Sperlonga Coastline Italy

Sperlonga History and Saracen Invaders

In Sperlonga’s old historic centre there is a pretty little courtyard with a old well.  Here there are some interesting murals depicting Sperlonga’s turbulent history when it was plagued by Saracen invaders and pirates.  Going back in time the peasants and fishermen of Sperlonga lived down by the beach or on the plain. However from the 9th century onwards Sperlonga found itself under constant threat from Saracen raids. So the local people moved to higher terrain, and created a town on the rocky promontory of Colle San Magno.  This new settlement became protected by a castle and fortified walls which had two gateways, namely La Portella and Porta Marina.

The Ottoman Pirate Kayr al-Din Also Known As Red Beard or Barbarossa

In 1524 the notorious ottoman pirate Khayr al-Din (better known as “Red Beard” or “Barbarossa”) invaded Sperlonga. He was the commander of the fleet of Sultan Suleiman The Great. His plan was to kidnap the beautiful countess of Fondi, Giulia Gonzaga, and take her back as a prize for the Sultan. The plot failed as Giulia cunningly managed to make her escape, however the towns of Fondi and Sperlonga payed the price.  Sadly many local citizens were massacred or taken as slaves.  

In 1622 history repeated itself and Sperlonga once again was razed to the ground by Turkish pirates.  The town of Sperlonga was rebuilt with narrow streets and long winding stairways, designed to confuse invaders, making their incursions more problematic.

Numerous watchtowers were built along the coast to form a defence system. Those that still survive are Torre Centrale, Torre del Nibbio, Torre Truglia, Torre Capovento, Torre Sant’ Agostino, Torre Viola, and Torre d’Orlando.

Ottoman Pirate Kayr al-Din Red Beard or Barbarossa Sperlonga


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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga Itri

* Public domain image

All other photos on this page © Louise Shapcott