Gaeta is located between Rome and Naples, and is one of the most important tourist seaside resorts of the tyrrhenian coast. It offers excellent hotels, a fine tourist port, sport facilities, and a number of golden sandy beaches located on the western coast. These beaches are situated between the green vegetation of the hills which slope to the rocks and to the crystal-clear blue sea. In the very heart of the town, between Mt. Orlando and Fontania, is Serapo Beach. On the small, nearby beach of Fontania, one can still see the ruinsof an ancient Roman Villa. Northwards, one finds the beaches of Ariana, Arenauta, St. Vito, St. Agostino that still partly maintain their natural and scenic beauty.
According to the Greek historian Strabone, the word Gaeta derives from the Doric word "Kaiatas" (hollow) used by Laconian sailors to indicate its port. According to Virgil's fascinating legend (Aeneid VII,2) the word Gaeta derives from Caieta, name of the wet-nurse of Aenea, whom is said to have been buried in our beaches. Poetry and myth are suitable ot the remote origin of such a prestigious town. Since the times of the ancient Romans the favorable position and mild climate have made Gaeta a famous holiday resort. The medieval urban settlement was built upon the foundations laid during the Roman period. With the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and after having been under the rule of the Byzantine dominion, Gaeta became an independent Duchy which was governed by the native dignataries - who were later known as dukes.
These Dukes had full-governing power but no legislative and public-welfare assistance which were carried out by the local authorities. The "Codex Caietanus" shows how prosperous the town of Gaeta became because of the trade that was carried on with the Orient. The final defeat of the Saracens was the determining factor which made Gaeta famous as a fortress. Contended for by both the Papacy and the Swabians, Gaeta became one of the strongest fortresses under Charles d'Anjou and Alfonso of Aragon. In 1387 Gaeta became the temporary capital of Kind Ladislao Durazzo. The many attacks that Gaeta underwent are memorable. The town of Gaeta had to open its doors to Charles VII, Frederick III of Aragon, and later to the French and the Spanish. After having been fortified under Charles V, Gaeta benefited from a long period of peace. In 1571 Marcantonio Colonna's fleet sailed out of Gaeta in order to fight the Turkish armada in the waters of Lepanto. Gaeta, however, underwent other attacks. In 1707 Gaeta underwent an attack by the Austrians under the Viceroy of Naples which lasted three months and an attack by the Charles of Bourbon which lasted four months (1734). Gaeta underwent further attacks in 1806 and 1815 by the French and the Bourbons. In 1848 the Bourbons welcomed PIO IX and the Grand Duke of Tuscany who seeked refuge in Gaeta. The town was the last stronghold of the Bourbons after the defeat of Francis II's army near the Volturno river. Besieged by the troops of General Cialdini and by the fleet of admiral Persano, Gaeta surrendered on February 13, 1861. The Unification of Italy was thus completed. When walking through the city, one relives the fascinating history and myths of Gaeta. At the farthest eastern point of Gaeta, one finds the medieval area with its winding, intricate lanes, cloisters, roof gardens and many works of art: the Cathedral Bell tower (XII Cent.), the churches of St. Lucia (IX-XII Cent.), St. Domenico (XV Cent.), St. Giovanni a Mare (XII Cent.), the Cathedral, the Diocesan museum, the Picture Gallery of the Historical Cultural Center and the Annunziata Church (1321) which is located behind the ancient walls. The ancient Castle (XIII-XVI Cent.) reigns over the town. Mt. Orlando is the boundary of the ancient area. At the top of Mt. Orlando one can admire the panoramic view of the town and the Gulf and also visit the Lucio Munanzio Planco Mausoleum. This promontory - which is still intact - had a very contradicting destiny. It was used as a fortress during the wars. Christian devotion later transformed this fortress into a Sanctuary that is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. Because of this Sanctuary, Gaeta became a town of religious pilgrimage. According to religious tradition, Split Mountain - the extreme western tip of the promontory where the Sanctuary was built - is called Split Mountain because an earthquake split the mountain in three parts upon the death of Christ. The Turk's Grotto is one of the three splits that mysteriously overlooks the sea. This grotto reminds us of ancient stories of Saracens incursions. Mt. Orlando is, today, a protected natural park. The ancient village of peasants and fishermen extends in a "comb-like structure" beyond the walls of Gaeta. All through the narrow Via Indipendenza - which runs the whole length of the new area - one finds houses, shops, and small markets. It is considered the throbbing and symbolic center of the new town.