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Terracina, Province of Latina, Lazio

Terracina is situated where the Volscian Hills reach the coast, leaving no space for passage, commanding the Pontine Marshes and possessing a small harbour, which was of great strategic importance in Roman history.

The picturesque modern town occupies the site of the old. Of the lower town by the harbour, which had buildings of some importance of the imperial period little is now visible, and its site is mainly occupied by a new quarter built by Pope Pius VI, who restored the Via Appia through the Pontine Marshes.

Info

  • Altitude: 22 m a.s.l
  • Population: about 44,000 inhabitants in 2011
  • Zip/postal code: 04019
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 0773
  • Patron Saint: St. Cesareo, celebrated on the monday after the first Sunday following 5 November
  • Frazioni & Localities: Borgo Hermada, Frasso, La Fiora, San Vito
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Provinces of Lazio

History

Originally a Volscian town, it became a colony of Rome in 329 B.C. The construction of the Via Appia in 312 B.C. added to its importance. The Via Severiana, from Ostia to Tarracina, met the Appia some few miles east of Tarracina.

In the southwest was a group of huts inhabited in winter by labourers from the Abruzzi. Near the amphitheatre was found in 1838 the famous statue of Sophocles now in the Lateran Museum. Three miles to the north-west, at the foot of the Monte Leano, was the shrine of nymph Feronia, where the canal following the Via Appia through the marshes ended. Along these 3 miles of the Via Appia are numerous ancient tombs, and the fertile valley to the northeast was thickly populated in Roman days.

Not far off are mineral springs by the coast, known to the Romans as Neptuniae aquae and still in use. The beauty of the promontory with its luxuriant flora and attractive view had made it frequented by the Romans as early as 200 B.C. Galba and Domitian possessed villas here. It appears in the history of the Gothic wars, and Theodoric is said to have had a palace here. In 872 AD Pope John VIII brought it under the domination of the Holy See.

What to see

  • The present piazza corresponds to the ancient forum, and its pavement of slabs of travertine with the inscription " A. Aemilius A. F.," in letters once filled in with bronze, is well preserved. It is supported by massive arched substructures, which extend under the surrounding houses.
  • The cathedral of SS. Pietro e Cesareo, built within a temple of Rome and Augustus, part of the side wall of which, with engaged columns, is still visible. The vestibule, in the Cosmatesque (decorations in marble mosaics developed by the Cosma brothers) style, is supported by ten ancient columns resting upon recumbent lions, with a mosaic frieze upon them. The brick campanile has small columns with little pointed arches. The interior has a fine Cosmatesque pulpit supported by ancient columns resting on lions, a Paschal candlestick of 1245, and a good pavement of the same period with beasts and dragons.
  • The Roman buildings on the summit of the promontory, reached by the old line of the Via Appia, which is flanked by tombs and by remains of an ancient defensive wall with circular towers (attributed to Theodoric, but probably earlier). The summit is occupied by a massive terrace, supported by arcades of fine opus incertum (traditionally, but wrongly, called the palace of Theodoric) on all sides except the east, and commanding a magnificent view seaward over the coast and over the Pontine Marshes.
  • On the terrace the Temple of Jupiter Anxur, a Corinthian temple of the early imperial period, 110 by 65 ft.; the cella was decorated internally with engaged half-columns, and contained the pedestal for the statue of Jupiter Anxur worshipped as a child.

Where to stay