Area Sacra - Largo Argentina, Rome
Until the 1920s, the Area Sacra di Largo Argentina was undiscovered. Now, an entire square is open to us, several meters below the current ground level - the ruins of four temples are exposed and have become home to the city's largest cat sanctuary. Explanatory signage is available on all sides of the site in Italian and English.
We have Mussolini to thank for preserving this site. Really. If not for him, new buildings (which he was originally planning) would have been erected on the site when it was first excavated. But Mussolini was trying to align himself with Imperial Rome (specifically, Augustus) and so insisted on preserving the site when it was discovered, It turns out that the temples were all pre-Imperial, dating from the 4th to the 2nd century BC, when Rome was, more or less, a Republic. Thus, these temples are among the oldest in Rome. There are also the remains of an ancient public latrine.
While not much is known about these temples (hence they are labeled merely A, B C and D), they were located next to the Teatro Pompei (Pompey's Theater). Pompey was a Roman general and Julius Caesar's primary political opponent. He built the theater, partly to enhance his standing among the public. Because there were restrictions on the building of public theaters, Pompei combined the theater with a temple. The complex included covered loggias and gardens which extended to very near the Largo Argentina temples.
Ironically, Julius Caesar was murdered in his rival's monumental complex, quite near Largo Argentina, (not in the Roman Forum as is often assumed.) The Curia, in the Roman Forum, where the Senate usually met, was under reconstruction after a fire.
Largo di Torre Argentina is a square in Rome that hosts four Republican Roman temples, and the remains of Pompey's Theater. It has nothing to do with the South American country but actually comes from a city previously known as Argentoratum. Everytime I walk past this square, I'll stop to look at the many breeds of homeless cats that lounge and cavort about the ruins. This area is also the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary, a no-kill shelter for homeless cats (of which Rome has many).
This archeological site in Rome is relatively unknown to most visitors, and yet it has great historical importance, it's centrally located and easy to find, and it's free! Right in the centre of this busy transport hub you can see the remains of four ancient temples that date back to the Republican era, prior to the Roman Empire. The oldest one was built in the 3rd or possibly 4th century B.C. There is still some debate about the exact identification of the temples, and for now they are simply called Temples A, B, C, and, you guessed it, D.
Also visible is the remains of the portico of the Theatre of Pompey, which is actually where Julius Caesar was assassinated. Thanks to Shakespeare, most people think Caesar was killed in the Senate building (the Curia) in the Roman Forum, but the Curia had burned down several years prior, and the Senate was temporarily meeting in the theatre until reconstruction was complete. What's left of the portico is on the west side of the excavated area on Via Arenula. Interestingly, the remains of the theatre itself were used as foundations for later buildings, which is evident because the modern street now curves in a semi-circle, imitating the shape of the theatre. To find this street, head south down Via Arenula, then take the first right (Vicolo de' Chiodaroli). From here you can pass through a small archway to reach Campo de' Fiori.
Largo Argentina is also famous for its cat sanctuary. Cats have been revered in Rome for centuries, possibly starting with Cleopatra's visit here 2,000+ years ago. Volunteer doctors spay and neuter them, and other volunteers help out by feeding the cats (here and around other ruins such as the Forum) or by offering guided tours of the ruins in exchange for a donation to the cat sanctuary. You will see many cats lounging around the ruins here. Check out the website for more information on the sanctuary and on how to volunteer or adopt a cat.
offcourse i visited the catshelter for roman cats, its located on a big square and when you go downstairs at one ohf the corners you can see the shelter and you can walk in and talk to the people (volunteers) who are at work.
When i was there there was a woman from News Sealand and we talked about the work and the cats, many cats are sick and have a special big room where the cats have their own space, even the blind ones can find their way here:-)
When you buy souveirs you support this great organization
The founders are: Silvia Viviani and Deborah DÁlessandro
This area is the excavated remains of 4 temples a few blocks south of the Pantheon at Largo Argentina. Again there is a small charge to go down into the ruins but it can all be seen from street level looking down so there is no need to pay this charge.
The remains of four temples were discovered in the 1920's at the centre of Largo Argentina. They date from the era of the Republic and are among the oldest found in Rome. The area is now crawling with cats. See how many you can spot in the photo!
The Temple of Feronia (also known as "Temple C"), the furthest to the left when viewed facing Teatro Argentina, is the oldest and dates from the early 3rd century BC. It was placed on a high placed on a high platform preceded by an altar and is typical of Italic temple plans as opposed to the Greek model.
Temple B, known as Temple of the Fortune of the Present Day, is a rare circular structure consisting of six remaining columns, the original flight of stairs and the altar. It was Constructed by Quintus Lutacius Catulus in 101 BC.
Temple A (which maybe called Temple of Juturna) is from the 3rd century BC, but in medieval times the small church of San Nicola di Cesarini was built over it's podium and the remains of it's two apses are still visable.
Beware the Ides of March. In the far back(at the busstop) is where Julius Caeser met his death. The ruins below are now a cat sanctuary. It seems Rome used to have a rat problem so they let cats take care their problem Cats are given special status and this place is a haven for them. There are hundreds in this area
In the 1920s the remains of four temples (dating from the 4th-3rd century B.C. Since we don’t know what temples were, they’re simply called A, B, C and D. Behind temples B and C are remains of a great platform of tufa blocks, which have been identified as part of the Curia of Pompey, where the Senate met and where Julius Caesar’s was assassinated on 15 March 44 B.C.
Today people come to the sunken area of Largo Argentina - not only to look at the temple ruins but more likely I suspect to see the cats that live here. The whole area acts as a scantuary for them - they are fed daily and there is a scheme whereby you can adopt a roman cat - financially that is!
We accidentally stumbled across Largo di Torre Argentina while walking towards the Pantheon.
We were a little unsure of what to be taken aback by here.
Was it the impressive remains of the 4 temples, the amount of traffic whizzing by it as though it wasn't even there, or the vast amounts of stray cats that had taken up residence between the ruins?
I think the cats won it. Strange as it may seem, the ruins within Largo di Torre Argentina are impressive, but you cannot help stand there wondering why on earth there are so many cats. I think we counted over 30!
Someone obviously looks after them, as there were feeding boxes and cat kennels spread around the ruins.
The Largo di Torre Argentina ruins are impressive, but if you don't want to see them, then at least go to see the cats!
Its quite fascinating.......if even a little eery!
Largo di Torre Argentina is an amazing square not far from the Pantheon or Trastevere. Right in the middle, there is the so called Area Sacra (Holy area), ruins of four roman temples (between II and IV cen. BC):
- temple of Giuturna
- Aedes Fortunae Huiusce Diei
- temple of Feronia
- sanctuary of Lari Permarini
The area is also well known as the paradise of stray cats.
While we still have no idea what these ruins are, they were fascinating nonetheless. It was also amusing to watch the wild cats lie in the shade. I imagined great Lions doing the same in the olden days, but of course this is misguided.
If any of you are interested in seeing something off the beaten path (the beaten tourist path that is) in Rome, try checking out Torre Argentina, a cat shelter in the heart of the city. http://www.romancats.com/ They are situated on the ancient ruins near the Tower of Argentina (Torre Argentina) in the heart of the city, near the Pantheon.
Two Italian women just started taking care of all of the abandoned cats that were dumped there in the ruins and over the years they developed a full fledged cat shelter. All of the cats are sterilized and vaccinated and every effort is made to adopt them. A lot of vets in Italy don't want to sterilize animals, but this shelter has found one that is sympathetic to the cause and sterilizes all of their cats at a low cost. They are doing great work and can use all the donations and volunteers they can get. The city tried to get rid of them for a long time, but so many tourists wrote letters asking that they be allowed to continue their work that the city has allowed them to stay.
So, if you are interested in something that not every tourist in Rome sees, go down to the cat shelter. You will also get to see ancient ruins (4 of the oldest temple ruins in Rome are on this site), and a lot of Roman cats!