The dynamic history of Nettuno and neighboring Anzio about 35 miles south of Rome spans over two thousand years and includes dramatic WWII history. Anzio was the birthplace of Roman Emperor Nero, and the location of his extensive summer palace during his reign as Emperor 54-68 AD. The walled town of Nettuno has a well-preserved old quarter with medieval streets and a castle which was built in 1503. Allied forces did an amphibious landing on the beaches of Nettuno and Anzio on January 22, 1944. This was followed by the Anzio-Nettuno Battle which started the campaign to liberate Rome.
Servas Host Carmine and Perlita picked me up at the Nettuno train station and whisked me off to the nearby Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial. We were given a brief history of the WWII battle by a knowledgeable retired US Army officer who worked there. Over 7,500 U.S. soldiers are buried there. The reflecting pond and memorial building were very moving.
Later we explored the picturesque, narrow streets of Nettuno, stopping for gelato at an outdoor cafe. The colorful, historic town, seen from its pristine beach, loomed high above its old walls. Its touristic harbor hosts fishing and pleasure craft, many of which were still wrapped in plastic for the winter.
In Anzio the surf crashed on huge stones which were part of the ruins of Nero’s villa. Walls and caves that made up his villa line the cliffs that rise up along the beach. Conservators are working on the problem of preserving these ruins due to erosion caused by their close proximity to the sea.
Lunch was at Carmine’s house, a relatively new three level townhouse on the outskirts of town, which he has owned for several years. He invited his friend Yorgo, a flamboyant, sun-bronzed Sicilian-born man, to prepare a meal for us. Soon piping hot pasta with seafood sauce and salad was in front of us at the dining room table. Lively conversation ensued.
As I headed back to Rome on the train after saying goodbye to Carmine and Perlita, I thought about what a special day I had just spent in Nettuno. I am continually amazed at how Servas brings special people and international experiences into my life.
History continues to put its stamp on Nettuno. In the late 1980s, it figured prominently as a transit point for thousands of Jewish immigrants from The Soviet Union on their way to Israel or the United States.
* Servas is a non-profit peace organization of hosts and travelers http://www.USServas.org
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