I love when you are traveling and you discover something completely unexpected. That is exactly what happened on our last day in Rome.
We had spent the morning in the Vatican City posing for photos in St Peter’s Square. The kids were a bit ‘over’ looking at sights so we had a quick cuppa and Mr Travel Bee suggested his own special walking tour.
We wound through cobbled streets, ducked into a beautiful old church (did you know there are something like 940 churches in Rome?!), came across some markets and then ended up at a set of ruins (as you do in Rome).
Mr Travel Bee proceeded to tell us this was Torre Argentina where Julius Caesar died on the Ides of March in 44 BC. The kids immediately zoned out, with that glazed expression that said…… “please Dad, we can’t take in any more history”. Then he said “Oh and there is a cat sanctuary here!”
The ears pricked up.
At first we couldn’t see any cats and thought he must have been mistaken. But, when as walked along the sidewalk overlooking the ruins we began to see them. Some were camouflaged by their surrounding and others were out sunning themselves on the bright winters afternoon.
As we walked further, more and more came out of the woodwork (or stonework!). Then, as we reached the corner there was a staircase and a sign pointing down to ‘Gatti de Roma’. We all looked each other, shrugged and began climbing down.
At the bottom of the stairs we were greeted by several people, several cats and then ushered in a small door. Once inside we couldn’t believe our eyes. There were dozens and dozens of cats housed in a small crevice beneath the street.
As it turns out, this place is quite something. Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary is an organisation that rescues cats off the street and gives them a second chance at life. It is home to 84 cats in total, many of which have serious health issues including blindness, deafness, amputated limbs, respiratory issues and even behavioural issues. But these cats are so loved and so happy (except one).
Visitors crowded the small rooms patting, cuddling and murmuring to kitties. There was one cat that had taken a particular liking to a woman who, no matter how she tried, could not remove herself. It was quite funny to watch. I wonder if she ended up adopting him!
Each cat is named when it enters the shelter and examined by a vet. Some become permanent residents, others are nursed back to full health before being adopted. One thing is for sure, there is a cat for everyone here with old cats, young cats, fluffy cats, black cats, tabby cats, cuddly cats, aloof cats and everything in between.
There is however, one to be avoided. Aceto (a ginger Tom cat) doesn’t like anyone or anything (he is the one I refer to with behavioural issues). Hopefully after some time in a loving environment, his will to dislike everything will be broken down and he will rediscover friends and the beautiful kindness in this world.
For cat lovers this was a unique and memorable find. If you would like to donate to the charity or read about some of the characters in the sanctuary you can follow Gatti de Roma on Facebook or visit their website https://www.gattidiroma.net/web/en/a-little-bit-of-history/
Who knows, you may even be able to adopt a cat, from a distance.