Rome is a fascinating city full of thousands of years’ worth of history but, the hours and days you spend walking among those ghosts can leave you feeling a bit cold. The cure is to be found at Torre Argentina. Here among the ruins where Julius Caesar met his end, Rome’s feral cat population is protected and adored by all. Walk in and snuggle with any of the cats completely disinterested in you.
Within walking distance from the Pantheon and the Jewish ghetto, Torre Argentina sits nestled within the busy streets of Rome. I hadn’t heard of the sanctuary until I was on another tour and the guide was kind enough to indicate where the cats were. As soon as our tour was over, I went straight over to fill up with as many ear scratches as I could. (I’ve been away from my dog for nearly a year now and I’m desperate for furry affection.)
Walk up to the square and descend the steps into an underground room full of cats and an international cast of volunteers. As one can expect, the cats range from those eager for attention to those who’d really rather we’d all die off at once and leave the food behind. In the front room, you’ll find well-mannered cats who’ve perhaps wandered in and decided to stick around since the food is good and the rent (permitting head rubs) is cheap.
All cats who come in are spayed/neutered and given an impressive array of vaccinations and tests. Feral cats are fed and left to their own devices after the surgery. Kittens who are surrendered are given to volunteers to foster for their first few months. But the real heartbreakers are the dozens of cats who are there because they’re too old or disabled to make it out on the streets. In the side room, where a volunteer can take you, are the older, sicker cats. Some are totally blind like a little black cat named Ray Charles. His blindness didn’t stop him from trying to climb on my friend and me and we were more than happy to let him.
A cat named Zebra had lost all her teeth and seemed to delight in the opportunity to finally be allowed to gnaw on all the people pawing at her. A dainty little black cat named The Duke watched me with his tail tightly tucked around him until I got my heart right and started petting him. There are earless cats who, through a combination of cancer and intense sun exposure, lost their ears and were left with peculiarly round heads.
All this to say, when the ghosts of Roman past are weighing you down, feel free to wander over to Torre Argentina. There’s nothing to jumpstart your vacation like a cat sanctuary. Feel free to leave a donation with a volunteer and help do your part to support this incredible organization.
As usual, thanks to Bobby Albritton for the excellent photos.
I'm a freelance travel writer. Join me as I bounce around the planet offering some advice, telling some stories, and trying my best to figure it out with you by my side.