A beautiful coastal town on a hill above the sea near Gaeta, the old town is a charming warren of lanes. The old town sits on a rock spur and has been named as one of the prettiest small towns in Italy (i borghi piu' belli d'Italia). It's easy to see why - white washed buildings, jumbled streets with archways, stairs and lanes that have a host of artisan shops, boutiques, cafes and restaurants. It's really delightful.
Founded by the Spartans, it was originally called Amyclae. The arrival of the Romans brought the patricians and emperor who appreciated the seaside location as a getaway. Emperor Tiberius built a lavish villa here, the remains of which can still be seen, right at the seashore just outside town. Part of his villa complex utilized a natural grotto, also visitable. (Both are part of the Sperlonga Archeological Museum.) In the 10th century it became known as Castrum Speloncae and became a holding of the Caetani family. Even before under the Romans there were pools for raising fish, and in later centuries, the port was built and Sperlonga gained importance as a fishing harbor. The town was attached by Saracen pirates several times, and rebuilt in the 16th-17th century, under the Kingdom of Naples. In the fascist period it was taken from the region of Campania and put under the region of Lazio.
There are still four of the ancient coastal watch towers, the most prominent is Torre Truglia, built in 1532 on the site of a previous Roman tower. It rests on a rocky promontory and is easy to spot. Views from here are fantastic. On either side of the old town are golden sand beaches that reach out in both directions, enticing with the turquoise water!
Be sure to visit the interesting archeology museum and site, including Tiberius's grotto. It's really fascinating. The oldest church is the Chiesa di Santa Maria, built in the 1100s. Uphill from town just a short distance is the Parco Naturale ddi Monti Aurunci, with walking paths and a visible tract of the ancient Appian Way. The green space is a cool oasis from the summer heat.
The Festa di San Leo e San Rocco celebrates the patron saint and is centered around the first Sunday of September. An evening procession carries the saint's statue down to the sea, where fireworks light up the coastline, and then proceed back up and through the streets of town. A lively party follows with good food, wine and music.
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