Have you heard about this Roman cat sanctuary where the cats live at ancient ruins? After I learned about this place, I instantly added it to our Rome itinerary (and near the top of the list, I might add). Justin and I love cats and I think it’s so interesting that a cat rescue center like this exists at such a historical site.
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We both proudly support cat sanctuaries and adoption centers. After all, our two cats are both rescued cats that we adopted from shelters at home in Ontario, Canada. There are so many stray cats, both at home and around the world, that it’s best to “adopt, not shop”. We wholeheartedly appreciate the tireless efforts of those who operate animal shelters as they are primarily run by volunteers.
Although we weren’t looking to adopt any Italian cats that day, I knew that we had to pay a visit to Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary. I was happy to interact with the kitties, but I also felt that it was a great opportunity to donate to this wonderful cause in person. When we arrived at Largo di Torre Argentina, we discovered an entirely unique and even cooler place than we originally imagined.
Where History and Cats Unite
It’s the best place to see cats in Rome. However, it’s also an ancient archaeological marvel. In the middle of a busy city intersection lies some of the 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.
Even though this place sounds like an amazing historical wonder, it isn’t a 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 at any time. However, you aren’t permitted to enter the site of the remains down below at all. But, you might also catch a glimpse of the only inhabitants of the temple…CATS!
A Short History of Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary
Ever since this ancient site was excavated, feral 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 these feral cats in Rome.
Those operating this cat sanctuary in Rome do not own the land around Largo di Torre Argentina. They are squatting on the land, taking care of the animals. Unfortunately, this has meant threats of eviction by the Archaeological Department and authorities. Fortunately, the owners of the cat sanctuary have fought the 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 these abandoned cats in Rome.
Visiting the Largo di Torre Argentina Cats
Do you want to meet the local residents of Largo di Torre Argentina? There’s a visitor area at one corner of the ancient ruins where you can meet some of the cats. Many cats live there and they’re 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, you should consider volunteering there.
To give you an idea of how many cats Largo di Torre Argentina assists, here are the statistics from 2017 (the last available stats on their official website): 4923 neuterings, 310 new cats, and 92 adoptions at forever homes. As you can see, this Roman cat sanctuary does a whole lot of good for the animals.
Inside the Cat Sanctuary and Gift Shop
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 are also several tables with cat-themed merchandise, where every purchase benefits the Torre Argentina cats. 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 monetary donation.
Cats With Special Needs
Beyond the main room, visitors are encouraged to enter an isolated secondary room. Only a certain amount of people can enter at a time. The cats who live in this room have special needs or recently had operations. Most of the cats were able to freely walk 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’s a good idea to give some of them their personal space, particularly if they’re 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 this Roman 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 were all so peaceful and happy.
As we walked back up to street level and wandered around the perimeter of the square, we kept searching for cats down below. We pointed them out to one another and noticed many other people doing the same. It wasn’t only the cats that were feeling joyful – those frequenting this part of the city were excited to see the cats, too. The cats have certainly brought their own character to these Roman ruins, making them quite the destination for history lovers and animal lovers.
Cat Adoption at Largo di Torre Argentina
Thinking about adopting a cat in Rome? While I am sure that there are many needy cats living in your own hometown, it’s possible that you might fall in love with one in Rome. You can learn about the adoption procedures when you visit. You’ll need to fill out a pre-adoption form and have a short interview. It will take up to three days to learn if you are able to adopt the cat.
If you’re only spending a few days in Rome, I don’t think that this will be suitable for you. But, if you’re spending a long amount of time in Rome and you visit the cats a number of times, forming a special connection with one of them…perhaps you’ll want to adopt one! If you’d like to extend your support from afar, they do offer long distance cat adoptions where you’ll sponsor a furry friend monthly.
Update: Visiting the Largo di Torre Argentina Ruins
Justin and I traveled to this Roman cat sanctuary back in June 2015. I learned that the previously inaccessible Largo di Torre Argentina ruins (where only the cats live) is in the process of being restored. Fashion house Bulgari put $1.1 million towards the restoration project.
This means that there will be pathways for tourists to walk and explore the site at the ground level. There’s potentially going to be lighting installed for evening visits. Furthermore, there may be a small museum with archaeological findings. This project has a rough opening date set for 2021. I’d love to return to Italy once it’s all complete to visit for myself.
What does this mean for the cats? Don’t worry! The cats are in safe hands. The Roman cat sanctuary is located at one corner of the ancient ruins, and there is a ten foot wall separating the sanctuary from the rest of the site. The restoration work will not affect the cat shelter at all, and the Torre Argentina cat sanctuary will run and operate as usual.
Largo di Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary is located Largo di Torre Argentina, at the corner of Via Florida and Via di Torre Argentina. You can see the cats at any point in time if you walk down the adjacent city streets and glance down into the Roman ruins.
However, if you’d like a proper visit to see the cats inside the building, as well as visit their gift shop, this cat sanctuary has set hours. It’s open from Monday to Friday from 12:00 to 18:00. On weekends, you can visit this cat rescue center from 11:00 to 19:00.
More Things to Do in Rome
Are you looking for more things to do in Rome? Well, you won’t want to miss taking a tour of the Colosseum. It’s also a good idea to discover what lies beneath the surface in Rome. Much like the excavated ruins at Largo di Torre Argentina, you’ll quickly realize that Rome is a city of layers. There’s so much to explore underneath the modern city. That’s why you need to check out this underground tour of Rome for its crypts and catacombs.
Of course, some of the most famous places in Italy are right in the city of Rome. As for where to stay, I highly recommend staying in the neighborhood of Trastevere. It’s right down the street from Largo di Torre Argentina Roman cat sanctuary. You’ll likely walk past the cat rescue several times if you stay in Trastevere. This district in Rome has a distinct feel to it, and I am guaranteed you’ll love its atmosphere and authentic restaurants. We suggest staying at the cozy B&B called Zen Trastevere.
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If you are a cat lover, you must pay a visit to Torre Argentina cat sanctuary. It’s a truly unique place that is unlike any other. I’m not sure if there are any other places in the world where cats live among ancient ruins and structures. Even if there are, I am unsure if there’s a similar place where a cat sanctuary exists where the cats receive fabulous care.