Alexandra Turney lives in Rome and works for Through Eternity Tours
1. The ruins of Ostia Antica
Imagine having the sprawling ruins of a Roman town to yourself – walking down the cobbled streets, exploring baths, bakeries and brothels, and discovering mosaic floors in grand villas and pagan temples. Ostia Antica, the port town of Rome, is only half an hour from the capital. It may not have a history as dramatic as Pompeii’s, but it doesn’t have Pompeii’s crowds either. Enjoy getting lost in the streets and overgrown gardens, or go on a private tour of Ostia Antica to see another side of Roman history.
2. The fountains of Tivoli
The town of Tivoli is almost absurdly picturesque, boasting waterfalls, spectacular scenery, and extravagant Renaissance gardens. Villa D’Este is famous for its fountains, which were commissioned by the cardinal who once lived here. His fantasy of a garden with elaborate water features was at least partly inspired by the gardens of Hadrian’s Villa, also located in Tivoli. When the emperor wanted to escape from Rome, he would relocate to his sumptuous villa in Tivoli. Visiting Tivoli today, you can see why it was such a temptation to Hadrian.
3. The thermal baths of Viterbo
The streets of Viterbo are steeped in history. In medieval times this town in northern Lazio became a popular papal residence, and the Palazzo dei Papi is one of many sites of interest, along with the intriguing archaeological collection of the Museo Civico. Once you’ve done some sightseeing, drive to the nearby thermal baths, which are believed to have healing powers. The Terme dei Papi are particularly luxurious.
4. The Etruscan tombs of Tarquinia
Anyone interested in pre-Roman history should head north of Rome to Tarquinia, a town famous for its incredible Etruscan necropolis. There are more than 6,000 tombs on the outskirts of the town, many of which date back to the 6th century BC. The colourful frescoes on the walls and ceilings of the tombs include vivid depictions wild animals, sporting events, and even the occasional orgy. The little we know about the Etruscans mainly comes from their tombs, and a trip to Tarquinia offers a unique insight into the culture of this mysterious civilization.
5. The beaches of Sperlonga
Lazio has its fair share of pleasant beaches, but the loveliest are undoubtedly those of Sperlonga. This charming town in southern Lazio stands out for its sandy beaches and dramatic location, perched above steep cliffs. Sperlonga was also popular in Roman times, and the emperor Tiberius had a grand villa here. Nothing remains of the house, but you can still visit the archaeological museum and explore an atmospheric grotto.
Written by Alexandra Turney