There’s no doubt Rome is an awesome tourist destination, but sometimes it’s nice to take a break from big city life. Luckily for tourists, there are many fascinating historical treasures not all that far from the Italian capital. Let’s take a quick tour of the most exciting day trips you should consider when visiting Rome.
Tivoli: Hadrian’s Hideaway
Most cities would be proud to have just one UNESCO World Heritage site, but Tivoli has two…and they’re both villas!
The older of Tivoli’s historic villas is known as the Villa Adriana. In case your Latin is a bit rusty, “Adriana” refers to Emperor Hadrian who ordered the construction of this retreat in the 2nd century. Measuring roughly 200 acres, Hadrian’s Villa is the largest Ancient Roman estate known to archeologists. On your visit to this massive complex, take a few moments to imagine the opulence of Ancient Rome as you tour underground passageways, thermal baths, gorgeous gardens, and temples to the gods.
Tivoli’s second World Heritage Site is all about the waterworks. Created for Cardinal Ippolito d’Este in the 16th century, Villa d’Este is best known for its ornate fountains sprinkled located throughout its terraced garden. The most impressive of these fountains is the Fountain of the Organ, which, as the name suggests, plays music. Although the organ technology has been updated, it’s still a thrill to hear this fountain play romantic Renaissance tunes. Other exceptional fountains you’ll see on your garden tour include the Fountain of the Owl and the Hundred Fountains.
Orvieto: Etruscan Engineering & Fantastic Frescoes
Umbria is sometimes called the “green heart of Italy” due to its central location and unspoiled natural scenery. The absolute best way to appreciate the Umbrian countryside for a day is to take a trip into the ancient hill town of Orvieto.
Originally founded by the Etruscans, Orvieto has roughly 3,000 years of history to explore. Amazingly, you could still see the original Etruscan tunnels on a tour underneath the city. Visitors are always amazed at how the Etruscans were able to carve such intricate tunnel designs without the benefit of modern technology.
The major reason travelers visit Orvieto, however, is to admire the city’s famed 14th century Catholic cathedral: the Duomo di Orvieto. Created at the behest of Pope Urban IV, this masterful church has many awe-inspiring features including a rose window and Renaissance era bells. Inside the Duomo, guests will see the vivid frescoes of Luca Signorelli, which most art critics believe inspired Michelangelo’s immortal Sistine Chapel.
Bomarzo: The Land of The Monsters
Any art fans out there should look into a day trip to Bomarzo. In this relatively small town you’ll find one of the most unique sculpture gardens in Italy: the Park of Monsters. A duke named Pier Francesco Orsini commissioned this “Sacred Grove” in the mid-1500s shortly after his beloved wife passed away. Nobody’s quite sure what the purpose of this park is, but it has been hailed as a masterpiece of the over-the-top Mannerist style.
As you might’ve already guessed, the Park of Monsters has, well, a lot of monsters. Although the exaggerated style of these sculptures is Mannerist, most visitors feel as if they’ve just stepped into a Surrealist dreamscape. Here you’ll find leaning towers, elegant elephants, and even a goblin-like tunnel known as the “Mouth of Hell.” It should come as no surprise that painter Salvador Dalí and writer Jean Cocteau helped put the Sacred Grove on the map. So, don’t pass on a visit to this park if you’re looking for something wonderfully weird.
Viterbo: Glory Days, Golden Present
Viterbo is a fantastic day trip for anyone interested in Italian history. Dating back to the Etruscan era, Viterbo rose to prominence around the 12th century when popes used Viterbo as a safe retreat. After its brief moment in the sun, Viterbo suffered a string of bad luck. Not only was this city hit with a devastating earthquake, it also suffered for years with the Bubonic Plague and was later bombed by the Allies in WWII. Although badly damaged during the war, Viterbo is still standing today and now houses Italy’s precious gold reserves.
You can get a sense of Viterbo’s legendary past almost everywhere you turn. One of the most important sites is the 13th century Palazzo dei Papi, which is where the first Papal Conclave is said to have taken place. Other points of interest include the Viterbo Cathedral and the Church of San Francesco, both of which have tombs or mausoleums for past popes. For those who just want to relax, keep in mind that Viterbo has some of the most famous thermal springs in central Italy.
Frascati: The Finer Side of Life
Any wine enthusiasts reading this post might’ve already heard of Frascati. In recent years, Frascati’s white wine has become a pretty big deal in the industry. Obviously, most people who visit here are interested in checking out these legendary vineyards.
Besides Frascati’s marvelous vineyards, you’ll find plenty of jaw-dropping villas, palaces, and churches worthy of exploration. Indeed, Frascati’s landmark attraction is the Villa Aldobrandini. Built in the 16th century, this privately-owned villa boasts Mannerist masterpieces, exceptional views of Rome, and a lovely garden. Tourists in Frascati can also check out architectural gems like the Cattedrale di San Pietro and the Villa Falconieri. With its opulent architecture, decadent cuisine, and world-renowned white wine, Frascati is the obvious day trip for those interested in the high life.
Plan A Day Trip on Your Next Roman Getaway
Let’s face it: sometimes the Roman crowds can get annoying (especially in the sweltering summer heat). Thankfully, there are plenty of world-class attractions that are far enough from the Roman crowds and close enough for a day trip. Anyone who needs a break from the hustle and bustle of Rome can’t go wrong visiting any of the destinations listed above.
Private Rome to Tivoli Day Trip
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