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The view from the Temple of Jove has been inspiring lovers for thousands of years. (Photograph by Eva Sandoval)

Eva’s Terracina

When American travel writer Eva Sandoval traveled to Terracina, a beach town on Italy’s west coast, she planned to stay just three months. That was two years ago. How did a confirmed city girl fall in love with a town that only has one bookstore and shuts down at 8 p.m.? In her words, the “gorgeous, historic Italian town — chaotic and lush, with its sand and sea and Roman ruins and magical mountain — has utterly stolen my heart.” Here are some of the reasons why she thinks Intelligent Travel readers will love it, too.

Follow Eva’s story on her blog, I Eat My Pigeon: Daily Humiliations of a Serial Expat

Terracina is My City

Terracina Alta was built centuries before cars existed, but the cars don't seem to mind.

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is the lungomare – Terracina’s boardwalk.

When I crave hot bombe (fried, sugar-coated doughnuts) I go to Fratelli Mandatori.

If I want to escape the summer heat, I rent a beach chair at La Sirena del Mare and jump into the Tyrrhenian Sea.

If I want to drink artisan Italian beer, I go to La Antica Dogana.

For complete quiet, I can hide away in the cobblestone alleys of Terracina Alta, the ancient quarter.

Bombe: Get 'em plain or filled...just make sure they're hot.

If you come to my city, get your picture taken in front of the Circeum Mountain. Shaped like a witch’s profile, it’s said to be the legendary home of the Homeric witch, Circe.

If you have to order one thing off the menu from Osteria Mama Quevo it has to be the risotto alla pescatora. The best in town.

The Thursday street market is my one-stop shop for absolutely everything – from beautiful shoes to live octopus.

Locals know to skip the balli di gruppo (line-dancing events) and see some live music instead.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped I window shop at Carmen and Blue Joy – the toniest boutiques in town.

Recent studies indicate that the Temple of Jove may actually have been dedicated to Venus.

Photo ops in my city include the view from the Roman Temple of Jove Anxur and the best vantage point is that last bend of mountain road before you reach the temple itself.

The most random thing about my city is how crazy the locals are about 1960s England. We have several “mod”-themed businesses and the city hosts an annual mod festival.

In my city, an active day outdoors involves hiking up to the Temple of Jove Anxur, playing beach volleyball, taking a a dip in the sea, and dancing at a beach disco.

The view of Terracina from the town hall.

For live music, check out nightspots like The Old Square, Ready Steady Go, or La Sirenella. Terracina may be a relatively small city, but its music scene is bursting with ridiculously talented local bands and DJs.

Istanbul Kebab is the spot for late-night eats.

You can tell a lot about my city by hitting Caffè Centrale. A Terracina institution since 1898 drawing every kind of Terracina life form, from Russian tourists to sea-weathered pensioners who’ll give you “friendly” advice on life.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they’re speaking Terracinese; the local dialect.

Stop by Caffe Centrale to get advice from Angelo and other sage regulars.

In the spring you should enjoy the outdoors before the tourists start clogging up the city.

In the summer you should go to the beach and tan to a nut brown shade, otherwise every person you meet will nag, “Don’t you go to the beach?”

In the fall you should enjoy the sunshine before the rains start.

In the winter you should hit the movies; Terracina shuts down after the tourists leave.

Sun, sea, beach umbrellas. What more can you ask for?

A hidden gem in my city is the restaurant at Casa Yvorio. Incredible avante garde cuisine in an otherwise traditional family-run hotel.

Don’t miss the Madonna del Carmine festival in July.

The best way to see my city is by Vespa.

If my city were a pet it would be a stray cat lounging on Roman ruins.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is “La Canzone del Sole,” by Lucio Battisti. Terracina is where my parents met 40 years ago, and “La Canzone del Sole” — a beautiful song about being young and happy by the seashore — was popular while they were courting.

An Italian rap group called Anxur Kingz could only happen in my city.

My city should be featured on your cover or website because when you stand in the Tyrrhenian Sea and look into the distance, the Circeum Mountain anchors you to the North and the Temple of Jove anchors you to the South. Because the Circeum Mountain never looks the same. Because the sun setting over the ochre-tinted ancient quarter is one of the most beautiful sights on earth. Because Terracina’s locals have the biggest hearts.

All photographs courtesy Eva Sandoval.