I adore Italy in fall. The weather's crisp, the produce beautiful (don't you love it when apples and eggplant and truffles are in season?), and the tourist crowds have started to dissipate. It's also the only time when somehow, inexplicably, I sometimes get a whiff of that countryside woodsmoke-smell—the kind that makes me want to bundle up and go for a hayride—in the center of Rome.
Being a New England girl, though, as much as I love Italy in autumn, there's something I really miss about the U.S. this time of year: the fall colors. My mother just sent me photos of our Connecticut home surrounded by golden leaves, and I felt so sad to be missing yet another New England autumn.
And then I thought, Wait a second. Italy in autumn not only has a lot going for it—it has fall colors, too.* And I have the pictures to prove it!
The island of Procida, the perfect weekend escape from Rome
I've been getting around the Bay of Naples lately. In May, I wrote a story on Ischia, Capri's larger but lesser-known neighbor, for Canada's Globe and Mail. When I visited the tiny, nearby island of Procida in August, I didn't expect it to compare: After all, Ischia has stunning views... and lovely towns... and a medieval castle!
Convinced? Luckily, Procida makes a great weekend trip (or even day trip) from Rome. Take the fast train from Rome to Naples (1 hour 10 minutes), then grab a ferry with Medmar (www.medmarnavi.it), Caremar (www.caremar.it), Alilauro (alilauro.it), or Snav (snav.it) to Procida, which takes about a half hour.
"The ancient Greek theatre of Taormina, Sicily, was designed with serious drama in mind – and not just the costumed kind. Perched 250 metres above the Ionian Sea, the amphitheatre’s 360-degree view encompasses the still-active Mount Etna, the sparkling Mediterranean, the medieval village of Castelmola and, of course, Taormina itself.
From here, the town’s pastel palazzi and pretty cathedrals spread across the lush hillside like icing on a cassata siciliana, a traditional Sicilian cake.
It’s hard to look away—or say goodbye. Which is why I’ve come back to the town for a second time."
Read the rest of my story on the ancient seaside town—out in today's issue of the Globe and Mail newspaper—online here.
Remember back... um... a while ago, when I said I'd be doing a series to answer those burning Italy- or travel-related questions in video form? Well, first (September) episode is above.
This is something I'll be doing every month, so before the next video launches on Oct. 15, make sure to send me your questions! Either email them to me (firstname.lastname@example.org), tweet them @revealedrome (hashtag #revealrome), or post them below here.
Thanks, and I look forward to receiving—and answering—your questions!
Looking for the best beaches in Rome? I don't blame you: Although you always can cool off at a swimming pool in Rome, there's nothing like dipping your toes into the Mediterranean on a sweltering summer day.
Here's a roundup of 5 of my favorite Rome beaches, located as little as 45 minutes away.
One tip: When heading to the beach near Rome, remember that most Italian beaches aren't public. In other words, most swaths of beach are serviced by private establishments, so you'll have to rent a cabana to claim your spot on the sand. This generally costs about €10 to €15 per day. The good news? You'll definitely appreciate the shade—and the ability to order food and drinks from the servers who pass through.
The most picturesque beach, and beach town, near Rome: Sperlonga
The town of Sperlonga
Sperlonga is my top choice for a beach escape from Rome. That's partly because of its white-washed resort town, lovely stretch of sand, and clean water (it's been given Blue Flag designation for its environmental initiatives and cleanliness). And the views from the town make it one of the most picturesque seaside spots near Rome.
And, okay. I might also love Sperlonga because of the nearby archaeological museum, on the site of Emperor Tiberius' ancient grotto, which boasts stunning ancient sculptures by the same guys who did the Laocoön. (Yes, I'm a history nerd). But even if you don't make it to the museum (although you should!), the beach and town alone make the trip worth it.
By public transport, Sperlonga takes about 1.5 hours to get to from Rome. Find out more about Sperlonga, and getting there, in my previous post on Sperlonga.
The beach with the best nightlife: Fregene
Want to do as the Romans do? Then follow up a day in the sun with aperitivo, drinking, and dancing. Fregene, located 23 miles northwest of Rome, is such a popular nightlife spot, I have friends who have gone there just for the evenings—skipping the whole daytime-sunbathing thing altogether.
I shared some of my love for Ischia with you recently. But I also got to share it with the Globe and Mail's readership over the weekend, when my feature on the Mediterranean island, and some of my photographs, ran on the travel section's front page. You can also read it online here.
No, I'm not moving—but I am headed to the States for the biggest chunk of time since relocating to Italy. In June and July, instead of sweltering in the Rome heat, I'll be sweltering in New York City enjoying the surplus of air-conditioning in Manhattan.
And, of course, I'm already thinking about what I'm going to miss about Rome while I'm gone. Not to mention what I'm excited to experience in New York.
Here's a (partial) list... so far:
What I'll miss about Rome
1. Drinkable wine (that doesn't break the bank). Is it terrible that this is one of the first things I thought of? Yeah, probably. But whenever I go back to the States, I can't get over how the same mediocre bottle of wine that would cost €2 on the shelf, or be cheap "vino della casa," in Italy, somehow gets marked up to $40 or $50 in the U.S. Eesh.
The beach of Santa Marinella, just 45 minutes from Rome
2. Easy beach access. I know, I know, New York has beaches nearby, too. Call me crazy, though, but there's just something about having sparkling-blue, Mediterranean water a 45-minute train ride away that kind of beats Long Island Sound.
3. The festival on the Tiber. From June to August, Rome's clubs, bars, restaurants, and even shops move down to the river. Stalls stretch along the Tiber for about a mile, and it becomes the go-to place to meet friends for a drink, a dance, or just a lazy stroll. It's such a great atmosphere–and so much better than dancing indoors in a sweaty club.
Summer festival along the Tiber River
4. All things (really) old. I'm obviously a history geek, so whenever I go back to the U.S., I miss being surrounded by 300-year-old palaces and 2,000-year-old ruins. All the more so when I'm walking in the West Village and hear someone say breathlessly, "Ohmygod, that brownstone is 100 years old!". (Me? Jaded? Never...).