From a distance, Monte Circeo could easily be mistaken for an island, however it
is in fact a limestone promontory and mountain which rises up to a height of 541
meters at the far end of the wide sweeping sandy bay stretching from Terracina.
San Felice Circeo takes its name from Classical Greek mythology, as Homer in his
work the “Odyssey” described this as the location where the hero Ulysses found himself
enchanted by the goddess and sorceress Circe. She is said to have transformed his
fellow seafaring companions into a herd of pigs, however Ulysses was spared as the
God Mercury had gifted him a flower that offered protection against Circe’s magical
The first colony was founded by members of the Volsci tribe before being taken
over by the Romans. Wealthy Statesmen and Emperors, such as Domiziano, built summer
villas in this area. There is an impressive archaeological site with the remains
of a Villa dating from 1AD, and a water cistern, a small theatre, a gymnasium, a
swimming pool and thermal spa.
A steep winding road, passing through verdant woodlands, leads up to a plateau,
which was the site of the ancient acropolis of Circeii.
Here there are the remains of 3 circles of fortified walls that guarded the city,
constructed of tightly fitting cyclopean / polygonal blocks of limestone. On the
highest peak stood an ancient temple dedicated to the goddess Circe or Venus. From
the mount there are extensive views of the gulf stretching towards Terracina, Sperlonga
and Gaeta, the Pontine Islands and, in the direction, the Pontine Plain, Saubaudia
and its lakes.