Things to Do and Places to See in Terracina, Italy

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View over a bay to a large hill with a city in the foreground
View over Terracina to San Felice Circeo

Italy’s beaches are always a drawcard for Italians and tourists. Finding a sandy spot or hiring a beach chair is perfect for soaking up the sun while swimming in the clear blue waters.

And not quite a two-hour drive south of Rome, Terracina is one of those beaches on the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

In summer, the population of 45,000 doubles as holidaymakers come to enjoy the seaside, fresh seafood and a place to unwind and relax.

They also discover Terracina’s modern history of canals, an ancient Temple to roam through, and stunning sunsets to enjoy.

Terracina is perfect for a weekend break from Rome.

Related Post: 20 Must-See Destinations in Italy

Where is Terracina?

Terracina is situated on the coast between Rome and Naples.

  • Terracina is 110kms from Rome (allow 2 hours driving)
  • Naples is 126km from Terracina (about a 2-hour drive)

You have the option to fly, drive or take the train, which may vary on cost and time.

Download a ROME Self-Guided City Walk to plan your way around the iconic places of Rome. Get your Self-Guided City Walk here.

Things to See and Places to Visit in Terracina

View of Terracina old town up to Temple of Jupiter Anxur
View of Terracina Old Town and Jupiter Temple high above

 

Terracina – a Little Bit of History

Terracina was once an essential seaport due to its strategic location.

Stretching back some 2,500 years, Terracina was included within the region of Rome (until 1934.) With the Volscian Hills reaching the coastline and the Pontine Marshes surrounding the city. There was no passage on land to the south.

This changed around 98-117 AD when the hill was cut to allow access to the Appian Way, east of Terracina.

Another significant period of Terracina’s history occurred between the 16th and 19th centuries. Terracina’s marshes were drained, a new port was built, and nobility built mansions in the city.

And like Rome, each period of Terracina’s history has left its mark on the city.

Walk the Canals of Terracina

A bridge over a canal
Canals of Terracina

When walking back from the beach promenade towards town, you will see small boats moored along the canals. And you will find an abundance of local fish markets and seafood restaurants.

These picturesque canals of Terracina were built when the nearby marshes were drained.

Terracina was originally a marshland with outbreaks of malaria.

However, in 1520, Pope Pius VI instigated the draining of the marshes. Unfortunately, it was not completed. But thanks to Mussolini, in the 1930s, Venetians were hired to drain the swamps. Now, the land has become productive.

It was clearly a great success when you see rows and rows of greenhouses filled with delicious local produce.

We learnt this great insight from our Airbnb host, who said we should explore the old town of Terracina.

Stroll the Old Town of Terracina

Children playing in a town square
A group of children playing in the town square

If, after a day at the beach, you need a new dining experience, take a stroll up to Terracina’s old town.

We found the access to the hillside old town a little unusual when using MapsMe.

From the main road, we were led to an old staircase, which took us up a few flights of steps. We emerged onto the cobblestoned streets of the medieval old town. It was quite ingenious.

A town square lit up in the evening
Old Town Terracina glowing at night

But it was at the entrance through the old archways into Piazza del Municipio that we discovered more of the history of Terracina.

At Piazza del Municipio, you’ll find the remains of :

  • an old Roman Forum
  • ancient sculptures on display at the Museo Civico
  • the San Cesareo Cathedral.

Museo Civico has free pamphlets on Terracina you can read while enjoying a coffee at one of the small cafés. And it was here we stayed to watch local teenagers participating in a group activity near the cathedral’s steps.

San Cesareo Cathedral was built on top of two old Roman temples dedicated to Roma and Augustus. You can still see the columns of the ancient temple, along with the pulpit resting on the columns of lions.

There is also an old Roman bath at the entrance of the Cathedral steps. We learnt that the tub was used to boil Christians. Eek!

Nearby, the Bishop’s Palace dates back to the Carolingian period, and it was renovated in the 17th century.

But what caught our attention was the sunlight beaming from the stone temple above the old town.

Visit the Temple of Jupiter Anzur

The vaulted basement of Temple of Jupiter Anxur, Terracina
The vaulted basement of Temple of Jupiter Anxur, Terracina

What remains of the Roman Temple of Jupiter Anxur sits atop a cliff overlooking the Terracina. A visit is one of the key things to do in Terracina.

Only the vaulted basement of the temple remains, plus some smaller ruins.

underneath the vaulted basement of the Temple of Jupiter Anxur
Walk underneath the vaulted basement of the Temple of Jupiter Anxur

The entrance cost is €6 (cheaper if you are a resident), giving you access to ruins. But it’s the magnificent view you won’t want to miss when visiting Terracina.

The views from the Temple of Jupiter Anxur are spectacular.

While sunset is popular, the best time to capture the light on the old town is early morning. On a sunny day, it’s easy to see Mt Vesuvius in the distance.

If you don’t want to pay a second entrance fee, the best vantage point is the last bend of the road before reaching the temple carpark.

Tip: Access by road is the best option if you want to reach the temple on foot. But if visiting at night in October, remember to bring a torch as there are no street lights when returning to the old town.

 

Sunsets to Remember Forever

We’ll just let these photos tell the story.

A woman looking at a sunset over a bay
Looking at the sun setting over the bay of Terracina
Sunset with a cresent moon over a town
Sunset with crescent moon at Terracina

Walk the Appian Way in Terracina

Big stone hill next to a road
The Appian Way at Terracina

Looking down from the temple, you’ll see the engineering results of the Appian Way.

When you enter Terracina from the east, you pass by the cliff face, which changed the direction of the Appian Way (Roman road connecting Rome to Brindisi).

This cliff extended further to the shoreline, which is why the Appian Way had to be travelled inland and over the hills.

In the time of Trajan, Roman engineering used slaves to cut back the cliff by 36m to allow traffic to pass.

If you walk to the cliff face from below, look up and search for the axe marks and Roman numerals. These indicate where the incisions were made.

Now it’s time to taste the variety of local produce.

Eat Mozzarella di Bufala (Buffalo Mozzarella)

A lady eating cheese next to an ancient tower
Enjoying Mozzarella di Bufala at Torre Paola

If you think you know what mozzarella tastes like, think again. Terracina is worth a day trip just to taste the mozzarella produced locally.

Buffalo Mozzarella has been produced in Terracine since the arrival of Buffalo around the year 1000AD.

Our Airbnb host told us we had to try it. Of course, we have eaten mozzarella, but for someone to describe a ball of mozzarella with so much enjoyment intrigued us.

We went to the local supermarket with instructions to purchase fresh mozzarella from the deli. They keep it in a bucket at the back of the counter.

We watched as a mozzarella ball was retrieved, weighed and placed in a bag. Now, all we had to do was eat it.

Not wanting to wait too long to experience the taste, we retrieved the mozzarella from the liquid bag and took our first bites.

Oh wow – the mozzarella tasted fantastic.

The texture and flavour were so smooth and delicious. We ate the whole ball and knew we had to buy more.

Try Fresh Seafood along the Beach Promenade

Fresh fish in a market
Plenty of fish for dinner in Terracina

Seafood is always one of our favourites, and plenty of restaurant choices are along the seafront promenade.

One local restaurant lets you select a plate costing upwards of €5 and fill it with the seafood on display.

We chose delicious Calamari, a starter of fried sardines, before choosing another local fish dish.

But there was another dish we were told to try on a day trip from Terracina.

5 Day Trips from Terracina

1. Taste a Tiella Dish in Gaeta

A seaport with a large sailing ship next to a town
The seaport of Gaeta, Italy

Throughout history, the seaport town of Gaeta has been a military stronghold. Above the port, you’ll see the Angevin-Aragonese castle, still used for military purposes today.

But we were here to taste a local dish called Tiella.

Tiella was a recommendation from Luca, his favourite dish, who we met at Arcomagno. Tiella is a pie filled with seafood (octopus) and vegetables. And enjoyed with a glass of wine, which made for a perfect lunch.

A piece of pie on a plate
Tiella for lunch

But before you leave Gaeta, visit Monte Orlando, an urban nature park overlooking Gaeta. Here you can learn of named fauna or find the ancient Roman Mausoleum of Lucius Muniatus Plancus.

2. Visit Grotta del Turco at Gaeta

A narrow inlet from the sea in a grotto
Grotta del Turco, Gaeta, Italy

However, what interested us about Gaeta was the Montagna Spaccata and the Grotta del Turco (Grotto of the Turk).

The grotto or cavern is a split in the rock for the incoming sea. The legend is the rock split on the death of Jesus at Calvary.

The entrance to Grotta del Turco is a gate to the left of the monastery. Straight ahead of the gates is a small chapel with frescoes. But the walk down from here through the rock formation is where you find a lower chapel.

Or, for the more adventurous, a short climb up to a lighthouse is set amongst the rocks.

3. Walk up to Sperlonga

A sandy beach leading to a town on a hill
The long beach at Sperlonga, Italy

Only 20 minutes from Terracina is the old hilltop town of Sperlonga. Another wonderful old town that overlooks its beautiful white sandy beaches dotted with beach bars and restaurants.

Even in October, people were still swimming, with at least 20 surfers enjoying the moderate waves.

And in the distance, you will see a watchtower jutting out from the base of the old town.

It’s one of many along the coast of Gaeta. In the 6th century, they were used to forewarn attacks from the Saracens.

But a unique place in Sperlonga is the Villa of Tiberius and Sea Grotto. Here you will find sculptures celebrating the deeds of Odysseus discovered in a cavern.

To get to the grotto, walk south to the end of the beach, away from the old town. However, there is a museum on the left before the grotto to see the sculptures.

4. Take a Ferry to the Pontine Islands

When standing at the Temple of Jupiter Anxur, it is the Pontine Islands you see.

This archipelago consists of 6 islands, but only Ponza and Venetone are inhabited. The islands are popular for swimming and diving.

To get to Ponza and Venetone, you can book a ferry from Terracina using OK Ferry.

5. Stop at San Felice Circeo

Another recommendation was to visit the small commune of San Felice Circeo.

It forms part of the Circeo National Park, where the remains of Neanderthals were discovered in the Grotta Guattari.

The small town is ideal for lunch, swimming, and walking along the rugged coastline.

Where to Stay in Terracina

Our Airbnb with our Host, Denny, was fantastic. Denny spent time providing us with places of interest to visit, where to find good local food and about Terracina’s local history.

But if you prefer to stay at a hotel, then Hotels.com is a favourite for reasonable deals.

Enjoying the Best of Terracina

When planning a road trip around Italy, the added benefit is finding lesser-known places in Italy like Terracina.

We loved Terracina so much that we stayed longer than expected.

With clean beaches and clear water, the taste sensations of local produce and seafood, and the discovery of more stories of Terracina’s history, we spent more time enjoying this city.

To discover more of the best in Italy, look at some of these posts.

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Our Italy Road Trip – Discovering Northeast Italy