Nettuno: Raise a glass of Cacchione to the heroes of WWII
One of the reasons Italy is one of the world’s most vibrant, free countries is what happened in the Nettuno area on Jan. 22, 1944.This is where Allied forces stormed the beach and pushed back the Germans in the first steps of liberating Italy.
Today Nettuno is the site of a cemetery holding 7,858 graves of U.S. troops killed in Southern Italy in World War II. But Nettuno isn’t just a place of sorrow and remembrance. It has one of the finest beaches in Lazio, a charming old town and a signature white wine that makes the local fresh seafood explode in flavor.
It’s a straight shot on the train from Rome, the perfect day trip and not just on a summer day. We went last week on a drizzly 55-degree day and loved it. There is something peaceful about roaming an empty beach.
Things to do
1 • Nettuno beach. This is as accessible a beach as there is in Lazio. Nettuno is a 70-minute train ride from Rome, one stop past Anzio https://www.travelazio.it/anzio/.
Leave the train station and head slightly downhill. The beach is less than a 10-minute walk away. Pass the harbor with 860 pleasure craft bobbing in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The beach is to the right. It’s a wide, long swath of golden sand with a brick boardwalk. Look off in the distance and you can see Anzio, nearly adjacent to Nettuno.
Stylish apartment houses of orange, white, cream and brown line the street. The sea is warm in summer and a tolerable 60 degrees on this day in January.
2 • Sicily-Rome American Cemetery. It’s about a 20-minute walk from the beach inland to the sprawling cemetery, hidden by a tall brick wall.
Cross under the iron gate sporting an American eagle and arrow with a wreath and wander around 77 acres of grisly personalized graves, mostly with names, home states and date of death.
The cemetery opened on Jan. 24, 1944, two days after the Battle of Anzio and also contains the dead from the liberation of Sicily in August 1943 and the landing on Salerno in September 1943. As you enter you’ll pass a pretty fountain spewing water into a pool surrounded by Italian cypress trees.
At the end of the mall is a gleaming memorial with a chapel listing the names of 3,095 missing in action. Maps illustrate the military operations in the area. In May 2014 a visitors center opened featuring photos and films.
3 Forte Sangallo. Hovering over Nettuno’s beach like an old lifeguard, Forte Sangallo has been around since 1501 when Pope Alexander VI built it to defend the town by sea. It’s in honor of Antonio da Sangallo the Elder, an architect who specialized in military fortifications.
Run by the city since 1997, the fort features a museum with archaeological remnants from the area, including mastodon horns and teeth. The second floor has vases with barnacles from the sea, ancient coins and part of the wall from Ancient Rome in the 1st century A.D.
Info: Via Antonio Gramsci 5, 39-06-988-89556, https://www.comune.nettuno.roma.it/pagina678_forte-sangallo.html#_=_, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 3:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Free.
Italy’s baseball capital
Baseball has been played in Italy since around World War I and nowhere in the country is it more popular than in Nettuno. For a long stretch in the last century, Nettuno’s baseball club was the New York Yankees of the Italian Baseball League. It holds the record for the most championships with 17. It won eight straight from 1951-58 and 10 others, the last in 2001. It has also won the European Cup six times. They play in 10,000-seat Stadio Steno Borghese not far from the cemetery.
Baseball became popular in Nettuno during World War II when American soldiers stationed there played baseball and included numerous Italians in the games. A museum called Il Bar del Baseball has hundreds of interesting photographs of American soldiers teaching Italian boys the game and photos of the Nettuno and Italian teams in uniform.
Where is it:
50 miles (86 kilometers) south of Rome.
How to get there: Trains leave every hour from Rome’s Termini station. The 1-hour, 10-minute journey costs €3.60.
For more information:
Where to eat:
Romolo al Borgo, Piazza Marcantonio Colonna 1, 39-06-980-5037, https://www.myadj.it/v/trattoriaromolonettuno, email@example.com, 9:30 a.m-3 p.m., 6-11 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Stylish, modern, 20-year-old restaurant near the port features a big floor to ceiling glass door and black and white photos of old Nettuno.
They introduce you with house borak, little egg roll appetizers. Try the mixed grill and definitely order a glass of Cacchione, Nettuno’s signature white wine. Lunch for two with wine and appetizers was €70.