Romans often say that the beaches near Rome just aren’t that nice. Maybe it’s the New Englander in me, but after visiting Santa Marinella, I beg to differ.
The beach at Santa Marinella, a seaside comune just outside the city, has a couple of things going for it. First off, it’s free. Although that might sound odd if you haven’t sunbathed in Italy before, most other beaches cost you. Stretches of sand are covered in cabanas and chairs, the use of which costs some €10 to €15 for the day — and no, you can’t just park yourself on a towel nearby the chairs and hope nobody will notice. (Che brutta figura!).
Secondly, Santa Marinella’s beach is convenient. Really convenient. You don’t need a car to get there, or to take a train and then a bus, like you do to get to the (admittedly prettier) beach of Sperlonga. Instead, you just hop on the train in Rome from Termini, Ostiense, Trastevere, or San Pietro; 45 minutes and €3.60 land you in Santa Marinella. From there, you can follow the crowds on the 5-minute walk to the beach.
All that could mean that Santa Marinella, like other city beaches, would be grungy. And it may have been, once. But now, the beach is all soft sand and clear Mediterranean water. And, aside from the odd water bottle left behind after the hordes had departed last Sunday evening, it seemed pretty clean to me.
Just keep in mind that, since the beach is so convenient to Rome, lots of locals go here. So if secluded sunbathing is what you’re after, forget about it, at least on the weekend. And bring your cutest suit — if you live in Rome, it’s all but inevitable that you’ll run into someone you know.
If you’re making a day of it, don’t miss lunch at one of Santa Marinella’s best seafood restaurants: L’Acqua Marina (above). A 10-minute walk from the beach at Piazza Trieste 8, the restaurant is elegant and lovely, the kind of place you could see Ingrid Bergman, who bought a house in town, going for lunch. It’s got plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. Sit on the patio for the view over the blue, blue Mediterranean.
While one of the seemingly-pricier eateries in town, costing about 50 euros for lunch for two (including a half-bottle of wine, the shared seafood antipasto, two primi of pasta, and water), it was worth it. And definitely cheaper than a seafood place of the same quality would be back in Rome.
Also, it was just darn good.
Santa Marinella: Weekend crowds, yes… but also seafood, sun, and sand. What more could you want within 45 minutes of Rome?
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Santi Marinella definitely wins if you are looking for the closest option- way nicer than Ostia. But Sperlonga is so much nicer its hard to believe its just an hour from Rome. To me even with public transportation its worth the extra travel time for the beautiful and CLEAN water of Sperlonga.
I was looking for an alternative to Ostia since the best reviews I’ve heard of it say “it is lively (crowded) and the water is OK”. Thanks for the tip!!!
Thanks for the recommendation. I checked out Santa Marinella today and wasn’t disappointed! Definitely beats the Jersey Shore (my stomping grounds in the U.S.)! The water was very nice. A couple notes: The chair/umbrella rates seem to be quite flood — my friend and I negotiated them down from 30 euros to 15 (total). The train link you provided doesn’t list a Santa Marinella station, but, of course, it definitely exists.
Thanks for sharing your experience! And good tip on negotiating down the prices. Oops, I’ve fixed the link too… thanks for pointing it out!
You’re very welcome! Let us know how you like it.
In general, I definitely agree. But sometimes, spending two hours on public transportation after the beach undoes all of the relaxation of a beach day… and that’s when I’ll head to Santa Marinella 🙂
We are just back from Santa Marinella, and I am appalled, absolutely appalled. It is a small beach, and nice as such, but it is almost entirely private, and you are forced to rent an umbrella/beach chair if you want to stay. That in itself is not that big of a deal (although I think it should never be a prerequisite to be on a beach), but when it gets full, like it was today, with no chairs left, YOU GET KICKED OUT OF THE BEACH. It works like this: According to the establishments, you are not allowed to place anything or sit down anywhere 5 m from the water. From 5 m onwards it becomes “private property” – the establishment lease the beach for 5 years and they can do whatever they want with it. The “lifeguard” who told us to move away was nice enough to explain that part. The are a few lifeguards on duty, one for each establishment, and their entire job is to be vigilant that the general public doesn’t get a piece of the beach. There is more: although there were still empty chairs left in each place, we were not allowed to rent them: Turns out people lease them for an entire month.
Sure, the is a tiny “public” beach next to all this, but is of a miniscule, laughable size of perhaps 2 m x 10 m on the outskirts of the main beach, rather horrible, and people were on top of each other on that one.
I know this is common in Italy. And many other places have “private” beach parts. But this is wrong, plain wrong, that businesses take over the whole thing, and the public has no access to the water. Somebody is extracting handsome rents out of this.
Access to sea/ocean should always be a public good, and it is by law in most countries I know. I have lived in many places (Europe, North and South America) and visited many beaches, but never in my life have I seen such a seizure of an entire town beach. Shameful. I can’t understand that people who have apartments in this town (or other similar towns) don’t make something about it, and continue to be squeezed by this system.
NOT RECOMMENDABLE! (In case this happens to you, you can head a little further South to Santa Severa – if you have a car – where the public part of the beach is bigger and a lot nicer).
I agree. This has always been an issue for me and now just become worse and almost unavoidable. I used to go all the time (20 years ago) to SM and others and be able to sit on the beach. The coast/ocean is not private property. It’s a shame that Italians, and others, allow this and even seem to support it. There is a law that the coastline is not private and you can sit there, the problem is being “bullied” (though I hate that term) by establishment owners. When I got to the part in this article that said “che brutta figura” I immediately stopped reading. The BRUTTA figura are the people who are allowed (read: do not OWN the beach) to run and establishment there. Not everyone wants your services!!
Hi MBK, thanks for your comment. The “che brutta figura” was a bit tongue in cheek ;). As a longtime expat myself I hear you about being frustrated when locals don’t do it the way “we” would prefer… but I also think it can be pretty ugly for us to tell locals how to behave in their own country, no matter how tempting it might be! (Believe me, I’ve done it plenty myself). If you’ve found another beach that you prefer to SM, I’d love to know what it is. Thanks for stopping by.
Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m sorry that you were appalled that you had to pay for the beach; you’re right in that this IS very common in Italy. (Although not a good thing!). And yes, as I say in my post, usually “you can’t just park yourself on a towel nearby the chairs and hope nobody will notice”—so, unfortunately, you experienced that firsthand. And I do agree it’s ridiculous that you still weren’t able to just spread a towel out even though you only tried to do so because there were no chairs left!
So the only part of what you wrote that surprises me is that the free beach was only 2m x 10m—it was definitely larger when I wrote this post last summer! So thanks for bringing that to my attention. I’ll have to return to Santa Marinella soon to check it out.
Those hoping for a free beach, take note… although I have yet to find a free beach that’s convenient to Rome by public transport AND pretty. Suggestions welcome! 🙂
Amanda, I think the size of public beach is different every year, and apparently it tends to shrink throughout Italy. Unfortunately. You will see, it is really, really small. The 5 m rule is also highly debatable. (I started to read all about it last night). The law says you should have access and be able to bathe, but whether or not your are allowed to sit or put down a towel next to the shoreline, nobody really knows. Also the highly lucrative beach concessions are granted on a non-transparent basis without competition, for a ver long time, at the discretion of the municipality discretion, whereas the EU rules state that they should be auctioned.
I figured I’d comment on an update on this beach. I was there this past weekend, and it was lovely! The waters were refreshing and super cold and clean. The free beach was bigger than 2m by 10m, but in some areas were quite rocky. We got there at 10am and left at about 1pm (our sensitive Canadian skin cannot handle that much sun for that long), and at no point was the free beach crowded. There were lots of space, and people came and stayed for only a short while. Do take note to bring your own umbrella for a little bit of shade. Hope this helps!
Which are the best places and beaches to visit by car from rome
Just learned about Santa Marinella when it was featured on an episode of House Hunters International. Seems like a pleasant alternative to the beaches at Ostia. And it is only 7 minutes by train from Civitavecchia, with ferries to Corsica, Sardinia and many other places.