I’m often asked by travelers to Rome about leaving Rome. Is it possible and worth the effort? I am afraid to drive, can I take the train somewhere? The short answer to both question is yes.
If you plan to visit Rome and feel the need to venture outside of the city, then planning ahead is crucial, especially if this is your first time to the city. If your time in Rome is a short one (less than three days), then venturing outside of Rome might be difficult. The longer your time in Rome, the more fun you can have outside of the city. There is certainly more than enough in Rome to keep you busy and occupy your time, but the bustle of the city and the throngs of tourists can be a challenge even for the most patient and easy-going. A quick escape from Rome will not only revitalize you but can be a welcome diversion and a chance to experience other parts of country.
The great thing about Rome is that it is possible to reach a great number of places in a few hours by train. Florence is only a few hours away by train, as is Siena. Milano might be a possibility if you have more time (you could always take a domestic Italian flight, too). If you plan to spend several weeks in Rome, you might consider visiting Sicily or Malta for a couple of days or perhaps you would like to spend some time in Venice? Where you go is, of course, always dependent upon how long your vacation is and your tastes and interests.
Keep in mind that car rentals can be expensive in Italy, and the price of gas is quite high when compared to American gas prices. There are tour buses (pullman) that are often cheaper alternatives, stress free (driving in Italy can be a challenge), and convenient when the trains do not go to your destination or offer suitable schedules for your needs. Car services and tour groups are another option, too!
If your trip is a week or less…
…then consider sticking around Rome. Rome is so wondrous and big, and there are so many things to see and do that it is not likely that you will be bored. If you are just dying to get out of the city because of the traffic and crowds, some good destinations to visit might be Viterbo or some of the smaller cities and towns in the region, such as Tivoli (Villa Adriana, Villa d’Este, etc.) or Palestrina.
If your trip is between one and two weeks…
…head on down to Naples (Napoli) and visit the archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum! Naples is a beautiful city that often gets a bad wrap because of its trash and organized crime problems. In spite of this, the city is one of the most beautiful in Italy with dozens of monuments, churches and sites to visit — not to mention the amazing pizza and coffee that this city boasts! Consider seeking out a tour group or car service to get you there and back — this might be the best bet if you’re a large group. It might be more convenient and a time saver. The city of Caserta, just a short train trip from Naples, is worth it, too, just to see La Reggia di Caserta, a French palace and its gardens and grounds, and you’ll most likely pass Caserta as you return to Rome, especially if you go by car.
Florence isn’t far by train, and, while it might be shameful to spend only an afternoon in the city, it is definitely worth it. If you can spare it, try to head on over to Siena. Siena and Florence were fierce rivals throughout history, but the art and culture that came from these two bastions in Tuscany are worthy of the time and expense!
If your trip is longer than two weeks…
…consider spending the weekends outside of Rome, perhaps taking the train to Venice or flying down to Palermo! If you want to do some shopping, head up to Milano. While a trip to Sicily is definitely worth doing on its own, if you have several weekends to spend in the city, hitting Palermo or Catania can be a great way to experience the island which has some amazing food and restaurants, great shopping and sometimes better weather than the mainland, especially in the fall and spring.
pictured: an alley way in Viterbo, Italy