History buffs will be able to wander around the ruins of Rome’s “Area Sacra”, maybe get a glimpse of Julius Caesar’s ghost, after the site becomes an open-air museum next year.
Work on adapting the Largo Argentina archeological site for tourists will begin next month, with upgrades to allow access to the large sunken square that contains the ruins of four Roman temples, Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi announced on Wednesday.
Today, the excavations at the historic site can only be viewed from street level.
“With this work, we are beginning to enter the area and … walk among the remnants of our history,” she said at a news conference.
Julius Caesar is believed to have been stabbed in Curia Pompei, a senate building, part of the limestone is still visible.
But visitors are more likely to discover a revelation of the four-legged type – namely a cat.
The ruins are the domain of a colony of hundreds of rescued cats, fed, neutered and cared for by a private non-profit, which spreads through the site, relaxes on truncated marble pillars or poses for tourist photos – completely impressed by the historical significance of their large litter box.
The temples, which date to between the third and second centuries BC, include a circular monument to the goddess Fortune, whose colossal marble heads now sit in Rome’s Central Montemartini Museum.
They were discovered as late as 1926 in an urban planning project when demolished medieval houses revealed ancient Roman ruins below.
Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 BC. of senators who feared he wanted to be king of Rome.
While in Curia Pompei, where the Senate was meeting, a group fell on him and stabbed him 23 times.
Among them was his friend Brutus, who led the dying man to utterance, according to Shakespeare’s immortal line, “Et tu, Brute!”
The work at the “Area Sacra”, which is expected to take a year, will include elevated walkways, illuminated at night, footpaths, a lift and a covered exhibition area along one side of the site.
The project is funded by jeweler Bulgari, owned by France’s luxury conglomerate LVMH, who donated about one million euros ($ 1.2 million). Bulgari was a former sponsor of the restoration of Rome’s Spanish Steps and an intricate mosaic floor in Caracalla’s Bath.
Excavations and preparations for the project continued despite coronavirus restrictions over the past year, but the expected opening of the site in 2022 will hopefully coincide with a new wave of post-pandemic tourism, says Raggi.
“We are preparing for the arrival of new tourists when Covid is over,” she said.
But what about the cats?
The city said the new site would not affect the area “where the historic cat farm Largo Argentina is housed.”