When you study abroad in Rome, you’ll find yourself shopping for postcards in the local shops to send overseas to family and friends. These postcards always feature such epic landmarks as the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, and the Sistine Chapel, but you’re also likely to notice among them dozens of postcards featuring Roman cats. Cats lounging atop Roman columns, cats basking in the Italian sun, cats dressed as famous Roman historical figures – cats are a surprising constant in these beloved snapshots of Roman life.
It’s not just a fad: for centuries, cats have been found slinking within and around local Roman legends, history, and historical landmarks. Roman cats of today still find shelter amongst some of the city’s most ancient ruins.
Many of these feline-friendly historical sites are just steps from John Cabot University’s campus, and open to students looking to wind down in the company of Rome’s cuddliest citizens!
Meows, Monuments, & Mausoleums – The ‘Gatti della Piramide’
When you study abroad in Rome, you’ll join the ranks of thousands of influential thinkers who have found inspiration in this iconic city. Because Rome has always attracted visitors from all over the world (“all roads lead to Rome,” after all) many international artists and scholars are buried in Roman cemeteries. Rome’s Protestant Cemetery’s Pyramid of Caius Cestius is home to famous gravestones and a beloved colony of cats, known as the Gatti della Piramide.
Packed with history and beautiful monuments, this space attracts cats who gather to take shelter and eat food provided by the Pyramid’s volunteers.
Students are always welcome to enjoy the site’s peaceful atmosphere and interact with the friendly felines who live there. Relaxing among the Gatti della Piramide is a great downtime option for you when you study abroad in Italy and miss a cuddly companion you have back home, or as a way to break the ice with your new international classmates.
Study Abroad & See Torre Argentina: A Cat Sanctuary with a Legendary Past
A short walk from JCU’s main campus sits the Largo di Torre Argentina, Rome’s largest cat sanctuary. Here, volunteers (known colloquially as gattare, or “cat ladies”) care for approximately 250 cats and kittens. On any given afternoon, you can find a small crowd gathered to watch the cats sunbathe on the ancient pillars and steps of this ancient landmark.
You may not recognize the Torre Argentina by name, but if you pursue classical studies in Rome you’ll learn about one of the famous relics it houses – the Theater of Pompey, where Julius Caesar is believed to have been betrayed and killed on the Ides of March in 44BCE.
“It’s a very surreal experience,” says Niamh, a tourist and history major. “Where the proud citizens of ancient Rome once walked, the cats now take the sun. Just amazing.”
The Pompey steps upon which Caesar was murdered were buried until 1929, when Mussolini funded the excavation of Torre Argentina’s extensive sunken temples.
Soon after the excavation, central Rome’s stray cats began to find their way into the Torre Argentina. Most of them came with special medical needs – they sought refuge from abusive homes, or couldn’t fend for themselves on the streets due to blindness, missing limbs and other injuries. In the mid-1990s, the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary was founded to make caring for these cats possible. The organization now runs an extensive spay and neuter program to keep the site’s feral population in check, and invites student visitors to come and volunteer.
Try and you’ll see: there’s no better way to unwind from your classes than relaxing among spectacular ruins and affectionate Roman cats.
Are you interested in pursuing studies at one of the top English speaking universities in Italy?
Visit JCU’s website for more information or to speak with an admissions counselor about getting started.