The largest town in northern Lazio, Viterbo is a much overlooked gem with a handsome medieval centre and a relaxed, provincial atmosphere. Founded by the Etruscans and later taken over by the Romans, it developed into an important medieval centre, and in the 13th century became the seat of the popes.
A pretty pocket of verdant hills and volcanic lakes 20km southeast of Rome, the Colli Albani (Alban Hills) and their 13 towns are collectively known as the Castelli Romani. Since early Roman days they've provided a green refuge from the city and still today Romans flock to the area on hot summer weekends.
Civitavecchia is the nearest ferry port to Rome. Some 80km northwest of the capital, it has year-round connections to Sardinia, Sicily and destinations across the Mediterranean. Check www.traghettiweb.it for route details. From Rome, half-hourly trains serve Civitavecchia from Termini (€5 to €15, 40 minutes to 1¼ hours), with fewer services on Sundays.
Off the southern Lazio coast, this group of volcanic islands serves as an Italian Hamptons. Between mid-June and the end of August, Ponza and Ventotene – the only two inhabited islands – buzz with holidaymakers and weekenders who descend in droves to eat shellfish at terrace restaurants, swim in emerald coves and cruise around the craggy coast.
A summer retreat for ancient Romans and the Renaissance rich, the hilltop town of Tivoli is home to two Unesco World Heritage Sites: Villa Adriana, the sprawling estate of Emperor Hadrian, and the 16th-century Villa d'Este, a Renaissance villa famous for its landscaped gardens and lavish fountains.
Some 90km northwest of Rome, Tarquinia is the pick of Lazio's Etruscan towns. The highlight is the magnificent Unesco-listed necropolis and its extraordinary frescoed tombs, but there's also a fantastic Etruscan museum (the best outside of Rome) and an atmospheric medieval centre.