If you have to go from Rome to Naples, or vice versa, do not forget to take a trip to the southwest coast of Lazio where you will find yourself fascinated by the beautiful coastline and its many beaches. The most important city on this coast is Gaeta, nicknamed the fair, the combative and the noble, a peninsula situated on the sea.
Well-known in Roman times, it was the summer residence of the noble families from the capital. Of this time period are still visible the remains of the Mausoleum on Mount Orlando, belonging to the consul Lucius Munazio Planco.
In the Middle Ages, Gaeta was sacked numerous times by barbarians and Saracens. It is for this reason that it was fortified with city walls; a fortified castle was also built in the upper area of the old town by the Swabian emperor Frederick II, who lived in Gaeta during the period of his struggles with the papacy.
There are many paths to take around the city such as a visit to the Sanctuary of the Split Mountain, famous for its miraculous splitting. Legend has it that the three vertical cracks were produced by the earthquake matching the time of death of Christ.
By following the path to the left of the door of the Sanctuary, you can go on a historical nature walk to Monte Orlando. There, between the Mediterranean and the cliffs are ancient powder magazines and artillery from the Bourbon period. Also worth visiting are the churches, the medieval quarter and the Diocesan Museum.
Gaeta is also famous for its seven beaches which can be seen even from the sea. Among them is Serapo, the most important, with its thin sand and very transparent sea. Following that is the Ariane beach, with its white sand typical of the first stretch of coast between the promontory of Gaeta and San Felice Circeo. The equally beautiful Arenauta beach is notoriously known as the “300 steps beach”, seeing as it is only accessible via a long staircase.
The surrounding areas should not be underestimated or neglected. Try to visit the delightful Sperlonga, which stands on a rocky outcrop surrounded by beautiful coves often accessible only by boat. Visit the Caves of Pastena where stalactites and stalagmites form impressive sculptures; the Circeo National Park with over 3000 acres of forest, hundreds of species of plants and animals, and wonders such as the villa of Domitian and the village of Fogliano. There is also the medieval village of Sermoneta, one of the best preserved in Italy, or the Garden of Ninfa, considered by the New York Times as the most beautiful in the world; an eight-acre garden that is home to a thousand plants and is crossed by numerous streams.
Finally, Gaeta being a maritime city, one must go to the “Fish Market” at sunset where fishermen display their catch of the day on the benches at the waterfront. For those who love cuisine based on fish, they will be spoiled for choice in restaurants and taverns.
Photos by ThreeCharlie, Nicola Quirico , Francesca Cesa Bianchi, Johanning from Wikimedia Creative Commons