Italy’s capital, Rome, offers up so much to see and do that to exhaust the city’s sites is near impossible. But if the itch of your wanderlust is begging for a scratch, then consider a day trip. Escape the hustle and l. Say goodbye to the maddening rush of Rome’s busy streets, crowded with the zip of Vespas, wildly gesticulating Italians and the crowds of tourists clogging the knotted streets of the Centro Storico. Trips from Rome by train open you up to the beautiful surrounds that encircle the city. Or, go further afield, have a mini-break from your mini-break. Florence, Naples, Pompei are all easily accessible by train and make for a fantastic day out.
Ostia Antica began life in the 4th century BC. A port city, it’s location at the mouth of the Tiber River is where the city derives its name. Ostium in Latin meaning “mouth.” When the Roman Empire fell, the city slowly crumbled. What remains now is Italy’s second largest excavated site after Pompei.
What to do
- Scavi Archeologici di Ostia Antica
Walk down the city’s former highstreet, Decamanus Maximus, along which many of the major buildings are located. A highlight is the Thermopolium, a former cafe/restaurant, proof of which lies in the fading fresco of a menu on the wall. Be sure to seek out the stunning baths of Neptune with the intricately mosaiced floors, the amphitheater, and the impressive Capitolium, which was the religious center of the town.
To get from Rome to Ostia jump on a suburban train and ride 30 minutes east of the capital. Tickets cost next to nothing and are included in the daily transport passes for Rome’s Metros and Buses. Get off at the stop Ostia Antica.
Tivoli once provided wealthy Romans an escape from the city. It was such a popular spot that Emperor Hadrian built an enormous villa for himself there. Although centuries have since gone by, Tivoli has persisted as an excellent location for those looking for a break from Rome.
What to do
Built in the 2nd century, Hadrian’s Villa is widely regarded as his greatest artistic achievement. What began as a country estate slowly became the place from which Hadrian ruled Rome. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, these sprawling grounds include some of Italy’s best-preserved ruins. The travels of the Emperor are reflected in the Villa’s diverse architecture with styles from Egypt, Greece and further afield. A standout of the site is the Maritime Theatre which served as Hadrian’s private retreat. History buffs are sure to swoon at all the archaeological delights on display. But, not to worry for those who aren’t, Hadrian’s Villa still makes for a great day out. The grounds are all outside and to walk amongst the ruins and the history attached to them (even if you’re not familiar with it!) when the sun is shining is rather wonderful.
The main attraction of this Renaissance palace are its beautiful gardens. They’ll make you green (get it) with envy when you think back to that patch of grass that sits in your backyard. But, don’t dwell, the gardens at the Villa d’Este are widely regarded as one of the finest examples of a Renaissance garden in the world. Stroll through the sun-dappled, leafy lanes and pathways of this exquisite place and drink in the full splendor of the gardens. There are gorgeous fountains to be admired. The Oval and Rometta fountains, connected by the long stretch of the Hundred Fountains, are positively breathtaking.
This is one of the easiest trips from Rome by train. A Rome to Tivoli train departs every 15 minutes from Rome’s Termini station. The journey takes 35 minutes to an hour, depending on which line you take. Tickets cost as little as € 2.60. Bargain!
Lying 35 kilometer southwest of Rome is the provincial town of Cerveteri. Before the rise of the Roman Empire, Italy was inhabited by a number of different people. The Etruscans were one of them, and they populated much of central Italy. However, this enigmatic tribe finally succumbed to the inevitable rise of the Empire and slowly disappeared leaving little behind. Cerveteri though boasts some fantastic archaeological remains. And, a day trip to the city will provide an interesting insight into an ancient culture.
What to do
- The Necropoli di Banditaccia
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Necropoli di Banditaccia is more commonly referred to as “the city of the dead.” The reason behind this lies in the unique layout that mimics that of a city. There are streets and squares, with tombs laid out in groupings that resemble “neighborhoods.” Of the thousands of tombs, some date as far back to as early as 7th century BC. And, in studying them archaeologists and historians have been able to gain a better insight into how Etruscan society organized itself. It is quite an experience to walk between the many tombs and marvel at the thought that went into designing the grounds.
Back in the town’s Centro Storico, there is the Museo Nazionale Cerite. This museum boasts exhibits, displayed chronologically, that map the history of the Etruscan city. And, makes a great companion piece to the Necropolis, so be sure to check it out too.
To get from Rome to Cerveteri take the train from Termini station to Marina di Cerveteri. Average journey time is approximately 44 minutes, although there are quicker trains. Generally, there are direct trains, but some lines may require a change. From Marina di Cerveteri grab the number 25 bus and take a short 20-minute bus journey to Cerveteri.
Naples and Pompeii
Everyone knows the ruins of Pompeii with the petrified remains of those unfortunate souls consumed, while asleep, by the quick advance of Mount Vesuvius’s lava, but what of Naples? Founded by the ancient Greeks who settled in southern Italy, Naples quickly became one of the countries busiest and most important port cities. Its status remains the same today. Naples is a thriving center of cultural wealth, culinary delights, and architectural wonders. Spice up your Roman holiday and head south, Naples awaits.
What to do
If you’re heading on to Pompeii, you’re going to need the energy. And, even if you’re not, you’re definitely going to want to do this anyway. Naples invented pizza.That’s right, a trip to the southern port city means a trip to the birthplace of the pizza pie. The Napolitains take their pizza serious. Quality is key. So, it’s pretty much a guarantee that every slice you get is going to be great. Head to the pizzeria L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, which dates to the 1800s, for what is arguably the best pizza in the world. They stick to the traditional varieties offering up margheritas, with fresh, local buffalo mozzarella, and the marinara which comes with no cheese.
- Capodimonte Royal Palace Museum
Housed in what was originally a hunting lodge designed and built for Charles VII of Bourbon is southern Italy’s best art gallery, the Capodimonte Royal Palace Museum. Charles VII inherited much of the works that adorn the walls from his mother after she died. You can find pieces by Caravaggio, Botticelli, Titian and, although not part of Charles’ original collection, even Andy Warhol. Spread across three floors and 160 rooms this gallery perfectly fills a morning, leaving the afternoon open for a visit to Pompeii.
The name strikes wonder into the eyes of all those who hear it. It is, without doubt, the most renowned archaeological site in the world. People are drawn to the sites sprawling grounds and the haunting remains of a city destroyed, but perfectly preserved.
Walk down the former city’s streets and take in some phenomenal remains. Make for the Garden of the Fugitives to see the casts of those who didn’t make it out of Pompeii alive. Then head to the Villa of Mysteries for a glimpse of some superbly preserved frescoes, still bursting with color. Weave your way through the millennia-old houses and take in the Forum Baths, the various temples and, of course, the amphitheater. There’s plenty to see here.
To get from Rome to Pompeii, you have to go by way of Naples, which is why it’s great to incorporate a visit to the port city too.
Rome’s Termini Station connects to Naples Centrale with trains that leave every 30 minutes. Traveling on Trenitalia’s Frecce trains means journey time is 70 minutes. Tickets cost € 19.90 one way, if bought in advance. You can buy tickets on the day, but they will be charged at their “base” fare of € 44.
If traveling on to Pompeii, for what should be, on any Roman holiday, a mandatory visit to the impressive excavation, at Naples Centrale simply head downstairs to Circumvesuviana Railways station.
From here trains to Pompeii run every 30 minutes. Tickets cost € 3.20 and journey time is approximately 35 minutes.
Sitting atop a volcanic hill in Umbria and lying between Florence and Rome is Orvieto, a stunning little gem bathed in history. The middle ages saw the town enjoy great wealth and beauty which continued on into the Renaissance. Now, the city is a smorgasbord of diverse architectural delights, wonderful white wines and - some say - the birthplace of carbonara.
What to do
Without a doubt, the gleaming centerpiece of this beautiful town is it’s Duomo. St. Mark’s and St. Peter’s basilica ain’t got nothing on this spectacular church. The facade is arguably the most impressive in all of Italy. Covered in rainbow frescos and the shimmer of golden mosaics, it is a beautifully hypnotic delight. It took 30 years to plan and 300 years to build!
Inside there are two chapels. The first, that of the Corporal of Bolsena miracle. This houses a 13th-century cloth stained with the blood that poured from the bread of a priest who did not believe in transubstantiation. In the second chapel, that of San Brizio, you will find depictions of religious and apocalyptic scenes frescoed by Luca Signorelli.
Often drowned out by Italy’s more popular wine destinations like Montepulciano and Modena, Orvieto offers up some fantastic white wines. These are typically softer, subtle wines that pair well with food and include floral and honey notes. Many local wine producers, such as Decugnano dei Barbi, offer wine tours at their breathtaking hilltop estate. Here you can sample delicious wines alongside a selection of tasty nibbles.
Orvieto is also considered by many to be the birthplace of one of Italy’s signature dishes, carbonara. Carbonara is mouthwatering hunks of salty guanciale mixed into spaghetti coated in whisked egg. The restaurant Mezza Luna serves up the best in the country and guess what, they pair it with white wine.
Rome to Orvieto is a short 120-kilometer train ride north. Trains run frequently between the two places with the journey taking a little over an hour. You can take both a Frecce train or a regional train. The regional only taking approximately 10 minutes longer. Ticket prices vary between € 7.80 and € 17.50.
Once at Orvieto to get to the old town you will need to take the funicular railway. This little train carries 75 passengers and travels a vertical distance of 157 meters. Tickets cost € 1.30.
For one of the best day trips from Rome by train, you must consider making your way up to Florence
. This northern city is the capital of Tuscany and the birthplace of the Renaissance. It is overflowing with culture and things to do. To be in Italy and not catch a glimpse of the Florentine skyline capped by the Duomo’s beautiful Cupola would be a sin.
What to do
The Piazza del Duomo is home to many of Florence’s major attractions. Here, you will find the Duomo
, Florence’s impressive cathedral atop which sits the architectural wonder of the Cupola. Be sure to head inside and climb the 463 steps to the top to take in the best views of the city. Also located in the piazza is Giotto’s magnificent bell tower and the jaw-dropping baptistery with its impressive bronze doors. Opposite the Duomo is the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo which houses works by the greats, Michelangelo, Donatello and more.
A short walk away is the Piazza della Signoria which offers up yet more fantastic things to do. Taking top spot is the Uffizi Gallery
. Spread across 101 rooms on two floors, this gallery hosts the greatest collection of Renaissance art in the world. Highlights include Raphael’s Portrait of Pope Leo X with two Cardinals, and Botticelli's the Birth of Venus.
Then there is the Palazzo Vecchio and tours from Rome by train to Florence will definitely include a visit to this spectacular fortress palace. To this day, the palace remains the seat of the city’s power housing the municipal council and the mayor’s office. Inside, you can marvel at Michelangelo’s sculpture, Genio della Vittoria, as well as rooms with wonderfully painted ceilings and even one with an extensive collection of 16th-century maps.
Don’t forget that Florence is also the birthplace of gelato
, the creamy, sweet confection that’s better than ice cream. So, If you're trying to decide which of the tours from Rome by train you want to go for, surely the idea of diving into a delicious cone of gelato makes the decision for you. You can hardly move without falling into a gelateria in Florence so hit the streets on a “gelato crawl” to discover where you think serves the best. Or, if you’re keen, lots of places offer lessons in how to make the stuff yourself. The best part, you get to eat what you made when you’re finished!
Trains to Florence depart from Rome’s Termini
station frequently, getting you to the Tuscan capital in just under 90 minutes if you travel on the high-speed Frecce trains. Regional trains take a bit longer. If booked in advance, tickets come in at € 19.90, but are more expensive if purchased on the day. For more information on traveling between Florence and Rome check out our previous article here.
So there you have it, seven of the best day trips from Rome by train. Take a day and give yourself a break from Italy’s capital. There’s plenty of great places nearby to explore!
Private Tuscany Tour: Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa with Lunch