When travelling, especially to new destinations, I like to explore the main attractions and monuments to learn the culture and get a feel for the people and way of life. I also love to get off the well-worn path and discover the secret destinations both in the big cities and the little towns on my journeys. I enjoy finding little quaint bars hidden away around the corner or places to eat that only the locals know about. The secret destinations I enjoy are little, unknown towns, a beach, a food or an activity that is off the main tourist route.
On a recent trip to Italy my husband and I discovered the seaside town of Santa Marinella. After 3 weeks of travelling we were looking for somewhere close to Fiumicino airport without having to go back into Rome. This was our last stop and we were looking for somewhere to relax and enjoy some seafood without the hustle and bustle of a tourist destination.
Santa Marinella is the perfect place to relax and do nothing. A 30 minute drive north west of Rome, there is no tourism to speak of here, this is a sleepy seaside town where local romans come on the weekends to enjoy the clear, blue waters of the Mediterranean and eat seafood. Trains run to and from Rome at regular intervals with the station in Santa Marinella only 5 minutes’ walk to the beach.
A short train ride from Rome will find you in Santa Marinella!
We arrived at our hotel the Villa del Palma, Lungomare G. Marconi, around 8am so our room wasn't available yet. We wanted to explore so left our bags at reception and headed into town. This was a breath of fresh air, a lovely, quiet, little spot which reminded us of a little place called Kingscliff, near home. We wandered through the streets just as shops were starting to open and coffee machines were starting to fire up. We discovered a restaurant on Via Repubblica, perfect for a coffee and orange juice, somewhere to rest and read the program for the outdoor cinema adjacent to the restaurant. A large screen and chairs were set up to enjoy the beautiful, warm weather and the company of family and friends under the stars.
Returning to our hotel we enjoyed a relaxing couple of hours lazing on lounges by the water, enjoying the sun and the sound of the waves as they lapped the shore. Around midday our room was ready so we changed our clothes and headed off again to explore the town and find some lunch. We were looking forward to seafood for dinner so pizza for lunch was on the menu!
It’s amazing to see the local kids going to the corner takeaway just like at home but here they are buying slabs of pizza and wandering back to the beach with tomato sauce on their chins. The pizza looked delicious in huge rectangular trays straight from the ovens, so we had to try some and it certainly met expectations, crusty on the bottom, chewy in the middle and the best tomato sauce topping.
The pizza in Italy is amazing and it’s exciting to discover how it changes from city to city.
Piazza Civitavecchia, further up the street, is ringed with cafes and restaurants with quiet places to rest under the trees, whilst down the road towards the water is the Castello Degli Odescalchi. A popular seafood restaurant, Acqua Marina, overlooks the water and a short walk brings you to the port area.
The main beach is covered with colourful umbrellas and lounges which you can hire by the hour. The cost is between 10 – 20 Euros depending on how long you stay or you can place your towel on the sand in the middle of the beach for free and enjoy the sand between your toes. There is a large area where the children play games and where people swim in the amazingly clear, blue water.
We were lucky enough to enjoy a waterfront beach at our hotel where we spent time relaxing and enjoying a beer or two. The rooms are simple and spacious with ours having a magnificent view of the sea, TV, Wifi and air conditioning. The large shutters can be opened to let in the cool breeze with food and drinks available all day from the bar. The cool gardens, shaded by palms and surrounded by gorgeous flowers beds are perfect to escape the sun and read a good book.
When deciding where to have dinner we chose La Perla Nera which is the restaurant at the hotel. We never usually dine at our hotel however this is reputably one of the best restaurants in Santa Marinella so we had to indulge. When asking what time we could come in we were told the restaurant opens at 8pm. We discovered they didn’t open earlier on this night because Italy were playing in the knock out stages of the European World Cup, Italy won and the staff were very jovial when we arrived. Seafood is the specialty here and they didn’t disappoint. The ravioli entrée melted in my mouth and the Crab Linguini was a masterpiece.
The linguini was encased in the crab shell with crackers and pickers to devour the rest of the crab legs afterwards. Paired with a wonderful, chilled white wine the scampi, whole fish and sides of grilled Mediterranean vegetables and potatoes for the main left us fully satisfied. The view made for a magical night, sitting right on the edge of the sea with twinkling lights coming on along the coast as the sun set.
After dinner a leisurely walk found us at the Monkey Pub – a popular Irish Pub on the main street – where we joined the locals and a few tourists for a night cap and watched the end of the soccer.
Santa Marinella is a beautiful, quiet seaside town with some amazing seafood on offer. There are no fast food chains, nightclubs or the hustle and bustle of the capital. A true secret destination to recharge and discover the local charm.