The fallen city: Ostia Antica
What used to be the empire’s most important port is now a city frozen in time — rather like a less-trafficked Pompeii. Highlights include the theatre, Piazzale delle Corporazioni (where intact mosaics depict the professional guilds that had HQs here) and the ancient fire station. Finish off at the Lido di Ostia, the beach and nightlife hub of summer Rome.
Get there: Train from Porta San Paolo to Ostia Antica (25 mins).
The monastery: Subiaco
Perched on a rock in the middle of Monti Simbruini natural park is this medieval borgo (town) overlooking a river-filled valley. Drawn to the landscape, St Benedict lived here as a hermit for three years and Monastero di San Benedetto has since sprung up around his cave. The Monastero di Santa Scolastica is worth a visit, too.
Get there: Coach from Ponte Mammolo (1 hr), and a hike up to the monasteries.
The trail: Appian Way
Running from Rome to Brindisi, the Appian Way was one of the empire’s main trade routes. Leading out from Rome, it’s still largely intact with ancient stone paving bordered by sites like the Christian catacombs of San Callisto, the Tomb of Cecilia Metella and the vast Villa dei Quintili. Just last year cars were banned, so it’s ideal to walk or cycle.
Get there: 118 bus from Piramide to Catacombs of San Callisto (20 min).
The country house: Villa di Livia
The Villa di Livia at Prima Porta — home to the wife of the emperor Augustus — is an easy afternoon out from the capital. It rewards visitors with no queues and most likely a Roman villa to themselves — for free. Perched high on a hill, the villa is half-ruined but still has mosaics, wall paintings and a huge terrace that’s been planted with laurels.
Get there: Train from Flaminio to Prima Porta (40 mins).
The volcano: Colli Albani
A network of dormant volcanoes, Colli Albani’s startling landscape has made it a favoured retreat from the capital. Lake Albano, at the foot of Monte Cavo, is a deep, twin-crater lake, overlooked by the Pope’s summer residence, Castel Gandolfo. Those with energy can bike up Monte Cavo — a three-mile route of switchbacks — rising to 3,113ft.
Get there: Train from Termini to Castel Gandolfo (45 mins).
The medieval village: Civita di Bagnoregio
A medieval town perched dramatically on a bluff overlooking the countryside, Civita di Bagnoregio has reinvented itself in recent years from a dying village to Rome’s go-to weekend getaway. It’s the first town in Italy to charge an entrance fee — €3 (£2.60) or €5 (£4.40) on weekends — but that hasn’t put off visitors crossing the footbridge to its pedestrianised, and extremely photogenic, cobbled streets.
Get there: Train from Termini to Orvieto (1 hr), then bus to Civita (30 mins).
The necropolis: Cerveteri
Around 30 miles northwest of the city is Cerveteri, home to the vast Necropoli della Banditaccia with its 400 domed tumuli, brick-built tombs and well-burials dating back to the ninth century BC. In town, visit the Museo Nazionale Cerite, which contains urns, sarcophagi and archeological finds, for €10 (£9) for a combined ticket.
Get there: Train from Termini to Marina di Cerveteri (42 mins) then a taxi (15 mins).
The Emperor’s retreat: Tivoli
The emperor Hadrian retreated here, 20 miles east of Rome, towards the end of his reign and surrounded himself with ‘souvenirs’ of his empire at Villa Adriana (€8/£7). There’s a house on a moated ‘island’ and what could be a monument to his dead lover, Antinous. In the modern town of Tivoli, the 16th-century Villa d’Este (€9.30/£8.30) is known for its gardens and fountain-powered organ.
Get there: Bus from Ponte Mammolo (25 mins).
The pre-roman town: Tusculum
Situated in the Colli Albani region, Tusculum dates back to the eighth century BC. Its most exciting finds have been removed but there’s still a small theatre, acropolis, amphitheatre and forum. It’s open Saturdays and Sundays, May–September, and Sundays the rest of the year. Entrance is €3 (£2.70).
Get there: Train from Termini to Frascati (30 mins) then a taxi (15 mins).
Published in the Rome 2018 guide, distributed with the April 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)