239 – November in Sperlonga

When friends come and visit we usually take them for a little run in the car to show them around our local area of South Lazio.

In November our friend Annette and her friend Sarah came to stay with us at Tre Cancelle for a few days.

The girls at the Cafe Centrale in Itri – Hot chocolate so thick you need a spoon.

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The weather was still calm and very mild, so we of course took them for a snack lunch to the Miramare at Sant’Agostino beach.

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Sarah and Annette

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Sarah, Paul and Annette

Then on to Sperlonga which can be very beautiful at this time of year.

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The Torre Truglia.

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The harbour.

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Sarah and Annette

View of Sperlonga’s Ponente Beach.

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View of Levante Beach.

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The Grotto of Emperor Tiberius.

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A square in the old historic centre.

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Wandering through Sperlonga’s maze of little alleyways. There is something to see around every corner.

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A wedding in Sperlonga.

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Sperlonga sunsets.

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Sunset over San Felice Circeo.

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Come Discover Beautiful Sperlonga !!!

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#sperlonga #italy #SouthLazio #beaches #

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments Near Sperlonga and Itri

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153 – Sperlonga’s Archaeological Museum and Tiberius’ Grotto

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.

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Around the next few bends of the road you will get a really splendid view of beautiful Sperlonga in all it’s glory.

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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.

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Emperor Tiberius (42 B.C. – 37 A.D.)

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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”.  

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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”.

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The museum also houses a host of other interesting Roman artifacts and treasures.

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From the museum a path leads down, towards the actual Grotto of Tiberius, passing a large area of excavated Roman ruins.

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You can read more about the Grotto of Tiberius at this previous blog post – 

https://trecancelle.wordpress.com/2008/11/04/grotta-di-tiberio/

and at our website all about Sperlonga:  

http://sperlonga.shapcott-family.com

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga Beaches and Historic Itri, South Lazio, Italy

25 – La Grotta di Tiberio / Grotto of Tiberius

Levante Beach, Sperlonga

Levante Beach, Sperlonga

During Dad’s October visit, making the most of the autumn sunshine, we  drove down the winding road en route for  Sperlonga

This is a fashionable little seaside resort, extremely popular with well-heeled Italian visitors from the city of Rome.  It gets particularly busy during the month of August, or on sunny summer weekends, when Italians flock to the seaside to escape the city heat, however, out of season it reverts to a sleepy little coastal village.  

The Cave and Headland

The Cave and Headland

Sperlonga’s original name Spelunca, was derived from the Latin word “speluncae”, meaning natural sea caves or grottoes, many of which are to be found all along this shoreline. 

The Grotta di Tiberio can be found at the far end of the beautiful sandy Levante  Beach. The rocky headland is part of a World Wildlife Fund Nature / Marine Reserve, so here the waters are crystal clear and have been awarded the prestigious European Blue Flag for several years running.  

The Emperor Tiberius was among the prosperous Romans known to frequent villas in the Sperlonga area.   One lavish villa, at the far base of Monte Ciannito, included several natural caves within its design. One such cave was transformed into an ornately decorated banqueting hall, where it is documented that Tiberius dined with guests on an artificial island surrounded by a ornamental, sea water pool, stocked with fish. It is said that the various courses were served on little boats that were floated across the lake to the grand emperor’s table.   On one occasion Tiberius narrowly escaped death when rocks fell from the ceiling, killing several of the guests.

Excavated Roman Remains
Excavated Roman Remains

The remains of these Roman dwellings lay buried for centuries, and were only unearthed during the construction of the new coastal road, the Via Flacca, during the 1950’s.  Fragments were discovered of huge marble statues which once adorned the mouth of the cave. 

These sculptures depicted mythological Greek scenes from Homer’s “Adventures of Odysseus” , such as the “Blinding of The Cyclops Polyphemus”,  “Scylla’s Attack on  Ship of Ulysses”, “The Theft of The Palladium” and “Odysseus Lifting Achilles’s Corpse”.

We visited Sperlonga’s Museo Archeologico Nazionale, which now houses many Roman artefacts and treasures, and some of the amazing sculptures that have been painstakingly reconstructed. I found the colossal Cyclops statue absolutely awe inspiring.

La Grotta di Tiberio

La Grotta di Tiberio

 

We then made our way down the path leading towards the actual Grotto, passing many excavated Roman structures. Only a small section of this Roman township can be seen today, the remainder still lies undisturbed beneath the earth and sand dunes. 

We were fortunate to have the cave to ourselves, and I felt something of its magical atmosphere, as I envisioned it in all its Roman glory.  It is well worth a visit.

To visit the Museum take the coast road, the Via Flacca, that runs from Sperlonga towards Gaeta. Before reaching the first road tunnel, and immediately before the Museum, turn right and follow the track that runs next to the museum railings. On the right hand side there is a small car park, where parking is free for most of the year and cheap even at peak periods.  From here you can also walk down to the beach.

Follow this link for more information about Sperlonga 

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