Santa Marinella: Take a train to the beach

Santa Marinella along the beach

Lazio has 190 miles (315 kilometers) of coastline and some of the most underrated beaches in Italy are just a short drive from Rome. But few are more convenient than Santa Marinella.

This town of about 18,000 people has a beach that is about a five-minute walk downhill from the train station. It could only be more convenient if you stepped off the train onto the sand. The train takes only an hour from Termini station and leaves Rome about every half hour. Also, Santa Marinella has a lovely town piazza ringed with cute cafes and restaurants and a 12th century castle overlooking the harbor.

Before the Roman Empire, Santa Marinella was an important port for the Etruscan people who collected goods shipped up from Carthage, Tunisia. The outskirts of town have a scattering of ruins from the Roman elite who relaxed here during the Roman Empire. Six miles (10 kilometers) northeast of town are the remains of the 5th century Baths of Aquae Caeretanae.

The Villa of Ulpian and the Villa delle Grotacce are at the 58.2 kilometer mark of Via Aurelia, Santa Marinella’s main road. But no need to leave. There are plenty of beautiful, more modern villas between the station and the beach.

Ingrid Bergman and director Roberto Rossellini had a villa here.

Santa Marinella’s harbor.
The Tyrrhenian Sea crashing next to Bianca Ristorante.
Santa Marinella Beach.

Things to do

1 • Santa Marinella Beach: Many Romans get off the train one stop before Santa Marinella at Santa Severa.

It has a nicer castle and a little more rural setting. But continue on and Santa Marinella will not disappoint. When we went Tuesday, we walked down the hill from the station one block, turned right and the beach was 200 yards away.

On a sunny, breezy 60-degree day it was empty but beautiful in its raw setting. A red-tile boardwalk spans the beach where all we saw were two men setting up their sailboards. The beach is a long stretch of gold sand without a pebble in sight.

From the beach you get a great view of the town’s orange, yellow, gold and white villas with prime views of the Tyrrhenian Sea. During the summer, the beach is covered with lounge chairs that come with a price.

There is also a free section of the beach and paid area. However, That is de rigueur in Italy.

Two windsurfers prepare their boats.
The boardwalk above Santa Marinella Beach Tuesday.
The beach offers cool solitude in the fall.

2 • Castello Odescalchi di Santa Marinella. From the beach, take Via della Liberta’ parallel to the sea, past Piazza Trieste where you can get a caffe and sit in the sun. A convenient bed & breakfast is also located here.

Down the road rising above the sea and town harbor is the castle that has guarded the coast since the 12th century. That’s when the Normans built the tower that still stands.

They built it to protect the town from pirates and later it was incorporated into a defense system that covered the coast in 1567. At the end of the 16th century, walls and circular turrets were added, giving it a more castle appearance.

The Barberini family, a famous clan of Roman nobles, took it over and expanded it into a luxurious palace. Inside is a small, private church very popular today for weddings. Tuesday, however, it was closed.

Info: Viale Roma 11, 39-07-66-511-505, https://www.castellosantamarinella.it/, info@castellosantamarinella.it. 

Castello Odescalchi was first built by the Normans in the 12th century.
Castello Odescalchi brand

3. Hike from Santa Marinella to Santa Severa Station. If you feel energetic and want to work up a bit of a sweat before plunging into the ocean, take this walk between beach towns. It’s 7.3 miles (13 kilometers). 

It is labeled moderate difficulty with a 118-foot elevation gain. Also, don’t expect to walk the entire length with your feet in the sand and the waves lapping up against your tennis shoes.

A good two kilometers is on busy Via Aurelia. You must be observant of traffic. But you do get good views of the sea in Santa Marinella when you depart and Santa Severa when you arrive.

Info: Here’s a map for an idea: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/santa-marinella-stazione-di-santa-severa-124024549

Piazza Trieste is ringed with bars and restaurants.

The Santa Marinella snack that fed the Immigrants

During the 1980s, Santa Marinella was famous for a giant pretzel called a Wheel of Immigration. It was very popular with the Russian Jews who immigrated to Italy in hopes of moving on to the United States.

From 1970-90, the USSR allowed 500,000 Jews to leave with Israeli visas. However, 189,000 chose not to go to Israel. Instead, they went to Austria and Italy hoping to go to the U.S.

However, the Soviet Union made them leave their savings and give up their Soviet passports. They were penniless and starving. They sold Soviet trinkets in Italian markets.

They went to butchers asking for bones to feed their dogs and ate them instead. They also ate the pretzels which were cheap, big and filling. Many, however, were denied U.S. visas and later committed suicide. In 1990, they were all given visas through the Lautenberg Amendment.

Where is it:

37 miles (60 kilometers) northwest of Rome.

How to get there: Trains leave every 30 minutes from Termini and stop all along the Termini-Civitavecchia line. The hour-long journey is €5-€11.

Where to eat:

Bianca Ristorante, Lungomare G. Marconi 9, 39-07-665-34744, https://www.biancaristorante.it/, info@biancaristorante.it, noon-3:30 p.m., 6:30-10:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, noon-3:30 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday.

Located just north of the beach, it’s the perfect place for a romantic meal on the sea. Outdoor tables ring a gated wall and big glass windows enclose the dining room with spectacular views of the water.

The 12-year-old restaurant, attached to the Hotel Villa delle Palme, specializes in seafood pasta.

Get the pasta spezzata con sugo di pesce, short, thin, tube pasta in a soupy sauce filled with seafood. Mains €18-€35. I paid €56 for two, including wine.

Pasta spezzata with seafood sauce at Bianca.
Bianca has great views of the sea from inside and outside tables.

For more information:

Visit Santa Marinella: https://visitsantamarinella.it/.