Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The feral cats of Rome … Torre Argentina

In 2001 my late friend Douglas and I spent one month in Italy. We wrapped up our last three days in Rome. We had enjoyed four days there at the beginning of our adventure so I figured there wasn’t much left that we hadn’t seen.

How wrong I was. Douglas remembered an interesting spot from a past visit and we headed toward Torre Argentina. This is considered a sacred area and it was excavated in 1929. It is the very place where Caesar was murdered in 44 BC.

It felt so strange to see this immense below-ground area containing authentic parts of Rome’s earliest temples. Gazing from above you get the feeling that history is playing out before your eyes.

The public is not allowed into the ruins so I was a little shocked to see movement in the shadows below. Then it occurred to me…these were the feral cats of Rome. They live in the cave-like excavations under the streets. For years they were fed and protected by the “gattare”, the most famous of which was the Italian film star Anna Magnani.

Now, since the mid 90’s, the Torre Argentina has become an official Cat Sanctuary. It is a no-kill shelter and is literally over-run with homeless cats lounging on the ancient ruins. Volunteers feed, spay, neuter and protect the cats but I noticed that the ordinary citizens passing by seemed to show little interest.

You would think that the people of Rome could at least thank the cats for keeping the rodents at bay ... but I guess the cats have the last laugh ... they may bask in ancient temples, but, unlike Caesar, they won‘t be killed.


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

That's a pretty witty conclusion, Ginny.

6:28 AM  
Blogger kenju said...

They should be lauded for keeping rodents at bay!

I remember hearing that there are many cats at the Colisseum, but we didn't see any.

8:32 AM  
Blogger Syd said...

I'm glad that they won't be killed but hope that they get fed and have some modicum of care. Neat photos.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Chancy said...

Interesting post about the cats. These animals seem to have a built in survival gene.

9 lives

12:57 PM  
Blogger KGMom said...

Ginnie--while we did not visit the site you write of, we did see Rome. And we saw lots of cats roaming around. Now reading your post I suspect some of these may have been feral.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Pam said...

I saw something about these cats on television, and now I have it first-hand. You have the best stories!

Your post about the Jergens advertisement is not only interesting, it brought back the memory of the smell of Jergens lotion. It was a bit of a rush since smells always bring back a flood of memories.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

What an interesting place. It made me think of my homely spinster latin teacher year ago. She would have loved that spot for she was in love with Julius Caesar, the only true love in her life for which she made up all kind of excuses to place him in a good historical light.

Another intesting thing about her was her praise of her brother who was the youngest member and least appreciated of the medical team that developed insulin. Banting. Best, and Collip (the brother) and Macleod, who horned in on the praise because he supplied their lab space. Miss Collip told everyone about her much under appreciated brother.

8:20 AM  
Blogger Crayons said...

Well-written piece. You tie together the majestic with the mundane. I feel like I read it on your blog several years ago, but I'm not sure. It reminds me of the cats in Seville.

9:49 AM  

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