If you’re in Rome and the weather turns hot, you might be surprised how easy it is to slip into the cool Mediterranean. There are actually more than a few beaches within reach of the city. You could head directly west to the beach at Ostia. But the crowds and the questionable cleanliness of the water are usually enough to keep anyone away despite the half hour it takes to get there. Or you could head south to the small town of Sperlonga, where the sea is amazing and clear, but the journey to get there is, well, a journey. If you’re like us, you’ll head instead to Santa Marinella Beach where both the distance and the crystal water make this beach one of the most inviting around Rome.
Catch the train
The train to Santa Marinella leaves from several of the train stations around Rome: Roma Termini, Ostiense, Trastevere, or San Pietro. The train’s final destination will read either Pisa or Civitavecchia, and it leaves twice every hour. Check the Tren Italia site before heading to the station, and, contrary to intuition, type “S. Marinella” into the destination slot on the website to find out exact times.
Head to the Beach
Santa Marinella’s main beach is so close to the train station that all you have to do is follow the swimsuit-wearing crowd and you’ll find it, a small bay with perfectly clear water. In Italy there are two options (if you’re lucky) for enjoying the beach. First, there’s the stabilimento with its umbrellas and sun beds that must be rented for the afternoon. Stabilimenti sometimes offer a shower and a changing cabin too. Or second, there’s the public part of the beach where you can park your towel wherever you want on the sand. Many beaches offer both, and rightly so, as sometimes it’s impossible to see the sand for all the umbrella posts.
Santa Marinella has both, but on a whole, it has more stabilimenti and less public space than most beaches. On either end of the bay’s lovely cusp, small sections of sand have been cordoned off for the people (and one feels somewhat jilted going there as the water isn’t swimmable on one side, and you are expected to lie on rocks on the other—or rent a bed for €10). But there are plenty of stabilimenti to choose from. Pay €20 for an umbrella and bed near the water, or €10 for either an umbrella or a bed in the back. You can try to lay your towels on the gorgeous sand stretching between the beds and the water, but when I went, the lifeguards had nothing better to do and were moving along the people who tried this.
But even if you’re after a public beach experience, Santa Marinella doesn’t fail! Head to the other beach, only a ten minute walk away. At the first intersection after the train station, turn left instead of right and walk along the water until you find it.
All that swimming and lounging in the sun has no doubt made you hungry. And while you’re on the beach and it’s summer, the most obvious answer your stomach is to eat some seafood. Santa Marinella abounds with seafood restaurants where the fish is much fresher (and cheaper!) than in their counterparts in the city. Here are two places, on quite opposite ends of the spectrum at least for atmosphere, where we like to eat.
L’Acqua Marina: Via Trieste 8. This is a classy place where you can enjoy your grilled fish while overlooking the perfect blue of the sea. Try the seafood salad for an antipasti to get your belly ready.
Tavola Azzurra 2: Via Aurelia 111/B. This is not a classy place, and you may feel that your about to intrude on someone’s shamble of a home when you walk in. But don’t let this restaurant’s lack of aesthetics deter you from trying some of the best fish dishes around.
Return to Rome
With your belly full and your skin pleasantly salty, return to the station and catch the train back to Rome knowing it’s been a good, relaxing day at the beach.