In Europe, 76 destinations off the beaten path
Looking beyond Rome, Paris or London? Consider Europe's lesser-known destinations, such as Monschau, Germany, a town so quaint you can hardly believe it isn't a theme park or San Marino, one of Europe's oldest and smallest countries (drive through it slowly).
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Sperlonga, Italy( Susan Spano / Los Angeles Times )
There are popular beach places closer to Rome, but nothing as nice as Sperlonga, with its pedestrian-only old town (Sperlonga Alta), winding staircases that lead down to the ocean and the Grotto of Tiberius and the nearby archaeological museum.
Long beaches spread to the north and south, lined by bathing establishments where you can rent a chaise and umbrella for about $20 a day.
The sand gets so hot you have to run from your chair to the water, but once you get in you know why you came.
The sea is clear and cool, with little waves. Right away I bought a rubber raft and paddled out past the break, then stayed put for the rest of the afternoon.
-- Susan Spano
Read more: A beach vacation in Sperlonga, Italy
Pictured: Sperlonga's old town area.