From the city of cowboys, Cisterna di Latina, to the Gulf of Gaeta through the archaeological ruins of the old town of Norba and the Natural Monument “Garden of Ninfa”.
The province of Latina, bordered by the Alban Hills on the north, by the Lepini Mountains on the east and by the Tyrrhenian Sea on the west, has always been made up of smooth valleys characterized by the typical Mediterranean vegetation and, towards the sea, by swamps, transformed into dune chains after land reclamation. A very fertile area where the olive tree has always been one of the oldest cultures. Olive growing was in fact practiced by the Latin people, who inhabited these lands then passed under the control of Rome. The Romans first and the Papal States later used this crop to limit the progressive siltation of the coastal areas. The reclamation, carried out by the fascist regime around the Thirties, finally eliminated the marshes and wetlands – as well as malaria – giving rise also to vast works of deforestation, clearing of uncultivated land and the creation of medium-sized plots. Olive growing is hence an integral part of the local agricultural tradition thanks to the special work of local producers who, in addition to rediscovering the traditions of the territory, aimed at achieving high quality levels of their products, awarded with important prizes, both at national and international level, that certify the product uniqueness and quality.
The itinerary aims at the discovery of small villages and charming places beneath the long chain of the Lepini Mountains all the way down towards the sea, the other important resource of this area that made it one of the most popular seaside destinations of Lazio, together with the economic boom of the Sixties.
The itinerary starts from the town of Cisterna di Latina, after a quick visit to Aprilia or Rocca Massima, that owes its name to the water tank that Emperor Nero built for his villa in Anzio. Though this hypothesis is not traditionally provable, it is certain however that the town was built right along the Via Appia, as evidenced by the coincidence of a city road with the consular road and, especially, by the beautiful archaeological area of Tres Tabernae: one of the most popular post stations mentioned even by Cicero and a step of St. Paul’s tour.
Cisterna, well known for the beautiful monumental buildings like the Caetani palace, the Caetani caves and the Biondi fountain, is usually referred to as the “city of cowboys”, the herdsmen who drove Maremma cows to winter in the Pontine Marshes.
Unforgettable the legend, real or imaginary, telling of Augusto Imperiali, cowboy of the Caetani family, who challenged and defeated Buffalo Bill and his cowboys in 1890.
A short detour and the itinerary leads to the ancient town of Cori leaving the tourist enchanted by the copious presence of traces of the past: the well-preserved polygonal walls and the temple of Hercules alternate with sacred treasures, in particular the Sant’Oliva monumental complex.
Moving southeastwards, along the terrace that from the Lepini Mountains overlooks the coast, there is the Norma territory, preserving an unmatched historical, archaeological and natural heritage. The archaeological site of Norba, in his circuit of polygonal walls and monumental gates, in the two acropolis as well as in the remains of water tanks, reveals wells, temples and fragments of splendid Roman paving throughout his short and troubled existence.
Not far, the Garden of Ninfa, defined by the Grand Tour as “the medieval Pompeii”, was recognized in the year 2000 as a Natural Monument by the Lazio Region. It is a magical place, where the absolute protagonists are the Ninfa river and its lake.
All around, the garden skilfully illustrates the beauty indigenous and exotic botanical species, almost forming pictorials. Visitors can get lost in alleys of lavender, rows of oaks, birches and lilac while discovering Roman remains, medieval towers and palaces of the Caetani princes.
It is worth mentioning the beautiful village of Sermoneta, overlooked by the impressive Caetani Castle, and the nearby Valvisciolo Abbey lying halfway between the plain and the sea and offering to the visitor the idea that time has stood still.
Likewise the Fossanova Abbey, it was built in the 13th century by the Cistercians and still preserves the original church and bell tower, the beautiful cloister, the guesthouse and the refectory. Worth a visit the medieval town of Maenza and Lenola, located inside the Mounts Aurunci Natural Park.”
The itinerary, going through the towns of Priverno and Sonnino and with a little detour to the charming towns of Monte San Biagio, reaches the sea and leads to the scenic Gulf of Gaeta. The gulf, located between the Mount Circeo and the islands of Ventotene, Palmarola, Santo Stefano, Zannone, holds the towns of Terracina, Sperlonga, Formia, Scauri and obviously Gaeta among sandy white beaches.
The name of Gaeta is related to Caieta, the nurse of Aeneas that the hero wanted to bury here during his wanderings before reaching Lavinium.
Apart from its beautiful beaches, like the Serapo one, Gaeta offers a charming old town overlooking the sea and dominated by the impressive Angevin- Aragonese castle. It is also possible to visit the Sanctuary of the Holy Trinity and the cathedral of Saints Erasmus and Marciano, characterised by its bell, pride of the city.
Right in front of Gaeta, overlooking the Gulf, the coastal town of Formia offers many remains of the glorious Roman period to those interested in archaeology and Roman history. Two important remains: the Roman Water Tank, example of hydraulic engineering of that time, and the Tomb of Cicero, who was assassinated in 43 B.C. precisely in Formia, his favourite town.