This article is part of FT Globetrotter’s guide to Rome

One of the downsides of working as journalist in Rome, is that at times it can be challenging to make sense of the dysfunctions and theatrics of Italian politics. One of the upsides, however, is that you can do that with an enviable tan.

By travelling just a short distance from the heart of the city, you can escape to quiet hamlets nestled in the hills, vast natural parks and, most of all, beautiful beaches. This is a perfect way to let off steam — and it is indeed a necessity, especially during the increasingly hot Roman summer days, when temperatures can reach up to 40C.

If, like me, you are a swimmer and you find yourself in Rome during the hotter months, you may want to cool down in the nearest stretch of water. The following are some of the best beaches and lakes to head to within 30km of the city centre, and one further afield.

Some practicalities: theft is not common, but it would be wise not to leave valuables on the beach unattended. The average price to rent two sun loungers and an umbrella at the beach is around €40 for the whole day, but if you are Italian — or speak the language convincingly — you can probably negotiate a discount if you only want to rent for half a day.

Santa Severa

  • Good for: Easy to reach by train, closer to the city than other beaches, extremely clean water in the morning 

  • Not so good for: Crowds from lunchtime during the weekend

  • FYI: Take the train from Rome’s central station, Roma Termini, to Santa Severa station — as with all the journeys here, no need to book in advance (Directions)

© Shutterstock/Stefano Tammaro

Santa Severa, just an hour’s train ride north-west of the capital, is one of the most iconic beaches on the Lazio coast, famous for its castle nestled between the sea and the fields. Here there is good news for morning people: the water is usually extremely clear in the early hours of the day. Though it becomes slightly foamier in the afternoon, it’s still enjoyable. 

Parasols and deck chairs can be rented across the large stretch of free beach here, though it’s mainly sandy, so if you prefer you can just throw your towel down instead. There is also a beach bar that offers drinks and sandwiches. Alternatively, the two most popular restaurants are Isola del Pescatore and Romeo (booking in advance is highly recommended). Here you will mostly find traditional Roman cuisine — or try my favourite seaside dish after a swim — fried moscardini (baby octopus) accompanied by a glass of white wine. 

Sperlonga

  • Good for: Stunning views 

  • Not so good for: Slightly overpriced  

  • FYI: Take the train from Roma Termini to Fondi Sperlonga station. From there you can get a shuttle bus to the beach (Directions)

Sperlonga old town is perched on a cliff
Sperlonga old town is perched on a cliff ©  Gianni Blues/Alamy

Heading south towards Naples, one of the most charming places to combine a visit and a swim is Sperlonga, a cliffside town facing onto the Mediterranean, with stunning panoramic views. The sea here can be a little rougher than at Santa Severa, which might put off the serious long-distance swimmer. But this makes it possible to wind- or kite-surf, not only on the sandy beaches below the hilltop hamlet but also at the nearby seaside towns of Formia and Gaeta. One of the nicest places to eat is in the main square, tiled and surrounded by whitewashed houses and tiny alleys that wind across the town. Alternatively, if you prefer to dine with a sea breeze and to smell the salty air, try one of the restaurants by the beach. The daily boat excursions (around €25) are well worth doing: they take you to caves where you can swim in crystal-clear water. It’s absolutely spectacular.

Sabaudia

  • Good for: A laid-back atmosphere, Mediterranean scrub

  • Not so good for: Relatively hard to park if you’re driving 

  • FYI: You will need a car to get here, or you can get a bus from Rome’s Laurentina metro stop (line B) to Piazza Oberdan in Saubaudia. From there, you can take the shuttle bus to the sea (Directions)

A salt lake lies behind Sabaudia’s beach © Michele Alfieri/Dreamstime

The beach at Sabaudia is a strip of land connected to the mainland at either end, and forms a kind of salt lake that separates it from the town centre. Famed for its golden sands and clean waters, Sabaudia is popular with Romans and Neapolitans as it is equidistant from both cities. It has 15km of beach that boast the Bandiera Blu, or blue flag, a special designation based on water quality.

The beach is mainly free, with a few stabilimenti balneari (beach clubs). There are plenty of bars and small restaurants here along the coast.

Lago di Martignano 

  • Good for: Informal atmosphere, far from traffic and seaside crowds 

  • Not so good for: Not easy to reach if you don’t have a car

  • FYI: Bring a packed lunch and a sweater (Directions)

The lake lies within the Regional Natural Park of Bracciano-Martignano © Getty Images/iStockphoto

For a decidedly wilder and slightly hippy vibe, a swim in Lake Martignano — which is a little cooler than the sea (and a little harder to get to) — might be just the thing for you. A small lake north of Rome near the larger and more famous Lake Bracciano, it lies within a natural park and can be reached from one of the main roads from the capital. From the car park (set your GPS to Parcheggio del Lago di Martignano) it is a half-hour walk, or there’s a shuttle bus. Parking costs €5 a day and the shuttle bus is €2. 

The signposted walk to the lake crosses greenery and farmland. Even in the summer, you should bring a sweatshirt in case of an arietta (“little breeze”) at the end of the day. There are no restaurants in the immediate vicinity, apart from Da Enzo Ai Salici. The shore is sandy in parts, rocky in others. If you want to lie a little further from the water, there’s grass among the trees of the forest surrounding the lake. The water isn’t very clear, but it is certainly clean and relatively deep. You can also rent a kayak to tour the lake. 

Isola del Giglio

  • Good for: Amazingly clean water, no huge crowds, friendly and relaxed locals. Quite sophisticated 

  • Not so good for: Not doable from Rome in a day

  • FYI: Ferries run year-round (Directions

Isola del Giglio is famous for its biodiversity and the clarity of its waters © EyeEm/Alamy

A little further afield than the other destinations, and therefore not ideal for day trippers, Isola del Giglio is one of Italy’s gems, thanks to its biodiversity and crystal waters. This island off the Tuscan coast — part of the Tuscan Archipelago, which includes Elba — is very popular with Romans who want to escape the city for a couple of days. If you are visiting Italy for a little longer, it may be worth renting a car and driving up to Porto Santo Stefano (maybe spend a night here if you are travelling up to Florence). From there, you can catch a ferry to the island.

At the little port, stock up on food and drink supplies before you start exploring the island’s walking trails and beaches (it is about 8km long, with a 28km coastline). One option is to take a taxi to the village at the top of the island, from where you can continue on to the various paths that lead to the different beaches. For a complete list, see here. Most beaches are free to access but you can also rent lettino e ombrellone (sunbeds and umbrellas). Stop in the port for an aperitivo in one of several bars that serve spritz before taking the ferry back. 

Where are your favourite spots to swim near Rome? Tell us in the comments

For more stories like this, visit ft.com/globetrotter, check out our guide to Rome, and follow FT Globetrotter on Instagram at @FTGlobetrotter


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