Lazio South of Rome Attractions
Several cities and villages of note are to be found to the south of Rome.
On the road from Rome to Frosinone and on to Naples there are numerous places of interest. 19km/12mi southeast of Rome on S.S. 6 (the Via Casilina), which runs parallel to the motorway, a minor road leads south via Collefero (225m/743ft; pop. 18,000), with a castle on a hill, to the little town of Segni (668m/1,841ft; pop. 8,000), situated on an outlier of the Monti Lepini, with extensive views. This was the very ancient city of Signia, and preserves most of its 2km/1.25mi circuit of town walls dating from the sixth century B.C., with the remarkable Porta Saracinesca to the northwest. On the acropolis stands the 13th century church of San Pietro, built on the central cella of an ancient temple.
11km/7mi from Segni along S.S. 6 a road goes off to Anagni (424m/1,399ft; pop. 18,000), on a hill 6km/3.75mi northeast, still surrounded by Roman walls. This was the ancient Anagnia, capital of the Hernici, and in the Middle Ages was frequently the residence of the Pope. The cathedral of Santa Maria (11th century, rebuilt in the 13th century) contains a mosaic pavement by Magister Cosmas (1226), an Easter candlestick and a bishop's throne by Vassalletto (1263); in the crypt are old frescoes and an altar by Cosmas and his sons; to the right of the choir is the Diocesan Museum. Also of interest is the 13th century Town Hall.
The old town of Ferentino (393m/1,297ft; pop. 18,000), has almost completely preserved town walls (fifth-second centuries B.C.); on the south side the Porta Sanguinaria and on the east side the Porta Maggiore or Porta di Casamira. On the highest point in the town, the old acropolis, are the Bishop's Palace and the cathedral, which has a mosaic pavement by Magister Paulus (c. 1116). To the northeast, near the Porta Sanguinaria, stands the church of Santa Maria Maggiore (12th-13th centuries; fine doorway).The Terme di Pompeo is recommended for respiratory disorders, skin diseases, chronic arthropathies, etc. The method of treatment is by baths and inhalations. The spa opens from May to September.
12km/7.5mi beyond Ferentino we reach the provincial capital, Frosinone (291m/960ft; pop. 46,000), picturesquely situated on a hillside above the Cosa valley, with remains of ancient buildings.The town has a proud history of being opponents of Rome until 386 B.C. In medieval times the town was in the hands of the Byzantines and Lombards, but was given to the church in 817.Three main monuments in the city are the Church of Saint Benedetto, the Cathedral and the Church of Saint Lucia.Musical events are popular here, and include a fall opera season.
Santi Giovanni e Paolo di Casamari
42km/26mi beyond Frosinone on S.S. 6 a side road branches off to the village of Aquino (106m/350ft), the ancient Aquinum, home of the satirist Juvenal (c. A.D. 60-140) and of the scholastic philosopher Thomas Aquinas (1226-74), known as the "Doctor Angelicus" or "Doctor Ecclesiae", who was born in the castle of Roccasecca (10km/6mi north) and trained in Montecassino abbey. On the Via Latina, which passed here, are remains of the Roman city. Near the river is the 12th century church of Santa Maria della Libera, a Lombard foundation built on the ruins of a temple of Hercules, with a fine doorway (friezes, mosaics, frescoes). 12km/7.5mi farther along is the little town of Cassino.
On S.S. 155 (Via Prenistina), which also leads from Rome to Frosinone north of S.S. 6, we reach in 40km/25mi Palestrina (450m/1,485ft; pop. 14,000), the ancient Praeneste and one of the oldest towns in Italy, birthplace of the greatest Italian composer of church music, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-94; tomb in St Peter's, Rome). In 1630 the town fell into the hands of the noble Barberini family. Almost the whole area of the present-day town was occupied by the massive temple of Fortuna Primigenia, the seat of a frequently consulted oracle, which was built on four terraces on the slope on the hill, and of which there are considerable remains. On the second terrace, by the cathedral, are the well-preserved remains of the Antro delle Sorti ("Cave of Destiny") and the Aula dell'Oracolo, home of the oracle. On the fourth terrace, above the massive arches of the third, stands the Palazzo Barberini (15th and 17th century; Archeological Museum), on the site of the shrine of Fortuna, with magnificent views extending as far as Rome.
Castel San Pietro Romano, Italy
From Palestrina a road (3km/2mi) winds its way up to the village of Castel San Pietro Romano (752m/2,482ft), linked with Palestrina by ancient walls, with the massive ramparts of its acropolis and a ruined 15th century castle. From the Spianata delle Torricelle there are panoramic views.
39km/24 mi from Palestrina on S.S. 115, situated among beautiful forests of chestnut trees, is Fiuggi (621-747m/2,049-2,465ft; pop. 8,000), the most popular spa in southern Italy, with radioactive thermal springs (120 °C/248 °F). 3.5km/2 mi north is the medieval part of the town, Fiuggi Città (747m/2,465ft).The Fiuggi Fonte is a spa recommended for calcolosis, uricemia and other kidney disorders. The method of treatment is drinking.
7km/4.5mi beyond Fuggi on the main road is Alatri (502m/1,657ft; pop. 23,000), the ancient Aletrium, which has the finest surviving circuit of ancient walls. Especially well preserved are the walls (fourth century B.C.) of the acropolis, built of huge polygonal blocks: note in particular the southwest gate, the Porta dell'Areopago, with a lintel slab 5m/5.5yd long and 1.60m/1.75yd thick. On the castle hill are the cathedral and the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. 12km/7.5mi beyond Alatri is Frosinone.
Cisterna di Latina, Italy
In the southern part of Latium is the little town of Cisterna di Latina (81m/267ft; pop. 17,000).An American Market is held here every Tuesday.
From Cisterna di Latina, 10km/6mi northeast, on an outlier of the Monti Lepini, is the little town of Cori (384m/1,267ft; pop. 10,000), the ancient Cora. The town, which claims to have been founded by the Trojan Dardanus, preserves considerable remains of its ancient polygonal walls (fifth century B.C.). In the upper town stands the church of Sant'Oliva, built on ancient foundations, with a two-story cloister, ancient columns and unusual ceiling paintings (16th century). Higher up, by the church of San Pietro, is the antechamber of the so-called Temple of Hercules (first century B.C.), probably in fact dedicated to the three Capitoline deities, Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. From here there are beautiful views over the town to the sea, the plain and Monte Circeo. Below the temple (30minute's walk) are the remains of another temple dedicated to Castor and Pollux.
12km/7.5mi east of Cisterna di Latina is Ninfa, a ruined town still partly surrounded by its walls. The town, mostly dating from the 12th and 13th centuries (castle of the Caetani family with an imposing tower, monastery, two small churches) was abandoned in the 17th century on account of malaria.
8km/5mi north of Ninfa, at Norba (417m/1,376ft; pop. 4,000), are the remains (15 minutes' walk on a hill track) of the old Volscian city of Norba, which became a Latin colony in 492 B.C. and was destroyed by supporters of Sulla during the Roman civil wars. The site, surrounded by a polygonal wall 2.5km/1.5mi long (fourth century B.C.), contains the remains of four temples (museum).
8km/5mi northeast of Ninfa is the little medieval town of Sermoneta (257m/848ft; pop. 6,500), dominated by a castle which belonged to the Caetani family from 1297 onwards, but which was taken over by Pope Alexander VI (Borgia) in 1500-03 for his daughter Lucrezia and was fortified by Cesare Borgia (14th-15th century frescoes). The cathedral contains a Madonna ascribed to Benozzo Gozzoli.
The port town of Gaeta is home to several large churches including the Romanesque cathedral and the Baroque church of the Santissima Annun-ziata. There is an excellent bathing beach to the west.
About 6km/3.75mi north of Gaeta, the pretty little town of Formia is charmingly situated on the Golfo di Gaeta; it is a resort much frequented by Italians in summer. At the west end of the town, near the sea, is the Villa Rubino or Villa di Cicerone, which once belonged to the kings of Naples.
On a promontory 15km/9mi west of Gaeta lies the picturesque fishing village of Sperlonga, still partly surrounded by walls, with a good bathing beach.
Museo Archeologico Nazionale
Outside Sperlonga, in an olive-grove, the very interesting Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Sperlonga houses an excellent collection of original Greek sculpture in marble. Most of the items, found in the Grotta di Tiberio, are now reduced to the condition of huge torsos. The finest piece is the "Ship of Odysseus", by the sculptor responsible for the famous Laocoon group now in Rome, which depicts Odysseus and his companions struggling with the marine monster Scylla. Between the museum and the sea are remains of the Emperor Tiberius's villa and of ancient basins hewn from the rock, which were used for the rearing of fish (aquationes). Close by is the entrance to the Grotta di Tiberio, in which the Emperor Tiberius is supposed to have caroused with his friends. Since 1957 some 7,000 fragments of Greek statues have been discovered here.
15km/9 mi north of Gaeta is the little town of Itri (170m/561ft; pop. 8,000), formerly notorious as a center of brigandage and birthplace of the bandit Fra Diavolo, the hero of Auber's opera. Some of the houses in the town are built into the substructures of the Via Appia; above it towers a massive ruined castle.
Tomb of Cicero
Between Itri and Formia is a round tower known as the Tomb of Cicero, who was murdered at the age of 64 in this area, near his country estate at Formia, in the year 43 B.C.
14km/9 mi northwest of Itri is Fondi (8m/26ft; pop. 20,000), still partly surrounded by ancient walls. In the Corso Appio Claudio, the main street which runs through the whole length of the town on the line of the old Via Appia, are the church of Santa Maria Assunta, with an early Renaissance doorway, and the Gothic church of San Pietro, with a pulpit and bishop's throne of the 13th century. On the southeast side of the town is the Palazzo del Principe (15th century), with the crenellated 13th century Castello opposite.
SituationThe town of Cassino lies between Rome (110km/68mi northwest) and Naples (about 80km/50mi southeast), in southern Latium. The town is noted chiefly for the great abbey of Montecassino which towers above it on a hill. During the Second World War there was bitter fighting around Cassino, and the town was completely destroyed and rebuilt on a new site slightly farther south.
Boat servicesBoat services from Formia to Ponza and Ventotene; from Anzio to Ponza and from Naples via Ventotene to Ponza; hydrofoils from Anzio, Formia and Terracina.SituationThe Pontine Islands (Italian Isole Ponziane) lie off the coast of southern Latium; they form the boundary of the Gulf of Gaeta (Golfo di Gaeta) and the Tyrrhenian Sea. They are of volcanic origin and are frequently shaken by minor earth tremors. The inhabitants live mainly from vine-growing and fishing; in recent years there has also been a developing tourist trade on the two main islands of Ponza and Ventotene.
Ponza, Pontine Islands
The northwestern group of islands consists of the almost uninhabited islands of Palmarola and Zannone (known to the Romans as Palmaria and Sinonia) and Gavi and the well-cultivated main island of Ponza, a crater ridge 7.5km/4.75mi long, rising to a height of 284m/937ft at the southern end in Monte della Guardia, and fringed by picturesque coves and cliffs. Below the north side of the hill is a bay forming a sheltered harbor, with the villages of Ponza (hotels) and Santa Maria. The southeastern group consists of the islands of Ventotene, part of a former crater (3km/2mi long by 1km/0.5mi across), with a village of the same name, and Santo Stefano, a granite island with a former prison.