During my trip to Italy I stayed one week at this hidden gem next to Rome: Anzio. Anzio is a small city only an hour train ride away from Rome’s main railway station Termini, but when you arrive to the city you’ll face something completely different from the capital’s buzz – an easy-going, laid back small town with an amazing coastline and beaches. And, most important, a town where you can find some of the best restaurants in Italy. There are not too many foreign tourists either in Anzio which is just perfect for me – so no huge hotel chains by the sea, no drunk, loud foreigners on the streets, and no noisy nightclubs or bars that stay open till the morning. In fact, one could consider this place more suitable for retired travellers instead of a single woman in her 30’s like I am, but for me this was perfect. I loved the peacefull pace on the streets, the authentic feeling of the Italian lifestyle, these lovely small cafés and restaurants, and those local people around me (so yes, there ARE other people too, don’t get me wrong, just not that much as in some tourist resorts 😉 ).
I took an early morning walk to take some pics from the sunrise, and though for me it was really early to stroll around the streets at 6am, I was certainly not alone there. The fishermen had been awake for some time already, and the cafés were opening up before 7am, though it was Saturday morning. I had my best cappuccino so far in Bar dei Graziosi (yes, in Italy both cafés and bars are usually called as bar – so don’t get confused when your Italian friend wakes up at 7am and tells you he goes to a bar… he just goes to get his morning espresso and cornetto instead of café corretto (espresso and grappa) or some other heavy drinks) at the piazza with some home-made cookie with just 1 euro, while watching the city to wake up.
After the cappuccino it was time to familiarize myself even more with the local life in Anzio, and I really did feel myself almost local when I was lining up the cornettos with the nonnas well before 8am at the city’s best forgo Sando e Roberta. It actually had the ticket machine by the door available before the opening, so people could take their number while waiting the doors to open at 8am. This is something I’ve never seen in Finland – people standing in line right after they’ve woken up, waiting at this small alley to make sure they’ll get the freshly baked bread, pizza, rolls and cornettos for the day! And, if you come too late…. well, it’s too late then, everything disappears from the counter very fast! After having a bite of these delicacies I bought from the forno, it was easy to understand the queue – but it’s hard to describe the taste and the textures since they were just _so_ good – you really need to go there and experience that yourself 🙂
Anzio is a great place for a culinarist otherwise, too. It pampers its guests with great food everywhere, and the seafood is no doubt the best I’ve ever had. Ponza island is very close to the city (also worth for a day trip with a ferry which are departing from the Anzio harbor), from where also many Roman restaurants get their seafood. There are also many Michelin guide -restaurants in the city, and some even with a star. So even for Italy, compared to the size of the city, it’s a lot – so if you feel like having some great dinner which is also reasonably priced, take a train to Anzio!
Here are some restaurants and other places for foodies that you should definitely not miss while in town. There are quite a few others, too, but lets have something left for the next trip also 😉
DOC Cucina & Vino: In Anzio, it might be hard to find a good restaurant or have something else for a dinner than pasta pomorodo, if you can’t eat any seafood. And even if you can, you sometimes might feel like having just a simple, great steak or just some amatriciana- or gricia -pasta with guanciale (cured pork cheek). In that case, your place is DOC Cucina & Vino. They don’t have anything from the sea on the menu, but everything else you could think of needing to have a perfect, high-quality dinner. Their cacio e pepe, for instance was _amazing_, and the pasta was perfectly cooked to al dente as it should be. Almost the gricia was just so good that I can’t even find the words to decribe its taste! One of your friends decided to go with the steak, and the size of it was huge, and it was perfectly prepared. And don’t even think of skipping the desserts – better yet, order 4 small and you get a full selection of everything that will end your dinner experience with a perfection. Taste explosions in your mouth, I can assure you!
Alceste Caffe: Perfect location by the sea, and delicious piatto misto where you can taste 4 different Italian treats including e.g. parmigiana. Also great selection of seafoods – my absolute favorite ended up being the octopus-salad. Fresh, tasty, served with fresh, wild strawberries – perfect light lunch or dinner!
Restaurant da Alceste: This is one of the restaurants in Anzio that has been mentioned also in the Michelin guide. I didn’t have a chance to visit this place myself this time, but I got great recommendations by locals to go there next time when in Anzio. I strongly recommend you to try this place, and let the rest of us know how you think!
Bar dei Graziosi: located at the man piazza and opening up very early in the morning. Come here for your morning cappuccino and see how the city wakes up!
Gelateria Mennella: here I had my best chocolate fondant -gelato ever, and the gelato menu was impressive other wise, too. So there are many tastes still left to try out on my next trip to Anzio! In Mennella the gelato is served from the pozzetti counter which means that you can’t see the massive amounts of different gelatos straight through the glass counter as you usually can. Instead, the treats are kept in the right temperature away from the light, which ensures the products high quality and taste, until it’s time for you to have a full spoon of this silky, rich treat and enjoy its delicate flavor! (Pssst. they have also opened up B&B Mennella above the gelateria that looks really nice – and the location is perfect! This is a great option for your accommodation in Anzio: http://www.bnbmennella.com/en/)
Enoteca Del Gatto: for picnic or lunch/dinner at home – make sure you’ll get your wine and olive oil from this place. This enoteca has a wide selection of great wines from the Lazio-area and other parts of Italy, and here you should also get your limoncello if you want something good for pampering yourself and your stomach after dinner (I sure did!!). They also have lots of other treats in the store, from pasta to pesto and from the chocolate to cheese. The staff is very helpfull, so just tell them what you need, and what would they recommend. They also have a small area of tables where you can have a glass of wine and some apetizers – good choice for an aperitif, for example!
Forno Sandro e Roberta: located by the church in a tiny alley from the main piazza. Go here very early in the morning to get some delicious pastries, pizza and bread. Prepare to stay in line, and prepare to have the greatest pastries with your morning cappuccino!
Bar Piccadilly: this perfect aperitif place is located close to the main piazza, and it serves one of the best Aperol Spritz I’ve had accompanied with a nice selection of snacks. Really nice bar/café with great service, so come here to spend your afternoons at the terrace with the locals!
So I stayed in Anzio for a week and I’m already looking forward to go back there next summer. There are so many places left that I want to see and dishes that I want to taste… I also want to just sit at the balcony or at the beach in the early morning and late in the evening, and watch the sea. So if you are a foodie looking for a perfect small town with a local vibe, go to Anzio. If you don’t have a chance to stay there days, you can always go there just for a day trip from Rome. Just take a local train from Termini to Nettuno and it takes you to these heavenly beaches and restaurants in a hear beat!