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Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary – where cats roam among the ruins in Rome.
We both proudly support cat sanctuaries and adoption centres. After all, our two cats, Chickpea and Peanut are both rescued cats that we adopted from shelters in Ontario. We wholeheartedly appreciate the tireless efforts of those who operate animal shelters as they are primarily run by volunteers. Though we wouldn’t be adopting any cats from Rome, we thought it would be a fun outing to visit the Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary. Not only would we be able to interact with some kitties, but we could donate to a great cause.
When we arrived, we discovered an entirely unique and even cooler place than we originally imagined.
Where History and Cats Unite
Not only is it a cat sanctuary, but it also happens to be an ancient archaeological marvel. In the middle of a busy city intersection lies some remnants of ancient Roman civilization, barely unearthed. Located twenty feet below the modern city surface, Largo di Torre Argentina hosts four Republican Roman temples and the remains of Pompey’s Theatre. It is widely believed that the famous dictator, Julius Caesar was assassinated in this square back in 44 BC.
After Italian unification, this site was originally going to be torn down. However, during the demolition process, the giant arms and head of a marble statue were discovered. The site was declared a holy area and was preserved from destruction.
With that said, it definitely isn’t a typical tourist attraction by any means. Anyone can walk around the perimeter of Largo di Torre Argentina from above and look down into the site for free, and at any time. And if you’re walking around, you might catch a glimpse of the only inhabitants of the temple…
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Visiting the Cats
Guests are welcome to walk down into a visitor area to meet the residents of Torre Argentina. Approximately 250 cats live there and many are up for adoption. If you happen to fall in love with a cat at the sanctuary, you might be able to give him a loving home back in your own country. Unfortunately, we were only in Rome for four days, but travelers can even apply to volunteer at the shelter. If you love cats and want to support a great cause, it might be something to consider!
Ever since this ancient site was excavated, cats have lived there. Stray and abandoned cats took shelter in the ruins where they could be protected from the elements. Cat lovers, predominantly women, regularly visited the site to feed and take care of the cats since 1929. The shelter officially began in 1993 when desperately needed funds were raised to vaccinate, provide medical care, and spay/neuter the cats.
However, those who operate the cat sanctuary do not own the land around Largo di Torre Argentina. They are actually squatting on the land, taking care of the animals. Unfortunately, this has meant threats of eviction by the Archaeological Department and authorities in recent years. Fortunately, the owners of the cat sanctuary have been able to fight eviction notices so far. Thankfully, the law enforcement officers have acknowledged the important work that is done to help the lives of animals here. Furthermore, Torre Argentina collected 30,000 signatures for a petition in 2012 from who wanted the shelter to remain open. It is a constant battle, but I’m glad that they are able to do such valuable work to protect and care for the abandoned cats of Rome.
We walked down some steps into the only spot in the ruins where pedestrians are allowed. It is sectioned off from the ruins themselves, though the cats are free to come and go. Inside the main building, we immediately saw several cats enjoying some pets and scratches from visitors. Some of the cats were having a meal or a drink of water. There were also several tables with cat-themed merchandise, where everything sold benefited the cat sanctuary. Of course, you are free to make a cash donation as well. I definitely encourage you to buy some souvenirs for your cat loving friends or make a small monetary donation.
Cats With Special Needs
Beyond the main room, visitors were encouraged to enter an isolated secondary room. Only a certain amount of people could enter at a time. The cats who stayed in this room were those with special needs or those who had recently had operations. Most of the cats were able to spend time freely walking around this area, though some had to be kept in their own space. Many cats here were recovering from surgeries or procedures, and they were resting in the many cat beds scattered all around. Some of the cats had amputated tails or ears that were frost-bitten or damaged while living outdoors. Though lots of the cats here were friendly and loved the attention, it was a good idea to give some of them their personal space, particularly if they were in recovery.
One of the sweetest cats was a white cat with two amputated ears. He was constantly rubbing up against my legs and wanted lots of attention. He appeared to be very thankful for the love and care that he was receiving at the cat sanctuary.
Finding Cats by the Ruins
Justin and I walked back outside and there were many kitties lounging around the front doors. Lots were enjoying an afternoon catnap, most likely resting after a meal. They all seemed so peaceful and happy. As we walked back up to street level and wandered around the perimeter of the square, we were searching for cats down below. We kept pointing them out to one another and noticed many other people doing the same. It wasn’t only the cats that were joyful – those frequenting this part of the city were finding great joy as well. The cats have certainly brought their own character to these Roman ruins, making them quite the destination for history lovers and animal lovers.
Please enjoy our small gallery of cat photos and see if you can spot all of the cats living in the ruins!
Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary is located Largo di Torre Argentina, at the corner of Via Florida and Via di Torre Argentina. The sanctuary is open every day from noon until 6:00pm, though you’re welcome to stroll past any other time to catch some glimpses of the cats that are roaming around.
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