Sperlonga: Lazio Region’s Best Kept Italian Secret
Sperlonga: Lazio Region’s Best Kept Italian Secret was originally published in May 2020
Looking to bask in the Italian la dolce vita? Sperlonga is likely the perfect place for you. Truth be told, until I was temporarily living in the nearby town of Terracina a couple of years ago, I’d never heard of Sperlonga until I started to do a little research about the area when I found out I’d be there for an extended period.
Sat on a rocky promontory jutting out into the Tyrrhenian Sea, Sperlonga’s whitewashed medieval core could easily be mistaken as a secret spot on a Greek Island. Popular with weekending Romans and Neapolitans in the summertime, Sperlonga rarely sees foreign visitors- making it the perfect place to head to get off the beaten path in Italy without a huge commitment. Sperlonga is located roughly halfway between Rome and Naples and can easily be reached from either city either by car, bus, or by train (via Fondi).
Looking for more hidden gems in Italy? Check out my off the beaten path Italy guide
A Quick History Of Sperlonga
In ancient times, Sperlonga was mainly known for its grotto on the coast, (where the name Sperlonga derived from the Latin word Spelunca, meaning cave) as the Via Appia passed very close to Sperlonga. Eventually Emporer Tiberius would build his Republican Villa in the grotto Sperlonga was famed for. Tiberius’s Villa was built somewhere between 17 and 26 AD, but the lost summer home wasn’t discovered again until 1957. In 26 AD one night while Tiberius ate dinner, the roof of the grotto collapsed and Sejanus rushed in to save him. Tiberius abandoned the villa and moved it to Capri.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 6th century, most of Sperlonga’s residents moved inland toward St. Magnus to avoid capture by the Saracens, as well as to get away from the nearby Pontine Marshes- a contributor to the spread of disease. In 1534 the center of Sperlonga was destroyed by the Ottomans.
Not until the 18th century did many people really begin to return to Sperlonga and repopulate. The town largely stayed off the radar of most anyone until 1957, when the Terracina-Gaeta Coastal Road (Via Flacca) opened, putting Sperlonga on the map.
Headed further south on your Italian itinerary? Don’t miss the beautiful village of Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa
Things To Do In Sperlonga
Explore Sopra Sperlonga
Pretty often you’ll hear local Sperlongans say “ci vediamo sopra“, which means ‘see you in upper Sperlonga‘, this is referring to Sperlonga Centro Storico (Old Town). This is the mound of whitewashed multi-story buildings strung between narrow alleyways overlooking the sea. The old city is where many of the hopping cafes, bars, are located. Wandering the narrow white alleys interspersed with bougainvillea flowers was one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon when I was living nearby in Terracina- Sperlonga was my favorite getaway. Don’t miss the Chiesa di Santa Maria, an ancient 12th century church, the Capella di San Rocco Chapel, and the modern Church of Saint Mary of the Assumption.
Laze On Spiaggia di Sperlonga
Spiaggia di Sperlonga is the beach that extends northwest of Sopra Sperlonga, which sits in front of most of the hotels that sit along Sperlonga’s coast.
Check out my insider’s guide to visiting nearby Terracina
Visit The Sperlonga Archeological Museum & Tiberius’s Villa
The Sperlonga Archeological Museum pays homage to the Grotta di Tiberio, with several of the remaining statues from the Republican Palace on display.
Wander Sperlonga’s Promenade
Walk the coastal promenade that connects Sperlonga Giu to Sperlonga Sopra and then drops you off at Torre Truglia and onto Spiaggia dell’Angelo. There are multiple different routes you could obviously take, winding around between perfect cafes, adorable boutique shops, and narrow stone alleys.
Take a hike: Trek up nearby Mount Circeo
Enjoy An Afternoon On Spiaggia dell’Angelo
Spiaggia dell’Angelo is the beach that sits on the southeastern side of Sopra Sperlonga. This beach is long and ends at the Grotto of Tiberius. While Spiaggia di Sperlonga has a reputation of being more family-friendly, Spiaggia dell’Angelo is wide enough that you can still find a spot to yourself. The beach is interspersed with liberia (free beach) between lidos (beach with umbrella and chair to rent).
Not sure where to go in Italy? Check out my off the beaten path Italy guide
Visit Giu Sperlonga
Giu Sperlonga refers to lower Sperlonga. This is the newer stretch of the city that sits behind Spiaggia di Sperlonga. The main promenade that passes along the beach is still a bustle with locals and visitors alike sightseeing and stopping in to pizzerias, patisseries, cafes, and gelaterias. Giu Speronga is a bit more spacious and family-friendly than its upper counterpart.
Check Out The Torre Truglia & The Boat Harbor
Torre Truglia is the iconic lookout in Sperlonga that dates back to the 17th century, jutting out into the sea. The Torre Truglia now serves mostly as a museum. Just next to it is the Sperlonga Boat Harbor, which you’ll pass on your way down to Spiaggia dell’Angelo.
Wanna go on a road trip? Check out my Southern Italy road trip itinerary
Where To Stay In Sperlonga
On occasion, I’d sneak off and spend a night in Sperlonga because I loved the town so much. My favorite place to stay in Sperlonga was definitely the Florenza Residence with its adorable little apartment-style rooms with balconies overlooking the Spiaggia di Sperlonga.
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Wanna get to Italy’s off the beaten path islands? Read my Lampedusa Travel Guide
What To Eat In Sperlonga
No matter where you eat during your stay in Sperlonga you have to try spaghetti alle vongole, a dish Sperlonga is known for doing well with fresh clams- you can find the dish on many restaurant’s menus here. Gelato is always a must (it’s Italy, duh!), so head over to Gelato Dulce in Sperlonga Sopra, or head to Créme Caramel for an array of fresh Italian dessert. Il Gorilla Cocktail Bar is the best place to head in Sperlonga for drinks.
Have Any Questions About Visiting Sperlonga Or About Any Of The Things To Do In Sperlonga Mentioned Above?
Ask your Sperlonga travel questions in the comments section below.