Gaeta is a favorite summer destination for Italians and foreign tourists alike. The territory of Gaeta is located along the coast of Lazio on a bay overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Legend has it that the city's name was Caieta, where Virgil (Aeneid, VII) slew the nurse of Aeneas, who gave the name to the city. According to the geographer Strabo, however, the name is derived from the Greek "Kaietas" which means 'cave', probably given to the city from Greek and Phoenician sailors for its many harbors.
The seaside town, famous for its beaches is also rich in art and history. Just think of the Sanctuary of the Split Mountain! The old city is also noteworthy for its gates, narrow alleys and old churches. Do not miss the many excursions to the surrounding area, where you can tour the beaches of Gaeta and observe from afar the green hills overlooking the sea.
HISTORY OF GAETA
Already in ancient Roman times, Gaeta was known as a summer resort destination where the wealthy families would spend their holidays. The coast and hills of Gaeta and Sperlonga are full of beautiful rose gardens and villas with pools, temples and mausoleums that you really shouldn't miss. The tombs of the consuls Lucius Munatius Planco on the top of Monte Orlando, and that of Lucius Sempronius Atratino on the northern slopes of the hill, are beautiful historic sites you can visit while touring the area.
In the Middle Ages, Gaeta became a strategic military base and also an intense maritime trading post in the Mediterranean. From 1032 Gaeta was attacked various times due to its strategic location (by Norman, Swabian, Angevin, Durazzo, Aragonese), eventually being annexed to the kingdom of Sicily.
Over the years Gaeta came into the possession of many different rulers which led to the construction of large buildings, civil and religious, which give the city's historic centre a regal feel, for example the castle was originally built to be the royal throne of the Kingdom of Sicily!
Due to its strategic location, Gaeta was constantly changing hands among the French, Spanish and Austrians through various sieges and battles. Under Charles V in 1528, extensive fortifications of the city were completed reducing the village to the rank of a military town, with no possibility to expand and produce. The Spaniards followed the Austrians, while in 1734 there was the conquest of Gaeta by Charles of Bourbon, the founder of the Bourbon dynasty in Naples.
During the long Bourbon reign in Gaeta, on November 25, 1848, Pope Pius IX fled the Roman revolution to seek refuge in the city, so that up until the 4th of September 1849, Gaeta assumed the role as the second State of the Church. On February 13, 1861 the Bourbon dynasty ended with the unification of Italy.
The Second World War really took its toll on Gaeta, destroying houses and dispersing much of the population. The following years the city experienced rapid growth and has helped build its economy as a central point of the beach tourism
THINGS TO SEE IN GAETA
Cathedral of Saints Erasmus and Marciano: This beautiful church has a neo-Gothic style facade and overlooks the streets of the city. The Campanile (Bell Tower) was designed by Nicholas D'Angelo in the twelfth century in an Arabic style. Inside there are sarcophagi from the Roman period and two marble bas-reliefs depicting the story of Jonah and the monster.
Temple of St Francis: It was built for the first time in 1222 by St. Francis of Assisi when he came to evangelize the gaetani people. The current structure is in a neo-Gothic style and has three naves, illuminated by stained-glass windows. Outside the church there is a huge staircase with contemporary statues along the perimeter.
Sanctuary of the Santissima Annunziata: The church was consecrated in 1352 and the last restoration was done by Dionisio Lazzari in 1624 in baroque style. The single-nave interior is dominated by the blue walls. Rectangular apses are the backdrop of a magnificent altarpiece designed by Andrea Sabatini Salerno, paintings by Sebastiano Conca, choir stalls by Colangelo Pomace from Massa and the high altar in polychrome marble designed by Dionisio Lazzari.
Church of San Giovanni a Mare: The dome of the church is in Arabic style and the floor is slightly tilted to allow the flow of sea water during high tide. The interior has a Greek cross and has some fourteenth-century frescoes in the apses.
Sanctuary of SS. Trinity (also known as the "Sanctuary of the Split Mountain"): It is located in a fissure on the rock that leads into the Cave of the Turkish created, according to legend, at the time of Christ's death when he tore the veil off the temple in Jerusalem. Several popes have prayed at this shrine including Pope Pius IX, as well as kings, bishops and saints, including Bernardine of Siena, Ignatius of Loyola, Leonardo da Porto Maurizio, San Paolo della Croce.
Castle Angioino-Aragonese: Though its origins are uncertain, the Castle of Gaeta was first mentioned in documents during the time of Frederick II of Savoia, who during that period struggled with the papacy. He stayed in Gaeta on several occasions which ultimately led to the decision to fortify the castle in 1233.
The Castle is about 14,100 square meters and is called the Castello Aragonese-Angiono because it consists of two interconnected buildings, built at different times. The lower building, "Angevin", was built during the reign of the French of Anjou, and the higher building "Aragonese", built by Emperor Charles V while other fortifications of the city as a military defense town were taking place.
Palace de Vio (Diocesan Museum) and the Archbishop's Palace: This was built by the Vio Cardinal and the Archbishop of Gaeta in the Renaissance. Inside the palace, there is the Diocesan Museum, which houses works from desecrated churches in the city (such as the altarpiece of Saint Lucia from the church Coronation of Mary of John of Gaeta), the Standard of Lepanto, depicting the Jesus on the Cross and Saints Peter and Paul and an Exulted medieval parchment.
HOW TO GET TO GAETA
By car: Take the highway del Sole (A1) - exit Cassino; take the SS 630, then the SS 7 Appia, and then SS 213 Flacca.
By bus: Buses depart from Formia every 15 minutes towards Gaeta Central Station. Check regional COTRAL bus carrier for information on buses from Rome to Formia
By train: Take a train from Rome to Naples and get off at Formia. From there, take a short bus ride from Formia to Gaeta.