Sperlonga was once the choice destination of Hollywood starlets, writers and actors from the silver screen. Half way between Rome and Naples, the vertical white washed town of Sperlonga with its blue flag beaches set upon the unbelievably clear Tyrrhenian sea offers a real slice of ‘la dolce vita’. We spent a week discovering Italy’s best kept-secret, Sperlonga- Italy… Sperlonga provides a respite for Italians from the bustling cities of Rome and Naples, so don’t expect the crowds of American tourists that you find in the busier white washed towns of Ravello or Positana.
Back in the 1950’s and 60’s however, Sperlonga was the choice destination for Hollywood screen writers, actors and stars taking a break from filming, the likes of Brigitte Bardot, Marlene Dietrich, Cy Twombly, and Arthur Miller were just a few of the big names that frequented Sperlonga.
Always keen to discover hidden gems we jumped on a train from Rome and headed to the coast (Rome- Fondi Sperlonga station approx 90mins/ bus Fondi Sperlonga to the coast 25mins). Arriving into Sperlonga on the bus was just beautiful, driving through the vineyards and local agricultural land seeing all the olives, tomatoes and lemons growing out in the sunshine.
The beach: We rented a small airbnb apartment on the beach and couldn’t wait to unwind. Our mornings were made up of lying in bed, stepping out onto the beach to read and enjoy the sound of the tide. The weather was still warm despite it being well into October. We had the beach pretty much to ourselves just outside our apartment, the perfect spot for enjoying those quiet mornings and beautiful sunsets. The golden blue flag beaches of Sperlonga stretch for miles, there are several hotels that provide sun loungers where local families enjoyed the end of summer sunshine.
Old town: Sperlonga “Old town” is made up of medieval white washed streets that meander up the cliff side. After a bit of a climb you’ll find a pretty piazza with bars, shops and restaurants. The old town is perfect for exploring the little eateries dotted around the winding streets and for sitting out in the evening enjoying the views right down the beautiful coastline. Hidden in Sperlonga Old Town we discovered Michelin rated restaurant Gli Archi which we frequented several times (more on this to follow) Untouched by mainstream tourism Sperlonga has held onto its traditional Italian charm, so expect waiters that don’t speak English, fresh washing hanging out and old guys sat in the street gesticulating wildly.
Torre Truglia: Sat above the small harbor is the unmistakable Torre Truglia, which I thought looked a bit like a giant sand castle… Dating back to 1532 Torre Truglia dominates the coastline of Sperlonga, originally designed to defend the coastline Torre Truglia has been devastated several times, including by the Turks in 1623. Nowadays the structure serves as the Maritime Environment Education Centre of the Regional Nature Park “Riviera d’Ulisse”.
The harbor: Sperlonga has a small harbor. We enjoyed a lovely lunch of freshly caught fish. We sat in the restaurant looking out to the boats wearing an ensemble that perfectly matched the table cloth (who’d believe it?!). There are a few boats that will offer trips out or to rent a small boat for the day.
Villa of Tiberius: A short walk along the beach from Sperlonga Old Town you’ll find the Villa of Tiberius. A beautiful open-air Roman site with impressive caves that were once the Villa of Tiberius! The museum (€5 cash only) houses several enormous marble statues unearthed during the excavation of the site. The site is only partially excavated, so goodness know what other ancient treasures will be found there over time. This is a real hidden gem. Once in the museum we were free to roam the ancient ruin and had the whole place to ourselves. Inside the large grotto there’s a real feeling of a forgotten hedonism, you can only imagine the parties that Tiberius held here!
As I wandered around the ruins and back along the golden beach, I couldn’t help but wonder why this place had escaped the international travel consciousness. The old town unchanged from its 50’s and 60’s star studded heyday. I came to the conclusion that Sperlonga prefers to keep out of the spotlight. Sperlonga’s unpretentious Italian charm has a real sense of nostalgic glamour.