Walk in the Footsteps of Ulysses
Story and photos by Tom Weber
part of the Italian coastline, stretching 60 km (36 mi) along the southern
flank of the Lazio region, was named after Homer's mythical hero-voyager,
Ulysses remember, he did stay a year, so he and his crew had plenty
of time to explore the coast in between wining and dining with the sorceress
Circe is a sight to see.
With its picturesque cities and towns dotting the landscape,
a handful of islands close by out at sea, the crystal clear shades-of-blue
Tyrrhenian, vineyards filled with juicy grape just waiting to be turned
into award-winning wine, seafood dishes of every type to whet your palate
and a national park to explore, what's not to like about it.
Must-see stops in San Felice Circeo, Terracina and Gaeta.
San Felice Circeo
The history of this bustling little seaside town overlooking
the Tyrrhenian Sea is filled with myths and legends that give it an
According to classical Roman writers, the island of
Aeaea, where Ulysees and crew were to have landed, was identified
as Monte Circeo (Mount Circeo) on Capo Circaeum (Cape
Circeo). It may have been an island in Homer's time (ca. 8-7 century
BC), with marshes and sea surrounding its base; but, today, it's a small
peninsula with a long lido (sandy beach) that's attached to the
mainland. Archeologists have identified one grotto on Cape Circeo as
La Grotta della Maga Circe (the Cave of the Sorceress Circe).
In addition to Ulysses and his crew and the sorceress
Circe, the Neanderthal roamed the area and lived in its caves; forces
from Imperial Rome kept the peace for a time followed by the Papacy;
and last, but certainly not least, the mysterious Knights Templar dismounted
for a spell. Detailed online tourist information on San Felice Circeo
is available at: www.sanfelicecirceo.net/en/index.shtml.
National Park of Circeo
The only park of its kind in Italy to include both a
plain and coastal area. The park is divided into five main habitats:
the forest, the promontory, the coastal dunes, the wetlands and the
island of Zannone. Online tourist information at: www.parks.it/parco.nazionale.circeo/Eindex.php
Just 60-miles south of Rome, La Città d'Arte
(The City of Art) rises along and above the historic Via Appia
(Appian Way), and is right next door to San Felice Circeo. This
port and seaside resort city claims its heritage first from the Etruscans,
then the Volscians and finally the Romans. It is the only point where
the mountains reach down to touch the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Landmarks of note are the Temple of Jupiter,
the Emilian Forum, Piazza Municipale and the Trajan Port.
Not to be overlooked is a boat ride out to the Pontine Archipelago
to take in the five islands that make up the chain: Ponza, Palmarola,
Zannone, Ventotene and San Stefano. Online tourist information
Prior to the Risorgimento (The Resurgence that
unified Italy) in the mid 1800s, Gaeta was a secondary maritime
republic that eventually gave up its independence to become part of
the Papal States. This once proud city still has its seafaring moments,
as Gaeta is the overseas homeport for the United States Navy's Sixth
Today, Gaeta beckons tourists to come and sample the
treasures that lie at the tail end of the Riviere Ulisse. Have
the lens cap off as you explore the Aragonese-Angevine Castle and the
town's medieval center, and become awestruck by breathtaking panoramic
views from atop Mount Orlando. If its fun-in-the-sun you're looking
for, do like smart Romans and Neopolitans do, head to one or all four
of Gaeta's blue-flag
rated beaches: Serapo, Fontania, Ariana and Sant'Agostino.
And if we're talking Gaeta we have to talk olives, the homegrown Olive
di Gaeta, the "black pearl of Italian olives" one
bite and your tastebuds immediately come alive.
Finally, a stop in Gaeta would not be complete without
a stroll down ancient cobblestoned Il Budello (literally, The
Gut). The longest street in the city, but also one of the narrowest
at only 2.5 meters, Il Budello is a pedestrian-only alleyway
filled with workshops, artisans and mom-and-pop food markets at eye
level, apartment dwellers right above, and the colors and sounds of
centuries past all around.
For complete, up-to-date tourist information visit the
Gaeta Pro Loco site: www.prolocogaeta.it.
Once there, just click on the Union Jack flag for the English version.
Now that you've had a piccolo assaggio (a little
taste), maybe you'll consider adding the Riviera di Ulisse to
your travel bucket list. Do let me know.
Ciao for now.
Little Village Atop the Hill (Castelluccio di Norcia); Norcia,
of Circeo, Italy; Piovene
Rocchette, Italy; Northern