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.