Italy: Santa Severa- a free beach with a castle to boot

A beach. With a medieval castle. And some Roman ruins. Why not?

Why visit?
Because sometimes you want some History & Culture with your Sun, Sex & Sand. 

About 50km north of Rome. Map

SANTA SEVERA OFFERS the rarest of rarities in Italy. No, we’re not talking about a castle, or Roman ruins, because those are a dime a dozen. No, it offers a free beach. Yes, let that sink in for a minute.
Seen from the air...
...seen from the beach. 
If you’re new to Italy, you may wonder what the big deal is. But if you know your spiagga Italiana, you know that most beaches here are taken over by stablimenti, beach restaurants-cum-rentals that cover the sand with row upon row of beach chairs, arranged with an un-Italian rigidity, and for which you need to pay. 

Real public, free beaches exist, but they are rare. This is one of them. And a nice one to boot! With a castle. What else could you ask for? 

Back in the days, the Romans knew how to spot a good beach. History doesn’t tell us whether they went surfing and swimming, but we do know they built a large fortified settlement here, after they had kicked out the Etruscans, who were here first.

The outline of the Roman settlement is still clearly visible: the Ancients created a more solid foundation than medieval Italians could ever muster. So if you walk around the current borgo (walled village) you will notice that the Roman-era foundations are made of massive cyclopean masonry. On top of this the medieval borgo walls were built, from smaller stones, covered in plaster. 
Solid Roman foundations. 
The Roman foundations start at the tower and stretch all the way to the beach.
The castle was started in the 11th century, although most of what you see was built in the 1400s. It contains a Norman tower (proving that the annual invasions of Mediterranean beaches by Scandinavians and other Northern Europeans is nothing new.) Interesting, the Medieval-Renaissance settlement only covers about a quarter of the Roman fort. That’s what societal collapse will do to you. 
'Hey, if we use this Roman column we can save a few bricks for our new wall.'
Inside the walls, there is a small museum and some artsy shops. Outside, a fountain, commemorating some long-forgotten Papal bigwig. Have a quick look, before you hit that beach. 

Yes, the beach. It’s undeniably scenic, and, come, summer, pretty popular with cheapskate (or culture-loving, take your pick) Romans. However, if you go on a weekday, you should generally be OK and if you come in winter (when these pictures were taken) you’ll be sharing the beach only with a few dedicated surfers and some dog lovers. 
I promise, it does look more cheerful in summer. 
Right on the beach here is a seafood restaurant, Isola del Pescatore, that at the weekends is packed with Italian families (always a good sign.) Somehow I doubt the seafood is lifted directly from the sea here but hey, the scenery is appropriate so if you need to get your spaghetti alle vongole-fix, this is a great place to pig out. 

Getting there:

It couldn't be easier- there's an hourly train from Roma Termini (and it also stops at about 5 other stations in Rome) to Santa Severa. Takes about an hour and will set you back the grand total of €4 one way. 

If you have your own wheels, those ancient Romans left the Via Aurelia which will take you there in 30mins from the GRA. 

Useful links:
Regione Lazio website with events and other practical info. 


  1. Santa Severa, I love this place...on the opposite side of the castle is a free beach for naturists, Macchiatonda, you pay a few euro for parking otherwise its free.

    1. Thanks for the tip Mary Jane, I didn't know that! Another reason to visit...

  2. Looks like the perfect day trip, but how do you mean a car being the only option? Don't I spot a railway station at 10 minutes walk? And don't Trenitalia show an hourly service from Termini?

    1. Hello Anonymous, thank you- you are so right! I completely overlooked the train station of Santa Severa. I have changed the article to include this info. Thank you so much!

  3. Great beach. Lively waves and some big rocks near the castle, so swim nearer the middle of the free part. Right next to the restaurant the free part ends, and you would have to pay to even get past the ropes.
    There are toilets in the castle, just walk straight past the ticket office and they're on the left.

    1. Thanks Eryl, that's super useful information!


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