Sperlonga was an ancient Roman resort: Emperor Tiberius built here a famous villa, and filled one of the grottoes with statues depicting episodes in the life of Ulysses.

In fact, Tiberius was undoubtedly a keen and accomplished classical scholar, and this goes some way to explaining what led him to create in a cave (spelunca in Latin) on the seashore at Sperlonga, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) south of Rome, an extraordinary marble scenario that has been dubbed an “Odyssey in Stone,” illustrating key episodes in Homer’s story.

After the fall of the Western Empire, in the 6th century, the ruins of the Imperial residence served as refuge for Benedictine monks local people. Abbot Fortunato and his 200 monks smashed Tiberius’ “Odyssey in Stone,” to smithereens in 511.

Later the population began to move to the nearby promontory of St. Magnus, in order to escape the unhealthy marshes and the Saracen attacks. The danger posed by the Saracens is made clear by the presence of many watchtowers all along the coast to Gaeta. In 1534 the small centre was destroyed by Barbarossa.

In the 18th and 19th centuries Sperlonga recovered and acquired some noble residences, and agriculture flourished. However, the touristic expansion occurred only after the opening of the coastal road Terracina-Gaeta (the via Flacca) in 1957.