In an effort to bring you some new voices on Ottsworld, here is a guest post from writer Linda Martinez. I met Linda at her hostel, the Beehive, in Rome 7 years ago! Linda and I connected on many levels (she’s an American expat in Italy), and we have remained friends ever since. When I was asked to cover an article about day trips from Rome, I knew Linda would be the best person to write this since she lives there! So you get a real treat – a true expert writing these tips for places to visit on a day trip from Rome! BTW – I still believe The Beehive Hostel is the best place to stay in Rome! All opinions and experiences expressed here are Linda’s. – Sherry
Rome celebrated its 2,772nd birthday this year, and with such an ancient and historical city the options are endless for things to see and do in Rome. However, every once in a while, a break from Rome’s beautiful chaos is necessary. There are many choices in the vicinity which allow for a taster of small-town life in Italy without taking too much time out of a tight travel schedule.
Day Trip from Rome by Car
A car is the best way to reach smaller towns and renting a car from Rome allows for flexibility from train and bus schedules and easier access to places that are not well-connected by public transit. Within an hour and a half drive from Rome are some excellent options for a day trip from the big city, so let’s head north!
The Green Heart of Italy
The region of Umbria located just an hour and a half north of Rome is known as Italy’s “green heart” because of the abundance of green – forests, gently rolling hills, and lush vegetation. Many famous towns located in this region include Assisi and Perugia which are a bit further afield, but Orvieto, Civita di Bagnoregio, and Bolsena (the latter two towns located in northern Lazio, on the border of Umbria) are close enough to Rome to make it an ideal day trip.
The most famous Umbrian town close to Rome is Orvieto. Renowned for its magnificent 13th century Duomo with gorgeous black and white stripes and daunting yet exquisite Luca Signorelli frescos, Orvieto is a lively and thriving small town that is situated like an island sitting up on tufo volcanic rock.
The best place to leave your car is in the large free parking area behind the train station at Piazza della Pace. From there walk into the station, exit the front and take the funicular up into the town 160m above the station. You can then either take the A bus which leaves you in front of the cathedral in under 5 minutes or you can walk up into the center of town in 10 minutes.
You’ll find excellent cuisine throughout Orvieto and many excellent restaurants to choose from (such as Trattoria del Moro-Aronne) for delicious white wine (Orvieto Classico) and regional specialties like truffles, cinghiale (wild boar) and umbrichelli style pasta which is a thick eggless flour & water spaghetti-type pasta.
There’s a twice-weekly outdoor market on Thursdays and Saturdays with fruit and vegetables, cheese, fish, roast pork (porchetta) or roast chicken as well as housewares, inexpensive clothes, and second-hand clothing stands. Besides the cathedral, there are various museums you can visit including the Etruscan museum or the works of the Duomo and the towns medieval bell and clock tower Torre del Moro has access to the top for spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and the medieval layout of the city. Come early, enjoy the sights, eat a fantastic lunch and then continue your exploration of the surrounding area.
Civita di Bagnoregio
Known as “the dying city,” Civita was founded over 2,000 years ago and bears its name because of its eroding foundation. Unfortunately, many buildings over the centuries have fallen off to the side as the foundation has crumbled. What remains is a small borgo scenically perched on a hill and only accessible by a long pedestrian bridge.
Very few people are permanent residents here as most of the population is comprised of visitors and in the winter months, you may find only a handful of people in the town.
Visit the 5th century Church of San Donato, grab a coffee or lunch at one of the various bars or restaurants such as Alma Civita or visit a museum in the basement of a private home. This makeshift museum shows you what life used to be like in the town with various artifacts.
You can park down and walk up over the bridge, but keep in mind that it is quite an exerting walk so if you have mobility or health problems or are short on time you may want to admire the view from afar. Follow the signs to “Belvedere,” park in the for-pay parking lot and take photos from the scenic vantage point before heading to Bolsena.
Bolsena is the main town situated on the shores of Lake Bolsena, Europe’s largest volcanic lake. Bolsena is just about a 25 minute drive from Orvieto, and these towns are tied historically by an incident that took place in Bolsena’s cathedral in 1263.
The legend has it that a visiting priest had doubts about the doctrine regarding the body and blood of Christ. During a mass, the host started to bleed and stained the covering of the altar. Orvieto at the time was the papal seat, and so the cathedral was built there to commemorate what was called The Miracle of Bolsena.
The medieval castle of Rocco Monaldeschi dominates the town and has excellent views of the lake from its top. On sunny days, the deep blue of the water makes for stunning views from the surrounding hills, and with a car, you can head up for a delicious lunch at places like La Tana dell’ Orso, with panoramic views of the lake. Head back down for either a stroll along Corso della Repubblica for a gelato at the famous Gelateria Santa Cristina and to the 11th-century Basilica of Santa Cristina or stroll down Viale Nord Colesanti to the lakefront and its quaint piazza, benches, and bars for a sunset aperitivo.
Rome Car Rental
There are plenty of places to rent a car in Rome. However sometimes it’s nice to rent from the airport so that you avoid the chaotic Rome city driving
Follow my Travels
Meet the Author:
Linda Martinez and her husband Steve Brenner are Americans (now also Italians) who moved to Rome in 1999 with a dream, two cats and a Swiss Army knife to start their hostel, The Beehive. Besides offering a clean, comfortable place to stay, The Beehive has been a place for community and connection for visitors and residents alike for the past 20 years with a range of events such as vegetarian/vegan dinners, yoga, pasta & pizza making classes, storytelling evenings and more. Plus, Linda is also available to show you the local side of Rome!
This post was sponsored by Discover Car Hire