Rome is a magnificent and chaotic city full of life, culture, and gastronomy. But, sometimes we need to escape even from this paradise, so that we may slow down, come back to the sea, and simply take the time to breathe. This two day adventure is perfect to explore Rome´s seaside secrets, Sperlonga and Gaeta, Italy.
Day 1: Sperlonga Italy
First stop on our 48 Hours in Sperlonga and Gaeta, Italy tour is Sperlonga. If you need a break from the hussle of Rome, but don’t want to drive too far, and just need to feel the sand between your toes and bathe in clean Mediterranean waters, you should visit Sperlonga Italy. The nearest beach to Rome, Ostia, is a bit crowded and dirty for my liking. So venture out a little further on this two day adventure. Our first thing to do on our Sperlona Italy trip was to take a long walk on the beach before lunch and unpack at our hotel. We decided on something right on the water, Hotel Aurora, so we could hit the beach as often as possible. Sperlonga hotels are usually rather simple, perhaps breakfast included (usually a very good one), and their main attraction is their proximity to the beach or quaint city center.
The beach of Sperlonga is split into north and south, divided only by the quaint hilltop town nestled upon mountainous rocks. My suggestion is that you start with the beach towards the north, simply because it’s longer and makes for a lovely walk. If you arrive in the morning, it will also be less crowded. You can walk for several kilometers, or pay for a chair or umbrella at one of the many Lidos. Or you can simply take some sun on one of the “free” beaches (in Italy many beaches are managed by “establishments” or Lidos, which requires you to pay for services; however by law they have to leave some of the beach free).
Around 13:00, I wanted to get organized with lunch as early as possible, especially if it is a weekend during the summer months (June and July are very busy). Being that we were just on the beach, we fancied a meal right on the beach. So, we headed to Cucino Io. They serve excellent plates of pasta, such as Paccheri with a tuna ragu. Their fish is fresh, and their alicette fritter (small fried fish) are exquisite. They have a quaint sign at the door of the restaurant that says, “I kiss better than I cook” – but I find that hard to believe.
After lunch it’s time for a stroll in the town of Sperlonga Italy. Sperlonga’s charm can be likened to Greece, or perhaps even Cadaques or Sitges (Spain). It’s a lazy, but well maintained seaside town. As I strolled through the maze of miniscule streets, my senses are overwhelmed by the light breeze, the narrow cobblestone paths, the homes decorated with blue covered shutters and doors, the bright red geraniums adorning the window sills, and the sunshine that peeks around every new corner. For those of you that love to shop, you’ll be delighted by the delightful local stores around every bend. A must see, even if just for the view, is the Torre Truglia, built in 1532. At the top you have a panoramic view of the coastline, but south and north of Sperlonga. It’s breathtaking.
By now between the sea air and all that walking, something tells me you’ll be up for a plate of cozze e vongole (clams and mussels). Perhaps you prefer una zuppa di pesce (mixed fish soup)? We found ourselves going back several times to Altrò for both dishes, and fresh grilled fish. If you opt for the zuppa di pesce you have to call ahead and ask if they can make it for you (they’ll only do it if the local fisherman have caught diverse types of fresh fish that day). We found this place by chatting with Luigi, a gentleman from Sperlonga who owns a small supermarket with only local, fresh product. We asked him where to go for a traditional and authentic meal and he suggested Altrò. He was spot on with this recommendation.
Day 2 – Gaeta in Italy
For sure you will want to have breakfast in the main piazza of Sperlonga, perched at the top of the town. After which take a stroll on the beach on the south side of the town. Depending on the tide, you can pass some large rocks that take you to small cozy and private inlets for a great swim.
Next on our 48 Hours Tour is Gaeta in Italy. To get there, get back into the car and head south (around 15 minutes) to the seaside town of Gaeta; Sperlonga is only 16 kilometers from Gaeta. This town is known for its olives (olive di Gaeta). Ironically, these olives don’t come from here at all. Gaeta packages and ships them off and are cultivated in nearby Itri. Gaeta in Italy was wonderful, and to be honest, made me quite nostalgic. As a child, I spent some time in Sausalito, San Francisco (U.S.A.). For some reason as I walked along the port and gazed at the mountains and towns in front of us, I felt like I was back in Sausalito. Nonetheless, this town is steep in history, export, architecture, and culinary delights; simply put, Gaeta Italy is worth a visit.
Before lunch you’ll probably have time to take in the sights; for us this included a spiritual journey from the Cathedral of Assunta e Sant-Erasmo to the Tempio di S. Francesco. We wanted to visit the Castle of Angioino/Aragonese, however the military recently took possession of it so it is closed to the public.
As per another recommendation, we walked into Nari, a restaurant close to the port. It’s decorated with a seaside motif, very cozy, and the food was excellent. I had a zuppa di cozze e vongole, and my friend had tiella, a specialty in Gaeta that is a bit like eating a savory pie, usually filled with vegetable and sausage or seafood. Good tip, Nari is also an economical hotel in Gaeta Italy. If you’re looking for something more high end, a luxury hotel in Gaeta Italy, take a look at Grand Hotel Le Rocce; you won’t be disappointed.
You can’t head back to Sperlonga before visiting the Museo Archeologico e Grotta di Tiberio; Sperlonga is known for its coastline where the Emperor Tiberio built his villa and collected his extensive artwork and sculptures, in the first century A.D. They happened across this hidden archeological and artistic treasure by accident in 1957 when they started excavating to create a road. During this time they found the remains of massive sculptures that had been hidden in a grotto for over 2000 years.
Sperlonga and Gaeta are truly jewels in Italy; we highly recommend you take some time for snorkeling and cave diving while you’re in this area to take advantage of their crystal blue waters. If you are looking for a short drive outside of Rome, excellent seafood, clean sea waters, history and myth, and a little bit of peace and quiet, my suggestion is that you go in early May, before the tourist season really takes off; you’ll feel like these experiences were made especially for you – and that’s how it should be. Thank you for joining us on our 48 Hours in Sperlonga and Gaeta, Italy Tour!
f you want to see more of Gaeta, check out this link:
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