During our week-long holiday, Alessandro and I had the pleasure of visiting Sabaudia and Terracina, two small towns in the region of Lazaio located about one hour south of Rome by car. Though Lazio is located in what is considered central Italy, it should be noted that these towns are close to the border of Campania, a region that is part of Italy’s “deep south.”
I point this out because the south of Italy is infamous for it’s “slow-paced” lifestyle that is both wonderful and preposterous at the same time. In the Mezzogiorno, as the south is often referred to, you can find unmatched beauty right alongside dilapidated structures. One only has to spend a few hours in Naples to understand what I’m talking about. I could go on and on about the North-South dichotomy that exists in Italy, but I would need much more than a blog post to fully explain it in-depth.
Nevertheless, I want to make it known that Sabaudia and Terracina have a distinctly “southern” feel that would be characteristic of towns that neighbor Campania. For example, I saw a lot of signage in both for “mozzarella di bufala”, a delicacy that hails from Campania. The go-to cuisine was seafood and the must-do activity was take the sun – again, both very southern.
Andiamo al mare!
We began our day at the beach in Sabaudia, where we proceeded to read, nap, swim, and repeat for hours. I loved how impeccably clean this beach was, from the pristine sand to the crystal-clear, unpolluted water. Nothing about the beach was particularly luxurious, but the natural beauty of the land spoke for itself.
A Temple in Terracina
After a few hours of sun bathing, we decided that it was time for something cultural. A short drive away from the beach was the town of Terracina. I was not particularly excited to arrive here, as the drive between towns was anything but picturesque. But as with many other aspects in Italy, I was pleasantly surprised.
The “main attraction” of Terracina is the Tempio di Giove Anxur, or Temple of Jupiter Anxur in English. Remember that we are in Italy, once ruled by the Ancient Romans, who had their own religion, and who needed places of worship that could double as military strongholds. See where I’m going with this?
Ironically enough, the architecture of this structure is actually more Greek than Roman. Historians have learned about its importance through the writings of Livy and Virgil. It’s now protected as a “Natural Monument” by the Lazio region.
To arrive at the temple, one must drive up a series of winding cliffs. I don’t recommend looking down upon approaching the peak. Once you arrive, prepare to have your breath taken away by the views, as the temple is almost 750 feet above sea level.
For more about the historical importance of this temple, click the link above. For more about my ability to take decent pictures, see below.
For anyone who doesn’t know me, I like seafood. A lot. When Alessandro told me that Terracina is full of “eat ’til your heart’s desire” types of establishments for fish, I became VERY excited. After checking out Yelp! and asking around in the neighborhood which place was the best (Alessandro did the asking, of course), we settled on Da Ernesto.
The line was practically wrapped around the building before 8:00PM, quite an early hour for dining by Italian standards. I was skeptical of this however, as I know that long lines do not always equal exceptional food. Nevertheless, I was hopeful.
For all intents and purposes, Da Ernesto is a dive. All the food is counter-serve on cafeteria-style trays with plastic plates and cutlery. But like I hinted at before, looks can be very deceiving when in Italy.
Da Ernesto was organized by course, meaning that you first chose your antipasto, followed by your primo and secondo piatti. Wine (white only, of course) was served alla spina (or, “on tap”), but beer was available as well.
The amount of choice was overwhelming – in a good way. Having to make a snap decision about what fish dish I was going to indulge in with a large line of people behind me waiting to do the same was almost too much pressure for me. And if you saw the choices available, you would get what I mean. Seafood salads of all sorts, crudos of every type imaginable, at least three pasta dishes, a seafood risotto, and several main course options were all available for Da Ernesto‘s hungry patrons.
Ultimately we settled on the following: raw clams (the best I’ve ever eaten in my life), cold seafood salad, cold octopus salad, octopus stewed in tomatoes, seafood risotto, and a fish comparable to swordfish simply broiled with olive oil, tomatoes, and herbs.
Final thoughts: clams were exceptional, seafood and octopus salads extremely fresh, warm octopus full of flavor, risotto also fresh and flavorful, and large fish well-cooked but lacking in the flavor department.