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Formia, Province of Latina, Lazio

A thriving business, artistic and tourist town along the Tyrrhenian coast, situated on the Via Appia.

Formia was, according to the legend, the capital of the Lestrigoni, sly giants of extraordinary strength who practiced anthropophagy, as told by Homer in the Odyssey, whose town was called Lamia. According to other ancient sources, the Lamia name derived instead from a Libyan girl kidnapped by Jupiter and carried on the seashore of Formia.

Info

  • Population: about 36,000 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 04023
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 0771
  • Frazioni & Localities: Castellonorato, Gianola, Maranola, Penitro, Trivio, Santa Croce
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Provinces of Lazio

History

There is historical evidence that Formia was inhabited already in the 6th century BC by an ancient Italic people known as the Volsci, who became Roman citizens in 338 BC.

In Roman times Formia - called Formiae - was a lively center due to its strategic location on the Via Appia, and a seaside resort for the Roman aristocracy. Lucius Mamurra, a Roman cavalier native of Formia, lived in the 1st century BC and was Praefectus Fabrum of Julius Caesar in Spain and France, where he amassed an extraordinary wealth, partly invested in his luxurious villa in Formia. Another Roman citizen of great standing was Vitruvius Pollio, a celebrated architect of the 1st century AD, author of De Architectura.

In 846 AD the town was destroyed by the Saracens and the survivors moved to Gaeta and other neighboring settlements. Only two villages remained: Mola and Castellone, which were joined in 1819 under the name of Comune di Mola e Castellone. Finally a Royal decree in 1863 changed the name back to the ancient Formia.

Traditions

The two separate villages that gave origin to present-day Formia had each its patron Saint: Castellone had S.Erasmo, Mola di Gaeta instead had Saint John the Baptist. The two villages in 1819 were united in the joint commune of "Mola e Castellone". In 1863 the two centers were united under the name of Formia and the problem of the choice of the patron Saint began. Finally in 1938 Pope Pius XI declared Sant'Erasmo and San Giovanni joint patrons of Formia. The two patrons are celebrated with processions and blessing of the sea, S.Erasmo and S.Giovanni on 24 June.

What to see

  • Cicero's Tomb, along the ancient Via Appia at km 137, a cylindrical brick tower called Tomb of Cicero, the famous Roman orator who opposed Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony, and was finally killed by order of the latter in Formia on 7 Dec 43 BC. Historian Livius wrote that Cicero was killed in the high part of his villa in Formia, 1000 yards from the sea.
  • Criptoportici, an underground construction part of a Roman villa, consisting of a 100ft-long and 5ft-wide corridor, leading into 8 identical vaulted locals and 3 more locals to the northern side, one of which leads to a Roman pool.
  • The church of Sant'Erasmo, constructed at the time of emperor Constantine on a former pagan and Christian cemetery where Erasmus, bishop of Antiochia had been buried, killed in Formia on 2 june 303 during the persecutions of Diocletianus. In the eighth century a Benedictine monastery was erected on the place.
  • Fountain of San Remigio, situated along the Via Appia in the direction of Rome, an ancient Roman fountain in stone, still has part of the original paving of the Via Appia. The fountain lies below the road level, and with its length of 18 mt was used as a public drinking spot for horses and animals.
  • Villa Rubino, one of the most famous Roman villas, also called Cicero's Villa, though it is not sure whether this was actually the mansion that the Roman orator had in Formia.
  • The Mura di Nerva - near the Marina di Castellone, there are remains of the walls built by Emperor Nerva.
  • The Peschiere, Roman fish hatcheries constructed in rectangular shape with some inner diamond-shaped pools, with bulkheads that regulated the passage of the water and fish between one pool and the other. They were very popular with the rich Romans who liked to catch their fish in the basins.
  • Torre di Mola - the large tower on the waterfront in Formia was built in the 13th century
  • Roman harbor at Gianola 10 km from old Gaeta
  • Parco Naturale Monti Aurunci
  • Parco Regionale Riviera d'Ulisse
  • National Park of Circeo - the smallest but one of the most beautiful in Italy, includes a beach area, sand dunes, four lakes, an ancient forest, hot springs, many archeological remains and caves, among them the Grotta Guattari, where the skull of the prehistoric Circeo man was found dated 60,000 years ago.
  • Torre di Castellone - Built in the fourteenth century.
  • Castello Miramare - Restored and now used as a restaurant and hotel, it was a castle placed on a high, panoramic position over Formia.
  • Port of Caposele - In this area there are remains of the ancient Roman port as well as villas
  • The Pontine Islands - An hour off the coast of Formia lie the six Pontine Islands: Ponza, Palmarola, Gavi, Zannone, Ventotene and San Stefano. Ponza and Ventotene, the two largest islands, were inhabited in antiquity and preserve many Roman ruins: aqueduct, theater, Roman harbor.
  • Minturnae - 11 km east of Formia, this ancient Roman town controlled the bridge on the Appian Way over the Liri River; there are still important ruins: an aqueduct, two theaters, forums, and other constructions.

Where to stay

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