There are few tourist destinations around the world more famous than the ancient city of Rome, and anyone who has been understands why. It’s no challenge to fill several days in Rome seeing all of the city’s spellbinding historical and cultural attractions. And once you feel like you’ve gotten a handle on the city, you have all the surrounding towns and regions waiting to be explored. You’ll find that the best places to visit from Rome each have their own unique appeal, constantly showing you new sides and new depths to Italy. That’s what makes the best day trips from Rome so hard to choose between, but don’t worry, there are no wrong choices here.
Just a short trip from Rome, the small town of Tivoli is an absolute treasure trove of spectacular attractions that you’ll want to see. Given its proximity to Rome, it’s perfectly understandable that Tivoli has been a favored retreat for wealthy locals since ancient Rome. As such, most of the attractions in Tivoli are enchanting historic villas, Hadrian’s Villa and Villa D’Este being the main two. Hadrian’s Villa is an archaeological complex which features the remains of a villa owned by Emperor Hadrian back in the 2nd century. Villa D’Este on the other hand is a spellbinding 16th-century Renaissance villa, famous for the terraced fountains which flow through its gardens. There’s plenty more to see with the waterfalls of Villa Gregoriana, the imposing presence of the Rocca Pia castle, and the town of Tivoli in general.
Getting there: Tivoli couldn’t be easier to reach from Rome, with regular buses and trains taking roughly an hour. For a more carefree visit though, a guided tour is a great way to go.
As much as Florence deserves its own stop and several days to explore its depths, that’s not always an option. Living proof that there are things to see in Italy outside of Rome, the city of Florence is a cultural and historic powerhouse. To fit the Renaissance city into a single day, make a beeline for the Piazza del Duomo to see the Cathedral and Baptistery there. While there, decide on whether you want your panoramic view from the top of the Duomo or the Campanile bell tower. Next, head over to the Piazza della Signoria where you’ll see the Fountain of Neptune and the gallery of statues in the Loggia dei Lanzi. Don’t miss a trip across the Arno river on the iconic Ponte Vecchio bridge, nor the world class artworks in the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze art gallery. If you have time, head up to the classic viewpoint at Piazzale Michelangelo before returning back to Rome.
Getting there: Even though it may be one of the busier Rome day trips, getting to Florence from Rome isn’t hard. There are very frequent trains which make the journey in one and a half hours. To avoid the hustles of finding your way around and make the most of your time, it’s best to go with a guided tour. Some guided tours even make a stop in Pisa.
For a destination with clear appeal, it’s hard to think of many better examples than Orvieto. This small fortified city sitting safely up on rocky cliffs instantly draws you in, which is why it’s one of the best side trips from Rome. First though, you have to make your way up to the walls of Albornoz Fortress, either by walking or by funicular. Inside, you’re treated to classic cobblestone streets and intriguing alleyways. Before getting too far, take in the scenery from the fortress walls and delve into the atmospheric Pozzo di San Patrizio Well. The main attraction of the city is surely the glamorous Orvieto Duomo with its mosaic facade. Just across the square from the cathedral lies the entrance to the city’s extensive underground tunnels which have served the city for centuries. After more time finding all the viewpoints from Orvieto’s walls, head down below to see what remains of the city’s ancient Etruscan Necropolis.
Getting there: Trains depart fairly regularly for Orvieto from Rome, generally taking around 1 hour 20 minutes. Another way to go is to take advantage of a guided tour, which lets you sit back and enjoy the sightseeing and perhaps even see somewhere like Assisi along the way.
Surely one of the more fascinating destinations to be found in Italy is the ancient buried city of Pompeii, with nothing else like it in Italy, let alone the rest of the world. It is this fascination which makes Pompeii one of the most popular day tours from Rome; what traveler doesn’t want to see an ancient Roman city hauntingly preserved under ash from a volcano? With a visit to this UNESCO recognized site, you can learn about what ancient Pompeii was like before the fateful eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. As you walk through the ancient site, you’ll see important landmarks like the Tempio di Apollo, the Terme Suburbane city bathhouse, and various private homes of the elite class. Throughout the ruins, statues, mosaics, and frescoes can be found which give you a sense of the city’s former splendor.
Getting there: To reach Pompeii, you have your pick of a full guided tour of Pompeii or just transport there and back with a shuttle bus, these options allow for a hassle-free visit to the ancient site. Otherwise, you’ll want to make the 2 hour long journey by train which requires you change through Naples.
Although it’s best known as a gateway to other popular destinations like Pompeii, Sorento, and the Amalfi coast, Naples is still an interesting destination in its own right. For instance, the city has the largest historic center in all of Europe, earning it a place on the UNESCO world heritage list. Start with a walk down the bustling street locally known as “Spaccanapoli” which carves through Old Town. As you go, you’ll pass several important churches including the Gésu Nuovo church and Santa Chiara monastery. Next, turn off into the city’s Spanish Quarter with its traditional atmosphere and pedestrian streets. Down by the waterfront you’ll find the medieval magnificence of the Castel Nuovo, one of many castles in Naples, and not far away the city’s grand Royal Palace with its lavish interior. Of course, when in Naples you can’t leave without treating yourself to one of the city’s famous pizzas.
Getting there: Getting to Naples from Rome is easy if you go by train, with regular trains making the 1 hour 10 minute journey. If you want to include other places like Pompeii into your trip though, it may be better to visit as part of an organized tour.
6. Ostia Antica
If you haven’t gotten your fill of ancient Roman sites while exploring Rome, then the archaeological site of Ostia Antica is an easy trip to make. Down by the coast, Ostia Antica is what remains of an early Roman harbor town. Even though is was abandoned after the fall of the Roman empire, you’ll see just how well preserved the town is as you walk through its expansive remains. Take a stroll down the ancient street of Decumanus Maximus as you pass ruins of bathhouses, taverns, and various other buildings from the town’s heyday from the 1st to 5th centuries B.C. Likely the most impressive sight here is the large ancient theater, although the mosaics inside the Baths of Neptune are also quite something.
Getting there: With only half a day needed, Ostia Antica is one of the many easy train trips from Rome, taking under 30 minutes to reach from the city. To learn the most about the site, it pays to go with a guide who can fill you in on all the little details.
Italy is home to plenty of important religious destinations beyond Vatican City, one of those is the pilgrimage town of Assisi. This hilltop town in Umbria is the birthplace of St Francis, after whom the Franciscan order is named, making it a major destination for Catholics the world over. And while there are certainly many religious attractions to be seen in Assisi, there’s also more to the town to be seen. The key places of worship to check out are the Basilica di San Francesco d’Assisi, the Cathedral of San Rufino, and Basilica di Santa Chiara, each moving in its own way. After these churches, take a wander through the town’s historic stone streets, stopping in at the Piazza del Comune on the way to see the classical Roman remains of the Tempio di Minerva. Above the town you’ll find the old fortifications of Rocca Maggiore and Rocca Minore, as well as spectacular views across the town below.
Getting there: Unfortunately, Assisi is a 3 hour bus ride from Rome with only a few departures each day. A better use of your time will be to hop aboard a tour which will get you there faster and show you around the sights.
To see one of Italy’s classic picture-perfect coastal towns, travelers to Rome will want to make their way south to Sorrento, another one of the best places to visit in Italy. Resting on the shores of the Bay of Naples, Sorrento is defined by its clifftop perch which looks out over the bay and down to its many marinas. Among the town’s maze of alleys, you’ll want to start your visit with the serene cloisters inside the Chiostro di San Francesco monastery. Next head on to the Museo Correale di Terranova to see the priceless pieces of art houses inside this 18th century villa. Take a break at one of the cafes which line the central square of Piazza Tasso. Finally, on the outskirts of town you’ll find the mystifying sight of Vallone dei Mulini, an ancient sawmill, which has since been reclaimed by plants.
Getting there: Reaching Sorrento from Rome requires a 2 hour 30 minute train, which runs frequently via Naples. If you’d like to see more of this region during the day then a guided tour is a better way to go.
Another fantastic slice of Tuscany which you can visit from Rome is the thoroughly impressive city of Siena. Start a visit here in the middle of the city’s Old Town, surrounded by so many medieval brick buildings that UNESCO had no choice but to give the city World Heritage status. At the center of Old Town lies the Piazza del Campo, a distinctively shell-shaped square home to Siena’s famous Palio di Siena horse race. The square is also where you’ll see the Palazzo Pubblico and Torre del Mangia, two major Siena landmarks. Next, go for a wander through the city’s streets and weave your way to the elegant Salimbeni Palace with its gothic architecture. During your visit, be sure to head up to Piazza del Duomo for its many attractions, chief of which is the outstanding Siena Duomo, where the exterior is only outshined by the interior.
Getting there: Reaching Siena from Rome via public transport isn’t the easiest with 3+ hour journeys and limited connections, although going by bus is the faster option. A more enjoyable way to see Siena, not to mention other places in Tuscany, is to go with a guided tour which handles the transport for you.
While it may not be a household name, the central Italian city of Viterbo nevertheless makes an enticing destination for a day trip from Rome. Viterbo’s greatest claim to fame is that it was a major player in various disputes between the popes and emperors during the 12th and 13th centuries. This history can be explored at the Palazzo dei Papi, once the seat of the popes who for various reasons weren’t based in Rome. It’s here too that you’ll find the San Lorenzo Cathedral with its historic Gothic belfry, just one of many Viterbo churches. Another inviting palace in Viterbo is the city hall of Palazzo dei Priori, known for its beautiful baroque frescoes. Just outside the city, you can go for a dip in one of the historic thermal spas at Bagni di Viterbo, which is said to have healing properties in the water.
Getting there: Viterbo isn’t well enough known yet for there to be day tours from Rome. Instead, you’ll need to take one of the hourly trains which reach Viterbo in around 1 hour 40 minutes.
There’s just no end to the wonderful destinations Italy has to offer, nor those able to be reached from the country’s capital. This list of day trips is in no way exhaustive, but it is the best place to start when looking for journeys out of Rome.