ITINERARIO LATINA-CORI-ROCCAMASSIMA-NINFA-NORMA-SERMONETA-BASSIANO-LATINA-APRILIA – CISTERNA
(Length: circa 130 km. From the flatlands to the villages of the Pontine marshes and Monti Lepini). Located approx. 20 km north of Latina, CORI lies 300 m above sea level in the foothills of the Monti Lepini. Already a flourishing urban centre in the 5th century BC, to which date the oldest of the three city walls can be traced, the origins of the village are seeped in mystery. The city walls were restored in the middle ages, reinforced with new towers and bastions and the three gates (Romana, Signina and Ninfina gates) were added. The symbol of the city is the Temple of Hercules which dates back to the 1st century BC, as does the Temple of Castor and Pollux, of which all that remains are two columns leaning against a modern building. In the lower part of the village, the well (Pozzo Dorico) and bridge (Ponte della Catena) both date back to Roman times. Of special interest are the church of S. Oliva, which is home to the local history museum, the church of S. Maria della Pietà and the church of S. Francesco as well as the (nationally listed) Annunziata oratory which is frescoed with illustrations of the life of Christ. In the upper part, the Sanctuary of Madonna del Soccorso can be reached via a steep stairway. Ten km from Cori on the road which passes through GIULIANELLO lies the highest municipality in the provincea, ROCCAMASSIMA (746 m above sea level). Laid out according to the typical castrum plan, the village is traversed by narrow lanes, while the houses huddle closely around Palazzo del Principe castle. The most interesting buildings are the church of San Michele Arcangelo (built together with the castle but modified at the end of the 18th century), the church of Carmine and that of S. Rocco Fuori le Mura. Returning to Cori through the Doganella crossing, we may visit NINFA, a medieval village abandoned between the end of the 14th and the 18th century. Located at the foot of the hill topped by the village of Norma, in correspondence to the spring which feeds the lake and the river of the same name, the ruins of the abandoned city include a medieval tower, castle walls, municipal offices, seven churches (including the church of S. Maria Maggiore) and numerous houses. Nevertheless, the real beauty of Ninfa lies in its nature reserve. Lovingly established in 1920 by the Caetani family, it is home to thousands of plants from all over the world as well as a wide range of indigenous bushes, trees, roses and essences. Climbing the hill from Ninfa to NORMA (410 m.), there are magnificent views over the plain below. Surrounded by medieval city walls, interrupted by one main gate and a secondary entrance, the village of Norma includes a number of fine religious buildings such as the church of SS Annunziata with the chapel of refuge, of Immacolata and of S. Rocco. Other places of interest include the Civic Archaeological and Virtual Museum of the Ancient Norba and its archaeological site (on Colle della Civita), which contains the ruins of the city destroyed by Sulla in 89 B.C., and the Chocolate Museum. Below the village on the Ninfa side of the hill, lies the rupestrian church of S. Michele Arcangelo (or S. Angelo al Mirteto), a natural grotto transformed into a church in 1183. Descending from Norma towards SERMONETA, we find the 12th century abbey at VALVISCIOLO. Built in local limestone, this is one of the first examples of Cistercian-Gothic architecture in Italy. The abbey includes the Abbot Stanislao White Gallery. Six km further down the hill from Valvisciolo lies SERMONETA (257 m above sea level), one of the best conserved examples of a medieval village in Latium. The village centre is surrounded by a city wall with five gates or rood doors and dominated by the imposing Caetani castle and keep. Over 42 metres in height, the castle is accessed via a drawbridge which leads to a parade ground, with various lodgings, dungeons, stables and chemin-de-ronde. In the village, the main places of interest are the 15th century palazzo in which the municipal offices are now accommodated, a number of tower houses, the panoramic belvedere, the merchants’ loggia, the 13th century cathedral of Assunta (with the Diocesan Museum), the church of S. Giuseppe (frescoed by Girolamo Siciolante), the ancient church of S. Michele Arcangelo, the Museum of Ceramics and the “C’era una Volta” (Once upon a time) Museum. Returning from Sermoneta via Sermoneta Scalo, after about 10 km we reach BASSIANO (562 m above sea level), a medieval village located on a hilltop facing Monte Semprevisa (1537 m). Surrounded by woods, the village is further defended by a 12th century city wall with nine towers. The places of interest include the church of S. Erasmo, the 11th century church of S. Nicola, the 16th century church of S. Maria and the 16th century Palazzo Baronale, which is now home to the municipal offices, and the Opera Aldina Museum dedicated to Aldus Manutius, the father of modern publishing, who was born in Bassiano. Outside the village, the sanctuary of Selvascura (approximately 3 km from the village) includes a fine 17th century crucifix and a hermit’s grotto with 14th century frescoes, while the sanctuary of Trinità, built in 1938 on the mountain of the same name, is also worthy of a visit. Bassiano is also the perfect point of departure for an excursion to Monte Semprevisa. On the way back to Latina, the village of CISTERNA, probably built over the ancient Roman Tres Tabernae, was the last mutatio (a station at which riders could change their horses) before the beginning of the Decennovium road (excavation at km 58 on Via Appia). The site is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles recording Saint Paul’s journey to Rome. Cisterna centres around the 16th century Palazzo Caetani, a feudal stronghold built around a courtyard, with a Roman well and “grottoes” underneath. In addition, the church of Assunta contains a fine collection of ceramics from Faenza. The municipal gardens originally laid out by the Caetani family in the 16th century extend around a 19th century fountain (Fontana Biondi). Much of the Ninfa nature reserve lies within the municipality of Cisterna. Just a few kilometres from Cisterna, APRILIA lies on the border of the provinces of Latina and Rome. Inaugurated on 29 October 1937, Aprilia was the fourth “new city” created under fascism. The countryside around Aprilia is scattered with places of interest including Buon Riposo, Carano (home of the tomb of Menotti Garibaldi) Campo Morto (renamed Campoverde in 1958) whose name derives from the tragic events which befell the area, Torre del Padiglione (at km 51,500 on SS 148 Via Pontina), Carroceto where Pope Innocent XII stayed on the night of 22 April 1697, the Horti Sangiuilanei, an experimental Mediterranean garden filled with many rare species of plant, the horticultural workshops of the International Floriculture Centre and the zoo. The centre of the town is marked by the church and the statue of S. Michele Arcangelo and a Permanent Exhibition of the History of the City.