Best Day Trips From Rome, Italy

When visiting Rome, Italy, travelers should follow the example of emperors and popes and see some of the surrounding countryside. Fuori parta (beyond the gate), as Ancient Romans noted, lie great treasures. The area surrounding Rome, the region of Lazio, is one of the most beautiful areas of Italy in its own right, and those who travel beyond Rome’s city gates will surely be in for a special treat.

Ostia Antica

To the east of Rome (about a half hour by train) lies Ostia Antica, a site that is considered to be “the Pompeii of Rome.” Once the ancient site of Rome’s port, this area lost its importance when the course of the Tiber River changed, leaving it (some 2,000 years later) a sandy, muddy wasteland.

Founded in the 4th century BC, today it is little more than a site for excavated ruins. Travelers exploring Ostia Antica, however, can gain a better understanding of what life was like in ancient times by exploring the excavations and accompanying museum.

Among the items worth exploring at the site are the mosaic floors with Neptune and the sea goddess Amphitrite at the Terme di Nattuna (Baths of Neptune), the theater built by Agrippa (original creator of the Pantheon in Rome), and the Mithraeum, in which the balconies and walls of this building are decorated with symbols from the Cult of Mithras religion. Close to the ruins of Ostia Antica is the Medieval city of Castello della Rovere, which began in 1483.

Tivoli

Another spot worth journeying to on a day trip from Rome is Tivoli. In ancient times, Tivoli was the place where emperors went to escape the heat and misery of Roman life in the summer. Large palaces and villas were created, but by the Middle Ages, this area had largely been abandoned. It was rediscovered by the elite of the Catholic Church, those cardinals and popes with abundant wealth, who revived the area by building anew.

Today, Tivoli is a beautiful and vibrant area with stunning views and cascading waterfalls. Two jewels remain from ancient times, the Temple of Vesta and the ruins of the Sanctuary of the Sibyl. Most travelers who make the journey from Rome (via bus or train), however, come to see the Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa) or the Villa d’Este’s fabled gardens.

Villa Adriana/Hadrian’s Villa

One of the most accomplished of the Ancient Roman emperors, Hadrian rose to power in 1178 AD, and began a construction boom in Rome (and elsewhere) that was unrivaled. His villa at Tivoli was a masterpiece created by local artisans, which incorporated ideas from Hadrian’s world travels. He much admired Hellenistic (Greek) culture. His vast estate in Tivoli was a conglomerate of baths, theaters, libraries, temples, open-air gymnasiums, and guest pavilions. The most famous element at the Villa Adriana is the Canopus, an artificial pool created to emulate a canal on the Nile. Those exploring the villa would do well, when visiting, to rent the audio tour (along with it, you will receive a complimentary map to help guide your tour of the area).

Villa d’Este

At Tivoli’s center lies the Villa d’Este, built by a cardinal in the 16th century. While the villa itself isn’t much to see today, the main reason for visiting this special spot are its gardens. To create these beautiful water gardens, the Aniene River was diverted, and the result is breathtaking. The gardens of the Villa d’Este are a masterpiece, with sun and shade, water and stone all working together to create a truly unforgettable experience. Perhaps the most romantic time to visit the gardens is on a summer evening, when the floodlit fountains work their magic.

Castelli Romani

Contrary to what their name might imply, the castelli are not castles, but rather charming towns and villages scattered throughout the Alban Hills, which (of course) aren’t really “hills,” but instead remnants of extinct volcanic activity.

These picturesque towns today are surrounded by olive groves, woods full of chestnut trees, and lovely vineyards, with accompanying wine cellars. Among those towns worth exploring are Frescati, with its Villa Aldonbrandini; Castelgandolfo, where the Pope summers (Villa Pontifica); Ariccia, with the beautiful Palazzo Chigi; and Nemi, the smallest but most beautiful of them all.

Whether one travels amongst the hill towns of the Castelli Romani or takes in the stunning villas of Tivoli or takes a step back in time at Ostia Antica, it’s clear that little more than an hour outside Rome (and often less), there is a beautiful Italian countryside worth exploring. Rome is a hard city to leave, but a day trip outside the city is well worth the time away.

Six Fun Day Trips From Monterey

There’s plenty to do in Monterey California, whether it’s going to the Aquarium, taking the 17-mile drive, dining at Fisherman’s Wharf, browsing the art galleries in Carmel or walking along the Pacific Grove shoreline. But if you’re itching to branch out a little and explore some of the fabulous central coast offerings nearby, here’s a short list of day trip ideas to start you off.

1. Pinnacles National Monument — East of Soledad, which lies south of Salinas on the 101 is this magical place of stunning geographical beauty. Trails wind around bizarre rock formations that make you wonder if you’re still on planet earth. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water and pack a lunch. Chalone Winery is nearby, in case you want to pay them a little wine tasting visit.

2. Point Lobos — Just south of Carmel is Point Lobos State Reserve. It costs $8 per car, ($4 if there is a senior citizen inside) and once in the park there are several small lots to choose from. From these lots you can access various trails, some inland and others leading to pristine beach coves.

3. Santa Cruz — Venture north up the coast from Monterey and eventually you will be in Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk boasts a popular oceanfront roller coaster and fun zone, while the beach has warmer waters than most in Northern California and is popular with surfers. The redwoods studded Santa Cruz mountains area has several wineries you can visit, as well as a narrow gauge steam train, which leaves out of Felton.

4. Big Sur — South of Monterey on Highway 1 is the Big Sur area, famous land of artists, writers, nature lovers, photographers and other solitary souls. There isn’t really a single destination that is called Big Sur, but to drive through is to experience magnificent scenery on a winding road between dramatic mountain cliffs and crashing sea below. There are some very special places to dine, such as Nepenthe, which hangs out there on the ocean side of the road. There are several hiking trails in Big Sur, or you can go beachcombing at one of the beaches.

5. Wine tasting in Carmel Valley — If you’ve had enough of the fog, you’ll often find relief by driving up Carmel Valley Road for about 15 minutes into (sometimes considerable) warmth and sunshine. Several wine tasting rooms are located in or around this small village. Chateau Julien is a winery with a tasting room found off the road before you get into Carmel Valley proper. In the village, you can visit the tasting rooms of Joullian Vineyards, Heller Estate, Robert Talbott Vineyards and Bernardus Winery and Vineyard. If you really want to get away from it all, Galante Vineyards is remotely located well inland.

6. Steinbeck Museum — Lastly, why not take a drive into Old Town Salinas and visit the National Steinbeck Center? Inspired by the Salinas Valley and its people, John Steinbeck was the Nobel Prize winning author of works such as “Cannery Row”, “Tequila Flats” and “Grapes Of Wrath”. The museum holds art exhibits, cultural exhibits, a museum store and a café. Additionally, they will soon feature the Valley of the World Agricultural History and Education Center.

Then, when you’re done with your excursion out of town, head on back to Monterey and count yourself lucky to be visiting one of the best places on earth: the California central coast.