The Lazio coast to the south of Rome is a more attractive proposition than the northern stretches. Its towns have a bit more charm, the water is cleaner, and in the further reaches, beyond the flats of the Pontine Marshes and Monte Circeo, the shoreline begins to pucker into cliffs and coves that hint gently at the glories of Campania – all good either for day-trips and overnight outings from the city, or for a pleasingly wayward route to Naples.
TERRACINA is an immediately likeable little town, divided between a tumbledown old quarter high on the hill and a lively newer area by the sea. During classical times, it was an important staging-post on the Appian Way, which meets the ocean here; nowadays it’s primarily a seaside resort with good, ample beaches and frequent connections with the other points of interest, including daily ferries and hydrofoils to Ponza. Apart from the scrubby oval of sand fringing the centre, Terracina’s beaches stretch west pretty much indefinitely from the main harbour and are large enough to be uncrowded.
The coast south of Terracina is probably Lazio’s prettiest stretch, the cliff punctured by tiny beaches signposted enticingly from the road. SPERLONGA, built high on a rocky promontory, is a fashionable spot for Roman and Neapolitan families, its whitewashed houses, arched alleys and stepped narrow streets almost Moorish in feel. Both the old upper town and modern lower district are almost given over entirely to tourists during summer, but it’s still a pleasant place, and cars are not allowed into the old centre. There are beaches either side of Sperlonga’s headland, and although a lot of space is private, it’s never too difficult to find a decent spot.