The Most Beautiful Island Escapes Near Rome (Updated for 2019)

The island of Procida, one of the best islands near Rome

By the time June rolls around, I’m dreaming of escaping to an Italian island near Rome. Luckily, the capital’s proximity to the sea means you don’t need to set aside a whole week to enjoy some idyllic island time. Even a weekend will do.

When I’m craving beautiful scenery, super-fresh fish, laid-back hamlets and those sparkling Mediterranean shores, but only have 48 hours to spend (or less!), these are the islands I go to.

Ponza, one of the best islands near Rome
I’d wile away my whole day on this dock in Ponza, too, if I could…

It’s a big claim when it comes to the Mediterranean, which is (let’s be honest) embarrassingly #blessedwith stunning little spots, but I’m going to put it out there: these are some of the best islands not only near Rome, but some of the best Italian islands around, period.

The best island near Rome for… going where the locals go: Ponza

Ponza, one of the best islands near Romea
It’s hard to dream of a prettier place than the harbor of Ponza at twilight…

I can’t believe I’ve gotten into year five of this blog without having published a word about Ponza. For shame! When it comes to Mediterranean islands, and especially islands near Rome, it’s easily one of Italy’s best-kept secrets… from international tourists, that is.

Romans, on the other hand, know Ponza well. In fact, the well-heeled have been visiting the island for more than 2,000 years, drawn by its lush, volcanic greenery, striking cliffs and, of course, bright-blue sea. (Fun fact: Ponza gets its name from a local legend which holds that Pontius Pilate’s own family had a villa here).

Today, Ponza (also shown at top) is scattered with a handful of small, pastel villages. The main port town crowds with Italians fresh off the ferries in July and August. (It’s much quieter even in June, and when I went once in October, there was hardly anyone there at all — even though the temperature remained balmy enough for a swim).

Circe's cave at the island of Ponza, Ponza, one of the best islands near Rome
Circe’s cave at the island of Ponza (Also: Look. At. That. Water)

Although its villages are lovely, Ponza’s main attraction is, of course, the natural scenery. Don’t miss  the Chaia di Luna (above), a crescent of cliffs plunging into the sea where Circe, the sorceress, was said to have seduced Odysseus. In-the-know-Italians also flock to Spiaggia di Frontone, which you take a ferry to from Porto, and stay until the evening, hanging out at the laid-back bars and beach clubs.

Taking a boat around Ponza, one of the best Italian islands near Rome
You can never go wrong with renting a boat to see Ponza… or any of the other islands on this list

Renting a car or scooter is, as with all three of these islands, suggested — but for Ponza, especially, it’s also worth renting a small outboard boat, which you can do right at the harbor, to toodle around. It’s the best way to get to those out-of-the-way coves and beaches that make the island so special.

Getting there: Take the train from Rome to Formia-Gaeta (one hour, €16.50 or 1.5 hours, €8.20), or to Anzio (one hour and €3.60). From Formia, Laziomar runs ferries to Ponza (80 minutes, €25.50 or 2.5 hours, €16.70); from Anzio, Vetor offers ferries to Ponza (70 minutes, €25 to €48).

The best island near Rome for… sightseeing (including a castle): Ischia

Ischia, one of the most beautiful and best islands near Rome
The view of beautiful Ischia from its equally beautiful castle

Capri isn’t the only island off Naples and the Amalfi coast. Ischia, its neighbor, is actually the largest island in the bay — plus is cheaper, less touristic and every bit as beautiful.

I’ve written about Ischia at length before, both in this post and in this story last year for the Globe and Mail, so I won’t repeat it all here. But let’s put it this way: Ischia has a ridiculously picturesque castle (that just happens to date back to the time of the ancient Greeks), tons of little villages and coves to explore, and some of the best sfogliatelle around. And it makes not only a fantastic quick trip from Rome, but a great day trip from the Amalfi coast or Naples, too.

Yes, you could definitely come to Ischia and just flop down on the beach. But with so much to see, you’d kind of be missing the point.

Castello Aragonese in Ischia, one of the best islands near Rome
A medieval castle gives an Italian island serious bonus points, amiright?

Getting there: Take the train from Rome to Naples (the fastest is 70 minutes, €43; cheapest is 2 hours, €19). From there, grab a bus or taxi to the port (10 minutes; a taxi costs €11) and one of a number of ferries, run by lines including Medmar, Caremar, Alilauro and Snav, on to Ischia. The fastest from the main port takes 45 minutes and costs about €28 each way.

The best island near Rome for… an idyllic day trip: Procida

Procida, one of the best islands near Rome
How insane are these colors?

This picturesque little island is another of Capri’s lesser-known neighbors. It also measures just 1.5 square miles — leaving so little room for tourism buildup, both hotels and tourist crowds are pretty nonexistent.

That, of course, is part of Procida’s charm. Old men gather in the piazzas to gossip and smoke, fishermen repair their nets on the docks and centuries-old traditions endure — like the Good Friday procession of the Misteri, which parades life-sized, handmade floats through the town.

Procida, one of the best islands near Rome
The perfect place to just relax

Aside from the seaside life and spectacular scenery (this is where Il Postino was filmed), the island has a sense of magic to it I haven’t experienced anywhere else, a kind of Neapolitan mysteriousness that’s been transferred (and preserved) offshore. One local legend has it that, when Procida was besieged (hardly for the first time) by pirates on 8 May 1535, locals called on St Michael the archangel for help. He showed up, sword in hand, and the pirates fled, another anniversary that’s celebrated with a procession each year.

For more about Procida, and more shots of this stunning off-the-beaten-path island, check out my slideshow for the BBC. Procida, an island escape from Rome

Procida’s size makes it more walkable than the other islands, so you don’t have to rent a scooter or car. But getting to some of the farther-flung beaches on the island can still be a bit of a hike (it’s a 2-mile walk from the town to the lovely, if crowded on summer weekends, Lido di Procida beach, for example); we found ourselves occasionally taking cabs, which were relatively cheap (but you will have to have some way to call them).

As an aside, the island’s manageable size and proximity to Naples makes it not only a great weekend escape, but a doable day or half-day trip from Naples or the Amalfi coast.

Beautiful Procida, a great island near Rome
One of the parts of Procida where Il Postino was filmed

Getting there: For the most part, the ferries that run to Ischia stop, first, at Procida. So it’s the same procedure as above: Take the train from Rome to Naples (the fastest is 70 minutes, €43; cheapest is 2 hours, €19). From there, grab a bus or taxi to the port (10 minutes; a taxi costs €11) and one of a number of ferries, run by lines including Medmar, Caremar, Alilauro and Snav, on to Procida. The hydrofoil takes just 40 minutes and costs about €15 each way.

If you liked this post, you’ll love The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, available for purchase on Amazon or through my site here! I’m also free for one-on-one consulting sessions to help plan your Italy trip.

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My Favorite Photos of Autumn in Italy

Autumn in Italy photos in Rome

Ah, autumn in Italy: The weather is crisp, the produce beautiful (don’t you love it when apples and eggplant and truffles are in season?), and the tourist crowds have started to dissipate. It’s also the only time when somehow, inexplicably, I sometimes get a whiff of that countryside woodsmoke-smell—the kind that makes me want to bundle up and go for a hayride—in the center of Rome.

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The Perfect Island Escape of Procida, for the BBC

Procida, Italy
The island of Procida, the perfect weekend escape from Rome

I’ve been getting around the Bay of Naples lately. In May, I wrote a story on Ischia, Capri’s larger but lesser-known neighbor, for Canada’s Globe and Mail. When I visited the tiny, nearby island of Procida in August, I didn’t expect it to compare: After all, Ischia has stunning views… and lovely towns… and a medieval castle!

But you know what? Procida blew me away. Here’s my slideshow for the BBC on what makes Procida unique.

Convinced? Luckily, Procida makes a great weekend trip (or even day trip) from Rome. Take the fast train from Rome to Naples (1 hour 10 minutes), then grab a ferry with Medmar (www.medmarnavi.it), Caremar (www.caremar.it), Alilauro (alilauro.it), or Snav (snav.it) to Procida, which takes about a half hour.

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For the Globe and Mail, the Ancient Town of Taormina, Sicily

Taormina Sicily
"The ancient Greek theatre of Taormina, Sicily, was designed with serious drama in mind – and not just the costumed kind. Perched 250 metres above the Ionian Sea, the amphitheatre’s 360-degree view encompasses the still-active Mount Etna, the sparkling Mediterranean, the medieval village of Castelmola and, of course, Taormina itself.

From here, the town’s pastel palazzi and pretty cathedrals spread across the lush hillside like icing on a cassata siciliana, a traditional Sicilian cake.

It’s hard to look away—or say goodbye. Which is why I’ve come back to the town for a second time."

Read the rest of my story on the ancient seaside town—out in today's issue of the Globe and Mail newspaper—online here.

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Reveal Rome, Episode 1

Remember back… um… a while ago, when I said I'd be doing a series to answer those burning Italy- or travel-related questions in video form? Well, first (September) episode is above.
This is something I'll be doing every month, so before the next video launches on Oct. 15, make sure to send me your questions! Either email them to me (revealedrome@gmail.com), tweet them @revealedrome (hashtag #revealrome), or post them below here.
Thanks, and I look forward to receiving—and answering—your questions!
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The Best Beaches Near Rome (Updated for 2019)

Rome in summer

Looking for the best beaches near Rome? I don’t blame you: Although you always can cool off at a swimming pool in Rome, there’s nothing like dipping your toes into the Mediterranean on a sweltering summer day.

Here’s a roundup of 5 of my favorite Rome beaches, located as little as 45 minutes away.

One tip: When heading to the beach near Rome, remember that most Italian beaches aren’t public. In other words, most swaths of beach are serviced by private establishments, so you’ll have to rent a cabana to claim your spot on the sand. This generally costs about €10 to €15 per day. The good news? You’ll definitely appreciate the shade — and the ability to order food and drinks from the servers who pass through.

The most picturesque beach, and beach town, near Rome: Sperlonga

Sperlonga, one of the best beaches near Rome
The town of Sperlonga, overlooking one of the best beaches near Rome

Sperlonga is my top choice for a beach near Rome. That’s partly because of its white-washed resort town, lovely stretch of sand, and clean water (it’s been given Blue Flag designation for its environmental initiatives and cleanliness). And the views from the town make it one of the most picturesque seaside spots near Rome.

And, okay. I might also love Sperlonga because of the nearby archaeological museum, on the site of Emperor Tiberius’ ancient grotto, which boasts stunning ancient sculptures by the same guys who did the Laocoön. (Yes, I’m a history nerd). But even if you don’t make it to the museum (although you should!), the beach and town alone make the trip worth it.

By public transport, Sperlonga takes about 1.5 hours to get to from Rome. Find out more about Sperlonga, and getting there, in my previous post on the beach town of Sperlonga.

The beach near Rome with the best nightlife: Fregene

Want to do as the Romans do? Then follow up a day in the sun with aperitivo, drinking, and dancing. Fregene, located 23 miles northwest of Rome, is such a popular nightlife spot, I have friends who have gone there just for the evenings — skipping the whole daytime-sunbathing thing altogether.

Of course, Fregene is also nice during the day. And Maccarese, next door, tends to be a much less crowded option than other beaches near Rome, like Ostia.

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What I Will (…And Won’t) Miss About Rome

what I'll miss about Rome
Hey, Rome, I’m gonna miss you…

No, I’m not moving—but I am headed to the States for the biggest chunk of time since relocating to Italy. In June and July, instead of sweltering in the Rome heat, I’ll be sweltering in New York City enjoying the surplus of air-conditioning in Manhattan.

And, of course, I’m already thinking about what I’m going to miss about Rome while I’m gone. Not to mention what I’m excited to experience in New York.

Here’s a (partial) list… so far:

What I’ll miss about Rome

1. Drinkable wine (that doesn’t break the bank). Is it terrible that this is one of the first things I thought of? Yeah, probably. But whenever I go back to the States, I can’t get over how the same mediocre bottle of wine that would cost €2 on the shelf, or be cheap “vino della casa,” in Italy, somehow gets marked up to $40 or $50 in the U.S. Eesh.

Beach near Rome
The beach of Santa Marinella, just 45 minutes from Rome
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Got a Question About Italy? #RevealRome


 new video pic

I get a lot of questions about Italy. And I try to answer as many of them as I can—either via email, or comments, or through blog posts, my e-book, and, obviously, one-on-one in my consulting sessions.

But everyone likes to mix it up once in a while. So I’m thrilled to announce a new Revealed Rome series: #RevealRome.

It works this way. Just ask a question that you want to see me answer in video format. (And no, it doesn't have to be about Rome!). You can submit your question either by posting it in the comments, on the Revealed Rome Facebook page, on Twitter, or by emailing me at revealedrome@gmail.com. Tag your question #RevealRome. Every two or three weeks, I’ll pick a couple of the questions to answer with a video post.

(First video episode here!).

In the meantime, make sure you subscribe to the Revealed Rome YouTube channel. I'll be unrolling several new video posts in the next few weeks!

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