This article is part of FT Globetrotter’s guide to Rome

One of the downsides of working as a satellite for a mothership such as the FT can certainly be the sense of loneliness and isolation, especially during a pandemic. At times, as a correspondent, it can be challenging to make sense of the dysfunctions and theatrics of Italian politics without immediate feedback from your colleagues in London. One of the upsides, however, is that you can do that with an enviable tan.

A great thing about living in a city such as Rome is that just a few kilometres away from the centre, you can escape to hamlets nestled in the hills, natural parks and, most of all, beautiful beaches. This is a perfect way to let off steam — and it is indeed a necessity, especially during endless boiling Roman summer days, when temperatures can reach up to 40C.

If, like me, you are a swimmer and you find yourself in Rome during the hotter months, you will want to cool down in the nearest stretch of water: here are some of the best beaches and lakes to swim in within 30km of the city centre.

It would be probably wise not to leave valuables on the beach for too long, although theft is not common. The average price to rent two sun loungers and an umbrella at the beach is around €30 for the whole day, but if you are Italian — or you have a winning smile — you can probably secure a discount if you want to rent them for half a day.

Santa Severa, just an hour’s train ride north-west of the capital and famous for its castle nestled between the sea and the fields, is one of the most iconic spots on the Lazio coast. And if you are a morning person, good news: the water is usually extremely clear in the early hours of the day. It gets slightly foamier in the afternoon, but it is still enjoyable.

There’s a large stretch of free beach here, where you can also rent parasols and deck chairs. It is mainly sandy, so if you prefer you can throw your towel down directly. There is a beach bar where you can buy drinks and sandwiches. Alternatively, the two most popular restaurants are Isola del Pescatore and Romeo (booking in advance is highly recommended). Here you will find Roman cuisine, or try my favourite seaside dish after a swim — fried moscardini (baby octopus) accompanied by a glass of white wine.

Going south towards Naples, one of the most charming places to combine a visit and a swim is Sperlonga, perched on a cliff and facing directly onto the Mediterranean, with stunning panoramic views. The sea here is a little rougher than at Santa Severa, which might put off the serious long-distance swimmer. But this makes it possible to wind- or kite-surf, not only on the sandy beaches below the hilltop hamlet but also at the nearby seaside towns of Formia and Gaeta. One of the nicest spots to eat is in the main square, tiled and surrounded by whitewashed houses and tiny alleys that wind across the town. Alternatively, if you prefer to dine with a sea breeze and to smell the salty air, try one of the restaurants by the beach. The daily boat excursions (around €25) are well worth doing: they take you to caves where you can swim in crystal-clear water — absolutely spectacular.

The beach at Sabaudia is a strip of land connected to the mainland at either end, and forms a kind of salt lake that separates it from the town centre. Famed for its golden sands and clean waters, Sabaudia is popular with Romans and Neapolitans as it is equidistant from both cities. It has 15km of beach that boast the Bandiera Blu, or blue flag, a special designation based on water quality.

The beach is mainly free, with a few stabilimenti balneari (beach clubs). There are plenty of bars and small restaurants along the coast.

For a decidedly wilder and slightly hippy vibe, a swim in Lake Martignano — which is a little cooler than the sea (and a little harder to get to) — might be just the thing for you. A small lake north of Rome near the larger and more famous Lake Bracciano, it lies within a natural park and can be reached from one of the main roads from the capital. From the car park (set your GPS to Parcheggio del Lago di Martignano) it is a half-hour walk, or there’s a shuttle bus. Parking costs €5 a day and the shuttle bus is €2.

The signposted walk to the lake crosses greenery and farmland. Even in the summer, you should bring a sweatshirt in case of arietta (“little breeze”) at the end of the day. There are no restaurants in the immediate vicinity (apart from Da Enzo Ai Salici, open at weekends in summer), so it’s best to bring a packed lunch. The shore is sandy in parts, rocky in others. If you want to lie a little further from the water, there’s grass among the trees of the forest surrounding the lake. The water isn’t very clear, but it is certainly clean and relatively deep. You can also rent a kayak to tour the lake.

A little further afield than the other destinations, and therefore not ideal for day trippers, Isola del Giglio is one of Italy’s gems, thanks to its biodiversity and crystal waters. This island off the Tuscan coast — part of the Tuscan Archipelago, which includes Elba — is very popular with Romans who want to escape the city for a couple of days. If you are visiting Italy for a little longer, it may be worth renting a car and driving up to Porto Santo Stefano (maybe spend a night here if you are travelling up to Florence). From there, you can catch a ferry to the island.

At the little port, stock up on food and drink supplies before you start exploring the island’s walking trails and beaches (it is about 8km long, with a 28km coastline). One option is to take a taxi (there are four taxi drivers; the one I met was called Ottavio. If you can’t find him, ask the shopkeepers, who will direct you to the bar where he is drinking or playing cards with friends) to the village at the top of the island, from where you can continue on to the various paths that lead to the different beaches. For a complete list, see here.

Most beaches are free to access but you can also rent lettino e ombrellone (sunbeds and umbrellas).

Stop in the port for an aperitivo in one of several bars that serve spritz before taking the ferry back.

Where are your favourite spots to swim near Rome? Tell us in the comments

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