I want to share a compilation of 6 places I love in central Italy. We will travel from Tuscany to Umbria, Lazio and finally Campania. These places are all really different and quite unique. If you went from the first to the last you would have a truly beautiful road trip and enjoy all kinds of different sceneries and activities – from hiking, to thermal baths, mountains, waterfalls, castles, rafting, ancient churches, forests, medieval towns and the sea- really something for everyone. Having fun yet? If you’re not sold, I’m adding as a bonus some delicious tips on the best foods for that region. Ok, now you’re ready to join 😉
Terme di Saturnia
You’ve just arrived from far away, what better way to start your trip than to relax in some absolutely natural (and free!) thermal baths? Terme di Saturnia are found in an empty valley, kind of in the middle of nowhere. The area is charming as it’s surrounded by the well known Tuscan rolling hills. However, as you get near the baths, you will see from the road the very unique scenery of a waterfall cascading into giant lime stone pools that naturally formed over the course of the centuries. They are perfectly rounded and deep enough where you would think someone built them. This picture may give you a better idea…
Being that the water comes from an underground sulfuric spring, the water temperature is 37.5 degrees ( 100 Fahrenheit). It feels SO good!! Steam rises out of these pools making the view all the more whimsical. I still can’t believe that these baths, which are becoming more and more known, are just free and not managed by anyone, which means you can go 24/7, 365 days a year, rain or shine, clothed or naked (beware!). I feel that in other places it would be commercialized and become way less natural and with many restrictions. Anyway, the sulfur has amazing proprieties which are healthy for skin, muscles, circulation and more. You will feel very rejuvenated and ready to take on the world. Only down side? Sulfur doesn’t smell exactly great, but you will get used to the “perfume”. I recommend not wearing your favorite bathing suit as it might keep the scent even after being washed. A small price to pay for this blissful experience.
I think this might be my favorite small town in Italy. Very near Terme di Saturnia, Pitigliano was carved in the rock about 2000 years BEFORE Christ. It sits on a sheer cliff that makes you wonder how the little town isn’t falling on you. The view as you approach the town is simply breathtaking and photographers love capturing it.
Visittuscany.com Credit: Enrico Bottino
When you enter the town you will not be disappointed by all the beautiful alleys and squares. Many small botteghe offer wine tasting from the nearby wine region for free or a tiny fee. Some specialty dishes from this area called Maremma include cinghiale (wild boar), Acquacotta ( an onion and vegetable soup with toasted bread and a poached egg.. so good) and Tortelli maremmani (large ravioli stuffed with a slightly sweet ricotta and topped w a meat ragu’.. the contrast is fantastic). After making your tummy very happy, head to Via Cava to visit the ancient Etruscan Necropoli.
Not far from Pitigliano and past the lake of Bolsena (which is definitely worth a pit stop!) you will enter a new region, Umbria. Umbria is similar to Tuscany in landscapes but way less touristy and cheaper. Go there before everyone finds out about it!
Orvieto, like Pitigliano, is carved into volcanic rock (tufa) and dates back to the Etruscan era. It is a “larger” town with 21, 000 inhabitants but a fun fact we learned during our visit there is that during the middle ages more people lived there than in Rome! It had an important role during the Roman empire and therefore has much to offer as far as art, sculpture, monuments and churches. The most unique part is the endless web of underground Etruscan streets and homes. I highly recommend the tour of these. You can picture how people lived seeing the ancient Colombai (where they farmed pigeons) and old oil and wine presses. During World War II these cellars were used as hideouts. Enjoy local delicious cold cuts, cheeses and truffles and brave it to try their specialty: Pigeon!
Cascate delle Marmore
Let’s have a change of scenery and immerse ourselves in nature. These gorgeous waterfalls were actually man made by the Romans in 271 B.C who diverted the nearby river and had it fall on the natural Marmore cliffs. They are the tallest man made waterfalls in the world at a height of 541 feet ( 165 meters) and truly look spectacular.
Don’t let the man made part scare you away, the area around them has nothing artificial and boasts beautiful hills, mountains and lookouts which make for amazing hikes. You will have a full forest feel as the lush vegetation and the river surround you. There is hiking for all levels, as well as white water rafting in the river below the falls for beginners and more extreme for experts. After a day of hiking, rafting, or simply enjoying the views, head to Lago di Piediluco for a seafood dinner on the lake. Oh yeah
I recently discovered this gem about 1 hour away from Rome. You can easily spend an entire day here. Subiaco is famous for the convent of Sacro Speco, the oldest of its kind, carved in the mountain and pictured here
I’ve never seen anything like it in my life! Inside the town, there is a striking castle belonging to the Borgia family. And at the bottom of the town, in the river Aniene, you can enjoy a short hike to some beautiful waterfalls. A couple bridges cross the river and the air is much cooler than anywhere else around. A small oasis. Near Subiaco, you can visit some other awesome places featured in my other article click HERE
We now venture more south. If I mention Amalfi Coast, everyone thinks of Positano, Ravello or Amalfi. This is a small, still not so touristy, place on the Amalfi coast where you might just get the best views possible. From the town of Castellamare di Stabia, for 8 euros, a cable car hanging in mid air will give you a thrilling ride up to almost 4000 feet (1200 meters). The ride itself is quite exciting and takes just under 10 minutes. From the top you can reach the belvedere and see the entire Amalfi coast, the islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida, the gulf of Sorrento and the volcano Vesuvius. It is breathtaking!! By the lookout there are some ancient roman remains which give it that historical charm you often get in Italy.
When we went we had a picnic there and if you’re here in the summer, it will give you a much needed break from the heat. For dinner, head to Gragnano, a nearby town world famous for their home made pasta. They export the best quality pasta all over the world. For something quicker and more like street food, Gragnano is also the home of panuozzo, a delicious sandwich made with pizza dough bread, I recommend the Gragnano wine, to die for, with its natural bubbliness. To see more suggestions in the area, click HERE!
Did you enjoy this trip? Leave us a comment if you’ve been or plan to visit any of these places 🙂