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The remains of the Villa of Tiberius (ph. Riccardo De Simone)

text Teresa Favi
photo cover Riccardo De Simone

December 15, 2023

What to see and where to eat in Sperlonga

Press agent Saverio Ferragina takes us on a discovery of the Lower Lazio coastline

In 1959 the celebrated writer Pier Paolo Pasolini (whose centenary falls this year) was commissioned by Successo magazine to travel the coast of Italy and produce the reportage The Long Road of Sand. In it he describes Sperlonga, the ancient fishing village perched on a rocky promontory high above the sea of southern Lazio, its origins steeped in legend: “Soon after, at a fork in the road, I’m stopped by two Germans, a young couple, practically teenagers (on their way to Sicily) [...]. You should see them in Sperlonga... they’re literally crazy about the place: they can’t get their heads around the physical and actual reality of being in these narrow streets, the white casbah, with incredible views of the sea at sunset [...]”. Sperlonga is listed as one of Italy’s Most Beautiful Villages. It lies on the famous Ulysses Riviera in the province of Latina, which runs from San Felice Circeo to Gaeta, where the hero of the Odyssey is said to have visited, lured by the sorceress Circe.

The golden sandy beach and the village of Sperlonga

Today the village’s soul still lies in its maze of narrow streets, its staircases and its whitewashed houses,which give it an exquisitely Mediterranean flavour and, since the 50s, have won the hearts of world-famous writers, artists and intellectuals. “When I walk the streets that are so familiar to me, I see again the people I used to meet in the mid-seventies”, says Saverio Ferragina, a well-known press agent for prominent figures in the film world and a native of Sperlonga. “Louis Waldon, one of Andy Warhol’s favourite actors, with his retinue of famous artists, writers and jazz musicians, including Steve Lacy, Giovanni Tommaso, Gerard Malanga, Nico, Joe Dallesandro, Paul Morrissey, Gisela and John Paul Getty III and Warhol himself, frequent visitors at the restaurant he opened in Via Madonnella. Or the legendary Raf Vallone, among the first to discover Sperlonga while he was filming No Peace Under the Olive Tree, directed by  Giuseppe De Santis. Not forgetting the great director Luchino Visconti, whose sister Uberta lived near Lago Lungo: there’s a wonderful photo of him with his nephew Giovanni and niece Anna Gastel on the beach at Sperlonga”.

But what makes this seafaring town truly memorable is the Cave of Tiberius, which also contains a swimming pool belonging to Tiberius’ Villa, discovered in the late 50s and one of many built for the Roman emperor in pleasant places by the sea, such as Capri.

“A route I’d recommend runs from the port up the narrow streets to Via Madonnella and from there to the Piazzetta”, Saverio continues; “from here you can go back down towards the beach, and walk along the shore to the Archeological Museum, which I’m very fond of, because my father worked there”. The museum, which along with the Villa and the Cave, makes a fascinating joint attraction, contains some extraordinary finds from the 1st century AD (original Greek artefacts from the Hellenistic period) unearthed in the Villa of Tiberius, including the large sculptures of well-muscled figures inspired by the adventures of Homer’s hero, which originally adorned the emperor’s cave. This series of sculptures is known as the Marble Odyssey and includes Ulysses in the act of blinding Polyphemus, the famous head of Ulysses and the Scylla group, the most impressive ever created on the subject and the most complex group of antiquity.

Torre Truglia (ph. Riccardo De Simone)

Here, where legend blends with crystal-clear water, idyllic surroundings and a sense of privacy that’s hard to find in other parts of the Ulysses Riviera, beach and sea are undoubtedly a source of pride. “My favourite beach is the free  Ponente beach or the Lido da Rocco, a long-established and well-equipped beach club”, says Ferragina, “but my advice is to hire a boat at the port and follow the coastline down to Gaeta, exploring the inlets and coves. In the evening, sunset from the Truglia Tower is absolutely magical. On the horizon you can see Cape Circeo and the islands of Ponza and Palamarola”. For shopping, we recommend Artigianstrame Casalé in Piazza della Rimembranza for hats, bags and baskets woven from straw for five generations, and Soscia in Corso San Leone, a historic grocer’s shop opened in 1925 where you can stock up on buffalo mozzarella, bread cooked in the wood oven, tielle (stuffed pizza) and Gaeta olives. For aperitifs the place to be is Civico 29, an exclusive cocktail bar suspended between sea and sky. Lunch at the central Archi, at Via Ottaviano, 17: tagliolini with baby octopus, courgette flowers filled with ricotta and anchovies. Dine at the Ristorante Amyclae - da Antonio at Via Cristoforo Colombo 473: right on the beach, with stunning views and the freshest fish.


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