In Rome, one of the most popular day trips out of town is the short trek to Lido di Ostia, the small beach town south of Rome, easily accessible by regional rail, and only about a 30 minute ride from the Piramide Metro stop. The beach at Ostia is somewhat disappointing, and with a little extra effort you can reach Sperlonga, a gorgeous beach town on the Tyrrhenian Sea midway between Rome and Naples.
Apparently, the town can be reached on a regional COTRAL bus, but when we went we took the train. The trip from Termini station to Fondi-Sperlonga was 6.20 euro each way, and took about an hour and fifteen minutes. From the Fondi-Sperlonga station there is a local bus (1 euro each way) that runs from the station to the beach. It was a bit confusing, as the bus times were not posted, but we asked workers at a local market and they were able to tell us where to catch the bus back to the station. The buses don’t run very often, and so we were worried we might be stranded for the night… but the bus came eventually and we made it back to Rome fairly easily. However, when I go back I’ll be sure to check the schedule carefully ahead of time.
The beach at Sperlonga is really amazing. There are two main stretches of beach, divided in the middle by a large rocky projection capped by a small tower. From what I could tell, both sides were equally appealing, though there seemed to be more free public areas on the south side of the tower. There were numerous beach clubs and restaurants, but being on a budget we simply bought supplies for sandwiches at a local market, and had a picnic lunch in one of the parks overlooking the beach.
One of Sperlonga’s main attractions is the Grotto of Tiberius, a natural cave at the southern end of the beach, and the ruins of the villa the Emperor Tiberius built there during his reign (from A.D. 14 to A.D. 37). The complex is unfortunately fenced off from the beach, and to access the ruins and the museum (containing artifacts found on site and large plaster casts of the statuary that used to stand in the grotto) if from a small road half a mile inland. While the grotto and museum were interesting, I would recommend skipping them both for more time at the beach, or to wander through the streets of the small hill town, something I didn’t get the chance to do.
In the end, definitely a worthwhile trip, and a relatively cheap one if you’re willing to use the free areas of the beach, and assemble your own lunch. I’ll definitely be going back as soon as the weather’s warm enough for a swim.
To find a route from Sperlonga from Rome, search for Fondi-Sperlonga on the Trenitalia website.