When Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame lived in Rome, she expressed the city in a single word: sexy. After a few visits of my own, I’d describe the Eternal City as demanding. With an inexhaustible list of attractions, sometimes escaping the city for more relaxing pursuits is the answer. Here, my favorite day trips all within two hours of Rome:
Tivoli and Villa d’Este
Distance from Rome: 50 minutes via the regular Cotral bus from Ponte Mammolo metro station
Tivoli & Villa d'Este
Within minutes of stepping off the bus, I knew I made the right decision. The little town of Tivoli was unassuming, quiet and peppered with a tempting array of cafès and trattorias that can only be described as hyperlocal. Villa d’Este, its crown jewel, is the proverbial icing on the cake. The former papal residence and now UNESCO World Heritage site is, above all, calm. The magnificent gardens and series of stunning fountains are serene while the garden terraces offer some of the best panoramic views of the surrounding Lazio countryside. www.villadestetivoli.info
Related: The bookworm's guide to Rome
Distance from Rome: About an hour via Italia Rail
When the Italian heat becomes unbearable, do like the Romans and head to Terracina, a seaside town along the Riveria of Ulysses. Take a dip in the Tyrrhenian Sea, enjoy fresh local seafood, and wander the narrow cobblestone streets of the Ancient Quarter. For a bewitching bird’s eye view of Mount Cicero and the town, visit the Roman Temple of Jove Anxur.
Related: How to dress like an Italian
Distance from Rome: 90 minutes via high-speed train
With a little advanced planning and good walking shoes, experiencing the best of Florence in a day’s time is highly doable. Book tickets ahead of time to beat the line at the world-renowned Uffizi Gallery to admire masterpieces like Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus.’ Crossing Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s oldest bridge and home to the city’s best jewellery shops since 1593, is another highlight. Of course, you’ll need to at least stroll past the superb Duomo, but for the best view of the city, beeline to Piazza Michelangelo and have your camera ready.
Related: Top 5 day trips from Florence
Distance from Rome: Two hours via direct Italia Rail train
Naples © Alessandro De Vita/Flickr
From its multicoloured terracotta buildings to sweeping seaside views and numerous classical treasures, Naples is a charmer. It’d be easy to spend a few days here, but a day is still adequate to experience its flavour. Spaccanapoli is considered the heart of the historic centre and teems with colourful shops, delicious pasticceria, beautiful churches and restaurants. If you do one thing, enjoy a Neapolitan pizza. After all, it originated here.