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A Gazetteer of the Latium

A region of central Italy: 17,200 sq. km. 2003 population: 5,145,000. Capital: Rome
A large shuttle-shaped mountain, looking very dry at the end of summer. It is a view of M. Soratte in the Lazio (Italy).

Horace's Mt. Soracte in Northern Lazio, seen from the Via Flaminia.

The Latium, or to give it its modern Italian name, the Lazio, is a small part of Italy disproportionately famous because it's the area around Rome: the first few centuries of Roman history, for example, were in fact the local goings-on of about 10,000 farmers and tribesmen.

When Rome became powerful, then rich, it sapped much of the surrounding countryside to itself, as capitals will, especially that the Lazio is not favored by particularly good weather or geography, to the south much of it being swamp and to the north volcanic desert. Compared to the rest of Italy the modern region is still very sparsely populated, but it covers a bit more territory than ancient Latium, so that its four outlying provinces — Viterbo, Rieti, Latina and Frosinone — have a certain vitality, and are full of interesting ancient and medieval remains, which is what I like on this website.

[image ALT: The Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum.]

Predictably, Rome will hog the spotlight, but this page is not the place for her: see the city's own detailed orientation page.

[ 1/30/03: 551 pages, 410 photos,
170 drawings, 21 plans, 10 maps ]

[image ALT: A view of the Forum of Ostia Antica.]

The ancient port of Rome, Ostia Antica, is often neglected by visitors to the Eternal City, despite being just 45 minutes away by cheap and frequent commuter train. This is a big mistake: it's almost as well-preserved as Pompeii, and a beautiful place; yet without so much as one-tenth the crowds tramping around.

[ 4 pages, 6 photos ]

[image ALT: A view of S. Francesco and the Velino River, in Rieti (Lazio, central Italy).]

The provincial capital of Rieti is an austere grey-walled town surrounded by mountains. It has a number of interesting medieval churches, and a Roman bridge — underwater.

[ 1 page, 1 photo, 6 linked sites ]

[image ALT: It is a view of the main square of Leonessa (Lazio, central Italy).]

The small and somewhat seasonal town of Leonessa, a summer resort and ski resort popular with people who live in Rome, is also a città d'arte with several beautiful churches; one of my happiest finds in years of poking around central Italy.

[ 19 pages, 74 photos ]

[image ALT: The upper part of a stone belfry pierced with two arches. It is a scene typical of Antrodoco (Lazio, central Italy).]

Not much more than a village, Antrodoco is a handsome place with good clean air in the mountain gorges of the Velino river. One very beautiful church, characteristic streets, and yes, one of the medieval gates has an inscription of the emperor Trajan.

[ 1 page, 3 photos ]

[image ALT: A view of the courtyard of the Palazzo Comunale of Viterbo (Lazio, central Italy).]

Viterbo is an elegant, rich and lively small city, the most urban environment in the Lazio outside of Rome itself. It has always served as a retreat away from the capital: now filmmakers and writers, in the Middle Ages the Popes; not surprisingly then, it's one of the most consistently medieval towns in Italy.

[ 1 page, 1 photo ]

[image ALT: missingALT Bomarzo (Lazio, central Italy).]

Bomarzo, famous thruout Italy for a very odd 16c park inhabited principally by monsters. An extraordinary place.

[ 1 page, 4 photos ]

[image ALT: A 12th‑century stone lion. It guards the main door of the cathedral of Civita Castellana (Lazio, central Italy).]

Civita Castellana, the city of Falerii, centuries older than Rome, that Camillus destroyed in the 4c B.C., now poses no threat, and is in an area very rich in Roman and pre-Roman remains, as you might expect. The star of the town is definitely the cathedral.

[ 2 pages, 4 photos ]

[image ALT: missingALT Orte (Lazio, central Italy).]

Everyone who travels around central Italy knows Orte: that's the big railroad station where you stop and wait a while, or maybe change trains if you have to. In fact, there's a town attached to that station, positively decaying in its hoary antiquity. Not to everyone's taste, but of interest.

[ 2 pages, 2 photos ]

[image ALT: missingALT.]

Now I've never really been anywhere in the province of Latina, except for a day at the beach; but an Australian pal who takes wonderful pictures has spent a lot of time there: Carole Roach's Italy is slowly coming online, covering a string of beautiful towns along the Mediterranean coast. Her photos, my text (there's where the "slow" is!): Gaeta, Formia, Terracina, Sperlonga, Minturno; also several transcriptions of articles in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911 — annotated, of course.

[ 9/4/17: 9 pages, 11 photos ]

[image ALT: missingALT]

For those who like churches and prefer a topical approach, I am continuing to develop my Churches of the Lazio site; about 85% of them are in the city of Rome.

[ 10/28/10: 135 churches, 68 pages, 254 photos ]


[image ALT: An oil painting of a romanticized rural scene of a large pond emptying out toward the viewer in a wide but low waterfall. The pond has an islet in it, almost entirely shaded by four slender trees. In the background, three ranges of increasingly tall hills, the first of which is crowned by what appears to be a small walled town. It is a painting of the Falls of Subiaco (central Italy), by Joseph Anton Koch. The image serves as the icon on my site for Dorothea Roberts's book, \'Latian Summers\', a partial translation of \'Wanderjahre in Italien\' by Ferdinand Gregorovius.]

In the mid‑19c, German historian Ferdinand Gregorovius spent many months perambulating various parts of Italy, and wrote up his impressions in Wanderjahre in Italien — of which the Lazio portion was translated into English for the first time by Dorothea Roberts: Latian Summers is an interesting account of many of the old Latin towns in what are now the provinces of Frosinone and Viterbo; the excerpts also include a small section on Umbria and the Sabine country.

[ 364 pages of print, 4 photos ]

[image ALT: A stylized representation of a metal hand-mirror, taken from the binding of a book. It is an Etruscan mirror motif representing that book, George Dennis's 'Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria'.]

George Dennis's celebrated work, Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria (1848), though only half of it is given over to the Latium, is a very good book and even today remains one of the best possible general resources for Etruscan monuments in the area; but it's also a fascinating glimpse into the beginnings of modern archaeology — and very useful to anyone with an interest in the entire countryside of the Northern Lazio, as for example if you're planning to cover it on foot, horseback or bicycle.

[ 8/3/02: a few loose ends, but the complete text is there:
107 engravings, 2 plans, 6 maps; 4 photos of my own ]

[image ALT: missingALT.]

La Civita near Artena in the Province of Rome is a report of a series of site visits by George Pfeiffer and Thomas Ashby, published in 1905 in the Supplementary Papers of the American School of Classical Studies in Rome. Polygonal walls, altars with eagles, striking landscapes with hundred-foot chasms. . . . It makes one want to visit this out‑of-the‑way little place, of course.

[ 1 page, 17 photos, 2 maps ]

[image ALT: missingALT.]

Privernum: a site survey, in three parts, of the scant vestiges of a nearly vanished Volscian and Roman town, published in 1911 in the American Journal of Archaeology.

[ 2 pages, 19 photos, 2 maps ]

[image ALT: A close-up of a collection of papers spread out on a table. It is the icon used on this site to represent my American History Notes subsite.]

From the same Antiquary's Shoebox section of this site, other more minor items on the Lazio beyond Rome:

F. J. Haverfield: The 'Bridge' at Aricia

Kirby F. Smith: On a Legend of the Alban Lake Told by Dionysius of Halicarnassus

[ 10/21/10: 11 pages of print presented in 2 webpages ]

[image ALT: a blank space]

Finally, it proves useful to include onsite these small articles from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, annotated:

Albulae Aquae (mod. Bagni di Tivoli)

Anagnia (mod. Anagni)


Hernici Volsci

[ 12/3/17: 5 pages ]

There are many parts of the Lazio I have not seen; but in addition to this sampler of structured pages, which I hope will be joined soon by a subsite on the Via Flaminia in the Lazio, you may also find it useful for now to look at the Sept. 13, 2000 entry of my diary, which is a rather long photoillustrated account of a walk up that Roman road from Prima Porta thru Malborghetto to Civita Castellana; and at the Oct. 20, 1997 entry for Nemi and its famous lake and museum, with photos, of course.

Finally, a fair number of other places in Lazio are briefly mentioned in different parts of my site, with further links offsite: to find them, use the search engine in the navigation bar below.

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Site updated: 4 Dec 17