Small-Town Life Just One Hour From Rome

Rome is undeniably alluring with its historical monuments, jaw-dropping artwork, trendy restaurants, and cultural events. But living in the city is expensive and sometimes just not desirable for those who prefer the rhythm of small town life. Luckily, you can have the best of both worlds.

There are some beautiful towns where you can enjoy a laidback lifestyle while still being able to reach the center of Italy’s capital city Rome in just an hour.

Lakeside Living: The town of Anguillara Sabazia lounges on the shore of Lake Bracciano and presents a pretty face with its picturesque jumble of houses on a promontory. You can enjoy fresh water fish at one of the outdoor tables and then walk it off along the lakefront promenade where there are no motors to disturb the tranquility. Paddle a canoe, enjoy a swim, windsurf, or go fishing…there’s so much to do.

The medieval town center oozes Old World character. There are nature preserves and other hill towns to enjoy, Etruscan ruins to explore, and hot springs nearby. With its small town appeal you can enjoy a sane pace of life, but this tranquil idyll isn’t isolated. Anguillara is only 40 minutes from Fiumicino airport, and the Mediterranean Sea is a mere 20 minutes to the west. Hop a train and arrive in the center of Rome in just an hour, with trains running every half-hour.

Adding to the appeal of this lakeside haven is that real estate goes for a fraction of what it does in the Rome metro area. A bright and airy two-bedroom house in a quiet corner of the historic center with views of the lake, a loft, wood beams and stone accents can be bought for just $210,000, a sum that wouldn’t buy a studio apartment in Rome. For a little less, in the heart of the historic center, you can find nicely furnished and equipped homes, with glimpses of the lake that are steps from the shore and shops. These can be had from $142,000.

Historic Hill Towns: Caprarola is a welcoming town of less than 6,000 residents, where you can feel part of the community…and find property for under $60,000.

The town is located near the volcanic lake, Lago di Vico, where walking enthusiasts will enjoy quiet woods and nature preserves, while the town’s cobbled historic center offers all the services for daily life. It’s not a backwater, though; Caprarola is crowned by the opulent Palazzo Farnese, a splendid Renaissance masterpiece with gardens, fountains, and a grand staircase that swirls upward toward a frescoed dome.

It is the scene of cultural events and draws tourists from around the world. The town is famous for its hazelnuts and chestnuts…and loads of tempting sweet treats made with them. The stunning medieval city of Viterbo is only a half-hour away for urban shopping and events, and the dramatic bluff-top town of Civita Castellana is nearby. Rome is reachable in an hour via regular bus service.

Nice houses can be had at low prices here. Bargain hunters can find a two-bedroom home with a balcony near the Palazzo Farnese for just $54,500. You’ll also find cottages here. I found one with views and sunny exposure accented by wood beams, a country kitchen and terrace, on the market for just under $150,000.

Tuscan-Style Appeal: If the rolling hills of Tuscany are more your style but you don’t like the inflated prices, you can enjoy the same alluring landscape in Lazio, at a fraction of the cost. Soriano nel Cimino has a sophisticated feel with a lively atmosphere, and is even capped by castle like most Tuscan towns.

Located where Lazio fades into Umbria and just a short drive from Tuscany, the A1 autostrada motorway and Orte railway connection is only 15 minutes away, giving it easy access. You can be in Rome in an hour, but also have the famous art towns of Orvieto, Todi, and Montepulciano close at hand, and you can get to the glittery Tuscan beaches in an hour. Soriano even has a high-speed Palio race accompanied by an opulent parade in Renaissance costumes. It’s a gem, and prices are low.

A nicely restored two-bedroom apartment with wood beams, stone accents and terra cotta tile floors in a quiet lane was going for a mere $73,800 on my last visit. A restored townhouse at the base of the castle was for sale by owner for $113,500, and has new electrical and heating systems along a beautiful brick-built kitchen.

You’ll have all of the Eternal City in your reach, but spend a fraction of urban housing costs.

©iStock.com/milla1974

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