Thanks to Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar, the “Ides of March” —an ancient Roman way of saying March 15 —will forever be imbued with a sense of foreboding,
The famous line 'Beware the Ides of March,' is a pithy line said by a soothsayer, and people remember it, even if they don't know why.
But for history buffs, there’s more to March 15 than just a centuries-old play.
That date, as the play depicts, lives in infamy as the day of Julius Caesar’s murder at Pompey's Theater in Rome.
For those who don’t know the story, in 46 B.C., Julius Caesar was stabbed 23 times after Brutus, Cassius, and over 60 members of the Senate lead a mutiny against Caesar, who they feared was gaining too much power on his quest for a permanent dictatorship.
Caesar was 55.
After the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the theater where Caesar took his final steps was lost to history for hundreds of years until excavations in the 20th century uncovered it.
Fast forward to today and the site now operates as a tourist attraction in the heart of Rome.
But it also has another surprising use…
The entire grounds, now called the Torre Argentina, is part of a city-run cat sanctuary!
Where Cats and History Collide
I was lucky enough to stumble upon this unusual spot during a long weekend in the “Eternal City.”
It’s an entirely unique and even cooler use than I could have ever imagined for this historical landmark.
You see, after the site was excavated, Rome’s infamous feral cats moved in immediately, as they do all over the city, and the "gattare", or cat ladies, began feeding and caring for them.
Now, a team of volunteers collects and cares for street cats from all around Rome. The felines are picked up, spayed or neutered, and then brought to the Torre, where they have access to an indoor facility or are free to roam the grounds.
Like the feline residents, guests are welcome to roam down into a visitor area to meet the nearly 250 residents of Torre Argentina. The sanctuary is open every day from noon until 6pm, but the cats almost always visible in the ruins.
Quick Tip: If you happen to fall in love, a majority of the cats at the sanctuary are available for local adoptions, and others are available for distance adoptions that help provide care for the cats.
Unfortunately, I was 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!
The only major downside I saw to the sanctuary was that those who operate the cat sanctuary do not own the land around Torre Argentina. They are actually squatting. Unfortunately, that means the sanctuary functions under the immediate threat of eviction by the Archaeological Department at all times.
Fortunately, the owners of the cat sanctuary have been able to fight eviction notices so far.
If you are planning a trip to Rome, I can’t recommend stopping at this unique spot enough.
You can find the sanctuary at the corner of Via Florida and Via di Torre Argentina.
The cats bring their own character to this ancient archaeological marvel, making it quite the destination for history lovers and animal lovers alike!