Train tracks outside Rome’s Termini Station || creative commons photo by Lukemn
Rome can be overwhelming. It’s one of the world’s great cities, which is both exciting and exhausting. Most people who spend more than a few days in Rome during their Italy vacation take at least one day trip, partly to get a break from the bustling city and partly because there are so many excellent day trip options near Rome.
I’m a fan of day trips that don’t require too much time in transit – preferably less than two hours total. I’m also often keen on not missing potential sightseeing opportunities that are so close that I might kick myself later if I didn’t make the effort. These are sometimes conflicting instincts, which means it’s good to have options.
The options I’ve included below are broken down by how long it takes to get there and back, starting with the closest places, all of which are reachable via public transportation. And this is, of course, nowhere near a complete list of day trips from Rome. I do think this is plenty to get you started, however.
Guided Tours In & From Rome
The places I’ve listed below are all do-able as DIY day trips, but if you’d rather just leave the planning to someone else here’s a selection of tours both in and from Rome.
Quick Day Trips from Rome: 2 Hours or Less in Transit
Beach at Lido di Ostia || creative commons photo by Elescir
- Ostia Antica – Sure, you can see ancient Roman ruins right in the center of Rome, or take a longer day trip (see below) to visit the excavated city of Pompeii. But if you’ve already seen the Forum and you’re not interested in traveling all the way to Pompeii then hop on the Roma-Lido train at the Porta San Paolo/Piramide station and in 27 minutes you’ll be at the excavation site of Ostia Antica. This was once Rome’s most important port city, although today it’s two miles inland due to sediment build-up. The ancient city on this spot likely dates back to the 7th century B.C.E., though the oldest objects and structures found there are from the 3rd century B.C.E. Bring your beach duds and you can keep going to…
- Lido di Ostia – There’s another town called “Ostia” nearby, the modern equivalent to the ancient city. This Ostia is still a port city, but it’s also a popular beach destination for Rome’s residents. The train ride from Rome is only 32 minutes (five if you’re coming from Ostia Antica). It’s not Italy’s most beautiful beach, but it’s certainly one of the easiest to reach from central Rome – which can be a blessing on a hot day when you’ve just had enough of the city.
- Tivoli – The town of Tivoli is a short 41-minute train trip from Rome, and there are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites to visit. The excavated remains of Hadrian’s Villa date from the 2nd century C.E., built by the emperor as a country retreat from the city. The term “villa” is a little misleading, as it was actually a complex of more than 30 structures, some of which remain unexcavated. The other main Tivoli attraction is the Villa d’Este, built in the mid-16th century for Cardinal d’Este. The sights here include an expansive garden with multiple fountains, sculptures, and grottoes.
- Frascati – Central Rome might seem far away from the wine-producing countryside, but it’s not. With a half-hour train ride from Termini Station, you can be in Frascati, one of the hill towns just outside the city known for its wine. Frascati is one of several wine-growing towns nearby, known collectively as the Castelli Romani, which produce primarily light white wines that are the perfect accompaniment to a warm day. One of the Castelli Romani towns, incidentally, is Castel Gandolfo, traditionally the countryside retreat of the pope (and currently the retirement home of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI).
Medium Day Trips from Rome: 2-4 Hours in Transit
Civita di Bagnoregio || creative commons photo by Alejo2083
- Naples & Pompeii – Taking a day trip to Naples from Rome isn’t about escaping the city for someplace calmer, but it is about exploring one of southern Italy‘s most fascinating cities. This is where pizza was born (so you know what you’re having for lunch), and the National Archaeological Museum is a must-see. It’s where most of the objects found in Pompeii and Herculaneum are now on display. With a well-planned day (or an organized tour), you can also visit the excavation at Pompeii, a short train ride from Naples. The trip from Rome to Naples is about one hour ten minutes one-way on the high speed train.
- Florence – Florence may already be on your Italy itinerary, but if it’s not then this is a great way to see the highlights of the Renaissance capital. The train trip from Rome is only about one hour twenty minutes one-way, and it’s highly recommended that you buy tickets to things like the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia in advance (or book organized tours) to avoid waiting in lines.
- Orvieto – The pretty hilltop town of Orvieto in the Umbria region is a little less than one hour fifteen minutes from Rome by train, and worlds away. It sits high above the surrounding countryside (you can take a funicular from the train station into the historic center), and the attractions include a beautiful 13th century cathedral, former papal residences, and an extensive underground tunnel network.
- Anzio – World War II history buffs may want to include a day trip to the coastal city of Anzio from Rome. A little more than an hour away by train, Anzio was one of the places where Allied forces landed in 1944 and the site of the Battle of Anzio. WWII sights in the area today include the Anzio Beachhead Museum, the Commonwealth of Nations Anzio War Cemetery, the Beach Head War Cemetery (also for Commonwealth of Nations burials), and the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in nearby Nettuno.
- Cerveteri – If you marvel at the age of the ancient Roman ruins in Rome, then head for Cerveteri to get to know a culture that pre-dated the ancient Romans. The city of Cerveteri was once an important Etruscan city, known then as Caere, and you can visit several Etruscan necropoli (ancient tombs in earthen mounds) and the city’s archaeological museum (which has some of the objects found in the area). Cerveteri is just under one hour ten minutes from central Rome by train.
- Viterbo – The ancient city of Viterbo, a little more than an hour and a half by train from Rome, has an incredibly well-preserved medieval center. This is another city that was once home to the papacy, and the 13th century Papal Palace is one of the top attractions. Viterbo has also long been known as a health retreat because of its natural hot springs – its baths drew Etruscans and ancient Romans alike, and there are still spa resort hotels in the area.
- Civita di Bagnoregio – For impressive hilltop towns, it’s hard to beat Civita di Bagnoregio. The historic old city was mostly abandoned in the 17th century when earthquakes and erosion ate away at the buildings around the edges of the rock on which they were built, and a newer town (called simply Bagnoregio) is now where most people still live. The historic center has become a tourist attraction in recent years, partly owing to the fact that it’s only accessible via a long walkway from Bagnoregio. To get there, you’ll take the train from Rome to Orvieto (one hour fifteen minutes), and then hire a taxi for the 10.6-mile trip to Bagnoregio. You’ll walk to the historic Civita di Bagnoregio from there.
Longer Day Trips from Rome: 4+ Hours in Transit
Panorama of Assisi || creative commons photo by Roberto Ferrari
- Assisi – The Umbria town of Assisi is perhaps most famous as the birthplace of St. Francis, and the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi has been one of the most important pilgrimage sites for centuries. The complex includes two churches (one started in the early 13th century just after St. Francis was canonized) and a crypt in which St. Francis’ tomb is located. There are frescoes by Giotto and Cimabue in the churches, some of which were damaged or destroyed in a 1997 earthquake. Reaching Assisi from Rome takes about two and a half hours one-way. You’ll take the train from Rome to Foligno and then to Santa Maria degli Angeli, three miles from central Assisi, and from there it’s a five-minute bus ride into the historic center.
- Sorrento – In a little under two and a half hours one-way by train from Rome, you can be gazing out over the Bay of Naples and sipping limoncello in sunny Sorrento. This town sits between busy Naples and the Amalfi Coast, and although it’s not technically part of the Amalfi Coast it’s a good alternative (largely because Sorrento has train service, making it easier to get in and out, whereas the Amalfi Coast is served only by bus and boats). You can enjoy a day of shopping and sightseeing in Sorrento itself, or hop on a hydrofoil to visit the island of Capri or the towns of Positano or Amalfi.
- Milan – Making Milan a day trip from Rome requires nearly three hours each way on the train, but when you look at the map and see how far apart the cities are you’ll understand why that’s so fantastic. The historic center of Milan is easy to explore in a well-organized day, provided you’ve gotten your tickets to see Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” fresco well in advance, and you can enjoy an early-ish aperitivo in Milan before hopping back on the train bound for Rome.