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Five Wonders Less Than an Hour From Rome

When visiting Rome, the last thing that comes to mind is thinking there may be something else beyond that spectacular city. Indeed, you probably won’t even have time to entertain such thoughts. What with its intricate Roman past, its Renaissance glories and its stunning Baroque heritage, one is hard put to imagine anything beyond its boundaries. Nothing could be further from the truth, however, as there is actually life beyond the city limits – and how! Summer villas, time-locked towns and papal refuges await you less than an hour from Rome. Come along and discover them!

Hadrian’s Villa

Our first gem is situated in the environs of Tivoli, some 45 minutes from Rome – an extraordinary villa which served as Hadrian’s retreat. Like Rome’s ruling class, the emperor sought a place in Rome’s environs where he could escape the bustle of the big city. He did not, however, settle for a simple summer house – going a step further, he had the idea of commissioning a model town featuring replicas of some of the buildings he had visited on his travels. This is the case of Canopus, a copy of a shrine in Alexandria, and of Pecile, an imitation of a building in Athens. The Maritime Theatre is one of the most emblematic constructions in the complex. It features a small villa set on an island in the middle of an artificial lake.

Villa d’Este

Another jewel in the area, located in the centre of Tivoli, is this Renaissance villa, originally a Benedictine convent, which in the 16th century was converted into a palace by Ippolito II d'Este, the son of Lucrezia Borgia. In addition to the building and its rooms, decorated with frescoes in fine taste, its standout feature are the stunning gardens, housing no fewer than 500 fountains! The most striking ensemble is a row of one hundred fountains known as the Fountain of Neptune – which also has a spectacular waterfall – and a fountain with a hydraulic organ that emits sounds.

Villa Gregoriana

Hard by the Villa d’Este is this wonderful park commissioned by Pope Gregory XVI in 1835. Built on the bed of the river Aniene, its most striking feature is a large waterfall, created by diverting the river to protect the area from flooding. Among the lush vegetation in the Villa, which affords some lovely views, stand the archaeological remains of the Temple of Vesta, built in the 1st century BC.

Ostia Antica

Situated 30 kilometres from Rome, near the mouth of the river Tiber, stands the archaeological site of Ostia Antica, once an important port. Founded in the 4th century BC, it was a major trade and defence enclave in ancient Rome. With the fall of the Roman Empire, the city went into decline, while continual invasions and a malaria epidemic led it to be abandoned. The city was buried under river sediments for centuries and has survived to the present in fairly good condition, although less so than Pompeii or Herculaneum. Wandering through what is left of its streets, temples, thermal baths, houses and shops, it is not difficult to imagine what its splendorous past must have been like.

Frascati and Castelgandolfo

Lastly, we have singled out these two beautiful locations in the Alban Hills which form part of the municipal comune known as the Castelli Romani (Castles of Rome). The picturesque town of Frascati is celebrated for its white wine and its villas, commissioned by Popes, cardinals and nobles of Rome as of the 16th century. One such construction is the spectacular Villa Aldobrandini, also known as Belvedere, designed by Giacomo della Porta and completed by Carlo Maderno.

Located on the shores of Lake Albano stands Castelgandolfo, celebrated above all for being the Pope’s summer residence. Although not open to visitors, it is worth strolling around the town centre and soaking up the views.

Book your Vueling to Rome and venture beyond the city’s limits to see some of these sites.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by Aquilifer, Adrian Pingstone, M.Maselli, Alexander Mooi, CucombreLibre, Alessandro Malatesta, Polybert49, Sudika, MatthiasKabel