Whether it’s the ruins of the ancient Villa of Tiberius, Emperor of Rome, or the soft sands and crystal clear water, Sperlonga Italy is a must see!
The summer villa of a Roman Emperor is the perfect spot to enjoy a day at the beach! The second Roman Emperor, Tiberius, lived 2,000 years ago, and he was a man of refined tastes. His massive villa in Sperlonga, Italy, housed some of his famous Greek statue collection in a natural gallery: a grotto that opens onto a beautiful stretch of soft, sandy coastline, framed by cliffs and grassy mountains.
Nowadays, the beautiful beach gets more attention than Tiberius’ villa and grotto, but you really must visit both!
Who was Emperor Tiberius?
Emperor Tiberius was the successor to Caesar Augustus – the first Emperor of Rome. Tiberius reigned from 14 AD – 37 AD. He was not a willing ruler. Infact, he tired of his role in politics, but when he died the empire was in great financial condition due to Tiberius’ wise spending.
In his later years he spent much time in the region of Campania and at his villa in Sperlonga, but when he tired of Rome, he lived out the rest of his life on the island of Capri.
Visit the Villa of Tiberius
The Villa of Tiberius was abandoned after the grotto collapsed, crushing Tiberius’ beautiful statue collection. They remained buried until 1957. Road construction lcaused some rocks to fall away, exposing the magnificent yet broken statues.
The nearby villa was partially unearthed, and a museum was built nearby to house artifacts.
Although it’s sticking just a few feet out of the ground due to years of sedimentary deposit, you can explore the remains of the vast villa with its spectacular ocean view. Walk around, enjoy the fish ponds (built at Tiberius’ direction), and explore the grotto. Then, imagine the dinners and parties that Tiberius would have thrown with magnificent sculptures in the background and the sound of the ocean serenading as they ate and drank.
There was nothing scary or worrisome for the kids other than the fish pond along the path, but the kids knew not to get in the water.
Exploring the grotto was one of the best parts of the day. There was a hole in the ground leading to an aqueduct. Matt asked Royce if he wanted to be lowered into it, and Royce wisely replied, “I don’t think they want us doing that.” Royce later saw the entrance to the aqueduct and bravely made the walk to the hole we had previously seen. The kids love exploring new things!
It would have been incredible to see the grotto with all the statues 2000 years ago.
The Museo Archeologico Nazionale
Stop by the Museum and see the original and recreated sculptures found in the grotto. We prepared the kids by telling them a bit about what they were going to see, so they went into the museum looking for the shipwreck. The blinding of the giant drunken cyclops seized their attention – that was a fun one to explain!
The best quote from the museum was from Jeannie. As she walked around looking at the statues, many of which were missing different body parts like fingers, legs, arms, noses she made one observation. She said: “That’s where the penis goes.” Her cute little voice was so matter of fact and indeed she was right.
Admission is 5 Euro per adult and kids are free. Check their website for hours and dates they are closed. The walk down to the grotto is free, but can only be accessed by passing in front of the museum – you cannot reach it from the beach.
We didn’t have to go far for an incredible, beautiful, sandy beach. Literally just on the other side of the fence from the Villa of Tiberius is wonderful Sperlonga Beach. We enjoyed the afternoon there and look forward to being able to spend much of the summer there since the water is clean and clear. The sand is so soft and great for building sandcastles.
The kids and Matt practiced their snorkeling. This would be a great place to teach your kids how to snorkel with calm, clear and warm water! There weren’t many fish besides around an outcrop of coral, but snorkeling in the shadows of Villa of Tiberius was wonderful!
Walk the streets of Sperlonga, Italy
A quick drive will take you to the streets of Sperlonga. We parked and walked to the pedestrian area near Parish St Mary of the Assumption; from there, there were beautiful views of the beach and the grotto. The streets, with their cafes and shops, were idyllic with wedding bells playing as we chose a restaurant for lunch.
You can easily walk the street for hours, visiting the shops and admiring the architecture of this old city on a hill. You can also walk to Torre Truglia. Admire it from afar or walk down and tour the inside. Make sure to bring your camera – the views are incredible!
Plan your trip:
Sperlonga is a great day trip from Rome or Naples. The drive was about 1 1/2 hours from Naples and is 2 hours from Rome.