Before our detour while looking for the Appian Way (Appia Antica) on New Years Day 1998, we had walked past Area Sacra a few days earlier. We noticed the cats and we decided to take the tour that was offered on January 2, our last day in Italy on that trip.
At the tour on January 2, we learned that the cats were being fed by those who looked after the site. Considering how much subterranean structures there were, I suspect the cats were also being honored for their control of vermin. The tour guide’s narration was given entirely in Italian, but we did manage to stumble our way through the presentation.
It was raining at the beginning of the tour. By the time we left, it was raining so hard that we were completely soaked by the time we returned on foot to our hotel. We used the hotel room’s electric pants presser as well as we could to avoid packing wet clothes for our morning flight back to San Francisco. We laughed through the entire experience. We still marvel at that day and Vicki’s eyes twinkle when we reminisce our magical first visit to Italy.
[update 2009-04-16-16:22Z: Vicki just received a copy of the Pauline Marascutto and Anna Zane book, I gatti di Venezia. The photographs are wonderful, athough the narrative demonstrates how rusty even my limited Italian has become. The book was from one of the students at Moshier Arts Center where Vicki is a resident potter. What I did learn from the book is that I must change the title of this post from “Gatti a Roma” to “Gatti di Roma.”
I also just learned that the Schmap!! guide to Rome features Area Sacra as one of the sites in the vicinity of the Pantheon in Rome. You’ll find more photos there, including one from this post.
As many times as I have seen that announcement of the tours, it has only dawned on me at this moment that the 10:30 and 12:30 tours were to be in English, with the rest in Italian. I don’t know if we arrived at the wrong time or there was no English tour on January 2. The guide was careful to warn us that her tour would be entirely in Italian and we agreed that we wanted to take it. I don’t think we realized they were done any other way.]