The National Park of Circeo is one hour far from Rome and two hours from Naples. It’s a natural area spread with typical villages and ruins from the past centuries, a land where the Greek myths cross the ages of history. The park is surrounded by the villages of San Felice Circeo (in the pic under) Fogliano and the rationalist Sabaudia, it looks out on the Tyrrhenian Sea and a wide forest where you can find deers, foxes and oars wraps it. This is the Eden where the Witch Circe used to pick up the men then turned them into pigs. This area became her place although she could aim for the Olympus. From Sperlonga, the village where the Emperor Tiberius loved to retreat, the ridge of Circeo looks like an island, actually the ancient Eea, a land of ancient myths, a landing for the Saracens, a shelter for the Templars, the land estate of the noble Caetani, a papal stronghold and a paradise for bird-watching nowadays.
A park for all seasons
It was founded in the 1930s in order to protect the eco-system of the Pontine Marches. It was acknowledged as a "reserve of biosphere" by Unesco in 1997 because of the variety of the eco-systems and species that can be found there together with its villages so it’s an ideal destination to be visited throughout the whole year: you can go for nice walks, you can go cycling, you can go horse-riding, you can do canoeing, you can go sailing. There are tracks where you can walk and admire the nature all around but you can also lay in the sun on the sandy beaches or you can swim into the caves along the coastline and you can explore the reeds that surround the humid areas. The road between the humid areas and the village of Sabaudia is particularly charming, it is a sandy area where the coast lakes and the sea waves share this land which is strongly protected by the lush bushes of the Mediterranean vegetation that side the street up to the bottom of Mount Circe. The landscape is unique here: the sea surrounds the ridge and looks out on the Gaeta Gulf, on the Pontine Islands and the seashore of Astura, dominated by the tower that takes its name.
A park, a mosaic
Let your thoughts fly while you are walking along one of the tracks that cover the 21 kilometres, explore the natural environment belonging to this chest of biodiversity. You can go through the Mediterranean vegetation and the several ridge’s caves or explore the huge coast dunes (on some spots they are 30 metres high) that stretch up to Capo Portiere and burst out in a jubilation of colours and blossoms in Spring or you can reach the reefs of the Zannone Island that is overlooked by the ruins of the Abbey of Santa Maria and Santo Spirito. The four surrounding lakes (Paola, dei Monaci, Fogliano and Caprolace) and the nearby humid areas are a shelter for more than 260 different species of birds in Spring among which the mallards, the herons, the storks and the flamingos. Binoculars is all you need to be overcome by emotions. The forest is filled with pine trees, holm oaks, cork oaks and what it remains from the ancient Forest of Terracina.
Circeo and the places of history
Thousands of years of myths and history mix up in the area of Circeo starting with the several caves that are spread all around, natural shelters in ancient times (a skull dated back to the Neanderthal Age was discovered into the Guattari cave) that make this area an amazing natural archaeological park to visit slowly to sense the charm of the past. Going up from Torre Paola that was used to protect the village of Sabaudia you can see the Cyclopean walls of the Acropolis that dates back to the IIIth B.C. and the foundations of the Ara di Circe (the wall of Circe) dating back to the IVth century B.C. The area around Lake Paola is particularly interesting, the Roman Centurions, the rich Patrician families and even the Emperors used to love it. Along the lake’s shores you can also see the villa that belonged to Domiziano (Ist century A.D.), an imperial Domus with the thermal baths and awesome reservoirs and the amazing Lucullo’s fish pond together with the stunning engineering Roman work of the harbour-channel of Paola.
The tasting park
There are numerous hotels, farmhouses, campsites and restaurants that are located within the Park perimeter and in neighboring areas. The days in the open air in the Parco del Circeo invite you to indulge in the pleasures of good food which, in this borderland between Lazio and Campania, can be particularly delicious, such as buffalo bresaola, obtained from the fine cuts of buffalo meat with the which in the area are also prepared sausages, coppietta, speck and carpacci sometimes accompanied by a particular lemon caviar (Finger Lime) and by oils of absolute quality. In the area of the Park there is no lack of oysters, mussels and clams raised locally. Among the wines, the protagonist is first of all the Circeo Doc, now also organic, from Borgo Grappa, followed by several fresh and fragrant local wines, to pair with mozzarella and scamorza of buffalo milk (traditional agri-food product and DOP) or a soup of Circeo fish.