Discover the five most fascinating unexplored places near Rome: Ostia Antica, Polledrara di Cecanibbio, Lago di Albano, Giardino di Ninfa and Lago di Bracciano.
Rome is the most coveted destination in Italy. The Eternal City projects the allure of its great past through all that surrounds it. Every one of its streets, squares, palaces, fountains, and establishments gathers people of all nationalities, visitors, and tourists, in addition to the many who travel to the Capital for work. Rome wears its noble robes with simplicity and regales the traveler with an unparalleled image of itself. The beauties of the capital, however, transcend its boundaries, affording equally striking and unique sights throughout the region.
Italo takes you on a discovery of the 5 most fascinating and unexplored places, which will not fail to surprise even the most curious and adventurous travelers, aware that they can proudly boast of what they have seen. The treasures of Lazio are many and deserve to be discovered… all of them!
Here are the must-see tourist destinations in which you will immerse yourself in villages, castles, nature parks, and archaeological sites for a unique experience that will leave you speechless.
Five places to visit near Rome: Nemi
Let’s see the top five most fascinating places outside Rome that you still do not know (but that you really should)
Not far from the capital, the remains and archaeological ruins of Ostia Antica are located halfway between Rome and Fiumicino, not far from Leonardo da Vinci Airport and are easily accessible from both Rome and Civitavecchia. Traveling by car along the Via del Mare, the main road connecting Rome with the Lazio coast, you reach Ostia Antica, the first ever Roman colony established and the largest city in the ancient world. For a pleasant and relaxing experience, the ruins of Ostia are an ideal place for families. Kids, too, can have fun and spend a day outdoors in complete freedom and safety, living the thrill and the atmosphere of more than 2,000 years ago.
This timeless, fascinating, and mysterious place evokes the greatness of Ostia, which enjoyed great wealth and prestige during the times of imperial Rome! Built at the mouth of the river Tiber (Ostia derives from the Latin Ostium meaning river mouth), the city was a strategic location for river traffic underpinning trade with Rome. Many legends attribute the founding of Ostia to the fourth king of Rome Anco Marzio, but it is certain that, around the fourth century B.C., the city was already a fortified citadel (castrum in Latin) as evidenced by the layout of the ruins.
We can admire the extent of its splendor as we walk along the Decumanus Maximus, which connects Porta Romana to Porta Marina, and immediately enter a network of streets, squares, buildings, courtyards, warehouses, stores, baths, and baths that still preserve insignia and splendid mosaics. We then move on from the Forum of Corporations to the Theater, precious relics of the social and cultural life of the Imperial era. Also worth visiting are the Neptune Baths with marine-themed mosaics, the Basilica, the Domus of Eros and Psyche, the collegia, the semi-subterranean mithraeum, and a perfectly preserved tavern. The area also incorporates a museum displaying statues and other art objects collected during the excavations. Thanks to the well-preserved state of the archaeological area, we can still visit its ruins and marvel at the splendor of this ancient city.
Polledrara di Cecanibbio
Just outside Rome and more commonly known as the elephant graveyard, the Polledrara di Cecanibbio is one of the richest paleontological sites that is also organized as a museum. Surrounded by pastures and olive groves between the Via Aurelia and Via Boccea, it can be reached in just a few minutes. This is where Prehistory awaits you, and if you want to discover another side of Rome’s past, enjoy the spectacular wonder of an open-air museum. This enormous deposit, discovered in 1984 and completed in 2014, can be visited thanks to a suspended walkway, where visitors can admire fossils from the Roman Pleistocene, from the remains of large prehistoric mammals such as the ancient elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus) to the primeval ox (Bos primigenius) and the red deer (Cervus elaphus). An area of more than 1200 square meters contains more than 20,000 fossil fauna remains associated with flint and bone tools. The area includes the riverbed, which was eventually replaced over the centuries by marshland that was a real trap for these animals that could be as tall as four meters. Several carcasses are clearly visible at the site, and one elephant carcass, in particular, retains clear and precise evidence that humans fed on these animals, with human presence substantiated by the numerous finds of hunting implements. With a short trip just outside the city, you will take a leap back in time over 320,000 years!
A few kilometers from Rome, reachable in 30 minutes by car or by regional bus, Lake Albano, also known as Lake Castel Gandolfo, is one of the green lungs of the Parco dei Colli Albani, more commonly known as the Castelli Romani. Lake Albano (Latin: Lacus Albanus), is a volcanic lake with an almost circular shape and is the deepest of Italy’s volcanic lakes. You can see important archaeological, prehistoric, and Roman remains on its shores, such as the Village of the Macine and the Doric and Bergantino nymphaea. Lake Albano has no tributary rivers and is fed only by rainfall and a number of springs. In 397 B.C., the Romans built a colossal artificial outfall that allowed the lake’s waters to reach the sea and thus control its level. This area is rich in history, art, and culture, ideal for taking a relaxing and enlightening walk and admiring the dense vegetation to discover beautiful scenery, scents, and colors. On sunny days, it’s a popular destination for water sports enthusiasts, from rowing to sailing or a paddleboat ride with a tan on the beach. The shoreline extending over almost 10 kilometers is a popular location for jogging, mountain biking, or a pleasant picnic. You can now also take boat trips on the lake thanks to a new service provided by the Castelli Romani Regional Natural Park. Visitors strolling along the “Water Trail” will enjoy a beautifully engaging environmental, historical, and archaeological experience. From the rim of the volcanic cone the view ranges over the beautiful town of Castel Gandolfo, acclaimed as one of Italy’s “Most Beautiful Villages”. It is famous throughout the world for the summer residence of the Popes in the Papal Palace, which dates back to the 1600s. It was built by Pope Urban VIII and comprises beautiful gardens, the Vatican farm, the church of St. Thomas of Villanova, and the fountain, both designed by Bernini, as well as the oldest mail drop box in Italy. The village of Castel Gandolfo has beautiful views of Lake Albano and the surrounding woods; it has many historic stores and excellent restaurants overlooking the lake.
The best eateries and what to eat in Castel Gandolfo: the tastiest food and the best restaurants overlooking the lake
In Castel Gandolfo, you can enjoy typical dishes from the Lazio region, from Penne all’arrabbiata to Spaghetti cacio e pepe, from Amatriciana to Artichoke hearts with marjoram and Porchetta, all accompanied by a fine glass of Colli Albani wine.
Here are the five top lake-view restaurants and trattorias for a meal in Castel Gandolfo:
– TRATTORIALA CRUNA DEL LAGO
(Via Arco Scuole Pie, 12 Tel: +39 333 4086468): Roman recipes and platters from the open lakeside kitchen with stone walls and carefully arranged furnishings with beautiful, breathtaking views of the lake
– RESTAURANT IL GROTTINO
(Via Saponara, 2 Tel: +39 06 9361413): in the heart of the historic center, a romantic restaurant overlooking the lake.
– RISTORANTE DA AGNESE
(Via Spiaggia del Lago, 24 Tel: +39 06 9366 8233): Roman dishes served on rustic wooden tables in an informal setting with a veranda overlooking the lake.
– RISTORANTE LA PERLA
(Via Spiaggia del Lago, 6 Tel: +39 06 936 0340): a venue for receptions and private functions with luxurious rooms surrounded by greenery, with panoramic views of the lake.
– I QUADRI VIA DEI PESCATORI
(Via dei Pescatori, 21 Tel: +39 06 936 1400): pasta, seafood and freshwater fish served on a terrace overlooking the lake; this establishment also has beach facilities and sun loungers.
Giardino di Ninfa – The Garden of Ninfa
At just over an hour from the capital, an ideal day-trip destination. Located in the municipality of Cisterna di Latina, the Garden of Ninfa can be reached by car or regional train. The name Ninfa originated from a small temple in the garden dedicated to the Naiad Nymphs of Roman times, deities who guarded all the fresh waters of the earth and possessed healing and prophetic powers. Described by the New York Times as “the most romantic garden in all of Italy”, it is an eight-hectare English-style botanical garden created starting in 1921 by Gelasio Caetani in the area of the medieval town of Ninfa, which has since, regrettably, disappeared. The garden is home to more than 1,300 different plant species from all over the world, from Japanese maples to magnolias, to irises, ornamental apple trees, many varieties of rare roses, an American walnut tree, a white-leaf maple, a red beech, a silver-leaf pine, and a yellow bignonia, as well as exotic and tropical plants and numerous irrigation streams and ponds. It is a biodiversity paradise where you can see the Imperial Crow, Redstart, and Lonely Sparrow, and among the ruins of the medieval city, see Eurasian Nuthatches and Hoopoes, and along the waterway, observe the Kingfisher, Moorhen, Water Rail, and Reed Warbler. A WWF oasis designation has protected the fauna of this enchanted place since 1976. The Garden of Ninfa has been declared a Natural Monument of Lazio and is a perfect destination for a day out with the children or to experience it together with your better half or with a group of friends.
The best eateries and what to eat in the Garden of Ninfa area
Here are three restaurants near the Garden of Ninfa where you can enjoy excellent food for a perfect ending to a day at the park
– RESTAURANT LA PETITE FONTANA
(Via del Corso, 2, Norma): Lazio dishes are served within ornamented walls and benches in an unpretentious room with a large terrace overlooking the valley.
– OLIVETO PIZZERIA RESTAURANT
(Via delle Querce, 8, Sermoneta): pizza, artisanal pasta and grilled meats served in a rustic setting with swimming pool, and surrounded by olive trees.
– THE GARDEN OF THE SYMPOSIUM
(Via della Conduttura, 6, Sermoneta): recipes from the Pontine area are served in an open space amidst alleyways with stone and brick walls and wooden benches.
Lago di Bracciano – Lake Bracciano
Lake Bracciano is just under 50 kilometers from Rome and is embedded in the beautiful Bracciano-Martignano Natural Park. It can be reached by car in less than an hour or by regional public transportation. It is a lake of volcanic origin, the eighth-largest lake basin in Italy and the third-largest in central Italy, after Lake Trasimeno and Lake Bolsena. It is rich in history and beauty, and its crystal-clear waters make it a naturalistic destination to be discovered on the outskirts of the capital. Ideal for cooling off even on hot summer days with a dip or a suntan, thanks to the pleasant equipped lakeshore beaches, you can also enjoy scuba diving, canoeing, numerous sailing sports, or simply a leisurely stroll in the open air. In addition to Lake Bracciano, the Bracciano-Martignano Natural Park also includes Lake Martignano, which is also of volcanic origin and much smaller and almost perfectly circular. The two lakes can be called “brothers” because they were generated by the same volcano. A scenic road loops all around Lake Bracciano, enabling you to explore the basin and, on its shores, visit the most beautiful and picturesque medieval villages, such as Bracciano, Trevignano Romano, and Anguillara Sabazia.
How to reach the three villages overlooking Lake Bracciano and things to see there.
The three quaint medieval villages surrounding Lake Bracciano are of Roman origin, and some are directly reflected in the waters of the lake, while others are slightly distant from the coast but easily reached in a few minutes.
The best-known medieval village, overlooking the waters of the lake and standing on a high rise among the Sabatini Mountains, is, without a doubt, Bracciano famous above all for its imposing and magnificent Orsini Odescalchi Castle. The majestic five-towered structure is known worldwide for its extraordinary beauty and chosen by many as a dream location for weddings and private events. The village streets comprise numerous historical and artistic testimonies to discover, from the Collegiate Church of St. Stephen to the churches of S. Maria Novella and Madonna del Riposo, and the central square where the Town Hall stands.
On the scenic promontory along the southeastern shore of Lake Bracciano stands Anguillara Sabazia, a quaint medieval village a few kilometers from the center of Bracciano and the Orsini Odescalchi Castle. The name comes from an ancient Roman villa called “Angulara” because of its corner shape. Strolling through the streets of the ancient village, one discovers small squares and scenic viewpoints to admire the beauty of the lake, the interesting Baronial Palace, and the Church of the Assumption with its breathtaking view. Anguillara Sabazia is famous for its seabed just off the lake, which hugs the town and holds an “underwater city”, a real underwater village dating back to the Neolithic period. It is the oldest lake settlement ever discovered in Western Europe, a treasured archaeological find unearthed in the 1990s and dating back to 5500 B.C.
On the northern shore of Lake Bracciano and between the slopes of the Monte di Rocca Romana rises Trevignano Romano, which offers one of the most expansive and striking views of the lake. The typical and pleasant medieval village is a few kilometers from Anguillara Sabazia and is known to have been a settlement of the Etruscans. Places of interest include three ancient churches Santa Maria Assunta, Santa Caterina D’Alessandria, and San Bernardino da Siena, and the ruins of the Rocca degli Orsini, a fortress built in 1200 at the behest of Pope Innocent III. The small village is a charming place, typical of small fishing villages, and walking through its streets is like traveling back to medieval times. Spending a day visiting these three marvelous medieval villages and admiring the beauty of the lake is a way to spend, among art, culture, and nature, pleasant hours, thus rediscovering an interest in history – all just a stone’s throw from Rome.
The best eateries and what to eat near Lake Bracciano
Throughout the basin area, you can enjoy delicious fish such as roasted whitefish, grilled pike fillets, baked in foil, eel cacciatore, and fried Latterini (typical lake fish). Bracciano is also Cheese City 2021 as designed by ONAF (the national organization of dairy tasters), and throughout the area with an ancient agrarian vocation, excellent cheeses and wine are enjoyed.
Here are five restaurants on Lake Bracciano:
– CONVIVIO PORTA DEL PARCO
(via Mola Vecchia 20, Anguillara Sabazia, Cell. +39 322.214.171.1243): a restaurant in the beautiful Park of Bracciano for an apéritif or a dinner of lattarini (lake fish) served in paper and gluten-free dishes.
– RISTORANTE IL PORTICCIOLO
(via Settevene, Palo Est 197, Trevignano Romano, Tel. +39 06.99.99.604): surrounded by greenery on the shores of Lake Bracciano, this eatery serves local cuisine and products from homemade pasta to local meats and fish strictly caught in Lake Bracciano.
– LE PAPERE
(Via G. Argenti, 20, Bracciano, Tel. +39 393 977 9365): a romantic restaurant housed in a lake pile dwelling; it offers fish specialties with a la carte and buffet menus.
–LA CALETTA SUL LAGO
(Strada, Via Provinciale Vigna di Valle, 42, Anguillara Sabazia, Tel. +39 06 996 8830): Mediterranean seafood menu in a well-kept venue with rustic-chic furnishings, garden and private lakeside beach.
–RISTORANTE IL PESCATORE
(Via G. Argenti, 14, Bracciano, Tel. +39 06 9980 6013): this restaurant with a beautiful view of Lake Bracciano is great for good fish, focaccia and enjoying excellent wine
Discovering destinations near Rome with ItaloTreno
We have chosen to tell you about five places to visit near Rome, but the list of special places found in Lazio is really very long. Italo takes you to the heart of Italy with departures from Bologna, Florence, Naples, Bolzano, Desenzano, Trento, Peschiera del Garda, Salerno and Venice. We offer many daily connections, so you can reach Rome from Milan in less than three hours.