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Villa d'Este, France

Rome is a city with fascinating ruins and beautiful architecture that will make for an amazing holiday by itself, but don’t cheat yourself the opportunity to visit equally as beautiful places close to Rome. These smaller cities are perfect for escaping the tourist crowds and noisy urban areas.

Villa d’Este

We dare you to find a more regal place to visit while in Italy. The Villa d’Este is the closest to heaven that you might get. The Renaissance gem is an excellent example of Renaissance architecture and Italian Renaissance gardens, sure to make any Art Historian squeal with excitement. The Villa and its grounds are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you’ll soon see why when enjoy the concentrations on fountains, nymphs, grottoes, and music that boasts the romantic feel of the Villa.

Villa d’Este is located in the small town of Tivoli, located around 36 miles from the centre of Rome. You can easily reach the town by grabbing a train in Rome and heading to Tivoli. The trip will take roughly an hour. If you want a more structured approach, you can have a guided tour of the Villa for roughly 115 AUD.

Capri

This beautiful island full of whitewashed stone buildings and car-free streets is truly a full-day trip but so worth it. The turquoise waters and lively people will have you in dreamland. You’ll take a train from Rome to Naples and then a short boat ride from Naples to Capri. Try an Eurail pass to make this a smooth journey. You will then enter the main port, Marina Grande, where you can move from shop to shop. You’ll enjoy chatting at a terraced café as you try all of the delicious, local gastronomy.

Before leaving, you must take a boat ride from the marina to the Blue Grotto, a fantastic cave that reveals a bright reflection of the blue and emerald waters. Another exciting must-do, is travelling up to Mount Solaro, Capri’s highest point. A chairlift will take you to the top where you can enjoy a breath-taking view of the island.

If you would prefer to travel with a group tour, most of the day tours can be purchased for between 170-190 AUD.

Pompeii

Pompeii is perhaps one of the world’s most interesting places with its traumatic history. Once a thriving, Roman town-city, it was struck with terror in 79 AD when covered by 4 to 6 m of ash and pumice. Nearby Mount Vesuvius was to blame when it rained ash for about 6 hours. Now you can explore the ancient city and the minute details that were preserved by the ash and soot. You can do a guided or self-guided tour of the city as you walk along the streets and the remains of 2,000 year old shops, restaurants, and homes. There are also body casts of people who were frozen in time during the eruption that can be found at the Garden of Fugitives. You can also explore a fascinating collection of artifacts and art works at The National Archaeological Museum of Pompeii in Naples if you want an extra attraction. Another attraction is neighboring city of Herculaneum that suffered a similar fate as Pompeii. Instead of the ash and soot that covered Pompeii, this town was covered by a pyroclastic surge which allowed some of the second stories to remain intact.

You can enter the Pompeii site for 11 euros (15 AUD) and the easiest way to get in is by taking a train from Rome to Naples and then taking the Circumvesuviana train route to the site.

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Image courtesy of Flickr user Joe Shlabotnik