In October of 1999, I spent 16 days in Rome. It was one of the most rewarding experiences Iíve ever had, a holiday for the body, mind and soul.
On my first trip to Italy I noticed a lot of "street cats" and "gattari" (the locals that feed and care for them) in many of the towns I visited in Italy, including Pompeii. The cats lay in sunny spots on the walks, lounge on warm motor scooter seats and always welcome a pat on the head or scratch under the chin. But it was a quick trip and I didnít really know that they had "special" places where they gathered.
My second trip I was much more aware of all the places that the cats hung out. In Rome The Coliseum, The Forum and Largo di Torre Argentina were some of their favorite spots. On the of my last day of vacation I discovered that the ruins of Largo di Torre Argentina (where Caesar was murdered) was also the home of a wonderful cat sanctuary, Colonia Felina di Torre Argentina. I made a quick visit to the "office", gave a donation and adopted a cat "at a distance". Adoption at a Distance is a wonderful program at Torre Argentina that allows one to help a special cat in need without actually taking it home.
I stayed in touch with the volunteers and when I went back to Rome the following year I decided to spend a part of each day (about 2-3 hours in the late afternoon) working at the shelter. I was there for 16 days and I did everything; from scooping boxes and sweeping floors to writing thanks you notes for donations. I was welcome with open arms by the staff, invited to the home of one of the directors for a party and out to dinner with volunteers. It was hard work, but very rewarding and a great way to spend time between a museum or historic sight, afternoon shopping and a wonderful meal.
I encourage anyone going to Rome to stop by Torre Argentina, if you canít fit volunteering into your schedule then at least make a donation or adopt a cat in need. Visit their web site and read about the wonderful work they do.