With so much to see in Rome, it can be hard to tear yourself away from the city. But venture out into the surrounding Lazio region and you’ll discover that there are a whole host of historic sites and foodie hotspots to explore. Further afield, Florence, Naples and Pompeii are all within day-trip range of the capital.
Walk the ancient streets of Ostia Antica
One of the easiest outings from Rome is a day trip to the Scavi Archeologici di Ostia Antica. Like a smaller version of Pompeii, this engrossing archaeological site showcases the remarkably well-preserved ruins of ancient Rome’s sea port.
Highlights include the Terme di Nettuno, a 2nd-century baths complex with striking floor mosaic, a steeply stacked amphitheatre, and the Thermopolium, a cafe where you can make out traces of a menu frescoed on the wall. A slightly more modern eatery, the Ristorante Monumento serves filling pastas and local seafood near the site’s main entrance.
Getting there: To get to the site, take the Ostia Lido train from Stazione San Paolo (next to Piramide metro station) and get off at Ostia Antica (25 minutes).
World Heritage villas at Tivoli
Take in two World Heritage Sites in Tivoli, a small town 30km east of Rome. If you’re coming by public transport it’s easiest to start the day at Villa d’Este, a stylish Renaissance villa up in the hilltop centre. Once you’ve admired its florid Mannerist frescoes and extravagant garden fountains, grab lunch at the nearby Trattoria del Falcone.
Refuelled, head down to Villa Adriana, some 5km away. The Emperor Hadrian’s colossal country estate is spectacular with towering ruins sprawled beneath gnarled olive trees and enormous umbrella pines.
Getting there: Tivoli is accessible by regular Cotral bus from Ponte Mammolo metro station (50 minutes). Another option is a train from Stazione Termini to Tivoli. They depart every 15 minutes. Book your seat at trenitalia.com. To get to Villa Adriana from Tivoli’s historic centre, take local CAT bus 4 or 4X from Largo Garibaldi.
A foodie outing to the Castelli Romani
A pretty pocket of vine-clad hills and volcanic lakes on Rome's southern doorstep, the Castelli Romani make for a fabulous foodie trip.
In Frascati, you can feast on porchetta (herbed spit-roasted pork) and local white wine at the Cantina Simonetti, one of several cantine (cellars) in town. Beforehand, work up an appetite at the Scuderie Aldobrandini, a small museum charting the area’s local history.
For a more refined meal, head to Castel Gandolfo and the Antico Ristorante Pagnanelli, a landmark restaurant offering seasonal food and dreamy views over Lago Albano. Castel Gandolfo is also home to the pope’s summer residence. The Palazzo Apostolico, also known as the Palazzo Pontificio, opened its doors for the first time a couple of years ago and, with prior booking, you can now visit its first-floor museum and landscaped gardens.
Getting there: Direct trains serve Frascati (30 minutes) and Castel Gandolfo (on the Albano Laziale line; 45 minutes) from Rome’s Stazione Termini.
Explore Cerveteri's city of the dead
For a glimpse into the lost world of the Etruscans, head to the Unesco-listed Necropoli di Banditaccia in Cerveteri. This haunting necropolis, which is just outside the modern town, is a veritable city of the dead with streets, squares and terraces of circular grass-topped tombs known as tumuli.
Getting there: From Rome, regular Cotral buses serve Cerveteri from Cornelia metro station (55 minutes). By car, the town is 35km north of Rome, off the A12 autostrada. To get to the necropolis from the town’s historic centre, take bus G from the main square.
Orvieto’s Gothic tour de force
Midway between Rome and Florence, the cliff-top town of Orvieto is a day trip classic. Its handsome medieval lanes are a joy to explore and there are plenty of fine restaurants to try. But what makes a visit so special is its awe-inspiring cathedral, one of Italy's great Gothic churches. Spectacular inside and out, the zebra-striped Duomo features a mesmerising facade and an astonishing fresco cycle by Luca Signorelli depicting the Giudizio Universale.
Once you’ve visited the Duomo, there are sweeping views to be enjoyed from the Torre del Moro and caves to be explored at Orvieto Underground. For a tasty, fortifying meal, search out the Trattoria del Moro Aronne.
Getting there: Regular trains serve Orvieto from Rome Termini (1 hour 15 minutes). By car, it’s just off the main north-south A1 autostrada.
Ancient wonders in Naples and Pompeii
For an exhilarating day to remember, jump on a train and head south to Naples and Pompeii. You can cover both on a day trip from Rome, but you’ll need to be fired up and full of energy.
To get to Pompeii by mid-morning, take an early Frecciarossa train from Termini to Napoli Centrale and then a Circumvesuviana train to Pompei-Scavi-Villa dei Misteri. Pompeii is huge and you’ll need around three hours to cover its greatest hits, which include the Forum, Lupanare (an ancient brothel) and amphitheatre.
Once back in Naples, sample authentic Neapolitan pizza at the Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo, one of several cult pizzerias in the centro storico. Afterwards, head to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale to marvel at stunning classical art, and the baroque Cappella Sansevero to gaze at Giuseppe Sanmartino's incredible Cristo velato (Veiled Christ) sculpture.
Getting there: Frequent fast trains serve Napoli Centrale from Stazione Termini (1 hour 15 minutes).
Discover Florence's Renaissance treasures
With Florence only an hour and a half away by fast train, the city can be visited in a day. You won’t have time for everything, but you’ll be able to squeeze in the headline sights, especially if you’ve pre-booked tickets through Firenze Musei (firenzemusei.it).
From the train station walk down to Piazza del Duomo, home to a trio of celebrated sights: the Duomo with its distinctive red-tiled dome, the Giotto-designed campanile, and the Battistero di San Giovanni. Done there, continue onto Piazza della Signoria, where you can visit Florence's lavish town hall, Palazzo Vecchio, and come face to face with Renaissance masterpieces at the Galleria degli Uffizi.