When looking from a distance many people mistake the rocky headland of San Felice Circeo for an island, however it is in fact a mountain at the far end of the wide sweeping sandy bay stretching from Terracina. San Felice Circeo takes its name from Classical Greek mythology, as Homer in his work the “Odyssey” described this as the location where the hero Ulysses found himself enchanted by the goddess / sorceress Circe.
We took the steep winding road, passing through some verdant woodlands, which leads up to a plateau, which was once the site of the ancient acropolis of Circeii. Here we saw the remains of 3 rings of fortified walls constructed of tightly fitting cyclopean / polygonal blocks of limestone, that guarded the city.
The Parco Nazionale del Circeo is a vast National Park and Wild Life Reserve. In addition to San Felice Circeo, the park incorporates areas of Sabaudia, Latina and the islands of Ponza and Zannone which form part of the Pontine archipelago. This area has spectacular scenery, stunning beaches and crystal clear waters. Within the park is a network of well sign-posted footpaths and trails which are ideal for hikers, cyclists, birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.
On our descent we arrived in the old historic centre of San Felice which is situated at a height of 98 metres above sea level.
Here we discovered the medieval tower, the Torre dei Templari. The tower has an unusual clock, the face has just six numbers and a single hand moves around the dial four times in 24 hours. The hours are sounded by a hammer which strikes a bell.
Adjacent is the Baronial Palace built by the Caetani family, the piazza has an array of various restaurants, cafés and stylish shops. By chance, we stumbled upon the Piazzale del Belvedere and the beautiful garden of the Vigna della Corte which has magnificent views of the wide sweeping bay.
Descending back down to sea level we drove along the seafront past the sandy beach which stretches for miles to Terracina, towards San Felice’s jolly harbour and marina full of fishing boats and pleasure craft. It is a centre for water-sports, fishing, sailing and diving and there is a daily ferry service to the Pontine Islands of Ponza, Palmarola and Zannone.
We then took the scenic coast road known as the Via del Faro which leads to a lighthouse at Punta Rossa.
The headland has many rocky coves and numerous coastal caves which are perhaps best seen by taking a boat trip around the promontory. In 1939 the skull of a Neanderthal man was discovered by archaeologist Alberto Carlo Blanc in Guattari’s Cave. Also unearthed were bones of animals – such as a hippopotamus, tigers and hyenas. In other caves rare fossils have been found.
Between Torre Paola and Capo Portiere, bordered by dunes, runs a beautiful long stretch of natural sandy beach. Near Torre Paola is an renowned restaurant named Saporetti:
salt water lakes running parallel to the sea.
If ever you should have the good fortune to visit the beautiful promontory of
San Felice Circeo
you will find yourself enchanted by this magical place.
For more information check out our San Felice Circeo web pages at :
All photos by me © Louise Shapcott