Rome is home to some of the most important historical sites in Europe, one of the oldest cities in Europe, and one of the most attractive destinations in the old continent. With a plethora of activities, landmarks, and tourist attractions, but also no shortage of mysterious temples and hidden gems, it should come as no surprise that Rome is always in the top 10 most visited cities in the world. However, the city of Rome accounts for only one-fifth of the total area covered by the Rome Metropolitan Area. That’s why there are plenty of charming hidden towns and villages in Rome that most tourists don’t know about and that’s what this article is all about.
In its entirety, the Rome Metropolitan Area covers 5,352 square kilometers which makes it the second-largest metropolitan city in Europe falling behind only London and being slightly larger than Istanbul (3,344). In that area, there are 40 communes and more than 100 small towns and villages that don’t get nearly as much attention as some of Rome’s main tourist attractions…
We’re starting off this list of small towns and villages in Rome with one of the most popular day trip destinations from Rome, Tivoli. Tivoli is a historic town located underneath the Monti Tiburtini hills roughly 30 km northeast of Rome. The town has been populated since ancient times and was historically an important part of a major trading route from Rome to the Abruzzi. Today, the city is home to close to 50,000 people and is famous for its beautiful historic old town, the ancient ruins of Hadrian’s Villa, and the magnificent gardens of the Villa d’Este.
Getting To Tivoli
The easiest way to reach Tivoli from Rome is by train. Just look for the Roma-Avezzano-Pescara regional train that departs from Rome’s Tiburtina rail station every hour. The journey lasts around 35 minutes. Alternatively, you can also rent a car and drive on your own. Tivoli can be reached in 40-60 minutes, depending on traffic.
Where to Stay in Tivoli
Tours to take in Tivoli
Frascati is a lively, bustling town located just 20 kilometers outside of Rome. The town can be easily reached from Rome and with the high number of hotels, restaurants, and cafes is a great, budget alternative for people looking to explore Rome while staying away from the city’s most expensive areas. Frascati is mainly famous for science (it’s home to a handful of international scientific laboratories) and villas; the town has historically been inhabited by nobles.
In addition to this, Frascati also has a few important religious landmarks like the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter Apostle, The Church of the Gesu, and the Bishop’s Palace, and some interesting museums like The Ethiopian Museum of Cardinal Guglielmo Massaia and the Civic Archaeological Museum.
Getting To Frascati
The easiest way to reach Frascati is by taking a train from Roma Termini. The journey takes 25-30 minutes and the ticket costs 3 euros. Frascati can also be reached by car in roughly 35-50 minutes.
Where to Stay in Frascati
Tours to take in Frascati
Speaking of charming villages in Rome Metropolitan Area, we just have to mention Grottaferrata. This is a small village located in the Castelli Romani area and a perfect place for people looking to get away from Rome’s busy streets. The main sights in the village include the charming old town dotted with cobblestone streets and The Abbey of Saint Mary of Grottaferrata, one of the most beautiful and oldest churches in the area (dating back to 1024). The church is also known for being an eternal resting place to Pope Benedict IX and for its own library that consists of over 50,000 scripts.
Getting To Grottaferrata
The easiest way to reach Grottaferrata is by taking a bus from either Anagnina or Repubblica station. The journey takes around 20 minutes and the ticket costs 2-3 euros but you may need to use the metro to get to one of these two stations. Grottaferrata can also be reached by car in roughly 40-50 minutes.
Where to Stay in Grottaferrata
TOurs to take in Grottaferrata
Ariccia is a charming small town sitting on Lazio’s Alban Hills in the heart of Parco Regionale dei Castelli Romani. The town is located 15 km outside of Rome and many consider it to be an extension of Rome’s south-eastern suburbs. This picturesque small town is famous around Italy for its centuries-long tradition of wine-making and its delicious local porchetta (pork meat slowly roasted in herbs and spices), and the magnificent Lake Nemi but the town also takes pride in its history. Here, you can find the remains of the Via Appia Antica (one of Rome’s oldest man-made roads) and the ruins of the ancient temples on Monte Cavo and in the Lake Nemi basin.
Getting To Ariccia
The easiest way to reach Ariccia is by taking a train from the Roma Termini railway station. The journey takes around 35-40 minutes. The town can also be reached by car in roughly 1 hour, depending on traffic (the distance is 26 km).
Where to Stay in Ariccia
The charming setting of Castel Gandolfo has made it one of the most popular retreats in Rome’s surroundings. This magical hill town has a population of about 9,000 and is best known for being a summer residence of the pope that stretches across 55 hectares (135 acres) and is home to the Vatican Observatory. Castel Gandolfo also boasts a number of villas built by wealthy Roman nobles throughout the years (i.e. Villa Torlonia, Villa Chiqi, Villa Cybo, and Villa Barberini). All you have to do is take a glimpse of impressive local architecture and lively, vibrant streets to understand that this town has been a ‘playground of the rich’ for centuries.
Last but not least, another thing that makes Castel Gandolfo an amazing getaway destination is the nature reserve of Castelli Romani and the beautiful Lago Albano that stretches throughout the town’s border.
Getting To Castel Gandolfo
The easiest way to reach Castel Gandolfo is by taking a train from the Roma Termini railway station. The journey takes around 30-35 minutes. The town can also be reached by car in roughly 40 minutes driving, depending on traffic (the distance is 26 km). Alternatively, if you’re in a good shape, you can also get there by cycling; all you have to do is follow Via Appia Nuova. It shouldn’t take you more than one hour to reach.
Where to Stay in Castel Gandolfo
Tours to take in Castel Gandolfo
If you like history, Anguillara Sabazia is one of the most interesting historic villages in Rome Metropolitan Area. The area is named after a Roman villa that is believed to be buried somewhere beneath the town’s cobbled streets. Archaeological expeditions have shown that the area around the town was inhabited way before Rome became an empire. The symbol of Anguillara Sabazia is a pair of eels that served as inspiration for the quirky fountain in the town’s center.
During the warmer months, a lot of Romans come to the town’s black-sand beaches lining up along Bracciano Lake to catch the summer vibes, go swimming, or try other water sports. There’s also a promenade alongside the lake where you can experience the most authentic atmosphere in town. Last but not least, if you ever visit Anguillara Sabazi, Centro Espositivo del Neolitico is a must-visit; the center is home to a rich collection of archaeological exhibits that were discovered during the underwater exploration of a nearby Neolithic village.
Getting to Anguillara Sabazia
Trains from Rome leave regularly from either Tiburtina or Ostiense. The journey lasts around one hour and the ticket costs 3.22 euros.
Where to Stay in Anguillara Sabazia
Trevignano Romano is another beautiful small town on the shore of Lake Bracciano. The town sits on top of the remains of the ancient Etruscan city-state of Sabate of which (unfortunately) little remains today. The most interesting thing about Trevignano is probably the locals’ pragmatic approach to antiquity and ancient and medieval architecture. Many of the medieval houses (in which people live even today) have been found to hold many artifacts stolen from Roman villas in the area. It’s also not unusual for locals to repurpose ancient Etruscan tombs for garages or storage facilities. Even the tower of the local church of Santa Maria Assunta used to be a part of the fort above the town…
If you ever get the chance to visit, make sure to climb to the peak of the hill south of the town from where you can get an amazing view of Trevignano merging with the marvelous Lake Bracciano.
Getting to Trevignano Romano
Trevignano is one of the rare towns and villages in Rome Metropolitan Area that’s not connected to the capital via railway. So, the only other remaining option you have is to catch a bus from Roma Termini or to drive on your own. In both cases, the journey will last around 1 hour.
Where to Stay in Trevignano Romano
Located halfway between Lake Bracciano and the coast of Civitavecchia, Tolfa is one of the most peaceful villages in Rome Metropolitan Area where you can truly get away from everything. To get to Tolfa, you have to travel an isolated route that passes through scenic lush valleys that will make you question whether you’re still in Rome and if so, how can a place so close to such a big city be so peaceful…
The temperature in Tolfa is always a few degrees lower than in Rome and the air is always fresher which is why many Romans come here when they want to relax for a day or two. Tolfa also has a beautiful village center dotted with winding cobble streets and medieval buildings. The town is at its best in the summer when the local festival Tolfarte takes place. This is the main social event of the year and a great chance to see performers from around the country and get introduced to local customs and traditions.
Getting to Tolfa
Tolfa is not connected to Rome via railway which means the only way to get there is by driving or taking a bus from Roma Termini. The total distance is around 80 km and the journey should last around one and a half hours.
Where to Stay in Tolfa
Named after the beautiful lake located near Rome, Bracciano is one of the most quaint towns in Rome Metropolitan Area. It’s the main town that overlooks Bracciano Lake but there are a lot of exciting things to see and do. Whether you want to relax at the shores of the lake, indulge in water sports, visit the medieval Bracciano Castle, or explore the town’s historic streets, Bracciano has something in store for everyone.
Getting to Bracciano
There are regular trains from Rome leaving for Bracciano almost every hour. The stations from which you can get a train to Bracciano are Ostiense or Tiburtina and the ride takes about 70-80 minutes. Tickets cost roughly 4 euros.
Where to Stay in Bracciano
Tours to take in Bracciano
Rocca di Papa
The name of this charming small town literally translates to “Fortress of the Pope”. The reason for this is that Pope Eugene III (1145-1153) lived in a castle in the town and even after his death, Rocca di Papa served as a papal fortress for centuries. The papal fortress which is the town’s main landmark was under attack on several different occasions throughout history and during WWII, it was even bombed but despite all of these occupations, it still stands proudly today.
Today, Rocca di Papa is a small town and a commune of 17,000 people located in the heart of the Regional Park of Castelli Romani. Some of the other interesting sights in Rocca di Papa include The Sacred Way (Via Sacra), the Church of the Assunta, Chiesa del Crocefisso.
Getting to Rocca di Papa
Rocca di Papa is located 25 kilometers southeast of Rome. There’s no direct railway but you can get on bus line #4 that departs from Vivaro Piazza Prenestina. The ticket costs 1 euro.
Where to Stay in Rocca di Papa
Genzano di Roma
If you like getting off the beaten track and discovering beautiful towns that not a lot of people know about, you’ll love Genzano di Roma. The small town lies in the heart of the Alban Hills, approximately 28 km away from Rome. Genzano di Roma is located 435 meters above sea level along the coast of Lake Nemi. It’s a town with a rich history that stretches back to ancient times, fascinating architecture, and beautiful views of Lake Nemi and the surrounding forests. It’s one of my personal favorite getaway destinations in the Rome Metropolitan Area.
Some of the town’s main attractions include the Baronial Palace Sforza Cesarini (and its English Garden), Hamerani Palace, the Church of St. Mary, and the Hermitage of San Michele.
Getting to Genzano di Roma
The easiest way to get to Genzano di Roma is probably by renting a car and driving on your own. You can also get a bus from Roma Termini or catch a train (also, at Roma Termini) and go to San Gennaro which is 5 miles away from Genzano di Roma and get to your final destination with a local bus.
Where to Stay in Genzano di Roma
Artena is a small town and a commune located northwest of Monti Lepini, roughly 45 km southeast of Rome. The town doesn’t have a rich history like some other towns on this list but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting. If you like trekking, you’ll be happy to hear that Artena is surrounded by mountains and there are many trekking routes waiting to be discovered. On the mountain above the village, there are also remnants of the fortifications of an ancient city that was likely torn down in the 5th or 6th century.
Other interesting sights in Artena include the Borghese Palace (dating back to the 17th century), and the churches of San Francesco, Santa Maria della Letizia, and Santo Stefano Protomartire.
Getting to Artena
You can get to Artena by taking a direct bus from Roma Termini or by train. But if you take the train, you’d have to get off at Colleferro Scalo and proceed to Artena with a local bus.
Where to Stay in Artena
Largely overlooked by most people visiting Rome, Palestrina is a modern Italian town that hosts some extraordinary archaeological gems. The town is located around 35 km east of Rome and is built on top of the ruins of the ancient city of Praeneste. Today, Palestrina is best known for its ancient sanctuary and impressive museum of art and archaeology, as well as the range of marvelous historic buildings waiting to be discovered.
The modern town lies on the terraces that were once occupied by the large temple of Fortuna and nearby, you can also find remnants of the ancient cyclopean walls. If you like exploring outside of the town’s borders, you can also head to the summit of the hill roughly 2 km outside of the town and see the ruins of the once famous ancient citadel and the ruined castle of the Colonna family…
Getting to Palestrina
The easiest way to reach Palestrina is by driving along the A1 east of Rome. You can also travel by train from Roma Termini to Zagarolo (or Ponte Mammolo) and catch a bus from Zagarolo to Palestrina (for $1-$2).
Where to Stay in Palestrina
These were our favorite small towns and villages in Rome Metropolitan Area but if you’d like to explore more, we have a couple of more suggestions for a day trip from Rome. And if you’re looking for some more interesting activities for your trip to Italy, check out our list of things you can only do in Italy.
Pitigliano is always listed as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. The village lies at the border between Lazio and Tuscany and it geographically belongs to the latter. Pitigliano is also known as Little Jerusalem because of the historical presence of its Jewish community. For hundreds of years, Pitigliano was on the frontier between the Grand Duchy of Tuscany to the south and the Papal States to the north. The village takes pride in its history and the fact that despite all the battles it survived in the past, most of its historical landmarks remain intact.
Some of Pitigliano’s highlights feature the ancient Etruscan remains near the base of the butte of Pitigliano, Medieval and Renaissance buildings, such as The Cathedral of Santi Pietro e Paolo, Pitigliano, the Orsini Fortress, and the town’s Medieval walls and gates.
Getting to Pitigliano
Unfortunately, Pitigliano doesn’t have a train station, and the nearest train stations to the village can be found in Siena, Florence, Grosseto, and Albinia. All of these towns can be reached via bus from Rome (either from Termini or Roma Aurelia Station). Of course, you can also reach Pitigliano by car but keep in mind that this village is a bit further away from most other places on this list. Pitigliano is located roughly 150 km north of Rome and the journey should take around two and a half hours.
If you intend to do some more exploring in Tuscany, also check out our list of hidden gems in Florence.
Where to Stay in Pitigliano
Situated at the foot of Mount Volsini, 350 meters above sea level, Bolsena is a charming coastal town named after the largest volcanic lake in Europe that lies next to the town. The vista of Bolsena Lake is probably one of the most scenic landscapes in the area but the town of Bolsena is also famous for its ridiculously beautiful, Medieval downtown. There, you’ll find a lot of colorful, old buildings, Romanesque-style cathedrals, Christian catacombs, and ancient Etruscan necropolises that arouse the interest of archaeologists even today.
Getting to Bolsena
Similar to Pitigliano, Bolsena doesn’t have a train station either. The nearest train stations to the village can be found in Montefiascone, Orvieto, and Allerona. All of these towns can be reached via train from Rome (from Roma Tiburtina). You can also reach Blosena by car but keep in mind that this village is a bit further away from most other places on this list. Pitigliano is located roughly 130 km north of Rome and the journey should take around two hours.
Where to Stay in Bolsena
Tours in the area that are worth taking
If you’re looking to explore beyond the metropolitan area and are looking for more suggestions, you may also want to check out this tour titled hidden gems of Lazio & Umbria or the Castelli art, food, and wine tour.
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How did you like this list of the most beautiful towns and villages in Rome Metropolitan Area? Are there any other towns or villages that you think we forgot to mention? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!
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