Saturday, 30 January 2016

Roman and Mediaeval Terracina

Today was an ideal day for visiting the old town of Terracina- beautiful blue skies! Terracina is a small town perched at the top of a hill overlooking the modern town below, just next to the sea. This photo was taken in the main square. The road the people are walking on is part of the Appian Way, an old Roman road, which goes right through the small town.

This photo shows the duomo, San Cesario, also in the main square. It was built in the 12th century - like all the medieval buildings in the town and includes ancient Roman building parts (the steps up to the church, the columns- look out for the 4 monkeys on the last one on the left - and a mosaic on the right hand side of the church) as the church was built on a temple of Rome and Augustus dating back to classical times. The bell tower dates back to the 13th century. The tower on the left hand side of the picture is now a museum Museo Civico Archeologico Pio Caponi, which has many ancient Roman statues and information. Well worth a visit.
As you wander around the town, you come across many archaeological remains amongst the mediaeval buildings. As I was wandering around the town with friends, I was informed by an elderly resident that these ruins were discovered during the Second World War. The town was heavily bombed by the Germans during the Allied landings in Southern Italy and these ruins were found amoungst the rubble! An amazing story. Here is a photo below, again of the main square showing the ancient Appian Way (Via Appia) going straight through it.

One of my favourite churches in this area is this church with the skeleton at the top. The church is dedicated to those going to Purgatory! Those condemned to death would pray here and hope that their time in purgatory would be shortened. A bit macabre, but interesting and unusual nonetheless.


In the mountains to Itri and Fondi

In the mountains, past Terracina are some very scenic drives: you are high up and have fantastic views of the sea! Eventually you will get to Fondi, which lies on the ancient Via Appia.


The most important sight in Fondi is its castle. The Castle has a round tower standing more than 30 metres high and is the symbol of the city. The castle was built in the 14th century by Onorato I Caetani over a stretch of ancient Roman walls. In the 16th century it was the seat of Giulia Gonzaga's court of literates and artists. Since 1987 it houses the city's museum. However, the opening times are very sporadic. Every time I've been there, it's been closed, even when I've checked on the website! Still, it's lovely to walk around and to gaze at from a local bar and soak up the atmosphere.

Another sight is the adjacent Palazzo del Principe ("Prince's Palace"), constructed in 1466–77. This Is attributed to the Catalan architect Matteo Forcimanya. Its portals, the mullioned window, the court and the loggiato are built in the Catalan-Gothic and Angevine architectural styles.

Head down the ancient cobbled streets to a small square where there is the Cathedral of St. Peter (Duomo, 14th century). This is built over an ancient Roman building identified as a temple of Jupiter. It houses the sepulchre of Cristoforo Caetani, a marble bishop cathedra and a pulpit from the 13th century, an Annunciation Tryptych by Cristoforo Scacco with St. Peter and St. Paul by Antoniazzo Romano.


Itri is a real mix. Modern and historic lie side by side. There is a castle that overlooks the town and can be visited. The custodian was very helpful and informative when I visited. She also loved practicing her English!

The castle has a square tower merloned wall, attributed to Duke Docibilis of Gaeta (882), to which his grandson Marinus II added a polygonal tower. A third tower, nicknamed del Coccodrillo ("Crocodile") is in a lower position, directly over the Via Appia. A third line of wall is from the mid-13th century. The castle was damaged during the Second World War, but has now been restored.

  • The church of San Michele Arcangelo (11th century), in Arabic-Norman style.
  • The 12th-century bell tower of the destroyed church of St. Maria Maggiore, with Byzantine style decorations.
  • The Sanctuary of the Madonna della Civita is located 3 kilometres from the city on a mountain once devoted to the Roman God Mercury with a splendid panorama!
  • The Fortress of Sant'Andrea was built in the first century BC on the remains of an ancient Roman villa, located along the old Via Appian Way in the direction of Fondi. This fortress was used by Fra Diavolo during the defensive operations against the French in 1798.
  • The Church of Santa Maria di Loreto is located on a hill northeast from the center of the town. It is connected to the convent of the Cappuccini order. The painting of the Madonna of Loreto, created by 18th century Neapolitan artist Sarnelli, hangs above the church's altar.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Search for the Best Ice Cream

Every summer I put on weight when I come to Italy, despite the walking and swimming I do. It can only be the wonderful food that I eat here and my daily ice cream. I have tried to limit myself to one every other day, but the pull of incredible tasting ice cream is so strong!

Everyone I know has a different opinion where the best ice cream is made, but we all agree on one thing: it has to be home-made or 'artiginale'. Everything else is bland in comparison. A lot of good ice cream is made here, but when you find the best, it is hard to go back to the normal stuff. So where is the best in our local area?

I think the best ice cream is found at a small place in San Felice, near the sea called Lillio along the Via Terracina. It is artiginale of course, but their flavours are a little different and out of this world! The last time I was there, I had ricotta and honey ice cream with melon and a bit of 'panna' on top (cream). Yum. I was going to take a photo of it, but couldn't wait to eat it. A cone with two flavours and panna on top is 2 euros.

My brother disagrees and swears that the best place - while still in San Felice - is at another place - Il Gelatone on Via Tommaso Tittoni.

Try them yourself and see what you think!


Monday, 7 July 2014

The Via Appia Antica

This is the old Roman road that runs from Rome all the way south to Terracina in an almost straight line as most good ancient Roman roads do. It then continues further to the south to Brindisi. It passes very near our farming village and we regularly use it to go to Terracina or even up to Rome on an alternative route to the bigger road - the Pontina.

It's easy to take it for granted - it's just a road. But occasionally you are reminded of its great past when you pass the scattered Roman ruins and mausoleums. This greatness is at it's best near Rome, where there are old Roman buildings on either side of the Appian Way. The large ancient Roman slab stones are still in place on the road making driving very bumpy! Some of the ancient Roman slabs still have grooves dug into them from centuries of carts passing over them. Casual archaeological evidence of life thousands of years ago is evident throughout the region: an aqueduct here, an ancient bridge here. Part of the charm is in the casual nature with which they are treated. Unfortunately, this casual treatment also threatens the preservation of some ancient monuments as well as the lack of funds for their upkeep.

The two lines of the umbrella pines are an easy way to identify this road.



Sunday, 6 July 2014

Food from Local Farms

The Agro Pontino is an agricultural area. It was inhospitable marshland up until the 1920s. The land was drained and reclaimed, settled by farmers from the north of Italy. This explains why Northern Italian food often appears on restaurant menus in the area. The Italian Fascist government organised the farmers, gave them a house, land, some animals and farming machinery. Nowadays it is an area of very fertile land where many crops are grown: tomatoes, peppers, melons etc. The area is also known for its buffalo mozzarella and other cheeses such as ricotta and provola.

Some farms sell their produce directly to the public. This includes vegetables, fruit as well as cheeses and meats. Some farms have little shops attached and some also have no-frills restaurants. I have listed some of them here so you can try them out for yourselves. It's worth mentioning that locals go to the farms to buy produce, so they aren't tourist traps. Prices aren't dirt cheap - it's the freshness and wonderful quality that you're buying.

In Borgo Vodice towards the Via Appia:


54, V. Migliara - 04014 Pontinia (LT)

tel: 0773 852204,0773 850096

They specialise in a range of organic cheeses. They also let members of the public visit their dairy to see how the cheese is made. Ask about times and they will let you know.

Across the Via Appia:


169, V. Migliara 51 Sinistra - 04014 Pontinia (LT)

tel: 327 6957856,0773 850147

I wondered if there was an English connection with this British sounding name - but there is none. No one I spoke to knew where the name came from. There was a grill restaurant opening up here in 2013 specialising in lots of different meats. Check that it is still open as these set-ups often come and go.

There are many Caseifici in the area. Many specialise in cheeses, but also sell more products. They often have big signs advertising where they are. It really is worth going to have a look at what they sell.

Organic Honey

Miele Maiero

Via Migliara 54

Borgo Vodice

I love this place and it's one of my first stops every time I visit. I know the lady who owns the hives and she is really lovely. They produce a range of honeys - eucalyptus, orange blossom, acacia, chestnut. They also sell honey grappa.




Sunday, 29 June 2014

Markets in the Local Area

Most small towns have a weekly market. These usually sell vegetables, cheese, meats as well as clothes and household goods. They are genuine markets that locals use and often have bargains as well as local produce. Some also sell second hand goods. They are great to visit.

Below are the times of local markets if you wish to visit them:


Fridays -7:30 am to 2 pm in Viale Italia.


Thursdays - 7am to 2 pm in the central square Piazza Santa Barbara.

San Felice Circeo

Tuesdays - 7:30 am to 1 pm in Piazza Luigi Lanzuisi near the sea promenade.


Thursdays - 8 am to 1:30 pm in Viale Europa.



Local Sagre (Festivals)

All over Italy there are a variety of local festivals held at different times to celebrate different things - olive oil, fish, grape. There really is a festival for almost anything! There usually is a huge amount of food involved and drink. You usually see them advertised on banners, posters or in newspapers. Many are well-known and happen every year.

I have tried to find all the Sagre that are local to the Latina region. Bear in mind that new sagre are organised all the time and although old ones usually do happen, they can be cancelled or have dates changed. Check before heading to one that is listed here. This can be done on line about a month before the festival or checking at information centres in larger towns. There usually are posters and banners on display in the town/village itself. It's worth keeping your eyes peeled as you travel around for ones that aren't listed here!


Sagra del Prosciutto (21-28 June)

Borgo Vodice (the tiny farming village where our house is - we are fortunate to have loads!)

Sagra della Bufala con Polenta (7- 8th June)

Gastronomic festival (Second Sunday in July)

Bavarian Beer Festival (30 July to 3rd August)

Festa di Cristo Re (August)

Oktoberfest and Trebbiano dei Bagigi (10 to 12 October)

Cisterna di Latina

Cisternese Carnival, with a parade of floats and masked groups in the streets of the city centre and ballo in maschera the evening of Shrove Tuesday in the courtyard of the Palazzo Caetani.

Fiera della Ricalata (last Sunday in October), with re-enactment of the ancient market.

Cisternese Christmas (from 8 December to 6 January), with polenta, fagiolata, artistic Nativity scene in the caves of Palazzo Caetani.


Historic carousel dei Rioni-Palio della Madonna del Soccorso (last Sunday in May), with the participation of three districts (Ninfina, Roman and Signina)

Historic carousel dei Rioni-Palio di Mariano Stabile, (third Sunday in July), with the Palio Race.

Feast of the Madonna del Soccorso (second Sunday of May and following Monday), with the Palio Race.


Regne and fire at the Castle (second weekend in July).


Palio dei Comuni Pontini (last Sunday in July).

Sagra Of Olive Oil (last Sunday in March)

Sagra of Chestnuts (last Sunday of October)


Strawberry Grape Festival (1st Sunday in October).

Roccasecca dei Volsci

Feast of the Goat (last Sunday of August)


Agricultural festival 5 - 6 July


Feast of San Giuseppe Faoni (18-19 March)

Festa della Madonna della Vittoria (second Sunday in October), with historical re-enactment of the battle of Lepanto.


Representation of the passion of Christ (Good Friday), in period costume.

Artichoke Festival (mid-April).

Sagra della Panzanella (3 - 6 July).


Festival of Lights (Ascension, 6th Sunday after Easter).

Spigno Saturnia

Chestnut Festival (2nd Sunday of October).


Festa Marinara/ Festa della Madonna del Carmine: The Festival of the Sea takes place in July and occupies an important place in Terracina's folklore, linked to the town's long fishing history. A statue of the Virgin Mary "Madonna" is placed in a fishing boat, and accompanied out to sea by other boats, decked out with shells, flowers and lights. The procession sails from Terracina port to Circeo. On their return, fireworks are set off from the boats. There is also a fish and seafood festival, with exhibitions of folklore and fried fish stands.