Infobox CityIT
img_coa = Terracina-Stemma.png official_name = Comune di Terracina
region = Lazio
province = Latina (LT)
elevation_m = 22
area_total_km2 = 136
population_as_of = December 31, 2004
population_total = 42475
population_density_km2 =258
timezone = CET, UTC+1
coordinates = coord|41|17|N|13|15|E
frazioni = Borgo Hermada
telephone = 0773
postalcode = 04019
gentilic = Terracinesi
saint = Saint Caesarius
day = First Sunday of November
mayor = Stefano Nardi
website = http://www.comune.terracina.lt.it http://www.terracina.com

Terracina is a town and comune of the province of Latina - (until 1934 of the province of Rome), Italy, 76 km SE of Rome by rail (56 km by the Via Appia).


Ancient times

Terracina appears in ancient sources with two names: the Latin Tarracina and the Volscian "Anxur" ( [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/L/Roman/Texts/Pliny_the_Elder/3*.html#59 Plin. NH 3.59] : "lingua Volscorum Anxur dictum"). The latter is the name of Jupiter himself as a youth ("Iuppiter Anxur" or "Anxurus"), and was the tutelary god of the city, venerated on the "Mons Neptunius" (current Monte S. Angelo), where a temple dedicated to him still exists (see below). The name "Tarracina" has been instead pointed out variously as pre-Indo-European origin, or as Etruscan ("Tarchna" or "Tarchuna", the name of the Tarquinii family): in this view, it would precede the Volscian conquest.

Terracina occupied a position of notable strategic importance: it is located in fact at the point where the Volscian Hills (an extension of the Lepini Mountains) reach the coast, leaving no space for passage between them and the sea, in a site commanding the Pontine Marshes ("urbs prona in paludes", "a city flat in the marshes", as Livy called it) and possessing a small harbour. In 509 BCE Tarracina was already under Roman supremacy, but was not included in the list of the Latin league of 499 BCE. In 406 it was stormed by the Romans, then lost in 402, recovered in 400, unsuccessfully attacked by the Volsci in 397, and finally secured by the establishment of a colony of Roman citizens in 329 BCE.

As a "colonia maritima" it frequently appears in history. The construction of the Via Appia in 312 BCE added to its importance: the road at first crossed the hill at the back of the promontory by a steep ascent and descent. An attempt was made in 184 BCE to get round it by an embankment thrown out into the sea: but it was probably not until early in Trajan's time that a cut in the rocks at the foot of the promontory ("Pisco Montano") finally solved the problem. The depth of the cut is indicated by marks on the vertical wall at intervals of 10 Roman feet; the lowest mark, about 1 m above the present road, is "CXX", corresponding to 36 meters. Not far off are mineral springs by the coast, known to the Romans as "Neptuniae aquae" and later renamed "Acqua Magnesia", are still in use, except one containing arsenic which was blocked up both by the ancients and again in 1839 as a precaution. The two roads met some few miles east of Tarracina, and the Via Appia then traversed the pass of Lautulae, between the mountains and the Lake of Fondi, where the Samnites defeated the Romans with losses in 315 BCE. This pass, formerly the frontier between the Papal States and the Kingdom of Naples, was also fortified in Early Modern days.

It was probably in consequence of the road cut just mentioned that some of the more important buildings of the imperial period were erected in the low ground by the shore, and near the small harbour. The construction of the coast road, the Via Severiana, from Ostia to Tarracina, added to the importance of the place; and the beauty of the promontory with its luxuriant flora and attractive view had caused it to be frequented by the Romans as early as 200 BCE. Terracina became an important centre for the development of the fertile valley lying to the west, and started to grow new settlements at the foot of the first one, which turned into a sanctuary area with some patrician mansions. Galba (born here in 3 BC) and Domitian both possessed villas in the area of the city. Various new public edifices were erected starting from the time of Sulla: these included a new theatre and forum, while the sanctuary was renovated, as well as the port (under Trajan and Antoninus Pius, 2nd century CE). The last Roman construction was that of a new line of walls during the 5th century CE.

Middle Ages

Terracina is mentioned in the history of the Gothic War, and Theodoric is said to have had a palace here. It was sacked in 409 and 595. After the Lombards had conquered most of Italy in the late sixth century, Terracina remained an important military stronghold of the Eastern Roman Empire, and later became part of the Duchy of Naples. It was one of the northernmost outposts of Byzantine authority in the south. A monument bearing the name of Duke George of Naples stood there at the turn of the twentieth-century.

In 872, Pope John VIII brought it under the domination of the Holy See. However, after the crisis of Papal authority in the following century, Terracina came to be ruled by local or Roman families (like that of Crescenzi, who built a massive castle, or the Frangipane, who occupied it from 1153 to 1202). In 1088 it was the seat of the first conclave held outside Rome. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries Terracina had a notable spurt of growth, and two new suburbs were built next to the two walled gates of Porta Maggio ("Cipollata"), Porta Albina, Porta St. Gregory and Porta Romana. A free commune was also instituted. In 1217 Pope Honorius III united its diocese to those of Sezze and Priverno.

The 1357 "Costituzioni Egiziane" ("Egyptian Constitutions") marked the beginning of a stronger papal authority, which however did not impede the growth of the king of Naples's influence, nor did it stop the city's internal struggles.

Modern era

The 16th century saw the communal freedoms steadily eroded, due both to the general decline of Terracina (aggravated by the malaria in the increasingly marshy surrounding land) and the devastating attacks by pirates coming from North Africa. A malaria plague in 1520 contributed to this process. However, in this period the first Renaissance mansions began to be built by noble families like the Savio, Garzoni, Gottifredi, de' Romanis and others.

In the seventeenth century the popes began a program of repopulation of Terracina through the replacement of families from the country nearby and the introduction of tax exemptions. In this period the churches of St. John (formerly St. Lawrence) and Madonna delle Grazie were both rebuilt. In the two following centuries Terracina assumed its current appearance. Pope Pius VI started a program of draining the marshes and added a new quarter next to the channel-port.

During the Napoleonic occupation Terracina was at first annexed to the Circeo département, but revolted in 1798: the riot was suppressed by French and Polish troops, led by general Étienne-Jacques-Joseph-Alexandre MacDonald. After the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the position of Terracina at the border between the Papal States and the Kingdom of Naples was officially set by the Concordat signed by Pope Pius VII and Ferdinand I of Two Sicilies in 1818.

In 1839 and 1843 Gregory XVI visited the city, in which he instituted works for a new port.

After the end of World War II, in which it suffered heavy damage, Terracina developed greatly, with a large new quarter developing towards the Via Appia and alongside the coast north to Monte S. Angelo (Borgo Marino, "Marine Quarter").

Main sights

The picturesque modern town occupies the site of the old one. The present piazza is the ancient Roman forum, and the Roman pavement of slabs of travertine with the inscription A. AEMILIUS A. F. in letters once filled in with bronze, is well preserved. The paving is supported by massive arched substructures, which extend under the surrounding houses.

Medieval buildings

The Cathedral of SS. Pietro e Cesareo (Duomo) is ensconced within a temple of Rome and Augustus, part of the side wall of which, with engaged columns, is still visible. The holy edifice was consecrated in 1074, and renovated in the twelfth and eighteenth centuries. The Cosmatesque-inlaid vestibule is preceded by an eighteen-step staircase, and supported by ten ancient columns resting upon recumbent lions, with a mosaic frieze upon them, made by twelfth-century Sicilian-Norman artists. The brick campanile, in Gothic-Romanesque-style, 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.

To the right of the Duomo is the noteworthy Gothic "Palazzo Venditti", from the first half of the fourteenth century.

The town walls consist of Byzantine and Medieval towers erected along the Volscian and Roman curtain wall, in "polygonal" style similar to those of Constantinople. Beyond a three-way crossing, next to "Porta Nuova", is the Frangipane Castle or "Rocca Traversa", which in 1202 became the symbol of the communal freedom of Terracina. It was however damaged by Allied bombs on September 4, 1943.

Other interesting churches are those of "San Domenico" (erected in the first decades of the thirteenth century, and enlarged in 1298) and "San Francesco" (1222), which follows the Gothic Cistercian style of the Abbey of Fossanova.

Roman remains

Many Roman ruins were brought to light only after the World War II bombings. These include a quadrifrons arch, which served as entrance to the forum. Two sides can be still seen in good condition, 6.4 m x 6.34 m wide. Under it is a well-preserved stretch of the ancient Via Appia.

Above the town are several massive terrace platforms for supporting buildings; these may well belong to the Roman period, and the latter even to the Empire. The summit of the promontory (227 m) is 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, the so-called "Cinta Sillana" (once attributed to Theodoric, but dating from the first decades of the first century BCE). 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 stood the Corinthian Temple of Jupiter Anxur (first century BCE), about 35 by 20 meters. The cella was decorated internally with engaged half-columns, and contained the pedestal for the statue of Jupiter Anxur venerated here as a child-god: this attribution is confirmed by the discovery of many curious leaden votive figures, like those made for dolls' houses today, in the "favissae" on the east of the temple. The interior cell measures 13 x 14 m, with 6 half-columns per side. At the external of the temple is the "oracle", a kind of quadrilateral base with a hole from which, standing in a cave, the priests communicated the answers to the questions of the faithful. To the left of this great construction is the Small Temple, probably a civil edifice to be dated somewhat earlier than the former one.

Massive remains af another temple, the "Capitolium" (16.5 x 16 m, with cells 9.5 x 4.5 m) lie on the street starting from Palazzo Venditti. Built in the mid-first century BCE, it was dedicated to the Capitoline Triad of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.

Of the lower town by the harbour, which had buildings of some importance of the imperial period (amphitheatre, baths, etc.), little is now visible, and its site is mainly occupied by a new quarter built by Pius VI. Of the ancient harbour constructed by Antoninus Pius insignificant remains exist, and it is largely silted up. Close to it is the small modern port. Near the amphitheatre was found in 1838 the famous marble bust of Sophocles, now in the Lateran Museum, Rome.

The commune of Terracina includes a considerable extent of territory towards the northwest with much undergrowth ("macchia") valuable for charcoal burning, and a considerable extent of pasture and arable land. The ancient aqueduct, bringing water some 55 km (35 miles) from the slopes of the Volscian Hills, has been repaired and is in use. Three miles to the northwest, at the foot of Monte Leano, was the shrine of the nymph Feronia, where the canal following the Via Appia through the marshes ended. Along these three km of the Via Appia are numerous ancient tombs, and the fertile valley to the northeast was thickly populated in Roman days, before the intrusion of malaria.


The Terracina railway station is not on the main Rome-Naples railway line. The nearest stops are the station of Priverno-Fossanova or that of Monte San Biagio: the former has a shuttle rail connection to Terracina, with hourly departures.

Terracina can be reached by car from Rome by the old Via Appia, which goes on to Fondi, or by the more modern Via Pontina as far as Latina, and then through a direct road link running along the coast. The Via Flacca connects the city to Sperlonga and Gaeta to the south coast. A fast road link leads to the Frosinone exit of the A1 Rome-Naples highway.

Twin towns

*flagicon|GER Bad Homburg, Germany
*flagicon|FRA Cabourg, France
*flagicon|SUI Chur, Switzerland
*flagicon|GBR Exeter, United Kingdom
*flagicon|LAT Jurmala, Latvia
*flagicon|AUT Mayrhofen, Austria
*flagicon|LUX Mondorf-les-Bains, Luxembourg
*flagicon|HUN Pécs, Hungary

External links

* [http://www.terracina.eu Terracina's international website]
* [http://www.romeartlover.it/Terracina.html Ferdinand Gregorovius' Walks - Terracina]
* [http://www.paologiannetti.com/ Web site in English about the city of Terracina in Italy - with photo gallery]
* [http://www.infoterracina.it/ Information about Terracina]

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