Santa Severa: A beach castle above the waves

Santa Severa beach with the castle in the background

One of the best, most convenient beaches in Lazio is in Santa Severa. It’s only 40 miles (67 kilometers) northwest of Rome and a direct route on the Rome to Civitavecchia train line.

It’s a great place for cruise passengers to catch some rays while docking in Civitavecchia. But if they’re recovering from sunburn or want some interesting history, they can tour the massive castle that dominates the long stretch of beach.

The origins are cloudy but it’s believed to be from the 14th century and inside there’s a museum that explains much of the castle’s interesting past. It has great views of the long expanse of the brown sand beach. Santa Severa is also near some outstanding archaeological finds dating back to the 7th century B.C.

Santa Severa beach from atop the castle
This castle tower has been around since the 9th century
Ruins of an ancient church in the castle courtyard
Severa was a Christian martyr murdered by Roman emperor Diocletian in 298 AD
Santa Severa Castle

Things to do

1 • Santa Severa Castle: You’ve heard of sand castles. This is the real thing. A gargantuan structure rising from the sand with four imposing watch towers. It’s said to be from the 14th century but there is written documentation from 1068.

Named for a Christian martyr killed in 298 A.D. along with her two brothers by Roman emperor Diocietian (284-305 A.D.), the castle landed in the hands of Pope Sixtus IV in 1482. He gave it to the Order of the Holy Spirit which held it until 1980.

Walk under the huge arched entryway to a massive complex. Underground there are two rooms left of an early Christian church from the 5th century. Next to it is the tiny Church of St. Maria Assunta, built in 1595.

The earliest structure is a massive cylinder tower first built in the 9th century and renovated in the 14th century. Sharing the castle courtyard with the two churches is the House of the Nostromo, once the home of a wealthy aristocrat. Holes in the glass floor illuminate the ruins. If you want to know what it’s like to live in a castle, you can rent rooms in the hostel.

Info: SS1 Via Aurelia, KM 52, 39-06-51-681 785,,
9 a.m.-6 p.m., €8. 

Hostel, 39-06-5168-1778,
7 a.m.-11 p.m., rooms start at €133 a night. 

Replica of the Santa Severa Castle
Above the House of Nostromo inside the castle

2 • Museum del Mare. Behind the castle’s ticket counter is an interesting museum with artifacts from the adjacent Tyrrhenian Sea. The walls are lined with ancient, barnacle-covered vases, some dating back to the 2nd century A.D. A wine jug stands four-feet high.

There’s a replica of a sunken boat with life-sized scuba divers hovering over it in a recreation of a salvage project. Maps show shipping routes from Ancient Rome to Carthage, Southern Spain and Alexandria, Egypt. Display cases show old scuba equipment. There’s a water wheel from the 16th century.

Replica of an ancient boat under the sea in the Museo del Mare
Ancient vases found in the nearby Tyrrhenian Sea

3 • Santa Severa beach. This is a very clean beach. Last week when we visited, the water was a perfect sea green with no trash anywhere. It’s a long stretch of brown sand a five-minute walk from the train station.

A string of palm trees line the boardwalk where beach bars offer snacks and drinks and places to sit in the shade.

The sea is very clean at Santa Severa

The ancient town of Pyrgi

In the 7th century B.C., well before the Ancient Romans conquered the land, the Etruscans built a maritime city where Santa Severa now stands. It became a major base for the Etruscan and Phoenician navies.

They called the city Pyrgi, named for the Greek word pyrgoi or towers. In 273 A.D., Rome threatened war and the peaceful Etruscans gave up half their territory in Pyrgi which Rome turned into a coastal defense against pirates and possible Punic invasions. It later became a main supplier of fish to the capital and an escape for rich aristocrats.

Ruins of foundations and walls can be seen south of the castle a short walk away.


Where is it:

40 miles (67 kilometers) northwest of Rome.

How to get there: Trains leave Rome’s Termini station for Santa Severa about every hour.

The hour-long journey is €4.10.

For more information:

Pro Loco Santa Severa, Via della Monacella 18,
39-07-66-570-403, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday; 4-7 p.m. Wednesday, Friday; 10 a.m.-1 p.m., 4-7 p.m. Saturday.


Where to eat:

Romeo Ristomare. Lungomare Pyrgi, 39-07-665-70997, 
Friday-May 12 12:30-3 p.m. May 11 12:30-3 p.m., 7:30-9:30 p.m.  May 15-31 Tuesday-Sunday 12:30-3 p.m. Saturday 12:30-3 p.m., 7:30-9:30 p.m. June 12:30-3 p.m., 7:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. July-August 12:30-3 p.m., 7:30-9:30 p.m.
Romeo has graced the beach for 40 years with a huge picture window looking out over the sand and sea. Fresh seafood starting at €16. Try the gnochetti di patate viola, crema di salmone (small potato dumplings in salmon sauce and sprinkled with pistachios). Wash it down with a Pecorino from Umbria.
Lunch for two including antipasto, dessert and wine was €85.
Gnocchetti with salmon at Romeo Ristomare
Mixed seafood grill at Romeo Ristomare
Cheesecake visciole at Romeo Ristomare
Romeo Ristomare