Itinerary: San Felice Circeo, Circeo National Park, Sabaudia
Circeo National Park, the promontory south of Rome
Mount Circeo (pic n°2) is located about 110 kilometers south of Rome, still in the region of Lazio, on a promontory whose coast is bordered by the Tyrrhenian Sea, and which extends from Anzio to Terracina. Cape Circeo is almost entirely included in the National Park of Circeo, founded in 1934 which is one of the oldest protected natural areas in Italy. It is a unique region, where the wild nature and the long history of the area evidenced by many significant prehistoric and archeological finds live together.
Mount Circeo looks like an island 541 meters high above sea level, covered with forests of holm oaks, ash trees, and hornbeams. At its foot, you can find several caves and grottos, such as the cave of Circe and the Cave of Guattari or Neanderthal, where Paleolithic materials, including a skull that belonged to a Neanderthal, have been found.
From a distance, the promontory has the appearance of a sleeping lady, and this may have paved the way to the legend of Circe. According to that, which was also told in Homer's Odyssey, Circe was a sorceress who tried to turn Ulysses and his companions into pigs.
The National Park of Circeo is a unique environment which is made of five different ecosystems. Apart from the mountain promontory, you can also find the Mediterranean forest (the largest one in Italy), the coastal dunes (22 kilometers long), the humid areas, and the Island of Zannone, where you can visit the ruins of an ancient monastery. Whatever areas you decide to visit, you will be able to choose among different paths, which allow you to admire the unique vegetation and the many indigenous plants and animals that live in every single ecosystem.
Before starting, you can get to the visitor center, located in Sabaudia. Here, we suggest visiting the main attractions:
- Cerasella is an equipped area in the middle of the forest, where you can find a fenced area with deer and wild boars;
- the villa of Domiziano is the biggest building in the park, and it is located next to the lake of Sabaudia;
- Borgo di Villa Fogliano is a complex of some historic buildings from the late eighteenth century. There are also an ornithological museum and a botanical garden, established as an exotic garden in the nineteenth century, but later it was abandoned so local plants have grown spontaneously as well, creating a rare combination of Mediterranean and exotic flora.
San Felice Circeo (pic n°5, pic n°6) is the main city and one of the most important and popular attractions of the park. It is a very ancient town, in fact, Circeo was a Roman colony, then a possession of the Knights Templar in the Middle Ages, a fief of the Caetani and finally papal stronghold.
The most important monuments you should not miss are:
- the Templar Tower, built between 1240 and 1259, located in the main square (pic n°5);
- the remains of the Cyclops walls, built in 393 B.C. by the Romans as part of the Acropolis (pic n°4);
- the Baronial Palace built in the 14th century by the Caetani family and which was also the home to Lucretia Borgia. Today it houses the Town Hall;
- Villa Marco Emilio Lepido: one of the many residences built by the wealthy Romans to spend here their holidays, or in some cases, as it happened to Lepidio, who had lived here since 36 B.C. for twenty years, as locations of exile. Villa Marco Emilio Lepido is part of the archeological site called "Quattro venti" located near the historic center, on the south-eastern side of the promontory.
Also, you can visit many beautiful churches, such as the Church of San Felice Martire, where the relics of the saint patron of the promontory are preserved, and the Church of Immacolata.
Also, Circeo promontory attracts many tourists because of its beautiful beaches and the light blue color, crystal clear waters of the sea. The area, being very windy, is also very popular among those who love surfing or windsurfing.
Departure: San Felice Circeo
Length: Km 15
Some pics of Circeo:
Torre Paola, a defensive tower located on the promontory of Circeo, erected in the 16th century (pic n°1); Mount Circeo (pic n°2); View (pic n°3); The remains of the Cyclops walls (pic n°4); The main square of San Felice with the Templar Tower (pic n°5); San Felice Circeo- view (pic n°6);