Finding “a Virgil” in Sperlonga

July 27, 2015 / Places
Sperlonga, Lazio

“No time to leave fruit in your apartment, Anna, but try these,” dark-haired Rocco urged, as he plucked juicy midnight blue mullberrerries off the bushes in front of the Sperlonga apartment (part of the Sperlonga Resort) I’d rented from him for a couple days. The laden mulberry bush obstructed only slightly sweeping views of the Mediterranean below, shimmering with setting sun – and was no obstruction at all to the stalwart 16th century guard tower squatting on the rocky promontory jutting over the sea, once protective sentinel for Sperlonga, a frequent target of pirate attacks.

View from my balcony

“Pre-espresso” juicy mulberries from “my” bush would start off every Sperlonga day. About an hour south of Rome, Sperlonga clings to a rocky outcrop over the sea like a panicked cat clawing to avoid a fall into the abyss below. Winding alleyways snake between pristinely-white stuccoed houses, highlighted with the color splashes of dangling washes on yawning clotheslines, magenta bougainvillea crawling over balconies and here and there, wall murals whispering stories and legends. Their recurrent theme? Pirate attacks.

View fom my balcony
Bougainvillea covers the walls overlooking the Mediterrranean
Corkscrew alleywas, bougainvillea draped
Bougainvillea splendor
Bougainvillea splashes
Pirate attacks in murals
Mural about pirate attacks
Mural about attacks

Now twisting corkscrew alleyways backdrop wedding photos and enchant vacationers wandering them aimlessly, browsing in tiny artisan shops, once wine cellars, olive oil cellars, stalls for farm carts. In one small niche – perhaps once a wood cellar? – four little boys whisper stories to each other and nearby, elderly sisters, Vincenzina and Leonina – two of six children of a sperlongano fisherman – sit side-by-side, watching i passanti and murmuring about the changes they’ve seen in their seaside village.


Some labyrinthine alleyways – often vaulted – end in tiny espresso-cup-sized piazzas where set tables are ready to welcome dinner guests. Others end in the passeggiata along the stone wall on the edge of town, Mediterranean pines like umbrellas spreading out above and below, boats bobbing gently at anchor in the port – and here and there, a holidaying couple shoots a selfie. Flanking the port, sandy beaches with rows of colorful beach umbrellas stretch out all the way down the bay.

View along stonewall
Fort port

This was my nightly view from my table at Il Bistrot, a Rocco recommendation – and after the first dinner, why go anywhere else?

After all, Rocco was to be my faithful “Virgil-to-Dante” Sperlonga guide for the next few days…

(More tips from the Sperlonga “Virgil” coming soon!)


Nighttime magic

Entrance gate to the apartment

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See for more on her Umbria tours. Do see for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

32 Responses to “Finding “a Virgil” in Sperlonga”

  1. Anne, you really know how to capture the essence of a place – you have an eye for it and and your photography is amazing. I’ve never even heard of this place but now I want to go there! It looks magical…….

  2. Louise Montalbano

    Anne, you have us ready to pack and head off (as soon as ospiti depart) to experience the glories of Sperlonga that you so beautifull described in photos and words. Can’t wait… It’s on our “to go to” list. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  3. Gian Banchero

    Oh, Anne, a million thanks for allowing me to wake up to your beautiful photos which remind me so vividly of a few towns I’ve live in over the years. To me towns as such are far from being claustrophobic, they share an intimacy such as living with extended family. Thank you Anne for starting the day off for so many people with a smile and a glad heart.

  4. Barbara Payne

    I loved finding this article in my mail this morning. It brought back wonderful memories. I used to live in Gaeta, and going to nearby Sperlonga was always one of my favorite things to do when we had guests–or just to go wander and dine. It is a magical place, and I hope to get there on my upcoming trip to Italy this October.

  5. oh anne….plz take me with you to this charming lil town!!! Your words felt like “buttah” melting on a piece of homemade bread….such great writing!! Definitely putting this lil slice of heaven on my next trip agenda!!

  6. Valerie R.

    This article makes me want to book my next trip to Sperlonga!! What a beautiful town!! I just LOVE your photos, they tell the story of this quaint town. Please keep these wonderful articles coming!

  7. Francesca Bestwick

    Wow, gorgeous town. You really captured the ambience with the pictures and suggestions. Can’t wait to visit!!

  8. Anne Wright

    Very well written article, Anne – it made me want to be there. I loved the photos, especially of the little boys in the niche and the brides and grooms and the sisters of a fisherman father. I am adding Sperlonga to my list of places to visit next.

  9. Matt Cappiello

    Another Anne Robichaud home run……makes you want to get on a plane today and get over there……

  10. Janet Eidem

    You not only give us exquisite views, but one can hear the water, smell the salt, and want to sit at table in this lovely sea town. Very nice!

  11. Lynn Michaels

    Thank you so much, Anne, for sending so many heart-touching photos. I especially liked seeing the two sisters both clutching their tissues. Such a truthful scene! Looking forward to more from your seaside adventure.

  12. Deborah Salae

    I can’t believe such serenity is so close to Rome. Your articles make planning a trip to Italy more challenging but undoubtedly worth the effort. To be able to visit such off-the-beaten-track locales is what makes the difference between just traveling and the much more satisfying experience of immersing oneself in another county. I’m always amazed, Anne, with how your incredible photos match the quality of your evocative writing. Mille

  13. Jenny Hannan

    ‘… like a cat clawing onto the hillside..’ This is a wonderful piece. Yes, and of course I want to go! Jen

  14. Rosemary Johnson

    Views are breathtaking! You have an amazing eye for just the right pictures, and your prose is truly detailed. Thanks!!

  15. Lynn Cowhig

    Ahhh, Anne succeeds agin in whisking me away to paradise, sigh, wish I was there. Enjoy!

  16. Stephanie Webb

    Great pics, Anne! Your narratives are so wonderfully descriptive, I almost feel I’m sitting right beside you. This looks like the perfect place to escape the brutal summer heat you’ve been enduring of late. Thank you for the personal glimpse into whar is yet another Italian gem.

  17. Lina Falcone

    These are great views must go there next time when I visit Italy. Grazie

  18. John Perides

    Thanks, Anne. This certainly makes me want to rush back for more adventures in Italy. Keep traveling. I am sure this simple act of discovery on your part while feeding us with hopeful smiles will keep you sensitive to what we travelers hope for when we look into your eyes with expectant eagerness.

  19. Annamarie Capobianco Cumming

    Nostalgic return to the city I found so fascinating and welcoming. A day’s tour to Gaeta and Sperlonga turned out to be the highlight of our trip. The sheer simplicity and untouched beauty of this area was far more then I ever imagined. No tourist traps here, just welcoming arms, gracious people and breathtaking scenery.

  20. marianna raccuglia

    As usual, a great read with beautiful photos – you are a wonderful writer and I look forward to your postings! Thank you, Anne xo

  21. kay thiels

    Dear Anne, This is a beautifully written article! And the pictures put us there.. Tonight I will dream of this place!

  22. Anne Robichaud

    Scusatemi, tutti..for a “group grazie” for all the wonderful, touching notes.
    Most appreciated…..and may you each discover one day the wonders of Sperlonga!

  23. Gull-Britt Lundsröm

    What can I say that has not been said!! You really know how to make a place temting,


  24. OK now I want to go back to Italy again, but this time rent for month. I mean, why would anyone want to live anywhere else? So what if the bureacracy is difficult. They have so much to protect. Good work and thank you Anne, I will share this link with 700 or so friends.

  25. What a view, what a town! Your descriptions and photos really bring me right there. I can almost hear the sounds of the village along with the children playing in the background. Your shot of the kids was my absolute fave.

  26. Katie Larsh

    Magnifico! I cannot wait for Steve to retire and make our plans for our extended visit to Italy! Love all the photos and enticing descriptions making me want to take off now! Mille Grazie, Annie! Hello to Pino too!

  27. Catherine Williams

    OK. So I am biased. But is it bias to recognize the best of the best? Annie, you are simply the best, by any standards anywhere. You educate, you inspire, you enchant. Perhaps most of all, you take us in our mindset o where you write from. But of course that’s not good enough: you call us to join you. I would be there immediately if there was airfare manna to get me there. So for now, I will try to content myself to taking pleasure in your beautiful Italy here in my imagination. But I’m saving my pennies to come back as soon as I can! Thank you!

  28. Sandra Spector

    Now I’m going to have to find out how to get there & the museo. Grazie for another ‘must do’, ‘must see’ in Italia


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