Sperlonga

Province of Latina, Latium, Italy

Country:
Region:
Province:
Municipality:
Sperlonga
Population:
3 334

About Sperlonga

Sperlonga (locally Spelonghe) is a coastal city in the province of Latina, in Italy, about halfway between Rome and Naples. It is known above all for the ancient Roman cave on the sea discovered in the park of the Villa of Tiberius containing the important and spectacular sculptures of Sperlonga, which are exhibited in a museum on the site.

The surrounding towns include Terracina to the west, Fondi to the north, Itri to the northeast and Gaeta to the east.

History

Located near the Via Appia, but also on the edge of the Pontine Marshes, the Roman Spelunca (Latin for cave or cave) was originally known only for the cave on the coast, from which it takes its name. Here a republican villa was built and later owned by the emperor Tiberius, including the cave. The Grotto was embellished by Tiberius in a magnificent triclinium, mentioned by ancient writers, and with the famous exquisite sculptures that were discovered in situ.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, in the 6th century, the ruins of the imperial residence served as a refuge for the local population. Subsequently the population began to move to the nearby promontory of San Magnus, to escape the unhealthy swamps and Saracen attacks. The danger represented by the Saracens is made evident by the presence of numerous sighting towers along the coast up to Gaeta. In 1534 the small town was destroyed by the Ottoman fleet under Barbarossa.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Sperlonga recovered and acquired some noble residences and agriculture flourished. However, the tourist expansion occurred only after the opening of the Terracina-Gaeta coastal road (also known as Via Flacca) in 1957, whose building led to the discovery of the sculptures in the cave.

Villa of Tiberius

The main cultural attraction of Sperlonga is the museum erected on the grounds of the former Villa of Tiberius which shows the groups of sculptures found in the cave that celebrates the deeds of Ulysses. According to Tacitus and Suetonius, the roof of the cave collapsed while Tiberius was having dinner, and Seiano rushed to save Tiberius, for whom Tiberius in gratitude promoted him, launching his rise to power. Tiberius moved to Capri after 26 A.D.

The villa included a cave where some sculptures were found, now housed in the museum: these depicted Scilla's assault on the ship of Ulysses, the blinding of Polyphemus, the theft of Palladio and Ulysses who raised Achilles' corpse. The works have been attributed to the Rodian sculptors Agesandro, Athenedoros and Polydoros, and are believed to be the same authors as the group of "Laocoon and his sons" (as attributed by Pliny the Elder). However, it is questionable whether the artists themselves are responsible. Some scholars believe that they are connected, but not the same people; apart from Athenedoros (II) who was the last to be credited as an artist in the Laocoonte group, but who was first credited with the Scilla series - suggesting that he was the youngest during the creation of the Laocoonte group, but the oldest artist who worked on the Scilla group. Furthermore, the differentiation in "classicism" between the two series of works implies that one preceded the other with separation, and therefore that not all the artists were the same people, but descendants.

Other attractions

The oldest church is that of Santa Maria (early 12th century), currently used for cultural events and shows: it houses some medieval mosaics discovered during the last restorations.

Sperlonga is mainly a tourist city thanks to its beaches, a long beach on the west side that reaches up to Terracina and a series of short beaches and rocky cliffs on the east side towards Gaeta.

Transport

The main connection is by road from Terracina and Gaeta. The closest railway station is the Fondi-Sperlonga station, on one of the two main Rome-Naples lines (the one that passes through Formia).

Twin cities

Aubière, France

Source: Wikipedia
Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sperlonga