Thinking back on the past year having spent quite a bit of it in Italy I am grateful for the many opportunities and experiences that I have had and especially for the friendships I continue. Some of my favorite photos are those that capture colors – sounds – smells I remember, special moments, and places I enjoyed the most. They are not always the best photographs but they bring back the best memories.
Spending time on the Amalfi Coast is as close to what I imagine heaven being like. While it may be hard to pull yourself away from the beautiful seaside towns of Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello there are many wonderful places in the surrounding area that I would recommend visiting if you have time – Pompeii and Paestum being two of these.
Paestum located in the Campania region of southern Italy is about 120 km to the southeast of Naples near the Amalfi Coast. Several ways to get to Pasteum from the Amalfi Coast (Solarno, Positano, Amalfi) – By car (recommended), by bus, or by train. All require some planning but I assure you the reward is worth it.
Buses run on the SITA line and trains via Trentitalia. More information can be found by visiting Rick Steve’s website, Rick Steves Europe.
Paestum originally the ancient city of Poseidonia was founded by the greeks in 600 B.C. and later became a colony of the Roman Empire in 210 B.C. I have discovered that there are more intact and well preserved temples in Italy than there are in Greece and Paestum will not disappoint on that score. In addition to the temples and ancient ruins which include remains of residential homes, forum, amphitheater, swimming pools, etc. there is a wonderful Museum founded in 1952, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, which displays some of the artifacts found in the nearby burial grounds including sculptures, bronzes, ceramics, terracotta, and actual tombs with beautifully painted details. The most famous of these tombs from the 4th century B.C. is the tomb of the diver which has recently been restored.
On this particular trip we drove from Positano down the coast through Amalfi, they should hand out awards, to Salerno and then inland across beautiful plains to Paestum. Parking is easy and inexpensive (2 euros) and there are plenty of quaint places for lunch and many souvenir shops some selling quite beautiful reproductions of Paestan Ceramics. Truly a bargain when compared to the same items in Rome or Naples. While I recommend visiting Pompeii, Paestum is much less crowded and we often had no one in sight when walking through the ruins – you truly feel like you have been transported in time. Make sure you bring your camera. Buon Viaggio!
Just south of Rome, in the Alban Hills, lies a string of hilltowns, villages, and vineyards called the Castelli Romani. One of my favorites is Frascati the largest and best known for it’s wines and beautiful villas. Amazingly many of these towns survived the heavy bombing of World War ll. More than 50% of Frascati was destroyed in the war.
Located a short 12 miles (20km) southeast of Rome, Frascati is easily reached by train, car, or taxi. I recommend taking the train from Roma Termini station. Depending on the specific train It takes between 30 and 40 minutes. The regional trains cost about 2 euros one way and it is best to buy a round trip ticket at Termini as sometimes the ticket counter in Frascati is closed for lunch or coffee breaks and you don’t want to miss a train or get on a train without a ticket.
Home to many well preserved villas including Villa Aldobrandini, Villa Falconieri, Villa Parisi, Villa Grazioli, Villa Lancellotti, Villa Muti built by Popes, cardinals, and roman nobles, Frascati is easy on the eyes. Not all the villas are open to the public but many allow access to the gardens.
We were fortunate to visit in the Fall and the weather was beautiful. The day was as crisp as a bottle of the well known wine. I will tell you that you do a lot of walking and stair climbing in this town. I am not telling you this to discourage you but to ensure that you are mentally prepared. The effort is worth the amazing views of Rome and surrounding area which you will have many opportunities to photograph. The city center is easily walked and there are many good restaurants to choose from.
If you have unlimited energy I would recommend a walk up past Villa Aldobrandini along Via Cardinale Guglielmo Massaia to the church of San Francesco d’Assisi part of the Monastery of the Cappuccini. It is a beautiful walk and the monastery and church at the summit are charming.
After exerting yourself enjoy lunch and of course some Frascati wine at one of the many cantinas, osterias, and trattorias in the town. Make sure you bring your camera and your appetite. Buon Viaggio!!
- The Perfect Lunchtime Trip from Rome to Frascati (missexpatria.com)
- Visit a Frascati Vinyard (Tastingrome.blogspot.com)
- History of the Castelli Romani (wikitravel.com)
Other Recommended Day Trips
Arezzo located in Tuscany in central Italy is about 190 km to the northeast of Rome near both Siena and Florence.
Several ways to get to Arezzo. Take the train from Roma Termini station or rent a car and drive (recommended). Depending on the specific train It takes between 1 hr 15 min and 2 hr 33 min. The Eurostar is fastest and most expensive (29.50 euro); the regional trains are slower, but cheaper (11.70 euro). By car take the A1 Autostrada and expect to spend 2 to 3 hours depending on traffic.
Described by Livy as one of the Capitae Etruriae (Etruscan capitals), Arezzo (Aritim in Etruscan) is believed to have been one of the twelve most important Etruscan cities. The historical center is easily walked and many will recognize the Piazza Grande from the movie, A Beautiful Life.
We were fortunate to stay with friends who are living in Arezzo and spent an entire day outside of the city driving the back roads to two places that I highly recommend visiting if you can, The ancient hill town of Poppi and the Hermitage and Monastery of Camaldoli (Sacro Ermo). Both places are incredibly beautiful!!
Poppi offers amazing vistas from the Castello dei Conti Guidi. You can climb the bell tower if you don’t mind heights and if you time your climb to the hour you get an extra surprise. Additionally the the ancient library contains incredible printed volumes.
The hermitage and monastery founded about 1012 by Saint Romuald, a Benedictine monk, is situated in the National Park of the Forests of the Casentino in Tuscany and is accessible by walking (recommended – 4 km total) or car. Make sure you visit the old pharmacy – originally a laboratory where monks studied and worked with medicinal herbs. You can still buy a variety of herbal remedies.
Driving through the hills of Tuscany is an amazing experience for the senses! Make sure you bring your camera and your appetite. Buon Viaggio!