Four temples from ancient Rome, dating back as far as the 3rd century B.C. stand smack in the middle of one of the modern city’s busiest crossroads.
But until Monday, practically the only ones getting a close-up view of the temples were the cats that prowl the so-called “Sacred Area,” on the edge of the site where Julius Caesar was assassinated.
With the help of funding from Bulgari, the luxury jeweler, the grouping of temples can now be visited by the public.
The temples emerged during the demolition of medieval-era buildings in the late 1920s, part of dictator Benito Mussolini’s campaign to remake the urban landscape. A tower at one edge of Largo Argentina once topped a medieval palace.
Rome’s ancient Largo Argentina temple complex has been opened to the public. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)
The temples are designated A, B, C and D, and are believed to have been dedicated to female deities. One of the temples, reached by an imposing staircase and featuring a circular form and with six surviving columns, is believed to have been erected in honor of Fortuna, a goddess of chance associated with fertility.
Taken together, the temples make for “one of the best-preserved remains of the Roman Republic,” Parisi Presicce said after the Mayor of Rome Roberto Gualtieri cut a ceremonial ribbon Monday afternoon. On display in a corridor near the temples is a black-and-white photograph showing Mussolini cutting the ribbon in 1929 after the excavated ruins were shown off.
Over the last decades, a cat colony flourished among the ruins. Felines lounged undisturbed, and cat lovers were allowed to feed them. On Monday, one black-and-white cat sprawled lazily on its back atop the stone stump of what was once a glorious column.
Bulgari helped pay for the construction of the walkways and nighttime illumination. A relief to tourists who step gingerly over the uneven ancient paving stones of the Roman Forum. The Sacred Area’s wooden walkways are wheelchair- and baby-stroller-friendly. For those who can’t handle the stairs down from the sidewalk, an elevator platform is available.
The attraction is open every day except for Mondays and some major holidays, with general admission tickets priced at 5 euros ($5.50).