Posted on September 20, 2013

Gatti di Roma, The Cats of Rome

Current Affairs/ Italy/ Romantique/ Travel
A black feline soft paw chiling in the evening at Largo Argentina

A black feline soft paw chiling in the evenign at Largo Argentina

 

Rome is just an incredible city. Strolling through the heart of the city, every corner could be taken from a post card scene. From baroque churches to ancient archaeological sites; every building is a feast for the eyes.

Even more fascinating than the opulent buildings is the strong bond the ancient city has with cats. Yes, cats! During our trip, we stumbled upon a colony of 200 cats (!!) living at the ancient site of Torre Argentina, where Julius Cesar was once stabbed by Brutus. The cats live in a shelter which is publicly protected. Italy is a no-kill nation, meaning no healthy stray cat is allowed to be put down. The cats of Rome, Gatti di Roma, are a well known tourist magnet and decorate lots of calendars you can buy around the city. All together more than 260,000 stray cats live in Rome in over 2,000 colonies. Rome’s city council even declared cats as part of the Roman bicultural heritage.

Largo Argentina Roma

Why do cats have such a special place in Roman culture? Apparently, it all dates back to the bubonic plague. The cat population in Italy kept the disease carrying rats in check, avoiding Italy’s population to succumb to the disease, unlike the rest of Europe. When the Italian Catholic church started to chase and hunt down cats in the 1300s, there were not enough cats anymore to chase rats and disease spread rapidly across the country.

Largo Agentina Rome

Today, organised volunteers and the neighbourhood “gattare”(=cat ladies who feed cats) look after Rome’s felines. The most famous gattare was Italian movie star Anna Magnani, known for feeding the stray cats of Trastevere with pots of pasta.

Anna Magnani with one of her cats

Anna Magnani with one of her cats

 

So on your next trip to Rome, look out for the cats of Torre Argentina, the Colosseum and the garden of Trajan. Beautiful animals majestically perching on marble columns, looming over Italy’s ancient cultural treasures. What a sight!

Gatti di Roma Largo Argentina

 

 

 

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  • Reply Happy Blog Birthday! 3 Years of Romantique and Rebel | Romantique and Rebel April 27, 2014 at 11:49 am

    […] Cats rule the internet: One of our most popular post has been about the cats of Rome, Gatti di Roma […]

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