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Ten must-see places within reach of Rome

Rome has a lot to offer, but if you’re looking for variety or just want a break from the city, there’s a treasure trove of towns within easy reach.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Ten must-see places within reach of Rome
Exploring Spoleto, a hilltown in Umbria that’s not far from Rome. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
Whether it’s for an afternoon trip or a long weekend, Lazio and its neighbouring regions – Umbria, Toscana and Campania – offer an abundance of places that are rich in beauty, character and delicious specialties. Just take your pick from the list below.

Why? Home of Italy’s patron saint and lovingly restored to its medieval glory after a devastating 1997 earthquake, Assisi enjoys endless panoramic views from its hillside terrace.

Where? Umbria, 130km north of Rome and 20km east of Perugia.

How to get there Assisi is just over two hours away from Rome by regular (regionale veloce) train. You can then take a bus from the station into town.

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When to go While it is a pleasant destination all year round, spring and autumn will spare you from weather extremes. Bear in mind that the town gets very busy on St Francis Day (October 3rd-4th).

How much time will I need? Assisi is small enough to see in about three hours (not including the bus to and from the station). Getting there and back in a day is certainly possible, but it can also be comfortably combined with an overnight stay in nearby Perugia for a weekend trip.

What to see The imposing Basilica di San Francesco, on the left-hand side when facing the town from below, is the big draw. The Roman temple nestled among the buildings along the central Piazza del Comune also makes for a good photo. For the best views of the surrounding countryside, climb up to the ruined fortress (La Rocca) above the town.

Why? Sitting on a steep outcrop in the middle of a vast rocky valley and reached by a long bridge from the modern town, Civita di Bagnoregio is mostly deserted save for a handful of street cafes and restaurants and souvenir shops. But it is worth visiting for the magnificent setting and haunting charm.

Where? Lazio, 90 km north/northwest of Rome and 10 km south of Orvieto.

How to get to there To reach Bagnoregio you need to take a train to Orvieto (1 hour 10/20 mins) and catch a blue Cotral bus. Bus stops are near the train station. Bear in mind that buses do not run on Sundays and public holidays. The rambling bus takes about 40 minutes, and the old town is a 30 minute walk from the bus stop, including the bridge crossing.

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When to go Like Assisi, Bagnoregio is best visited in the spring and autumn: the dry rocky surroundings and clifftop setting can make it uncomfortably hot in the summer months and chilly in the winter.

How much time will I need? Anything between a couple of hours and half a day is more than enough to walk around and sit down for lunch. If you want to make a longer day or a weekend of it, Orvieto makes for a good stopover point and overnight stay option.

What to see Bagnoregio’s greatest asset is its setting. Inside the old town, rustic stone houses, and the occasional semi-wild garden, are sure to please photographers.

Why? A trio of charming towns – Bracciano, Trevignano and Anguillara – set on the shores of lake Bracciano together make for a full day or a relaxing weekend away from Rome. All three are different, but all are equally attractive.

Where? Lazio, 35km northwest of Rome.

How to get there The easiest starting point is Bracciano town, reached by train from Rome (about an hour from Ostiense station). Cotral buses run between the three towns, making it possible to visit all three in a day, and between Anguillara and the nearest railway station 5km away. Trevignano has no train station, so in order to see all three, your route would be either Bracciano – Trevignano – Anguillara, or Anguillara – Trevignano – Bracciano. It may be best to leave Anguillara for last as it has the best afternoon/sunset light. If you are an avid cyclist, you can cycle between the towns along the lake.

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When to go Spring through until mid-autumn is the best time to make the most of the refreshing lakeside setting and see the best of the flowering plants and mini-gardens.

How much time will I need? Each town is worth a couple of hours’ stopover. Seeing all three in a day is a possibility, but an overnight stay in Trevignano will make for a more leisurely weekend.

What to see Each town offers cosy old streets and nooks tended with great care by the residents, adorned with tastefully-arranged flowering shrubs, vines, and potted plants; Trevignano’s old main street behind the monumental archway is the most accessible example, but the steep lanes between Bracciano’s castle and the lake-view terrace are also worth a look. Bracciano has a commanding panorama of the lake from its lofty terrace, while Anguillara has a pleasant lakeside promenade for an afternoon stroll (and don’t miss the old town, and the fortress ruins, up on the hill if you are looking for snapshots).

Why? Deserted on Benito Mussolini’s orders in the 1930s when it was mistakenly declared unsafe, Calcata later became an artists’ haven, and is now enjoying a revival as a day trip destination. As with Bagnoregio, Calcata’s best assets are its dramatic position, jutting out on a cliff high above a wooded valley, and its medieval warren of old stone houses.

Where? Lazio, 35 km north of Rome.

How to get there The only way to get to Calcata by public transport is to take a Cotral bus (about an hour) from Saxa Rubra, the local train stop reached from Rome’s Flaminia station (trains run every 10-15 minutes – check atac.roma.it for exact times; you can use a local Atac metro/bus ticket, or your monthly pass, for the 15-minute train trip). Bear in mind that as with most Cotral buses, there are none on Sundays… which sadly limits Calcata’s potential as an overnight stop, unless you are driving.

When to go Spring through to mid-autumn is the best time, as it will let you see Calcata at its liveliest and most inviting.

How much time will I need? Calcata can be seen in just an hour, but makes for a relaxing half-day or day trip. There are a few cafes and bars set around the tiny town if you fancy lunch, dinner or a drink.

What to see Other than visiting the old town, with its narrow lanes and art shops and scenic lookouts, you can lengthen your day by taking a stroll in the valley below. The views up at Calcata are never clear enough to make for a good photo, but they do let you fully appreciate its clifftop perch.

Why? Capri is gorgeous, and a radical change of scene from Rome that makes for a refreshing break – all within surprisingly easy reach. Do not be put off by its posh image; if you don’t fancy browsing designer boutiques, there are plenty of pleasant walks offering stunning views.

Where? Campania, 210 km southeast of Rome and 50 km southeast of Naples.

How to get there If you do your homework with the timetables, it is possible to get from Rome to Capri in about two and a half hours. The Freccia trains take only an hour to get from Rome to Naples (the less expensive Intercity takes two hours); from there it is a short bus/tram/taxi ride to Molo Beverello, the departure point for the Capri-bound ferries (see schedule here). The faster boats leave from there and take hour and a half).

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When to go Visiting from mid-April to late October will get you the best weather. The winter months will guarantee an absence of tourist crowds, but you may be dealing with limited boat service. The height of summer (mid-July through August) is so busy that it is best avoided.

How much time will I need? It is possible to see Capri in a day, or even half a day if you are in a hurry; but hurrying around in a place as beautiful as this may defeat the object. The best way to appreciate the island is to stay overnight, letting you enjoy the peace and quiet when the day-tour groups have left, or before they arrive at about 11am. Despite Capri’s upscale reputation, it has quite a few reasonable two and three star hotels, and Anacapri has a wealth of holiday apartments. Some hotels impose a two-night minimum stay in the high season, but alternatives do exist.

What to see If luxury shopping is not your thing, head to Anacapri for the seggiovia, a chairlift ride to the top of Monte Solaro, Capri’s highest mountain offering breathtaking views. Anacapri is a pleasant town worth lingering in; walk down its pedestrian street and make a detour to the San Michele Church to look at its painted majolica floor depicting Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Heaven. For the more adventurous, there are walks from Punta Tragara high above the coastal cliffs, from Capri town to the ruins of Villa Tiberia, from Monte Solaro down to Anacapri, and from Anacapri to the Migliara lookout… among others.

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