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Above the Duomo in Gaeta

Aragonese Castle, Gaeta

Serapo Beach, Gaeta

Welcome to Gaeta
From Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population: 21,522 (2004)
Official website:
Wikipedia: Gaeta
Maps: MapQuest

Th ancient city of Gaeta - engulfed by its modern counterpart - sits on a rocky promontory called the Torri di Orlando  protruding into the Gulf of Gaeta about 120 kilometers south of Rome.  The site of the old city was increasingly fortified  and now features an assortment of walls forts and castles that date from its colonization by the Greeks between 500-400 BC to well into the 8th century when the area was under the control of the Kingdom of Naples.

Today, the city of Gaeta, which has spread along its seven beaches and into the hinterlands behind, is a very busy summer destination for tourists (as it was in Roman times), but it also has an important light industrial base built primarily on the production and export of olives, olive oil and tomato-based products, and a very large NATO controlled naval station.

Gaeta's importance as a strategically located port ensured that since the fall of Rome it became and remained for centuries the object of intense conflict between a succession of competing powers.  It's control was still in dispute up to near the end of World War II when the German's became determined to hold it against the advancing allys.  In doing so, they expelled the citizens of Gaeta, killing or imprisoning those who resisted.

The allies bombed the City in advance of their landing but were reasonably careful not to hit its numerous architectural treasures, most of which are crowded together on the Torri di Orlando.  Here's a list taken from Wikipedia:

  • The massive Castle.
  • The Mausoleum of Lucius Munatius Plancus (22 BCE) is a cylindrical travertine monument at the top of Monte Orlando (168 m). It stands at 13.20m and has a diameter of 29.50 m. Another important Roman public man, Lucius Sempronius Atratinus, Marc Antony's fleet commander, has a mausoleum, sited in the more recent district of Gaeta: of similar diameter, it is however not as well preserved.
  • The Sanctuary of SS. TrinitÓ, mentioned as early as the 11th century and visited, among the others, by St. Francis and Saint Philip Neri. The Crucifix Chapel was built in 1434 over a rock which had fallen from the nearby cliffs. From the sanctuary the Grotta del Turco can be visited: it is a grotto which ends directly in the sea and where the waves create atmospheric effects of light.
  • The Church of Annunziata (1320), was rebuilt at the beginning of the 17th century in Baroque style by Andrea Lazzari. It houses works by Luca Giordano, Sebastiano Conca and Giacinto Brandi, as well as the sarcophagus of Enrico Caracciolo, a notable Gothic work of art. The most interesting sight is however the Golden Grotto, a Renaissance room where Pope Pius IX devised the dogma of Papal infallibility. The walls of the grotto are decorated with 19 panels by Giovan Filippo Criscuolo (1531) into carved and gilded frames with small pilasters. On the altarpiece is an Immacolata by Scipione Pulzone.
  • Church of San Giovanni a Mare was built by the hypate Giovanni IV in the 10th century, outside the old sea walls of the city. It is a rare example of fusion between the basilica form with the Byzantine one. The simple fašade has a Gothic portal and a dome, while the interior has a nave with two aisles. The inner pavement is slightly inclined to allow waters to flow away after sea floods.
  • The Cathedral of Assunta e Sant'Erasmo was erected over a more ancient church, Santa Maria del Parco, and consecrated by Pope Paschal II in 1106: it had a nave with six aisles separated by columns with Gothic capitals. In 1778, however, two of the aisles were suppressed and the Gothic lines hidden. In the 13th century Moorish arches were added over the capitals. In 1663 the crypt was decorated in Baroque style. The interior houses a banner from the Battle of Lepanto, donated by Pope Pius V to Don John of Austria, who used it as his admiral's flag. The main sight of the church is however the marble Paschal candelabrum, standing 3.50 m tall, from the late 13th century: it is in Romanesque style, decorated with 48 reliefs in 4 vertical rows, telling the Stories of the Life of Jesus. There are also paintings by Giacinto Brandi and Giovanni Filippo Criscuolo. The cathedral contains the relics of St. Erasmus, transferred from FormiŠ; the campanile, in Norman style, dates from 1279.
  • The Cathedral has a great bell tower, standing at 57 m, which is considered the city's finest piece of art. The base has two marble lions, and the whole construction made large reuse of ancient Roman architectural elements. The upper part, octagonal in plan, with small Romanesque arches with majolica decoration, was completed in 1279.
  • The Chapel of the Crucifix is a curiosity: built on a huge mass of rock that hangs like a wedge between two adjoining walls of rock. Legend tells how the rock was thus split at the moment of our Saviour's death.
  • The large church of St. Francis, according to the legend constructed by the Saint himself in 1222, was in fact built by Frederick II, in very fine Gothic-Italian style, and contains paintings and sculpture by many of the most famous Neapolitan artists.
  • The parish church of Santa Lucia, the former St. Maria in Pensulis, was once a Royal chapel and here prayed Margherita of Durazzo and king Ladislas. It had originally Romanesque and Sicilian-Arab lines, but in the 1456 it was rebuilt in Renaissance style, and in 1648 adapted to a Baroque one. The side has a Mediaeval pronaos with ancient fragments and figures of animals.
  • The Medieval Quarter of Gaeta is itself of interest. It lies on the steep sides of Mount Orlando and has characteristic houses from the 11th-13th centuries.

But, site-seeing is not the only thing to do in Gaeta.  One can kick-back and relax on the  seven beaches at or near Gaeta, the most important of which are Serapo, Fontania, Ariana, Sant'Agostino. But all seven are enjoyed by thousands of holiday-makers from all over Italy and other parts of Europe.  Virtually all of the beaches are controlled by the owners of dozens of Lido, though intermittently one can find a public and free-to-use expanse of sand.

When one is not taking the sun, one can take nourishment at any number of cafes, trattorias and restaurants.  The local cuisine is varied, well-spiced, and delicious.  A very popular dish is tiella - a combination pizza-calzone with mouth-watering stuffings made from local ingredients including its world famous olives, calamari, dried cod fish (baccala), escarole, zucchini, egg, ham, cheese, etc.

There are numerous hotels, pensione, B&B etc with quality ranging from the very good to the noticeably down at heal.  But, that means the town is open to visitors in every price bracket.  A good thing that.

by Vian Andrews, April 5, 2007

Lazio Roma

41░13′N, 13░34′E


Monte Cassino - 53 km
Naples - 98 km
Anzio - 98 km
Sorrento - 145 km
Rome - 163 km


Hotel Villa Irlanda
Hotel Serapo


Coat of Arms, Gaeta


Every December 31 the youth of Gaeta participate in the raucous street festival and folk event of Gliu Sciuscio.