Gaeta Local Custom Tips by deecat Top 5 Page for this destination
Gaeta Local Customs: 14 reviews and 30 photos
Typical streets in center of Borgo
We discovered in 2006 more about the newer section of Gaeta. Its history is not as easy to discover as the Ancient center. Borgo was the name that was given to the area external to the wall of the medieval area.
The first area inhabited outside the historical walls dates to the 9th century with the peasants and fishermen who would gather around the rough defensive castle on the hill that was later called dei Cappuccini. There, the first church was built and dedicated to the patron saints of the town. About 1459,ipeople know that only about 900 people lived outside the walls in the Borgo area but almost 5,000 lived behind the walls. Today, more people live outside the wall than inside the ancient center.
The center portion of the Borgo looks much the same today as it did then with the alleys brancing off the main street [Via Indipendenza]. Via Indipendenza is the "back-bone" of the old part of Borgo. It keeps its same look and has a peculiar charm, a picturesque and ancient air about it.
But, the maritime area of the Borgo has changed a good deal. The days of the Austrian rule lasted 30 years [18th century] and much changed then. The Bourbons conquered Gaeta again, and the Borgo continued to widen and become more populated.
Then the Borgo became an autonomous commune and seperated from Gaeta and was named Elena in honour of Princesss Elena Petrovich of Montenegro, wife of Victor Emmanuel II [future king of Italy]. Some old people still call it Elena; actually it is named Porto Salvo todayP
In the Corso Attico Region of Porto Salvo
The area outside the walls called the Borgo gained population, economic ascent, and prosperity while the city behind the walls [old Gaeta] faltered. But, the people of Borgo id not feel safe..they were outside the fortress and did not feel protected. They wanted administrative independence; so, on February 18, 1897, they separated from Gaeta and became Elena.
The old town was a "very faithful Bourbon stronghold" [Giuseppe Napolitano in Del Comune Di Gaeta] and after the seperation, became quite isolated. On the other hand, Elena benefited from the seperation. The split only lasted for 30 years, and in February of 1927, Gaeta and Elena were joined together again. At that time they passed from the province of Caserta to that of Rome.
Today, the town is called Gaeta again, but the differences between what was the Borgo, Elena and Old Gaeta are still evident.
Porto Salvo, as it is called today seems so much more modern and industrial. The majority of the shopping area is here as well as the schools. I smile when I think that we always call Porto Salvo "the new section of Gaeta" when the center of it with its narrow alley-like streets are quite ancient, indeed.
Before I ever visited Gaeta, I had eaten Gaeta Olives. Many of you probably have seen them in the stores, especially at Olive Bars.
Much has changed over the years in Gaeta. Little donkies and horses used to be ever present in the town. Today, cars, motorcycles, and even suv's have replaced them. But Gaeta still exports olives all over the world.
The olives probably should be named Itri Olives [a small town very near to Gaeta] because that is where the majority of them are grown; however, Gaeta is where the olives are exported throughout the world.
At one time in this area, the cultivation of olives was more important than the cultivation of grapes.
So, the next time you are in the store, check out the Olive Bar and try some Gaeta Olives; you'll be glad you did!
The Church L'Annunziata in 1997
L'Annunziata is thought to be one of the most remarkable ones in Gaeta.
It was originally both a church and a charitable institution. It later was used to give shelter to foundlings and orphans. It was founded in 1321, and in 1355 it became a hospital.
Today, it is an "old folk's home where it has been organized as a local arts and crafts museum and a little picture-gallery" [Giuseppe Napolitano in Del Comune Di Gaeta].
It has a lovely entrance with a courtyard and a Chapel of the Conservatory. It has numerous artistic works.
The church was modified in the early 17th century, but later on, it was enriched with numerous remarkable workds of art such as the wooden choir, the picture of the Annunciation, and a fifteenth century tomb of Caracciolo.
But, it is most famous for the so-called "Grotta d'Oro (Golden Grotto) or Chapel of the Immaculate Conception where Pope Pius IX used to retire to pray.
To me it is so beautiful with it four divisions, especially the clock and the bells.
"Man of the Cloth" Walking in Gaeta
1997 Gaeta traditions: Still true in 2006
1. Italian stores open Sat. morning; close Sun.; remain closed Mon.til 4:00 PM.
2. Riposofrom the hours of 5 to 7 when most businesses shut down; workers return home for lunch & a long nap. Shops reopen from 5 to 8.
(We would abide by Riposo! )
3.Late dinners. Gaetans cannot believe how early Americans eat. We learned to wait until at least 7:30 PM, but locals do not even think about eating dinner until after 8:00 PM!
4. Passagata,the evening ritual of walking in Gaeta, along the water, old town square. People stop to talk to friends & relatives about the day's events. Locals dress up.
5. Eating: I found, to my delight, that Italians do not rush their meals! They linger. During dinner, they have lengthy conversations, watch "football"(soccer), & sometimes sing.
a. ante pasta(appetizer)
b. prima(the pasta course)
c. secundo(meat or fish)
d. Contomi(vegetables or salad)
6. Mandatory Wine: Wine, the beverage of choice. It is mandatory to drink wine if you are invited into an Italian home! (Beer is acceptable with pizza.)
7. Portions of Food: By my standards, the portions are large; it is perfectly fine to ask, "con due piatti" 2 plates. Or, "mezzo portione" half portion.
8. If you go to an Italian home for dinner, be prepared to have a "digestivo" such as:
a. "amaro" (cafe liqueur)
b. "limoncello"(a lemon liqueur)
c. "manderincino" (Mandarin liqueur)
9. "Piano": "Piano" means to slow down. Learn to relax & enjoy.
(Most of our meals would last at least two hours, sometimes three. We really agreed about leisurely dinners)
10. Gelato: Italians of Gaeta seldom take dessert with the meal; instead, they get up after dinner & walk to their favorite "Gellateria" (ice cream store or stand)
11. Summer Vacation: Italians have more vacations than Americans. Italy seems to shut down in August. Many of them come to Gaeta's famous Serapo Beach.
Other Contact: watch and learn
2006 View of the War Memorial
2006 UPDATE: We learned that in 1944, this date marked the end of the nazi occupation of Gaeta and the arrival of the Allies. Many of Gaeta's inhabitants had emigrated or taken refuge in the "hinterland". After 8 months, the 1st tanks of the Allies came to relieve the fears of the citizens. "It was May 19th but it looked like Carnival. In the merry bustle of the moment, when all were clapping their hands shouting hurray for USA! Hurray for the Americans!..." (A. Riciniello)
In September of 1943, the Germans bombed the Cathedral. On September 24th the Germans feared the possibility of an American landing so for 8 months they killed over 250 people, destroyed its wharfs & piers, set fire to the countryside. (T. Viola) After knowing this, I really felt a strong emotion each time I passed the small park and its War Memorial.
The War Monument is located in Villa Comunale and was unveiled in 1927. Evidently, it has changed completely since then.
Something that both Allan and I commented on many times as we traveled throughout Italy was that every little town and village had a monument to honor those who died in wars.
Gaeta was no exception.
In the small park near our apartment in the ancient portion of Gaeta, there stood a tall war Memorial Statue of, I assume, Victory/Nike, Goddess of Victory.
On the ground in front and back of the statue was a flat plaque with the names of those from Gaeta who died in each of those World Wars.
It was so ironic to see the local children playing soccer beside this somber statue. Often, the ball would be kicked to the statue, and one boy would run (right over the plaques) to fetch the ball. How innocent they were, too young to know the significance of those names.
As I read the names, I pictured in my "mind's eye" young, fresh-faced soldiers who had sacrificed their very lives, and they had no idea that a stranger from a foreign country would be reading about them years later and sheding a tear in their honor.
Other Contact: Found in Gaet's Park
The fashion of Gaeta
UPDATE 2006: I was forlorn when we returned to Italy to see that the Italian had decided to dress like Americans...and not fashionable Americans. Instead, of the leather, sweaters, dress pants, etc., this time, we observed tennis shoes [even white ones], sweats, tattered jeans [jeans are the standard now!]. Also, I noted more tatoo markins, piercings on the teen-agers, and a general sloppiness that I had not seen before. THIS REALLY SADDENS ME!
Fashion plays a large role in Gaeta society.
The people of Gaeta are well dressed and take pride in their appearance. They do not dress "down" in cut-offs, T-shirts, shorts, "ratty" jeans, etc. Instead, they wear designer jeans or slacks, shirts/blouses, sweaters, sport coats, leather coats, boots, and leather shoes.
Some of the younger people do try to emulate American youth by wearing high-priced sneakers and sport-logo sport's wear
If you do not wish to "stick out like a sore thumb", then dress accordingly. If you don't mind being an American "tourist", then go ahead and wear white sneakers. I advice you to wear black sneakers.
As the famous saying goes, "When in Rome (Gaeta), do as the Romans (Gaetanis) do"!
The photo was taken in the Medieval section of Gaeta during the week. This young couple is typical of the fashion.
Other Contact: Observe
Il Molo Gelateria at Night
As usual, Allan and I ate a gelato a day [sometimes Allan ate more!]
We returned to an old favorite of ours from 1997 called Il Pinguino where we loved their deserts. They put a waffer atop the cone for dipping and for advertisement since the name of the establishment is stamped on the waffer. Piazza Traniello, 29, Gaeta. Telephone: 01286910599
We also tried the gelato one night at Il Molo; it never seemed to be open in the afternoon.
It had good gelato and lots of customers. [di Valerio Paolo, P. Del Pesce 1/2, Gaeta. Telephone 0771-464721
In the newer part of Gaeta, we tried Gelato at Il Sole, Piazza XIX Maggio, Gaeta. Phone: 01145160592.
We also ate Gelato at Bar Gelateria Platani at Lungomare Caboto, 612, GAETA. Telephone: 0771-460048
All the gelato was delicious. My favorite was from Il Pinguino. [tried and true]
Phone: See Text
In front of the %bGran Guardia Bu8ilding%b 
While living Gaeta for two months, we were fortunate to share many local ceremonies.
One Sunday afternoon for several hours, it seemed as though the entire town came to the graduation ceremony for the National Guard.
The town plaza was "roped" off, chairs were set up, a band assembled, the church clergy led the way, and after numerous introductions, the ceremonies began.
It was a festive occasion with family, friends, and interested townspeople in attendance. Being a "towns people" for two months, we joined in.
Other Contact: Being in right place
"When in Gaeta..."
In the newer part of Gaeta (would be ancient in US), there is a fountain that constantly runs with fresh water from Monte Orlando (I assume).
One day, while Allan and I were on one of our many explorations, we came across this fountain, and Allan took a drink while I snapped the photograph.
I think its a great example of a local custom that does not exist back home. It sure beats a metal drinking fountain.
Other Contact: New Gaeta
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