A daytrip to the town of Tivoli can uncover not only one but four different destinations worth visiting: Villa Adriana, Villa Gregoriana, Villa d'Este and the thermal baths in Tivoli. Beautiful artworks spanning from Roman time to Renaissance can be found here. Our first destination is Villa Adriana, a magnificent retreat build during the reign of Hadrian in 2nd century AD. He loved his new residence so much that very often he was found ruling the Roman Empire from this idyllic place rather than Rome. The most famous landmark here is Maritime Theater, a circular pool surrounded by a fancy colonnade that would remind you of the splendour of the era bygone.
FRASCATI AND CASTELLI ROMANI
The area of the 'Castelli Romani' (Roman Castles) is the most popular hill station in proximity to Rome, lying just 20 km south-east of the city. All the 16 municipalities of the region can be reached by Cotral buses from Anangina Terminal. The Roman Castles are a popular destination for a summer stroll during the weekend. Temperatures here are a few degrees less than in Rome. The main reason why Romans come to this hilly area is its legendary local dishes at affordable price. Besides being a paradise for non-vegetarians, the place provides a pleasing break to the vegetarians from their daily pasta and pizza routine. Among several processed meats available, porchetta is the most popular. This greasy roasted pork stuffed with herbs is usually eaten with bread. You can savour this delicious preparation at a local village known as Ariccia, which is also known for a church designed by Bernini.
Calcata is a successful and spontaneous social experiment that transformed a forgotten village into a rich and interesting meeting point. The fortune of Calcata is due to an order of the Italian Government that came out in around 1930, asking the local people to abandon their homes because of the geological risk of collapse of the volcanic rock on which the houses were built. The inhabitants moved a few kilometres away founding the village of Calcata Nuova (New Calcata).
About 30 years later artists and bohemians of all kinds started to flood in occupying the abandoned houses not caring about the police order and possible risks. The village was slowly brought back to life and after new stability tests, Italian authorities decided to withdrew the prohibition to inhabit the area, so that the squatters were able to legally buy their houses, becoming legitimate owners.
If you haven't got enough of Roman ruins yet then you shouldn't miss the local version of Pompei, located just 30 km east of Rome. It's accessible quite easily, a cheap suburban train leaving from Piramide metro station will take you there in less than half an hour. Ostia Antica was founded several centuries before Christ to serve as Rome harbour, in the location where one of the branches of the Tiberim River ends. The word 'Ostia' has a Latin origin meaning mouth. Ostia was a considerably a big city during that time, and expanded massively in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The tour might take long so it is advisable to bring in some snacks and plenty of water.
Many palaces, frescoes, mosaics and statues can be discovered while visiting this archaeological site, but the most impressive building is probably the Theater, restored in 1927. It is still used to host performances, shows and theatre pieces. In the following centuries Ostia Antica slowly fell into oblivion and became easy prey of invaders. Completely abandoned after the fall of Roman Empire, it served as building material for the construction of new palaces and monuments. It was only during Fascist Era, after 1938, that excavations were carried out bringing it back to light.
NECROPOLI DELLA BANDITACCIA
About 42 km north-west of Rome lies Necropoli della Banditaccia, which has a different setting. This monumental Etruscan necropolis listed as UNESCO heritage is estimated to house over 20000 graves, spread over an area of more than 12 hectares (or around the size of 18 football fields), with the oldest graves dating back to the IX century BC. Tuff, a volcanic rock, soft and easy to carve, is generally the material of choice with some of the graves.
There are two main types of burials: the cube and the mound shaped tombs. The cube-tombs form long series, aligned along the sepulchral road forming a village-like structure with neighbourhoods, streets and squares. The mound shaped burials are more impressive and monumental with their interior representing the original house of the dead. This feature helped the researchers to find out more about this mysterious civilization and their residences. Valuables like jewellery, statues and vases, of which, some are imported from other civilizations, where found in the interior of the graves, beautifully decorated with frescoes.