Area Sacra di Largo Argentina ☆☆

The ruins at Largo di Torre Argentina in Rome, Largo Argentina, Rome, Italy (Photo by Jakub Hałun)
The ruins at Largo di Torre Argentina in Rome

The sunken ruins of Largo Argentina in Rome, Italy, where Julius Caesar met his assassins and now cats nestle like easter eggs amongst the tall grasses

Today, Largo del Torre Argentina is largely known as the piazza where you frequently have to change buses, but set into its middle is an excavated zone sporting a trio of ancient temples, their columns poking up like broken teeth, their grassy foundations prowling with Rome's largest colony of stray cats, which legend holds are hosts for the ghosts of ancient Romans.

The site has been opened to visitors only sporadically and rarely over the years; you might get lucky, but consider it permanently closed.

(You can, however, nip into the cat sanctuary shelter halfway down one staircase to chat with the harried cat lovers who try to keep up with spaying and inoculating the feral felines—at least until they are evicted, which the city is always threatening to do.)

Still, you can see it all from the road, really.

I find the Largo Argentina ruins all the more remarkable for the fact that they just sort of sit there, un-remarked upon—which is especially puzzling given that every 9th grader has read Julius Caesar, and here is the exact spot where he was killed!

Why so few guides or guidebooks bothers pointing this out mystifies me to this day. Therefore:

Et tu, Bruté?

Against the eastern edge of the excavations you can see the jumbled remains of some brick walls. This was the exit to Pompey's Theater and Baths complex, which the Roman Senate was using in the 1st century BC to hold their meetings while the main Senate house in the Forum was being rebuilt. 

It was while exiting one of these meetings, on these very steps now covered in cats, that Brutus, Cassius, and the other conspirators fell upon Julius Caesar and stabbed him to death. 

Photo gallery
  • The ruins at Largo di Torre Argentina in Rome, Largo Argentina, Italy (Photo by Jakub Hałun)
  • Sacred area in Largo di Torre Argentina, Temple A in the foreground, round Temple B behind, Largo Argentina, Italy (Photo by Jordiferrer)
  • Sacred area in Largo di Torre Argentina, the back of round Temple B in the foreground, Temple A behind, Largo Argentina, Italy (Photo by Mark Hintsa)
  • Map of the sacred area of Largo Argentina, in Rome. In red the four temples. 1) is the porticus minucia frumentaria, 2) is the hecatostylum, 3) is the Curia by Pompeo, 4) and 5) are toilets of imperial age, 6) is imperial age offices and deposits, Largo Argentina, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
  • A panorama of the sacred area in Largo di Torre Argentina, Largo Argentina, Italy (Photo by Marco Verch)
  • A cat in the Largo Argentina, Largo Argentina, Italy (Photo by Patrick Rasenberg)
  • Sacred area in Largo di Torre Argentina, Temple A in the foreground, round Temple B behind, Largo Argentina, Italy (Photo by Christopher Lewis Cotrell)
  • , Largo Argentina, Italy (Photo by Bert Kaufmann)
  • Temple A, Largo Argentina, Italy (Photo by Mac9)
  • Temple B, Largo Argentina, Italy (Photo by Wknight94)
  • Sacred area in Largo di Torre Argentina, the steps to Temple C in the foreground, round Temple B in the middle, Temple A in the background, Largo Argentina, Italy (Photo by Wknight94)
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How long does Largo Argentina take?

This piazza is a major bus stop, so chance are you will pass through at some point. In any other city, these ruins would be the town's top sightseeing highlight. Here, they merely make a nice centerpiece to a traffic circle. Just be sure, when changing buses, you take at least 5 minutes to cross to the excavations in the center and peer over the fence at these ruins.

United Nation for Cats

There is actually a volunteer run organization, Torre Argentina, devoted souly to the well being of the cats here. People from surrounding countries come to help with the efforts. The organization even alllows you to addopt a furry friend if you're interested!

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah

* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).