If you take the scenic road that leads from Itri towards Sperlonga, as you begin your winding descent you’ll catch your first glimpse of the blue Tyrrenian Sea. If you pull over and park in one of the panoramic stopping places you can look down on Sperlonga’s Roman archaeological site, Tiberius’ Grotto and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, which is situated at the far end of Levante Beach.
Around the next few bends of the road you will get a really splendid view of beautiful Sperlonga in all it’s glory.
Even back in Roman times the beautiful Sperlonga area was a popular summer retreat for prosperous Romans and politicians. Indeed the Emperor Tiberius is said to have had a sumptuous villa here, part of which consisted of a natural sea cave that was transformed into a lavishly decorated banqueting hall.
In the 1950’s, during the construction of the new coastal road, remains of various Roman buildings were unearthed. In the grotto were found fragments of huge sculptures which once adorned the man-made fishponds at the mouth of the cave. These remarkable groups of sculptures, dating from the 2nd century BC, depicted legendary scenes taken from Homer’s “Adventures of Odysseus”.
Many of these mythological works of art have been painstakingly reconstructed in plaster and resin and can be seen in the Archaeological Museum in Sperlonga.
These include “the horrific attack of Odysseus’ ship by the sea monster Scylla”, “Diomedes and Odysseus stealing the Palladion”, “Odysseus lifting the corpse of Achilles’s. In my opionion the most stunning is the colossal group of statues depicting “The Blinding of the drunken Cyclops Polyphemus by Odysseus and 3 of his companions”.
The museum also houses a host of other interesting Roman artifacts and treasures.
From the museum a path leads down, towards the actual Grotto of Tiberius, passing a large area of excavated Roman ruins.
You can read more about the Grotto of Tiberius at this previous blog post –
and at our website all about Sperlonga:
All photos by me © Louise Shapcott