in depth information to help you build the perfect itinerary for your trip to Italy. Join the newsletter HERE today!
I could easily run away to Rome and never look back. I have insanely long lists of things to do in Rome that I will need more than one lifetime to ever complete, so when I’m there it’s hard to get me to take off on a day trip unless I am leading one of my tours.
But people are always asking me about good day trips to do from Rome, and preferably day trips that you can do by train. If you have read my book Glam Italia! How to travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) then you already know that I am a huge advocate of staying in as few places as possible, and doing lots of day trips instead of constantly packing up and moving. So much vacation time is wasted by packing, checking out, waiting to check in to the new place and then checking in. I would rather just stay in one or two locations. (If you haven’t read my book you can get your copy here.)
Most places in Italy are easily reached by train, which makes getting around incredibly easy. The high speed trains open up so many opportunities to you too. On my tours we often do day trips to Venice from Rome. It takes 3.5 hours each way by fast train, but the time whizzes by as you watch Italy through the huge, panoramic windows. It’s like being inside an episode of a National Geographic TV show!
The trains are very economical too, so you can travel around on any budget and not miss out.
The following is a list of 10 fantastic day trips from Rome by train. If you are new to train travel, or if this will be your first time in Italy, I have a hugely popular post that breaks down everything you need to know about using the trains in Italy. You can let that be your guide and take away any fears you may have about train travel and how to use the trains in a foreign country.
Florence is a super easy day trip from Rome. The high speed AV trains run all day long and it only takes about an hour and 20 minutes to get there.
I recommend getting on the earliest train you can so that you can arrive in Florence before the crowds from the bus tours and the cruise ships descend on the city. If you can handle getting up early, I recommend trying to arrive in Florence around 8 am. You will have the city to yourself and be able to take fantastic photos in popular places like the Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio ad Ponte Vecchio without a million tourists in the way.
It is amazing to see those places empty, and be able to see all the statues, the old store fronts and the famous views. Have a 10 am cup of coffee and just watch the crowds arrive – you won’t even believe it! And you will be thanking me for making you get up so early….
Pompeii is just fantastic, and if there is any way that you can add it into your itinerary, I highly recommend it.
Pompeii is a suburb of Naples and has a train stop right outside the main gates. Take the high speed/AV train from Rome to Naples and then the little local Circumsuviana train to the Pompeii Scavi stop.
When you are done with Pompeii jump back on the train and go 3 stops to Ercolano. You have to walk a few blocks from the train but everything is well signed so you won’t get lost.
If doing both, I suggest going to Pompeii first. Learn all about what happened when Vesuvius erupted, learn about Roman roads and the clever way they built their towns – there is so much to see! After visiting Pompeii head to Herculaneum and see just how vertical the homes were, you won’t believe the intense colors of the 2000 year old frescoes, and you will get more of a feel for the community they lived in.
It is amazing how differently the two towns were impacted by the eruption. If not for a change in the wind we wouldn’t have Herculaneum. It would have disappeared over the millennia just as other towns have done.
If traveling between May and October take a big bottle of water with you and refill it as you need with cold Aqueduct water from the fountains in Pompeii. It gets very, very hot there so make sure you have a sunhat and comfortable walking shoes too.
Make sure you allow yourself time to eat some piazza in Naples before you take the train back to Rome.
4.TIVOLI – HADRIAN’S VILLA AND VILLA D’ESTE
This one is actually easier as a bus trip from Rome. I did it with Viator, and although it was good the tour guide drove me mental. He was desperate for us to buy leather at his friend’s shop and eat at his other friend’s restaurant which got incredibly annoying. But other than that he was a really good guide and great information.
The day trip took us to Hadrian’s Villa, (Villa Adriana) a UNESCO World Heritage Site near Tivoli. When Hadrian was emperor he didn’t much care for living on the Palatine Hill, so built this giant complex in the second and third decades of the 2nd century. He was thought to have been living there as his main residence from around 128 A.D.
Villa Adriana is definitely worth visiting. The complex is enormous and absolutely spectacular.
Just up the hill from Villa Adriana in the town of Tivoli, Villa d’Este is a 16th century villa built by Cardinal Ippolito d’Este. Much of the material used to build d’Este was pilfered from Villa Adriana.
In a time when there were no paparazzi to see what was going on, Popes and cardinals and who knows who else were all busy marrying and having mistresses and orgies and generally getting up to no good. Cardinal Ippolito d’Este was very wealthy, with a wife and 4 sons. He took an enormous amount of land from the locals to build his gardens at Tivoli, and at one point had 12 lawsuits against him. He didn’t care and built them anyway.
The most famous element of the gardens are the fountains. D’Este diverted the Aniene river to provide water to one of the most spectacular series of fountains and water exhibits you will ever see.
Everything is powered by the water itself, including a huge fountain that plays renaissance music several times per day. Make sure you find out when the fountain is scheduled to play and time your visit to be in front of it when it does – it is quite remarkable! We were there at 2:30, but I don’t know what other times it goes off.
You can get to Tivoli by train but would have to get buses to and from Villa Adriana and Villa d’Este and every which way I looked at it, it seemed better to take the Viator bus trip from Rome. Just don’t eat where the guide tells you to as there are much better and less rip-off places all over Tivoli. And Tivoli is not the place to be buying leather jackets!
Just an hour from Rome by train the Umbrian border town of Orvieto is an absolute gem. From the train station you take a funicular up the hill to the medieval town. Orvieto is famous for its cathedral, which is thought to be one of Italy’s most beautiful. The outside may remind you of Siena, and the Luca Signorelli frescoes inside are said to have inspired Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel. This is a fabulous town to wander around, divert down little side streets, eat the wonderful local cuisine, and of course drink Orvieto wine! I just love Orvieto.
But there’s more! You can descend below ground to one of the most unique undergrounds in all of Italy. This is Etruscan country, and the labyrinth of tunnels and rooms below the city of Orvieto were dug by the Etruscans more than 2500 years ago.
Marlena di Blasi’s book The Lady in the Palazzo: An Umbrian Love Story is set in Orvieto. She and her husband Fernando live there now after 1000 days in Venice, and another 3 years in Tuscany. I just love her books and recommend reading this one before going to Orvieto. I love recognizing the various streets and shops and eateries she talks about, it adds even more flavor to the experience! I always am on the lookout for her but have never seen her when I have been in town. Not that I even know what I would do if I did see her – is it madly geeky to fan-girl on up to an author and tell them you love their books?
Viterbo is a magical medieval town an hour from Rome by train. For 20 years during the 13th century it was the home of the Pope. Considered one of the best preserved medieval towns in all of Italy, Viterbo is a fantastic place to just wander and take in all the history.
With a population of around 60,000 there are some wonderful places to eat and some good shopping. The Pope’s Palace and the Papal Hot Springs are probably the biggest tourist sites, but in my opinion this is a town to visit with no agenda and a good appetite.
7. Civita di Bagnoreggio
This one takes a little longer to reach but is well worth seeing!
Civita di Bagnoreggio, also known as La Citta Che Muore/The Dying Town was founded on a hilltop by the Etruscans 2500+ years ago. Over the millenia the town has slowly been eroding away and falling down the hillside. In 2006 it was placed on the World Monuments Fund’s watch list of the 100 most endangered sites due to the danger it faces from both erosion and also unregulated tourism.
Architecturally it is quite fantastic. Being so remote and isolated much of the architecture spanning back hundreds of years is unaltered. It was the birthplace of Saint Bonaventure, who died back in 1274. Since then his childhood home fell off the cliff as the town eroded.
There are no cars in Civita, and in fact the only way into the town is via a walking bridge that bridges a giant chasm and looks like the great wall of China. Civita is like an island in the sky with 365 degree views.
The year round population is only 7 people, and in the summer it swells to 100. Tourists have bought up some of the homes and modernized them a little, but Civita feels like it is a place that time forgot.
It is just fantastic.
Without a car the best way to get to Civita from Rome is to take the train to Orvieto and then from the Orvieto train station take the bus to Civita. If you were to do both in one day I would get an early start, do Civita first, and then swan around Orvieto all afternoon and into the evening.
Two and a half hours from Rome this is another train and bus combo trip and is perfect for anyone interested in some really ancient history. The burial grounds or nercropolis date back to the Iron Age of the 9th century B.C.
Tarquinii was one of the most important and ancient Etruscan towns, and has a fascinating history.
The necropolis is one of Italy’s most important Etruscan sites. More than 6000 tombs have been excavated here, 140 of which have vivid, incredible frescoes, 20 of which ar eopen to the public.
You also need to visit the Museo Archeologico while there to see some pretty sensational Etruscan artifacts.
9. Ostia Antica
From the steep amphitheater to Neptune’s Baths to the Thermopolium, an ancient café with a bar and traces of the old menu frescoed on the wall, a trip to Ostia Antica is almost like visiting a mini Pompeii. The mosaics are sensational, and by themselves alone are worth the trip, but there is just so much here to see!
Book ahead to have a guide take you into one of the two Case Decorate (decorated houses) to see the 2000 year old frescoes. The guided tours are on Sundays at 10:30 am, (but check to see if they offer more when you will be in Rome) and you cannot go inside the houses without a guide.
Another point of interest, especially if you a traveling with young boys, is the public toilet at the Terme del Foro. 20 well preserved latrines line a long stone bench where ancient Romans would socialize while going about their business!
Ostia Antica is an easy 25 minute train ride from the Pirimide station. Wear good walking shoes and plan on spending several hours there – there is so much to see!
The most unique city on earth is easily accessible from Rome by train, and is well worth the trip. From Roma Termini station it takes around 3 and a half hours. If you can get them buy tickets on the 6:15 Italo train, which will get you into Venice by 10 am. If not, the 8:15 will get you in around noon.
The last trains out of Venice leave between 7pm and 8 pm, so you do need to maximize your time on the ground.
I have made a downloadable PDF with 10 of my secret things to do in Venice, including my two favorite places to eat and some really fabulous places to walk and be far from the cruise ship crowds. This is information that will never be on the blog and is for people who a serious about seeing more than Rialto Bridge to St Marks Square. Get your Secret Venice PDF Here
Do you have any day trips from Rome that you would like to add to the list? If so please tell me in the comments section below.