Last week I visited Gaeta, a pretty seaport town in southern Lazio. In the morning when I left Rome for my day trip I was a bit apprehensive about whether I would even make it because the town itself does not have a train station, and it was a bank holiday. I caught the Calabria-bound train to Formia, which took about an hour, and luckily a bus arrived outside the station about ten minutes later to drive the last stretch.
Gaeta is situated close to Southern Lazio’s border with Campania. It has played an important role in military history since ancient times, changing hands constantly over the centuries. Testimony to this is the huge Aragonese-Angevin castle dominating its skyline.
I had wanted to come here for a while, mainly because I had heard the town was beautiful, as well as its views. It also boasts wonderful natural surroundings, including the Montagna Spaccata or Split Mountain overlooking the sea. In this blog however I’d like to focus on what there is to do in the old town.
Next I wandered into the town to find something to eat. I stopped for some Linguine pasta with mussels and clams in Le Sale della Regina , in the medieval old town. The dish was delicious and just what I was looking for on my day out at the seaside!
After lunch I went to see the old bell tower of the cathedral of Santi Erasmo and Marciano & Santa Maria Assunta. Standing 57 metres high, it’s considered one of the town’s most precious monuments. The internal staircase up to the church is flanked by columns taken from ancient Roman buildings and two sarcophagi.
Luckily as I reached the top of the hill, the church was being opened, so I also had a chance to peek in to the Italian-Gothic building, initially constructed by Frederick II in the early 13th century.
I walked back into town, towards the 14th century church of the Annunziata, which contains the stunning “chapel of gold” with its gold-plated ceiling. Pope Pius IX is said to have prayed here before issuing the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, stating that Mary was free of original sin from the moment she was conceived.
Finally I stopped for a prosecco in the sun- which was very good value at only 2.50 euros- much more reasonable than Roman prices. I had some trouble getting out of the town and back to the station because there were evening festivals on in both Gaeta and Formia so the road was blocked with traffic. Luckily I managed to walk part of the way and get the last train back to Rome. I would highly recommend Gaeta as a destination for a long weekend, when you can relax, enjoy the pretty sites in the town, and also have time to discover some of the natural surroundings, and perhaps go swimming. I hope you get to see it soon and enjoy it as much as I did!