The internet here has been completely down or in and out for the last couple of weeks making it hard to add more to my blog, but it looks like we are finally up and running again!! Now, continuing on from the tunnels of Naples. That first Saturday free to explore was full of adventure but may not have been the best of weather. Sunday, however, was a gorgeous sunny day! We hopped in the car and took a sporadic road trip to beautiful Gaeta in Lazio. Gaeta is a coastal city about halfway between Rome and Naples. It was our first time crossing the border of the Campania region! We discovered a grotto, walked between a split mountain, wandered past religious sites, stuck our feet in the sand, enjoyed some delicious food, and continued to be amazed at the views at every turn.
The city sits on a promontory that jets out into the Gulf of Gaeta. Located on top of the promontory of Monte Orlando, the Sanctuary of the SS. Trinità was founded in 930 BC. by the Benedictine Fathers on the ruins of the Villa of Munazio Planco, a famous Roman general. The religious order maintained the sanctuary for about 10 centuries, until 1788. After a short period of abandonment, the Franciscan Alcantarini friars took over, who remained there from 1843 to 1903. This religious group renovated the structure thanks to the help of the King of Naples, Ferdinand II. The Pallottines (1903-1917) succeeded the Alcantarini, albeit for a short time, and from 1926 the Missionaries of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (P.I.M.E) managed the sanctuary. Important hermits and saints came to this ancient structure to pray. Among the best known are San Filippo Neri, Bernardino da Siena and Ignazio di Loyola, but also kings and popes, such as the famous Pius IX.
According to the most famous legend, the Montagna Spaccata di Gaeta split into two large blocks of rock at the time of Christ’s crucifixion, leaving an inlet to the clear waters of the Gulf. The waters of the Mediterranean poured into the rupture lines, forming underground caves and streams. The natural recess became an ideal hiding place for pirates since ancient times. Legend has it that the natural recess was used as a den by bands of Saracens during their raids on the Pontine coasts, hence the name “Grotta del Turco”. Starting from the sanctuary, descend the 300-some steps leading to the Grotta del Turco for a breathtaking view.
In 1434, an earthquake caused a boulder to fall and it got stuck in one of the rocky ravines of the mountain, on which a chapel was erected, and from which it is possible to enjoy a breathtaking view which embraces the sea and a huge cliff about 150 meters high. Along the walls of the split rock there are some majolica panels with the stations of the Via Crucis, dating back to 1849 and attributed to S. Bernardino da Siena, in which the verses of Metastasio appear. At the end of the path you will find a stone bed, nicknamed the Bed of San Filippo, since here the saint used to spend a long time watching over the Passion of Christ.
There is one fascinating legend in particular that you must not miss while walking through the split mountain. It is said that a pirate, having learned of the genesis of the place, did not believe it. On that same day, however, leaning against one of the walls to descend into the cove, his hand sank into the hard rock made miraculously ductile by the “divine” intervention due to his disbelief. You can still see the imprint today.
A legendary cave, a sanctuary overlooking the sea and a hand engraved in the rock make this corner of Gaeta a magical place. But don’t forget the beaches, waterfront views, and local food!
Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!