Weekend breaks in Rome
Rome is an incredible city. Expats could live there for years and never get over the awe that comes from being part of a vibrant city whose ancient roots are everywhere one looks. But when the weekend comes, most Romans don’t stick around. Rome can be a little hectic and the tourists will try an expat's patience, both of which are perfect excuses to escape the city and see what’s around.
Technically, one can travel just about anywhere for a weekend break from Rome. The city has two airports on its outskirts, Fiumicino and Ciampino, and it’s possible to pick up cheap tickets to many European destinations. But considering that the best weekend getaways don’t involve hours’ worth of travel, there are a number of destinations that can easily be reached by car or public transport. Rome really is the heart of Italy, so there are plenty of places to choose from.
The Tuscan Maremma
The Maremma is a region that has the incredible fortune of being both close to Rome and one of Tuscany’s most beautiful and secluded destinations. The area is extremely popular with Romans because it offers the perfect contrast to their bustling city. Towns in the Maremma are provincial hubs where medieval history and Renaissance traditions keep modernity at bay. Restaurants throughout are a taste of the cultura contadina – rural culture, recreated in dishes like rich acquacotta (a vegetable soup) and pappardelle al cinghiale (homemade pasta served with wild boar sauce).
One could spend endless weekends exploring the Maremma, but a must-see spot is Saturnia. Saturnia is two hours from Rome down the A1 and is considered to be Italy’s oldest city, existing long before the Romans or the Etruscans.
Just outside Saturnia’s borders at the Cascate del Mulino, visitors can bathe in the most incredible outdoor pool imaginable for free. The water here flows from an underground volcanic source and is thought to have almost miraculous curative properties.
The Cinque Terre might not be as famous as the Amalfi Coast, but at a mere four hours' drive from Rome, this coastline is no less beautiful. Its nickname, the Italian Riviera, conjures up images of romantic walks and its five towns, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, never fail to enchant with their brightly coloured villas and incredible seaside vistas.
Like the Amalfi Coast, the towns of the Cinque Terre are built on steep cliffs, so their terraces hover over the ocean below. Roads are rare on the coastline, which is fine considering that most tourists come to the Cinque Terre to walk the world-famous Sentiero Azzurro trail and admire the UNESCO heritage national park that connects its towns.
When it comes to winter sports, do as the Romans do and head to Abruzzo. Located an hour and a half’s drive east of Rome, Abruzzo has plenty of mountains to choose from. Naturally, they’re not as impressive as their cousins in the Alps, but they are perfect for a quick chalet break, especially if one is on the slopes for fun.
The two most popular ski resorts are Ovindoli and Pescasseroli. Both resorts have wide slopes and good snow coverage throughout the winter months. Snowboarders and skiers are welcome.
Lost in the bright lights of nearby Naples, Caserta is little more than two hours’ drive south of Rome and is home to one of the most spectacular castles in Europe, the Reggia di Caserta.
Inspired by the Palace of Versailles, the Reggia di Caserta was built in the 18th century for Charles VII of Naples and was described by UNESCO as the "swan song of the spectacular art of the Baroque” when the organisation first listed it as a heritage site in 1997.
Unlike most other European castles, the palace has much of its original furniture. Together with the frescoed walls and gold cornices, the furniture paints a complete picture of the sheer opulence this family lived.
Outside, the magnificence continues in the sprawling grounds. At more than 120 hectares, this massive green area behind the palace has an amazing focal piece: a five-piece fountain that runs the length of the space and is filled with stone sculptures depicting scenes from various Greek myths.