These Roman Ruins Are the Cat's Meow – Literally

If you love cats and find yourself in Rome, get yourself here

Roman Cat Sanctuary
Andrea Schaffer via Flickr

If you've been on the Internet at all the past few years, you've heard of Tashirojima, a Japanese island where, for a number of reasons, cat's outnumber people. If you know anything about Japan, however, this won't surprise you – Japan's also home to a its own rabbit island and fox forest, so an island full of cats is far from bizarre. If you head west to Rome, where one particular set of ruins boasts almost as many cats as Tashirojima, the sky-high feline population seems just a bit stranger: Welcome to Torre Argentina.

What's the Story of Torre Argentina?

Officially known as Largo di Torre Argentina, this site began attracting felines as early as 1929, which is when the Mussolini first excavated it in its attempt to rebuild Italy. It's not clear why cats flock here. Some believe it's was simply because the unearthed ruins provided a place for them to take refuge, without new construction or the humans that accompany it.

Some, however, believe there is a connection between the murder of Julius Caesar (which occurred among these ruins at the Theater of Pompey) and the arrival of cats here, although no one has ever established a substantive link between these events, other than both being rather bizarre. Perhaps Caesar had a particular affinity for cats? Who knows.

How Many Cats are at Torre Argentina?

The precise number of cats at Torre Argentina is unclear. When volunteers first arrived to begin caring for the cats in the mid 1990s, they counted just under 100 cats at any given time, though some cats were undoubtedly hiding.

These days, estimates put the number of cats around 250, although you might count more, depending on the day you visit.

Locals describe many of of the volunteers as "cat ladies," single, older women who devote their lives to unwanted felines. In addition to feeding the cats and providing them with company, however, the cat ladies of Torre Argentina facilitate medical care, including costly spay and neuter services, so this is definitely no laughing matter.

How to Visit Torre Argentina

Torre Argentina is right in the heart of Rome, which makes it an easy place to visit, no matter which Rome hotel you call home during your visit to the Eternal City. The closest Rome metro stop is Collesseo (Collesseum), but it's quick a far walk—you might consider taking a taxi if you aren't planning to explore the surrounding area on foot. Alternatively, if you possess a grasp of Italian such that Rome's hectic bus system doesn't intimidate you, you can ride most of the city's buses to the "Corso Vittorio Emanuele – Argentina" stop.

The volunteers at Torre Argentina are always in need of help in caring for the cats, so while it's fine to come bearing only your camera and a hand to pet the cats, you can make a serious impact on their lives by bringing cat food or even donating money to aid them in the important work they do. These ruins are the cat's meow of Rome, but you want to make sure the cats here are meowing for the right reasons.

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