Gaeta is one of the most characteristic towns on the Pontine coast. It lies at the foot of Monte Orlando, in the heart of the Riviera d'Ulisse, just 129 km from Rome and 90 km from Naples.
The origin of its name, from the ancient Caieta, is surrounded by legend.
According to the etymological study of the geographer Strabo, the name comes from the Doric word "Kaietas", meaning "inlet", since many Phoenician and Greek navigators used to land in this area.
According to Virgil, however, the name comes from Aeneas' nurse who died near these shores, killed in revenge by the seduced and abandoned sorceress Circe. So he narrates in a famous passage of the Aeneid and Dante confirms the origin;
And it is precisely this reference, which seems so distant in time, that is actually strongly rooted in the present, since it is recent news that Gaeta has officially become part of 'ENEA'S ROUTE'.
The Aeneas Route is one of the itineraries certified by the Council of Europe that crosses five countries: Turkey, Greece, Tunisia, Albania and Italy; and that becomes an opportunity for knowledge, for the consolidation of European and universal values, enhancing the richness of diversity.
With the Aeneas Route, Gaeta is part of a cultural initiative on a par with the well-known Via Francigena and Santiago de Compostela routes. Recognition by the Council of Europe confirms the high value of the project and represents the first tourist-archaeological-maritime itinerary that starts in Turkey and arrives in Europe, retracing the route described in Virgil's Aeneid and passing through various Mediterranean cities: Troia, Antandros, Ainos-Enez e (Turkey), Delos and Crete (Greece), Butrint and Actium (Albania), Castro (Apulia), Hera Lacinia -Crotone (Calabria), The Strait, the Cyclopes' Coast, Trapani and Erice (Sicily), Carthage (Tunisia), Cape Palinuro, Cumae-Pozzuoli (Campania) Gaeta and Lavinium-Pratica di Mare (Latium), Rome.
This itinerary will support the tourism of the various localities through thematic tourist trips conducted both by sea and by land and will give visibility to all the stages of the journey of the ancient Trojan hero and ancestor of the Gens Iulia.
This is an exciting project that projects Gaeta towards a broader and more widespread vision of sharing and promoting the city's cultural heritage.
"Gaeta is a coveted holiday destination for romantic travellers" is what the Swiss Tourism Awards Committee and the famous travel portal Condè Nast Traveler said when they drew up a list of the 10 most romantic small towns in Italy, and Gaeta came in 5th place!
"Its alleyways, churches, sea, history and gastronomy are fascinating" are the words of tourists when they leave Gaeta...
The first thing to do in Gaeta, is to visit the Regional Park of Monte Orlando, with its 89 hectares (between land and sea area) is characterised by a really surprising naturalistic variety.
Aside from the spectacular 160-metre-high cliffs on the southern slope, where the beautiful Santuario della SS Trinità (Sanctuary of the Holy Trinity) is located, we recommend visiting the Grotta del Turco, a natural cavern with a thousand reflections that can be reached from the top of the mountain.
Monte Spaccata is certainly one of the most evocative places in Gaeta, frequented every year by tourists who are seized by the magic of the promontory's three crevices. It is a place that contains a real itinerary.
The Santuario della SS Trinità (Sanctuary of the Holy Trinity), built in the 11th century, is renowned in history because numerous pontiffs, including Pius IX, sovereigns, bishops and saints have prayed here, and legend has it that St Philip Neri lived inside the split mountain where there is a stone bed known even today as the "bed of St Philip Neri".
Obviously, the route also includes a visit to the suggestive "Grotta del Turco", linked both by an ancient religious tradition according to which it was discovered at the time of Christ's death, when the veil of the Temple of Jerusalem was torn, and by various popular beliefs.
Along the steps leading into the bowels of the mountain, along the narrow cleft in the rock, on the right you can see an inscription in Latin and above it, an eerie translucent handprint imprinted in the rock, which legend has it belonged to a Turkish sailor. As a non-Christian, the unbeliever was sceptical about the sacred origin of the cracks in the mountain, but as soon as he placed his hand on the rock, it, according to tradition, instantly liquefied like wax under his fingers, leaving a clear imprint of the hand and five fingers that can still be seen today.
Given the natural context, it cannot be ruled out that in the Middle Ages, Saracen pirate ships landed in the cave, finding refuge in the crevices of the promontory and ready to attack ships by surprise in order to plunder them of their cargoes.
Gaeta is also known as the city of 100 churches: we don't know how true this is, but in 1970 Giovanni Alletta counted at least 56 churches, some still existing, some deconsecrated and some that have disappeared.
Going along the Caboto seafront, instead of going down towards the Serapo beach, you can turn right and reach the medieval part of the town, known as GAETA VECCHIA.
There is a high concentration of churches such as the beautiful Church of San Francesco, from whose steps you can admire the medieval port of the town. It was the year 1222 when St. Francis of Assisi lived in Gaeta and the temple dedicated to him is the greatest testimony of this. The construction of the temple was strongly desired by King Charles II of Anjou, who was very close to the Franciscans, and was completed around the 14th century.
The Angevin-Aragonese Castle follows; the former - a former prison - now houses a branch of Cassino University and can be visited; the Aragonese section houses the Guardia di Finanza nautical school.
The picturesque San Giovanni a Mare, with its arabesque dome and slightly sloping floor to avoid flooding at high tide (as it faces the sea) miraculously escaped the bombings of 1943 and continued to be used until 1998, when it was closed for urgent restoration work. Today the church is once again open for worship and to the public thanks to restoration work completed in 2015.
Just below the church of San Francesco, the Church of the Santissima Annunziata with its gleaming Golden Chapel, remains of the city's ramparts and gates, is one of Gaeta's most important Catholic places of worship. From 2009 to 27 September 2014, the sanctuary served as procathedral, taking on the title of
But when we talk about Gaeta we cannot help but think not only of its history, but also of its wonderful sea and beautiful beaches.
There are 7 beaches in Gaeta: Serapo, Fontania, Quaranta Remi, Ariana, Arenauta, San Vito and Sant'Agostino.
These 7 beaches of Gaeta are located in that long stretch of sea that goes from the rocky coast of Montagna Spaccata at the foot of Monte Orlando to the suggestive caves of Sperlonga.
10 kilometres of beach interspersed only by small inlets and rocky points. The peculiarity common to all these beaches is the presence of fine-grained light-coloured sand, clear sea and thick Mediterranean vegetation surrounding them.
At the same time, each of them has its own distinctive features that make it unique: Ariana beach, for example, has been awarded the Blue Flag several times for its clear waters, while Sant'Agostino beach is known for its many bars and restaurants, but also for its large area of free beach... There really is something for everyone!
It is no coincidence that the beauty of Gaeta, since the 1930s, has been chosen by numerous film producers and directors to shoot part of their films.
Some of the most famous films include L'AMICA GENIALE based on the novel by Elena Ferrante, BRAVE RAGAZZE by Michela Andreozzi with Ambra Angiolini, Luca Argentero, Stefania Sandrelli and Max Tortora, inspired by a true story.
CROCE E DELIZIA with Alessandro Gassman or the very famous THE YOUNG POPE where director Paolo Sorrentino chose Gaeta to shoot many scenes of the film, a television series that will be watched by millions.
Gaeta, with its breathtaking landscapes, has won over everyone.
While Gaeta was previously only accessible from Formia by car or bus, the new Lettorina project will make it quicker and more convenient to get there.
"Walking and travelling by rail, with an open-air metro linking two wonderful tourist destinations, is not just an idea or a project, but in turn, an attraction to come and discover and experience this area".
With the activation of the Littorina, 59% of the tourist population would definitely take this light rail, the remaining 27% would take it often and only 13% would use the car.
These are important figures for a town that lives on tourism and is plagued by traffic problems in summer.
But in recent years we have seen an increase in tourism in Gaeta not only in the summer for the sea, but also in the winter; for the fourth year in a row during the Christmas period, Gaeta has decided to dress up with Christmas illuminations.
The "Fables of Light" are an invitation to the imagination, to fantasy... an invitation to evoke that dreamy air of magical childhood Christmases.
A warm, welcoming, familiar atmosphere that we keep in our dearest memories and that we can relive in the embrace of a city filled with lights and festivity!
Gaeta has succeeded in enchanting visitors and tourists alike with its scenic, historical and artistic treasures and spectacularly bright backdrops... because Gaeta can be enjoyed all year round!