Gaeta is a picturesque, coastal city, surrounded by the Aurunci Mountains and the
deep blue sparkling sea, situated near to the southern border of Lazio and the Campania
region. It is built on a peninsula which reaches out into the Tyrrhenian Sea, on
one side encloses the spectacular Gulf of Gaeta, a broad sweep of bay which stretches
down towards Naples, on the other is the wide expanse of golden sand, Serapo Beach.
Gaeta has had a long and colourful history It is believed that Gaeta was first colonised
by the Ionic Samian people.
Then, according to legend, after the fall of Troy the Greek heroes Ulysses and Aeneas
are said to have sailed the Tyrrhenian Sea and the survivors eventually landed on
these shores. Among the companions of Aeneas was his nurse Caijeta who, it is said,
died in this area and gave her name to the city. Later the name was modified to Gaeta.
Even during Roman times, Gaeta was renowned as a splendid holiday resort and many
a wealthy and influential Roman built their summer villas along this beautiful coastline.
Following the fall of the Roman Empire Gaeta became part of the enlarged Byzantine
Empire, however in the 9th century it became an autonomous Duchy. The fortified
maritime city was naturally protected because of its strategic position, placed high
on a promontory, almost completely surrounded by sea, but its defences were further
strengthened by the building of walls and towers. Thus the city and port prospered
and successfully resisted Saracen invasions.
In the 11th century it was ruled by the Normans, during the 12th century by the Sicilians,
before passing on to the Anjou and Aragon dynasties. The fortifications were further
strengthened during the 15th and 16th centuries.
Through the ages the town was repeatedly attacked by Spanish, Sardinian, Austrian
and French forces, and endured several arduous sieges. Gaeta became known as being
one of the strongest fortresses in Europe.
Finally Gaeta was ruled by Bourbons and was the most northerly post of their Kingdom
of Naples / Kingdom of Two Sicilies.
After the fall of Naples to Garibaldi, Francis II and his remaining 1200 men of
the Neapolitan Realm made a stand from within Gaeta’s formidable fortifications.
They withstood a lengthy siege and heavy bombardments, but were finally forced to
surrender in February 1861. Consequently, this led to the formation of the new unified
Republic of Italy.