In the province of Latina, San Felice Circeo is nestled in the middle of the Circeo promontory, surrounded by the Parco Nazionale del Circeo. Documented in Homer's Odyssey as home of the sorceress Circe, the woman who turned Odysseus's men into pigs, while the spells of the witch had no effect on their leader, thanks a special grass antidote Moly, suggested to him by Hermes, which grows spontaneously on the headland.
Beyond the legend, what is certain is that the area was inhabited since ancient times, as attested by the finds unearthed during the XX century by Professor Alberto Carlo Blanc, during his archaeological expeditions in the sea caves located on the southern side of the promontory. Here was also unearthed the skull of a Neanderthal man, jaws, tools and equipment, remains of food and traces of fire. Around 1000 B.C. the Etruscans settled here, later defeated and colonized by the Volsci. It became the commercial port of the Focei, a population of Greek origins, that settled in the colonies of Magna Graecia and Sicily and were probably responsible for the spread of the legend of the sorceress Circe. Occupied by the Romans in 393 B.C., the colony tried several times to rebel against the control of the Empire, suffering, for those reasons, tough losses and repercussions. In Imperial times the area of Torre Paola became the center of all activities, as well as the privileged place for the construction of residential villas, accessible by Via Severiana, built by Septimius Severus in the III century A.D. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the area submitted a dark period, characterized by continuous raids of Saracen pirates. In 1100 it passed into the hands of the Frangipane and in 1240 Pope Gregory IX assigned the Rocca Circeii to the Templars, to defend it against the attacks of Saracen pirates. In the Middle Ages the town, proclaimed fief, belonged to the Annibaldi, the Caetani, the Ruspoli and the Orsini, until it was sold to the Reverenda Camera Apostolica, whose domain continued until the unification of Italy in 1870, except for the brief period of rule of Prince Stanislaus Poniatowsky.
Sites of Interest:
- the charming Old Town centre, typically medieval, situated on a natural terrace at 100 meters above sea level;
- the polygonal fortified walls dating from the VI century B.C.;
- the Acropolis (III century B.C.), the last bastion of defense of the city of the Circeii;
- the caves in which Professor Blanc brought to light interesting prehistoric remains, demonstrating not only the human presence in these areas since ancient times, but also those of animals similar to rhinos, hippos and elephants . Particularly famous are: the Cave of Goats, Grotta Guattari, Grotta del Fossellone, Grotta Breuil and Riparo (shelter) Blanc;
- the Templar's Watchtower, built between 1240 and 1259 by the Knights during their stay on the mainland, to defend these areas from the continuous Saracen raids;
- the Baron's Palace, built in the XIV century by the Caetani family. Inside, the rooms are embellished with splendid XIX century frescoes;
- the Papal Towers, which were built along the coast to defend the population against the pirates (Torre Paola, the Moorish Tower, Torre Cervia, Torre Fico, Torre Vittoria e Torre Olevola);
- the Lighthouse of Cape Circeo, built in 1866 by Pope Pius IX;
- the Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Sorresca on the shores of Lake Paola;
- the Church of San Felice Martire;
- the Church of St. Francis of Assisi;
- the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli;
- the Church of the Immaculate Conception;
- the Church of Our Lady of Mercy.