Summer Bucket list: Top 5 Beaches to Visit Near Rome

If you are looking for a summer stay-cation, consider these beaches below which are all within reach from Rome:

The first 3 beaches introduced are considered blue flag beaches. The Blue Flag is a certification by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) which dictates that a marina, beach, or sustainable boating tourism operator meets its stringent standards; “excellent” water quality and waste management, recycling, the presence of lifeguards, the extent of its pedestrian/ bicycle paths and green areas.

1. Anzio/Nettuno (blue flag)

Anzio and Nettuno are only 10 minutes apart and are easily reached from Rome’s termini station in 60 to 70 minutes. How to get there? 1 train per hour leaves from Termini station, stopping first at Anzio and then at Nettuno. Make sure to support the local shops: mozzarella di bufala dell’Agro Pontino (Anzio) is a must-try. The cheese is freshly made every day where you can get a delicious and rich panino for just 5 euros!

2. Sperlonga (blue flag)

Sperlonga is the perfect getaway since in a way it is like a little Greece. The waters are so clear and the vibe is amazing. You can instantly feel that you are far from Rome and away from the stress of the city. How to get there? Take the regional train headed to Naples from Termini station and get off at Fondi-Sperlonga. Once there, take the Piazzoli bus for 20 minutes to Sperlonga ( €1.50 bus ticket)

5. Sabaudia (blue flag)

Sabaudia is know for its beauty and the boundless coast where you can easily find public and private beaches. How to get there? Take the Cotral buses from Rome’s Laurentina metro stop (line B) to Piazza Oberdan in Sabaudia. Then take the bus which runs along the local coastline.

3. Santa Marinella/Santa Severa

These 2 beaches are 15 minutes apart by train. They are just an hour away from Rome and thus formulate a great day trip. These 2 beaches are surrounded by wonderful scenaries where Santa Severa has a great vista of Castello di Santa Severa . How to get there? There are two trains per hour leaving from Termini station for S. Marinella station and the journey takes about one hour.

4. Fregene

Fregene is a great place to enjoy a beach day and the party life. There is also a wide selection of family-oriented restaurants and aperitif places. How to get there? Cotral buses depart from Rome’s Valle Aurelia metro stop (line A) and the journey takes about one hour.

Summer Bucket list: Top 4 Lakes to Visit Near Rome

As much as I like going to the beach, I always appreciate the lakes around Rome due to the beautiful and lavish-green mountains surrounding it. If you feel like surviving a hot day and having a dip in refreshing waters, consider these lakes below which are all within reach from Rome.

1. Lago di Turano

Lago di Turano looks unrealistic. It is so gorgeous that it has been used several times as a film location during the filming of “The Patron” starring Lucio Dalla. All you need to do when you arrive is spread a picnic blanket and just enjoy the view while eating some fresh pizza prepared by the artisanal bakeries nearby.

2. Lago di Bracciano

Lago di Bracciano is a volcanic crater lake and is the eighth largest in Italy.The lake is surrounded with beautiful medieval towns where the medieval Castello Orsini-Odescalchi palace is actually famous for hosting the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Other villages that lie along the lake are Anguillara Sabazia and Trevignano Romano. The lake is surrounded with cute aperitif places where you can have a drink with delicious local food.

3. Lago Albano

Lago Albano is the lake located in the Castelli Romani (Castel Gandolfo). The pope’s summer residence is actually located at Castel Gandolfo, a charming town with amazing views of the lake below. Nearby towns include Ariccia, a town famous for its porchetta and Marino, best known for its wine festival that takes place each October. For dinner, go to one of the restaurants with the view of the lake. I recommend Ristorante Pagnanelli (1882) which is one of the oldest restaurants I have been to (P.S. order the sparkling wine).

4. Lago di Nemi

This lake is a small and eventful lake which derives its name from Nemi, a town located above the lake and known for its wild strawberries; the town hosts a strawberry festival at the end of spring each year. Nearby lies Genzano di Roma which hosts a magnificent flower festival (the annual infiorata), a three-day flower festival in June that coincides with the religious holiday of Corpus Christi, 60 days after Easter.

The Corona Diaries: A Lebanese Expat Quarantined in Italy

March 8, 2020- March 21, 2020

Yesterday, the death toll from the novel coronavirus was announced to be 627 deaths, the biggest day-to-day increase in the country’s four-week epidemic. The total number of deaths in Italy reached 4,032 with the number of active cases now being 37,860 after hitting a high of 47,021 cases.

I am a Lebanese expat living in Rome and as crazy as it sounds, I have decided to stay here in Italy for the lock down. I have decided to stay as not to circulate the disease back home, like everyone mistakenly did at first and thought staying put is the best decision for now to stop the spread of this virus. During these 2 weeks, I was trying my best not to lose my sanity and was keeping busy for the most of it and saw this quarantine as an opportunity for self-improvement rather than confinement .

It is crucial to not let this quarantine consume you and make sure that by staying home you are not only helping yourself but everyone else in the process. Hence, this quarantine has made me realize that no one is special when it comes to a pandemic and no one should assume they are. And by not following the rules, you are just proving how selfish you are and deterring any progress that the collective is managing to do.

How does the lock down look here?

One day during work, I felt everyone was panicked and anxious and I knew that we are not going to be allowed to come to work anymore until further notice. Everything happened very sudden…

At first, Conte, the prime minister, announced a nationwide lockdown, effective the following morning where restaurants and coffee bars would have to close by 6 p.m. local time.

Seeing how people were not being careful or responsible enough and continued on with their normal life routines, Conte announced an even stricter lock down. Now, everything is closed except for grocery stores, pharmacies and tobacco shops. You are only allowed to go out for necessary reasons like for grocery shopping, doctor’s appointment or work reasons. Moreover, travel has been restricted only to emergency and/or necessary reasons where the airline can simply deny you boarding without a good case.

Going out

In order to go out, you have to carry with you a self-declaration document (stating your name, address and reason for movement/travel) along with an ID which the police have the right to check if you are seen on the streets. If you have no important reason (like buying food) to wander around you will be fined. Such strict measures were crucial since people did not follow the rules before.

For example, an Italian man is facing 12 years in prison because he was corona positive but hid his symptoms just to get a rhinoplasty. This guy’s sentence was as harsh because he knew he had the virus and was selfish enough to infect the anesthesiologist, nurse and the doctor.

At the supermarket, only 4 people are allowed to enter and the rest of the people should wait outside while keeping a 1 meter distance from one another. Usually, I go to the supermarket once in every 4 to 5 days just to avoid any prolonged exposure to the virus.

How does it feel?

Going out now to buy food has been one of the weirdest and most uncomfortable things I had to do since the beginning of this year. For example, going down the street people will avoid eye contact with you and would merely run away when they see another person close to them. From living in a social and lively neighborhood, this scene of people running away from each other sounds legit crazy. You can see the fear in everyone’s eyes because everyday the death toll keep rising and rising and we all are feeling a bit threatened.

So what have I been doing all alone at home for 2 weeks in Rome?

  • Staying positive : by neglecting the news or the numbers (as much as possible) and reading educational books and novels instead. It is important to stop obsessing about the news because they will only cause your panic attacks to act up. So, try to avoid the news and propaganda and just focus on yourself. Consider this as a 1 month retreat for self-improvement where you catch up on everything you were not able to do before (like sleep and work) but now have no excuse to miss on anymore.
  • Finally met my neighbors : from the terrace I have been chatting with some neighbors like the good old days which is something I would never have thought of doing before. Also, I am using my terrace to tan, read and have breakfast or coffee.
  • Learning how to cook : by checking out online recipes or just asking your family for recipes (my mom loves it) that you finally have time to try making. Cooking is super fun and it just makes me proud of myself that now, I can finally consume something that I prepared and not Chef Luigi from down the street.
  • Learn how to play an instrument: you can easily purchase a cheap ukulele from amazon like I did and start strumming. YouTube offers a huge number of channels with endless instrument guides to learn from.
  • Watch them documentaries: and series that you always wanted to watch but never could.
  • Call your friends and family members : that you always wanted to catch up/reconnect with. I am now communicating way more with my family members and distant relatives. It feels really good to reconnect with your family members when you were never free to do so before (and felt guilty when you didn’t). It would have been better if I was able to be with them in person but video call is good enough for now (at least you don’t have to send a pigeon in these times).
  • Organize dinner dates and home parties with friends on video call: Yesterday I had a pizza and wine date with my friend Amanda who lives 20 minutes away from me by metro. Sadly, we can’t see each other as it is not allowed by law. It was not the same as a real life hangout but pizza is pizza (YUM!). Also, a lot of DJs are performing live sets on Facebook or Instagram…So make sure to watch out for those.
  • Plant Stuff : I planted my own spring onion plant and it feels amazing to just cut a piece off and add it to my omelette in the morning. You harvest what you sow 😉
  • Home exercise: Staying in shape is especially crucial now knowing that we won’t be exerting any motion for the upcoming days. When I started to feel uncomfortable from eating without exercising, I pushed myself to research simple calorie burning home exercises. It really helped with the mental aspect of being quarantined and motionless.
  • Cheer on your neighbors: or yell “ce la faremo” (we’ll make it ) from your window. Recently my neighbors started putting on a nice DJ set and music which really lifted up my spirits. So, if you can do that,make sure you put on some music and sing out the window. This would put a smile on people’s faces (either because you sound good or look crazy). Anyhow, both reasons are perfectly fine and fun if you are enjoying your time doing so!

For most of us, this is a very new experience that we probably won’t have again. So, make sure to use this large amount of time to do everything you wanted to do before and grow in the process instead of viewing it as just imprisonment or confinement. Happy thoughts always. Take care*!

*Make sure you follow the correct references on how to protect yourself and your family members/friends against the virus (WHO website is a reliable reference to use).

The Famous Carnevale Festival: Genzano

Carnival (Carnevale) in Italy is a huge winter festival which entails people wearing masks and costumes, lively parades, music, sweets and local traditions.

Carnevale, also known as Carnival or Mardi Gras, is celebrated in Italy and many places around the world during the 40 days before Easter, and a final party before Ash Wednesday and Lent.  Carnevale events often last for two to three weeks before the actual carnival day. Many Italian towns celebrate Carnevale the weekend before the last day of carnival.

Usually the best parade spots take place in Venice,Cento,Viareggio and Putignano. However, I was not able to attend the parades in those locations but I did attend the one in Genzano di Roma. Genzano di Roma is a town in the in Lazio region of central Italy . It is one of the Castelli Romani, at a distance of 29 kilometres (18 mi) from Rome, in the Alban Hills.

Below I will be sharing a set of pictures taken at the Genzano di Roma Carnevale:

These lovely women posing for the picture 🙂

A Must-See: Tivoli in a Day!

Who knew that a 3 euro train ticket from Rome can take you to this little haven called Tivoli. Tivoli is a small town and comune in Lazio, central Italy, about 30 kilometres of Rome (1.25 hours by train), at the falls of the Aniene river where it issues from the Sabine hills. So what can you do in Tivoli for a day?

The Cathedral

1- Upon Arrival

On your way from the train station to the center of Tivoli, you can spot a huge bridge that you have to cross. Indulge in the beauty of the lake and the view right upon arrival.

2. Have Breakfast at Caffè Rêtro

Caffè Rêtro is an espresso bar that I always stumble upon while in Tivoli. This place has delicious desserts, great coffee, and lovely staff!

3. Visit the Villa d’Este Palace

The Villa d’Este is a 16th-century villa in Tivoli famous for its terraced hillside Italian Renaissance garden and especially for its profusion of fountains. It is now an Italian state museum, and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site (in case you are into checking UNESCO heritage sites off your list as myself). This villa is one of the most beautiful villas I have visited yet.

A full visit ticket is for € 12,00 : they don’t take credits cards, so bring cash!

4. Via delle Cascatelle

This walkway allows you to see the amazing waterfalls that cascade in the northern part of Tivoli.

If you want to view the waterfalls from the top, there is a small path from Via Quintilio Varo – which heads to the edge of the falls where you can see the cascades.

5. The Temple of Vesta

Next to via Via delle Cascatelle stands the Temple of Vesta. This temple is a very important structure of the ancient acropolis of Tivoli and is next to the Temple of the Sibyl. Dating back to the first century BC, this temple is the most famous monument of ancient Tibur. Over the centuries, the Temple of Vesta has become the most painted subject by Italian and foreign artists, and by the rich aristocrats who used to come to Tivoli in the 19th century.

Access to the temple is through a gate and it is visible from the Ponte Gregoriano bridge and is free of charge.

6. Head to Rocca Pia: A Medieval Fortress

Rocca Pia is an ancient medieval fortress that was built during the 15th century and was built to strengthen the defense of Tivoli. This fortress is 500 years old and still looks anew.

Although entry is not always permitted inside the Rocca Pia, it is essential for you to go and take a look at it’s marvelous and unique architecture.

7. Enjoy the sunset while walking through Tivoli’s alleys

The vibes you get walking through these alleys and small streets is indescribable. Hopefully, my photographs gives them their worth!

8. Grab Dinner at Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi

This is the main piazza that has several restaurants that serve food at reasonable prices. Try the spinach and ricotta ravioli!