I’ve often struggled to find the ideal destination for the rather eclectic traveling group in which I often find myself – World War II buffs, Ancient Roman history enthusiasts, voracious pescatarians, and the odd dedicated tanner or two. Should you find yourself in a similar situation when in Rome, there is really only one place to go – Anzio.
Founded by the Volsci way back in the ancient times, Anzio is located just 35 miles south of Rome on the coast (if you hit Nettuno, you’ve gone too far!). Not content to leave such a pretty piece of real estate in the hands of these longtime rivals, the Romans eventually conquered the strategic harbor, and the emperor Nero chose to build one of his beach shacks down there, presumably to have a quiet place to read, think, and be completely normal. By the Middle Ages, the place was pretty much deserted, although some sources claim that during some Renaissance excavations, the Apollo Belvedere – long considered one of the greatest classical statues from antiquity – was discovered among the ruins.
Not much of note happened in Anzio for the following 600 years or so, until 1944 when the Allied forces mounted an amphibious landing at Anzio and Nettuno, leading to several months of rather bloody battle until they finally broke through and marched on Rome, liberating it on June 4th, 1944.
Awesomely, many remains from every element of this rather intense and extended history are still visible in Anzio. Walls and caves that made up Nero’s villa line the cliffs that rise up along the beach – the very same beach where the Allies landed, and where you can now lay out and catch some rays. Wade into the water and swim by some giant chains left over from docking the Allied ships, and then breaststroke your way over to a series of tunnels and caves that formed the nefarious underworld of Nero’s party house.
Oh, and for those pescatarians I mentioned? A number of restaurants line the road above the beach, offering fresh seafood, cold wine, and air-conditioned views of all that cool stuff you just read about. Baia di Ponente on Riviera Vittorio Mallozzi is a proven favorite, offering perfectly crisp fried fish, an excellent crudo plate, and reasonable prices.
How to get there: Trains run from Termini to Anzio every hour on the :07, return on the :37 (until 8:37) and costs 7.20 for the roundtrip. To get to the beach, it’s about a 15 minute walk from the train station, or you could probably catch a bus. To walk, exit the station onto Viale Claudio Paolini, and just keep heading downhill until you see water.