The Eternal City boasts an ancient love for cats that goes back to Imperial Rome, when cats were considered to be a pet and a loyal companion of the earthly life and the afterlife. Many names and surnames in ancient Rome derived from the Latin word “cat” and the worship of the goddess Isis (patron of all animals and especially of the feline par excellence) to whom temples were dedicated in every city of the Empire, helped to strengthen the love for the cat as a sacred and very important animal. Over the years even poems were dedicated to Rome’s cats, such as the Roman poet’s Trilussa’s poems.
Even today Rome devotes great care and attention to its feline inhabitants and walking around the city, from the centre to the suburbs, you will meet various cats colonies, protected, supported and cared for by citizens and sensitive animal lovers.
The largest and perhaps most famous colony is the one located in the striking excavations of Largo di Torre Argentina, a sacred area with a thousands-year old history where the Theatre and the ancient Curia of Pompey were found and where it is believed Julius Ceaser died by the hand of Brutus and the other conspirators.
Immersed in the ruins of ancient temples, a large colony of cats slowly developed over the years: it is in fact since 1929 (year in which the ruins of Largo di Torre Argentina were brought to light) that the strays of the capital have begun to find shelter among the ancient temples and many Romans developed the habit of bringing here abandoned cats. The “gattare” and “gattari” of Rome, citizens with a passion for these wonderful cats, take care of them and willingly devote them their time and attention.
Another charming place where you can find cats, protected and cared for by dedicated and available volunteers, is the Protestant Cemetery or English Cemetery located near the Pyramid of Cestius in the Testaccio district. A magical and perhaps little known place of the Capital, that houses, among others, the tombs of great poets such as John Keats, Percy Shelley, Antonio Gramsci, and one of Goethe’s five children.
It is definitely a place to visit for its spectacular view of the pyramid, some wonderful sculptures and the silence that pervades it. Walking among the famous and less famous graves, you will meet all sorts of different cats; chubby, clean and with very different colours and at the entrance of the cemetery you can also make an offer to support them.
Besides the cats of the Pyramid and the ones of Largo Argentina there is also a small feline colony in the gardens of Piazza Vittorio, which houses the “magical door”, another must-see destination for those who are truly curious of the Capital’s hidden treasures. Walking around the city you will most certainly encounter cats dozing on the most suggestive monuments and ruins, adding an even more fascinating touch to the treasures of Rome.