Rome is full of narrow streets, some so narrow that you can reach out your arms and touch the walls on either side. You quickly discover why Romans drive such small cars. The street leading to the Pantheon was both narrow and treacherous, with uneven cobblestones that could easily trip or twist the ankles of passers-by. I was creeping along this street when I came to a broad stone staircase between apartment buildings, and looked up to see an old woman carrying three large bowls.
Then I saw the cats. They streamed onto the steps and surrounded the woman before she had even set down the bowls. I later found out from Alberto that this particular old woman had been feeding stray cats for years, and that people in other parts of the city often set out food for the animals. There were a lot of stray cats in Rome. Presumably there were plenty of domestic cats, too, but I hadn’t seen any of those yet. Given the habits of Rome’s drivers, I guessed that anyone owning a cat would ensure a long life for his pet only by keeping the cat inside at all times.
Rome is indeed a cat-centric city, which is one of the reasons I like visiting there. And we all know what happens when you combine a camera, some cats, and me, don’t we?
The top left picture was taken in the Protestant Cemetery, final resting place of John Keats. It’s a beautiful, relaxing place, swarming with cats. This one was grooming himself on a sunny gravestone whose owner no longer minds the intrusion.
The next three were taken at the Torre Argentina cat sanctuary in central Rome. Cats roam around the ruins, and at the far end is the actual shelter itself, which cares for over 1000 cats and adopts out about 300 of them each year.
The last picture needs no introduction: it’s a young cat sitting outside the Colosseum looking for entertainment. A moment after this picture was taken, he apparently found it and scampered up the tree to get a better look.
A full report of my trip to Rome is on my old blog.