Italy is a long peninsula of bountiful beaches and beach culture thus picking out the “best” isn’t easy. Anyone whose spent a bit of time residing in or traveling through Italy will know that the “best beaches” depend on the right mix of proximity, fabulous bathing suits and a bowl of spaghetti and clams, due spaghetti e vongole. The true Italian beach experience means finding your favorite stabilimento (establishment or kiosk) that greets you with comfortable lettini (reclining lounges) and ombrelloni (large umbrellas) as well offering the standard menu of ice creams and coffees along salads, sandwiches and, of course, pasta — epsecially spaghetti con vongole.
Rome is only 20 minutes by train to the seaside, meaning the beaches and stabilimenti are competitive. Though Ostia may rank #1 for affordability and distance– only 20 minutes and 1 euro by local train- my top three and half under-the-Roman-sun spots are:
Fregene and Maccarese, the posh cousins of Ostia, just a few miles north of Ostia. Fregene and Maccarese are known for having some of the nicest stabilimenti in the area– think billowing tents, candle light and music– which become evening (and often daytime) discoteche in the summer months. The stabilimenti have music, dance floors, websites and even have wifi. The restaurants that run up and down the area like La Baia and Scialuppa are beach gateways and known for their celebrity clientele so reservations must be made in advance. Fregene and Maccarese are best reached by car.
Sperlonga, a beautiful beach community about ninety minutes south of Rome– halfway between Rome and Naples. The beaches of Sperlonga are white and the sand sometimes whistles under your feet. The stabilimenti are simple and relaxed, with epicurean fish menus. But make sure to try bufalo mozzarella if listed on the menu. For those looking for more than just a tan, the gorgeous 1st century AD Villa di Tiberio (a summer palace of Emperor Tiberius) sits on the water just below the Museo Archeologico Nazionale. To get to Sperlonga from Rome Termini , you must take a local train to Fondi (approximately one hour, cost 6.20 euro) and then local bus.
Santa Marinella, small beach town about 45 -55 minutes from Rome that is an age-old secret whose favorite sun bathers have included ancient Phoenician settlers, medieval rival families, Renaissance popes, fin de siècle literati and Dolce Vita celebrities like Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini. To get to Santa Marinella, take a local trains (from either Termini, Trastevere and Ostiense stations) which depart every half hour and cost approximately 4.10 euro- less than 10 euro round trip. Make sure to purchase roundtrip tickets, as smaller stations like Santa Marinella do not tend to have reliable ticket machines.