Gaeta is one of the most beautiful cities in the southern Italy Lazio region, but you won't find it in many guidebooks. That is largely because Gaeta lacks only one thing - a train station. In spite of this, it is an extremely popular summertime destination because of its seven fabulous beaches. Locals and Italians from all over Italy flock to these beaches to soak up the sun and watch surfing events.
Whenever you visit, you'll find plenty to do, from hiking Monte Orlando and seeing ancient ruins to wandering the old, narrow streets to shop and eat. Visiting Gaeta is a great way to get a feel for the best of southern Italy - great food, friendly locals and a sense of history that ties everything together.
Modern Gaeta is a fishing and oil seaport, a renowned tourist resort and NATO has its naval operations base at Gaeta.
Gaeta is strategically located on Italy's west coast about 58 miles north of Naples right on the coast, on the peninsula that juts into the Tyrhennian Sea. It is one of the southern most cities, surrounding Rome in the Lazio region.
By virtue of its location, Gaeta has played a conspicuous part in military history with fortifications dating back to Roman times. Significantly, a first century mausoleum of the Roman general Lucius Munatius Plancus tops the Monte Orlando town.
Travel to Gaeta
The nearest train station is in Formia which can be reached from Rome and Naples. Inside Gaeta, there are buses running downtown to famous beaches of Gaeta. Driving is another good alternative except during August, when beach goers travel from Naples in droves. Taxis ply to old city and Monte Orlando. Gaeta can be seen in two distinct parts a historic quarter and a modern quarter. You can choose to walk around or even ride a bicycle to catch the local flavor.
Eating in Gaeta
Delicious seafood cuisine is Gaeta's specialty. Fish and shellfish delicacies are famous in this part of the world. Gaeta olives are world renowned while 'Tiella di Gaeta' is an interesting local dish here stuffed with seafood, vegetables or diced calamari with parsley, garlic, hot pepper and tomato juice or even sausage and ham.
International travelers can be content with pizzas, which are quite popular here and most pizzerias are open at night, the day being too hot to fire up the pizza oven.
The local belief here is that Gaeta's patron saint Sant' Erasmo, protects the sailors and fishermen. June 2 is celebrated as his feast day. Fireworks and celebrations mark the day. Pilgrims flock to the Holy Trinity Sanctuary on Monte Orlando on Easter Monday and the festival season gets on with Pasquetta. Local musical bands and fireworks trigger the arrival of the New Year when the whole coast stays sparkled fireworks are lit south all along the beaches, a visual delight indeed!
Gaeta beaches are extremely popular. Known for its seaside resorts, Gaeta's climate is warm and rain-free during summers and this attracts numerous tourists to its coastline such as Serapo and Sant Agostino Beaches. Serapo Beach is the closest downtown and hence seems to attract many tourists. Surfers however prefer Sant' Agostino Beach which is north of town.
Other than its beaches, the prominent hill, Monte Orlando with its nature park is a tourist destination.
Aragonese- Angevine Castle: Aragonese- Angevine Castle is awesome. Built about the 6th century, the current structure is made of two edifices the Angevine or the lower sector and the Aragonese or the top sector. While Angevine was built during the rule of the House of Anjou in the Kingdom of Naples, Aragonese was built by Emperor Charles V. In present times, the Gaeta municipality uses Angevine for its conferences and exhibitions. The tallest tower, Royal Chapel, built by King Ferdinand II rests in the dome.
A cylindrical travertine monument at the top of Monte Orlando is the Mausoleum Lucius Munatius Plancus, dating back to 22 BC.
Mausoleum of Lucius Munatius Plancus: Find atop the Mount Orlando, a cylindrical tomb to the Roman senator Lucius Munatius Plancus. The split mountain Montagna Spaccata on Monte Orlando is a viewer's delight. The cliffs overlooking the sea are split from top to bottom. The legend goes that the mountain cleaved into two at the moment Christ died on Calvary.
Historical records draw reference to the visit of St Francis and St Philip Neri to the sanctuary of SS Trinita, dating back to the 11th century. The sanctuary leads to Grotta del Turco which in turn ends directly into the sea. A large church built by Frederick II is in fine Gothic-Italian style and contains paintings and sculptures by famous Neapolitan artists.
Church of Annuziata: The church of Annuziata houses celebrity works by Luca Giordana, Giacinto Brandi and Sebastiano Conca. The Renaissance room Golden Grotto is from where Pope Pius IX used to meditate before issuing the dogma of Papal infallibility.
During the Italian vacation period, in the month of August, Gaeta is overcrowded. The traveler would do well to stroll along Gaeta's old city which has something to offer everyone. It is here that fisher folk ply their trade. Stroll to the Romanesque bell tower, and take a look at the blocks and carvings on them. And further down to a gelato at II Molo or El Tiburon at the farthest end of the old city.
The Mediaeval Pronoas with their ancient fragments and animal figures, Santa Lucia the parish church, the Royal chapel St Maria in Pensulis and the Medieval Quarter of Gaeta with their steep sides and characteristic houses from the 11-13th centuries ... are some of the must-visit sights at Gaeta.
It was in 1967 that NATO established its naval base in Gaeta. It is the current home port for the flagship of the United Nations Sixth Fleet. There are nine ships stationed in Gaeta, which host the families of the crews who work in the ships. Originally located on Monte Orlando, overlooking the Gulf of Gaeta, the NATO base is presently at a shore-based facility where the Commander Sixth Fleet operates.