Surroundings

As we have already had occasion to say Vescine thermal complex lies on a lush wild and colorful hill..

The whole surrounding area, however, can also be described  as a land of unforgettable views, where the mild climate, the proximity to the sea, the presence of rolling green hills, the Roccamonfina’s volcano, woods and valleys, and a succession of small towns and the enchanting medieval walls, making it one of the most beautiful areas of southern Lazio and a spectacular place of the Italian territory. A real paradise to discover, which  presents a balance between man and environment largely intact,  and where   aspects of living folklore, tradition and festivals are still present. Stand also nearby, the extraordinary Caves of Pastena, the Monastery of Monte Cassino and the spectacular fortified city of Minturno.

Abbey of Montecassino

Founded in 529 by St. Benedict of Norcia on the site of an ancient tower and a temple dedicated to Apollo, situated 519 meters above sea level, the Abbey of Montecassino, suffered in the course of its history, an alternate story of destruction, looting, earthquakes and subsequent reconstruction.

In 581, during the invasion of the Lombard’s, the monastery was destroyed for the first time and the community of monks, with the remains of the holy founder, had to take shelter in Rome. Then, from 643 monks found hospitality in the community of St. Columban at Bobbio and later in various monasteries and abbeys colombaniane in Italy and Europe, spreading enormously Benedictine communities.

Rebuilt around 717 under the leadership of Petronace of Monte Cassino, the abbey was destroyed a second time by the Saracens in 883, being rebuilt by Pope Agapito II only in 949. Throughout the Middle Ages, the abbey was a lively center of culture through its abbots, its libraries, its archives, schools and miniature scripts, who transcribed and preserved many works of antiquity. Historical evidence of the highest interest and secure validity were collected and passed on to Monte Cassino: from the first precious documents in the vernacular manuscripts to the famous Monte Cassino, the precious and rare incunabula.

Destroyed by an earthquake in 1349 and rebuilt in 1366, the abbey became in the seventeenth century, the appearance of a typical Neapolitan Baroque monument, thanks to the paintings by many artists such as Luca Giordano, Francesco Solimena, Francesco de Mura, Giovanni de Matteis. In these forms had come to us before the ancient monastery in February 1944, during the second phase of the battle of Monte Cassino, a massive bombardment of the allied forces destroyed it again.

The reconstruction, which began immediately after the end of the war, he aimed it at an exact reproduction of the destroyed architecture. The restoration was carried out from 1948 to 1956, under the direction of engineer Joseph Breccia Fratadocchi, who made a reconstruction of the interior.

Gaeta

Gaeta was vacation spot since Roman times: this  beautiful town on the coast of Lazio is rich in history and culture.
The city has played an important role in the historical Italian events.
The Angevin-Aragonese castle was home to several popes and real and his secret hosted famous guests such as Giuseppe Mazzini, who was imprisoned in 1870. Here Roman remains, medieval strongholds but also Bourbon and Moorish influences coexist harmoniously, remembering the moments of splendor of the city. For millennia Gaeta was an important military port with a fortress sieges and subjected to successive occupations.
Gaeta as well as culture and history offers tourists a beautiful area of ​​the sea: its territory has 7 beaches for different shape and strand amplitude  and shoreline.
Among all the Serapo Beach, located on the isthmus in the middle of the city center and with quality services, in its collection basin and protected by the headland to the south, is truly unique in the world, for the width strand for the fineness of the sand and for its whiteness.
Quite a sight: Near the castle there is the promontory of Monte Orlando about 170 meters high above the sea with its beautiful limestone cliffs, to visit the spectacular Split Mountain and The Cave of Turkish.
Throughout the area there are archaeological finds of which we recommend the Mausoleum of Lucius Munatius Plancus who fought at Julius Caesar in Gaul.
Other things to see are:
the Campanile of S. Erasmus (1148-1300), Arab-Norman monument 57 meters high, the burial ground Maritime (age of Emperor Hadrian), the Town Hall (1700), the Pavilion and Royal Villa (1800), the City Walls and Forts (1500-1800 ),
Palazzo S. James (1500), Palazzo Cardinal de Vio (1529), Roman ruins of Villa Marco Filippo, Villa Faustina Villa Munatius Plancus, Atratina Villa, Villa Gnaeus Fontejo and the Port of Antoninus Pius.
To visit the Pinacoteca di Palazzo De Vio in which there are paintings and panels of the period XI-XVIII century. In one of the rooms can enjoy the splendid “Banner of the Battle of Lepanto” (1571), attributed to Girolamo Siciolante of Sermoneta.

The Pontine Islands

The Pontine Islands are an archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the coast of the Gulf of Gaeta, about 12 km ², with a population of about 4000 inhabitants (Ponziani), which in summer becomes a lot more due to an intense tourist movement.

The archipelago comprises six islands divided into two main groups:
group of north-west: Island of Ponza, Palmarola Island, Isle of Zannone, an island of Gavi.
group of south-east: Ventotene Island, Island of Santo Stefano.

The islands are accessible by ferry or hydrofoil from Formia, Anzio, Terracina, San Felice Circeo and, in summer, also from Ischia, Naples and Pozzuoli.

PONZA
Ponza is the largest of the Pontine Islands and is situated in the Gulf of Gaeta (Tyrrhenian Sea), 21 nautical miles south of Cape Circeo, has an area of 7.5 km ² and is almost entirely mountainous, dominated by mountains in the center Core (201 m), Twenty Three (177 m) and Pagliaro (177 m), reaches its maximum altitude of 280 m at Monte Guardia, located at the southern end of the island.
Its beaches are mostly rocky and jagged, composed of kaolin and tufa, proving (along with the many extinct volcanic craters but still recognizable) of the volcanic origin of the island. The presence of underwater caves and cliffs annually attract thousands of enthusiastic divers, swimmers and of course, you prefer the famous beach of Chiaia di Luna (south-west), surrounded by high cliffs overlooking the sea.

PALMAROLA
The island of Palmarola is located about 10 km west of Ponza and is the third largest island of the Pontine Islands, after Ponza and Ventotene. Also called the “hairpin” because of its shape, actually takes its name from the dwarf palm, the only palm native to Europe, which grows wild on its surface.
The island is a nature reserve and, thanks to its pristine appearance, and the variety of its coastline is considered one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Inhabited only in summer, becomes a place of retreat for the ponzesi that, escaping the chaotic Ponza, take refuge in the cave houses, typical dwellings carved into the rock of Palmarola. In addition to the cave houses the only buildings on the island meet in Cala del Porto, the only landing Palmarola, here we find two small restaurants and the house of Fendi sisters, kept during the year from what can be defined as the only true inhabitant of the island. A Palmarola was exiled and died pope Silverio, the patron saint of the town of Ponza is celebrated on June 20. The “rock of San Silverio” includes on its top a small chapel that the popular tradition is built on the remains of forced residence of the saint.

ZANNONE
The island of Zannone is the most northerly of the Pontine Islands, and by extension (0.9 km ²), the third to last of the archipelago (the smaller Santo Stefano and Gavi). It is located north-east of Ponza in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The site of a Cistercian monastery ruins of which remain important (Arianna Viola, The Monastery of the Holy Spirit of Zannone, Journal Cistercian, XX, 2003, p. 67-84), is now inhabited only in summer by the two lighthouse keepers, located on the northern tip of the island (Cape Negro). Since 1979 the island has been in the National Park of Circeo, given its naturalistic importance. In fact, given the very low human presence throughout history to Zannone (only traces have been found dating back to prehistoric man-made), the island is home to some interesting endemic flora and fauna.

GAVI
The island of Gavi is a small island in the archipelago including the Pontine (or Pontian). Located just 120 meters from Ponza, has a length of approximately 700 meters and a width of about 350 meters, the highest point is about 101 meters above sea level.

VENTOTENE
Ventotene has an elongated shape, measuring about 3 km and a maximum altitude of 139 meters. The island of Santo Stefano is located about 2 kilometers to the east, while the island of Ponza is 40 kilometers north-west.
Ventotene was known and inhabited at the time of the Greeks and Romans, who used to call Pandataria or Pandateria (Παντατηρια in ancient greek).
It became famous because it was the first place where Augustus banished his daughter Julia (ruins of Villa Giulia in Punta Eolo), then the Emperor Tiberius banished his niece Agrippina in 29 AD and later the Emperor Nero banished his wife Octavia, after having repudiated. Agrippina the Elder died of hunger on the island (probably by order of Emperor Tiberius himself) in 33 AD
Of the Roman period in Ventotene were several ruins of villas and aqueducts, the ancient port and the fish ponds modeled in the volcanic rocks of tuff.
During the Fascist period, namely from 1941 to 1943, on the island were confined anti-Fascists of all the trends, and people do not like to be considered by the regime. among  others :Sandro Pertini, Luigi Longo, Umberto Terracini, Pietro Secchia, Eugenio Colorni, Spinelli, Ernesto Rossi. It was these last two anti-fascists to write on the island, in the spring of 1941, the most important document for a free and united. Draft Manifesto became known as Ventotene Manifesto. In the document, the federation of European states, the U.S. model is shown as the only solution for the salvation of European civilization: from then on the ‘United States of Europe’ cease to be an object of philosophical interest or cultural but they become real political objective.

SANTO STEFANO
Santo Stefano is geographically part of the Pontine Islands. Like the rest of the archipelago, the island has a volcanic origin and has a circular shape less than 500 meters in diameter, with an area of ​​about 27 hectares. In Roman times the island had different names, including Partenope, Palmosa, Dommo Stephane and Borca and was sparsely inhabited. Steep cliffs, in fact, have always made the landing difficult, only possible in 4 points to choose from depending on the winds.
At present, the island is uninhabited and privately owned. It is located about 2 km east of Ventotene. The only building on it this is a prison (circular building) with 99 cells built in the Bourbon period (about 1794-95) by Ferdinand IV and in use until 1965.

Minturno

The city of Minturnae (Minturno) was built along the route of the Via Appia, at the Garigliano River. Its origins date back to a center Ausone, belonging to the Pentapolis Aurunca. A special worship prevailed for the nymph Marica – “the goddess of the water that Shines in the light of the sun”, but also the goddess “that destroys, raging, consuming, dries up” – in honor of which had been erected in the late century. Sixth century BC, a temple in tuff, which was later refitted in masonry at the end of the first century by the Romans. People Aurunco ​​defeated in 340 BC, the Romans took possession of the territory. It was refounded as a Roman colony and its ager belonged to the area between the Aurunci Mountains and the Tyrrhenian Sea, consisting of a residential area on the coast of today’s Sciurid (formerly Pirae), with extensive villae maritimae, and an agricultural area and production, along the river and the hills, where there were several villae rusticae or farms. As mentioned at the mouth of the Garigliano stood the sacred grove of the goddess Marica.

Minturnae took refuge in the swamps of the old, in 88 BC, the consul Gaius Marius, closely followed by the men of rival Silla. The local magistrates ordered his killing at the hands of a slave Cimbrian. The leader managed to escape death, after the German intimidated.
The city was probably destroyed by the Lombard’s in 580 and 590. After the destruction of Minturnae, the inhabitants took refuge on the nearby hill, founding the center of “Traetto” or “Traietto.” The name derives from scafa that joined the two banks of the Garigliano. In the eighth century was founded the Patrimonium Traiectum, that the city became the center of a large estate run by a deacon directly under the Pope Under the papal power, Traetto was surrounded by walls, but was destroyed in 883 by the Saracens came to mostly from Muslim Sicily and settled in the plain of Garigliano, were then expelled from the league in 915 by Pope John X.
Came under the control of Gaeta, the city was again destroyed by the Hungarians. Later had their feudal lords, and at the end of the tenth century, was donated to the Abbey of Montecassino. In 1061 the ‘Abbot Desiderius granted the people the chartae libertatis (card franchise). After being conquered by the Normans of Sicily in the thirteenth century it passed to the Earls of Aquila Gaeta and then to the Caetani when they became owners of County Funds, which was part Traetto. Was given to Prospero Colonna, who had fought in 1503 by the French at the Battle of Garigliano, which began the Spanish rule in southern Italy. From 1690 to 1806, when the feudal system was abolished, the city was held by the Earls Carafa. During the Napoleonic occupation, on Easter Day, 1799, was attacked and conquered by the Franco-Polish, in retaliation to the cities that lined Fra ‘Diavolo: 349 traettesi died, and many residents of neighboring countries.
On July 13, 1879 Traetto returned to its original name of Minturno.

Naples

Naples is the third Italian city in population after Rome and Milan, and is the heart of a metropolitan area with a high population density, among the most populous in Italy and Europe.

It is located almost centrally located on the gulf, between Mount Vesuvius and the volcanic area of ​​Campi Flegrei. His artistic and architectural heritage is protected by UNESCO, which in 1995 included the historic center of Naples, the largest in Europe, between the sites of the World Heritage Site.

It was founded by the inhabitants of Cumae in 475 BC as Neapolis in a lower area compared to a previous settlement, founded in the seventh century BC by Greek colonists. Ranks among the top cities of Magna Graecia, in the course of its history, Naples has seen a succession of long and numerous foreign domination, covering a prominent position in Italy and Europe.

After the Roman Empire in the seventh century, the city formed an independent duchy, independent from the Byzantine Empire, and later, from the thirteenth century and for about six hundred years it was the capital of the Kingdom of Naples. From Naples, the beginning of the fifteenth century, under Ladislaus I of Durres, he left the first attempt to re-unification of Italy, after which the city became the political center of the Empire of Aragon. For historical reasons, artistic, political and environmental issues is, from the late Middle Ages until today, one of the main centers of cultural life, like the other major capitals of the continent.

Pompeii

In the second century BC the intensive cultivation of land and the consequent massive export of wine and olive oil brought in the big city comfort and a high standard of living enough to remember the wealth of some houses and their luxurious furnishings. The House of the Faun, for example, can rival in size (almost 3000 sq ft) even with the most famous royal residences Hellenistic.

In the autumn of 79 AD Pompeii was the victim of a violent eruption of Vesuvius. The city was buried by a rain of ash and lapilli that fell unbroken to form a layer of at least ten meters.

Of Byzantine artifacts provide evidence that there was also a small settlement in the Middle Ages. The modern Pompei was founded after the construction of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii. The Sanctuary was consecrated in 1891. Character of absolute importance was Bartolo Longo, who was beatified October 26, 1980 by Pope John Paul II. There are at least eight million tourists a year of Pompeii: about four million pilgrims come to visit the ruins and more than four to visit the Sanctuary (very conservative estimate: it is a more reliable between five and six million only for the Sanctuary).

The city of Pompeii has ancient origins as those of Rome, in fact descended from the gens Pompeia one of the first Italian people Oscans. Only after the mid-seventh century BC, a primitive settlement was established on the Pompeii of the future: maybe not a real town, but more likely a small commercial node cluster around he saw the intersection of three major roads, modeled in full historical period from the streets from Cumae, Nola and Castellammare di Stabia.

It was conquered for the first time by the Greek colony of Cumae between 525 and 474 BC Strabo reports that Pompeii was conquered by the Etruscans, the news that in the light of recent excavations becomes more reliable.

The battle lost by the Etruscans in the waters in front of Cuma and Cumans against Syracuse (mid-fifth century BC), Pompeii brought under the hegemony of Greece. Probably at this time the entire plateau was fortified with walls of tufa that contained more than sixty acres, although the city itself did not reach even the ten-hectare.

In the fourth century Pompeii was involved in the Samnite Wars (at the end of which Rome was the undisputed lady of the Campania region) and was forced to accept the status of a member of the City, while retaining linguistic autonomy and institutional. It dates back to the fourth century that the first regular urban layout of the city which, around 300 BC, he received the new fortification in Sarno limestone.

The Royal Palace of Caserta

The Royal Palace of Caserta was built by Charles III of Bourbon, who, struck by the beauty of the landscape Caserta and eager to give a worthy representative office in the government of the capital Naples and his realm, he wanted was to be built a palace that they can stand comparison with that of Versailles. It initially gave for granted that would be built in Naples, but Charles of Bourbon, conscious of the considerable vulnerability to attacks in the capital (especially from the sea), thought to build inland, in the Caserta area: a safer place and yet not too far from Naples.

The king turned to the architect Luigi Vanvitelli, at that time engaged in the restoration of the Basilica of Loreto on behalf of the Papal States. Charles III obtained from the Pope to be able to instruct the artist and in the meantime bought the area required by the Duke Michelangelo Gaetani.

The king asked that the project understood not only the palace, the park and the arrangement of the surrounding urban area, with the procurement of a new aqueduct (Carolino Aqueduct) that crossed the adjoining complex of San Leucio. The new palace was to be the symbol of the new state of Bourbon and manifest power and grandeur, but also be efficient and rational.

The project was part of a wider plan policy of Charles III, who wanted to move the main administrative structures of the State in Caserta, Naples connecting the capital with a monumental avenue of over 20 km. This plan, however, was only partially realized, even the royal palace was not completed dome and corner towers initially planned.

Rome

Rome is the most populous and largest in Italy and is one of the major European capitals in size of the territory, by definition, is called the City, and the Eternal City.

During his three thousand years of history, was the first great metropolis of humanity, the heart of one of the most important ancient civilizations, which influenced society, culture, language, literature, art, architecture, philosophy , religion, law, the customs of later centuries was the capital of the Roman Empire, which extended its control over the entire Mediterranean Basin and much of Europe, and the Papal States, subject to the temporal power of the Popes.

It is the city with the highest concentration of historical and architectural landmarks in the world, its historic center bounded by the perimeter of the Aurelian walls, overlapping testimonies of almost three millennia, is an expression of historical, artistic and cultural world of Western Europe, in 1980 together with extraterritorial properties of the Holy See in the city and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Rome, the heart of Catholic Christianity, is the only city in the world to accommodate internally a foreign state, the enclave of Vatican City: for this reason it is often referred to as the capital of two states.

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