Month: August 2018

The Vicolo Rappini. History of fishermen’s houses in Terracina.

The Vicolo Rappini. History of fishermen’s houses in Terracina.

With pride, we from Terrace say that we are “Sang De Pesce”. The expression, for those who are not from Terracina, my country of origin a few miles from Rome, proudly reaffirms the maritime origin of our people. Our blood comes from the sea and the sea flows in our veins.

Precisely for this reason, today I want to tell you something more about our blue sea, which, with its whims (evil tiemp) and its goodness, is the clock of the life of the people of  Terracina, including those who, for various reasons, live far from the sea. Because as Baricco says, “the sea calls… It never stops, it goes inside you, you’ve got it on us”.


Terracina (Credits: Andrea Moretti).


History of a city on the sea

The ancient Tarracina – this is the name with which the Romans renamed the volsca city of Anxur after conquering it in the fifth century BC – contrary to what one might think, was first born as an agricultural city. Some archaeological remains, mostly large polygonal terracing walls, testify to the presence of farms that were founded in Roman times in the plain of La Valle. Thanks to the strong economic development reached, it was possible to realize in the time numerous and great works in the city, whose most ancient nucleus (Terracina Alta) is risen, still today, on a sloping slope of the Sant’ Angelo Mount, to the confluence of numerous canals and streams and in the only point of the southern Lazio in which the mountainous chain of the Lepini – Ausoni touches the sea.

Terracing of a Roman villa in “La Valle” di Terracina (Credits:


Terracina. The side of Mount Sant’Angelo, on which the ancient city lies, is highlighted.

At the end of the Republican period, but especially in the Imperial Age, the city “doubled” expanding into the lower part. A new public square (the so-called Severian Forum) and an amphitheatre were erected. New thermal baths were built and a coastal variant of the ancient Via Appia was built, made possible by the cut of the cliff of Pisco Montano in 112 AD. A large port basin was also built, the most important in Lazio after that of Ostia. This is the moment from which we can say that our maritime vocation officially began.

Plant of the ancient port of Terracina (Credits:


A more intense development of the role of Terracina on the sea, however, took place only towards the end of the eighteenth century with Pope Pius VI Braschi (1775-1796), promoter of a great work of reclamation of the Pontine Marshes, the area of swamps and marshes at the gates of the town. The pontiff visited the city several times and restored the port that, abandoned by the end of the Roman Empire and condemned to oblivion throughout the Middle Ages, had become silted up. He also called from Torre del Greco and other places in the South, many families of fishermen who, having moved to Terracina, gave a strong impetus to fishing.


Pope Pius VI bless the people of Terracina from the window of Palazzo Braschi in Terracina. Painting by Philipp Hackert (Credits:


The Vicolo Rappini and the fishermen’s houses in Terracina

Newcomers needed accommodation. So it was that they were transformed into houses a set of existing building complexes, mostly warehouses, located in Borgo Pio, the triangular-shaped neighborhood near the sea, in the heart of the modern city.

In this group of houses should also be included those of the Vicolo Rappini that are a precious testimony in the history of urban planning Terracina, being the only surviving example of social historical housing of the Borgo Pio.
The Vicolo Rappini was so called because it was originally inserted in the land properties barns and houses of Gaetano Rappini, hydraulic expert and director of the reclamations wanted by Pius VI Braschi. The buildings that open along the road, historically known as “New Houses”, were renovated between 1840 and 1860. After the destruction of the Second World War, they were healed and returned to be inhabited by fishermen.

The Vicolo Rappini today


The Pilgrim Houses: lost twins of the houses of the Vicolo Rappini

The Vicolo Rappini was not the only area of the lower town that welcomed the new fishermen of the Bourbon Kingdom. Alongside the “New Houses”, there were also the so-called Pilgrim Houses in Terracina, today no longer visible except in some postcards and historical photographs as they were demolished in 1927.

The appearance of the area of the Pilgrim Houses, which stood in a corner of Piazza della Repubblica in the garden of the current Villa Salvini, must have resembled that of the set of houses of Vicolo Rappini. Comparing the words of the historian Arturo Bianchini with what my grandmother told me, born at number 24 of the houses of the Vicolo, I can say that the articulation and internal organization of the houses of the two districts was very similar.

These were houses with narrow entrances and narrow spaces, without toilets (for any physiological needs there was the beach, much closer to the town than today). The houses were on two floors, the highest of which was accessible via an external staircase. There was no drinking water/electricity. The apartment buildings could use the water from the springs that flowed near Porta Napoletana.
Most of the life took place outside the house which, with only one bed and a small kitchen area, was just a support.

The Pilgrim Houses rested directly on the Appia Traianea and, once knocked down, brought to light their precious floor, which is currently the only visible urban stretch of the Trajan variant of the ancient road.

 Tract of the Appia Traianea inside Villa Salvini.

An irresistible charm

The residential complex of Vicolo Rappini has gone down in history for another reason. As a plaque placed next to one of the houses overlooking the road recounts, in the mid-1950s Pier Paolo Pasolini stayed for a few months in Terracina, remaining deeply fascinated by the “New Houses” and above all by the fishermen who loved to reach the port every morning at dawn.

And Pasolini loved the scent of our sea so much that he became the protagonist of the story Terracina, discovered at the bottom of Pasolini by a group of young people from the Arturo Bianchini Institute of Terracina, led by Prof. Iudicone. Terracina, which initially had to be included in the collection Ragazzi di vita, but then was published in various cuts in the daily Taranto La Voce del Popolo, è la storia di due giovani, Luciano, alterego di Pasolini, e Marcello, entrambi innamorati del mare. And it is precisely the passion of the sea that drives them to steal two bicycles with which they reach Terracina.

Pasolini in Terracina (Credits:

And after arriving at Terracina, the boys go to visit their uncle Zocculitte, who lived in Vicolo Rappini. The story of his house and his life is a valuable document for the reconstruction of the days of the fishermen of the time and their homes in the alley.

This is the story of our sea, our origin, our blood. An artistic heritage and invaluable values, all to be preserved, all to be discovered. Keep following me and find out step by step, day by day. See you soon #aspassoconsara .

Posted by Sara Pandozzi in ART & CULTURE, 0 comments
Today To Me, Tomorrow To You: Journey in Purgatory Between Rome and Terracina

Today To Me, Tomorrow To You: Journey in Purgatory Between Rome and Terracina

Today’s journey begins during one of the many days of walking around Rome. There’s an unbearable mugginess and stroll along Via Giulia, the street full of restaurants and beautiful houses a short walk from Campo dei Fiori, one of the most famous areas of Rome.

The Church of Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte in Via Giulia (Campo dei Fiori) in Rome (Credits:

My distracted eyes are suddenly captured by the external decoration of a church now closed for restoration. A winged skeleton and then a Latin text that sounds more or less like this in English: “today to me, tomorrow to you”.

Detail of the external decoration of the entrance of the Church of Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte in Rome. Hodie Mihi, Cras Tibi: “today to me, tomorrow to you” (Credits:

The gears of my brain are starting to turn. The neurons decide to win the heat and trace a match in my mental archive! That Church – which I then discover to be the Church of Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte – finds a twin sister in the Church of Purgatory of Terracina, the city in the province of Latina a few kilometres from Rome, where those who have been following me for a while now know that I was born.

The Church of Purgatory of Terracina (Credits:

For the Poor Dead…

There was a time when plagues, rare diseases and banditry broke many lives. Very often people died on their way or far from home and the corpses lay abandoned on the streets and in the countryside, without burial, prey to animals and jackals. Poverty or the lack of closeness of loved ones prevented a dignified burial in the cemetery, a necessary condition to ensure eternal rest. And so, in the year of the Lord 1538 some devout Christians, moved by zeal for charity and piety, instituted in Rome a company under the title of Death.

This company was officially recognized in 1552 by Pope Julius III who gave it the name “Archconfraternity of Prayer and Death”. From that moment on, its members committed themselves day and night, with the cold and the heat, to the recovery of the insepolated corpses, to their burial and to praying in suffrage of their souls.


The coat of arms of the Brotherhood (Credits:


The Church of Purgatory of Terracina

1) External

Also in Terracina, the “brothers of Death” were active and gathered in a confraternity that was headed by that of the Oration and Death of Via Giulia in Rome. The confreres of Terracina first met in the Church of San Giovanni and then, from the second half of the eighteenth century, in the present Church of Purgatory.

Built on the remains of the medieval church of San Nicola (13th century), around which the religious and spiritual life of the inhabitants of the Borgo di Cipollata revolved, the Church of Purgatory is the only example of late Baroque architecture in the city.


It was built between the middle of the 18th century and 1787 and with its overbearing staircase it imposes itself on Corso Anita Garibaldi, the modern road which, following the ancient Via Appia, is the backbone of the high historical centre.

The Church of Purgatory in Terracina inside the Borgo di Cipollata. Photography taken from the late antique walls of the city (Credits:



Its imposing façade is marked by pilasters supporting a mixed tympanum at the centre of which the Death stands alone. It is depicted as a skeleton holding an hourglass in one hand, symbolizing the inexorable flow of time, and on the other a sickle to which is tied a kind of banner containing an identical admonition to that of the Church of Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte in Rome: “Today to me, tomorrow to you”. At the foot of the skeleton, some bones and then the papal tiara and the episcopal miter. Rich or poor, young or old, popes or bishops, clergy or ordinary people, in front of the Death we are all equal. The moment of the passage sooner or later comes for everyone. Two angels, strongly deteriorated, find themselves at the edge of the tympanum and play the trumpets of the Judgement.


Detail of the façade gable decoration of the Church of Purgatory in Terracina (Credits:


Remaining outside, characteristic is the churchyard, the small space in front of the church. The Purgatory is the only church in the city to be provided with it.

At the back of the church, there is a plan with some windows that refer to the sacristy. The roof of the church is dome-shaped. The bell tower, similar to that of the Church of San Giovanni, is probably datable to the thirteenth century, while the small and characteristic roof would seem chronologically more recent.


2) Internal

From the size of the facade, we would expect a large church. Instead, once you enter, you feel completely disorientated. The small church is the only worship building with a central plan of Terracina.

The majolica floor has a characteristic decoration in the central band that directs the eye towards the main altar, under which is the statue of Christ Lying. Laterally we find two other small altars. Both were to be decorated with two altarpieces, one destroyed by fire and the other stolen.


 Interior of the Church of Purgatory of Terracina. The central altar. Below the altar is the Statue of the Dead Christ. On the right, there is the Statue of Our Lady of Consolation (Credits:

Under the feet of the faithful, a huge funerary monument welcomed the remains of the poor who had died, recovered from them by their confreres. Two trapdoors, on the left and right, as soon as you crossed the entrance of the church, allowed you to control the situation of the underlying mass grave.

The interior decoration of the walls, of the dome, and even of the confessional, is all centred on the theme of death: fresco paintings, stuccowork and reliefs depict skeletons, skulls and symbols of death that, illuminated by the light of the candles, had to transport the faithful into a particular atmosphere.

Detail of the interior decoration of the Church of Purgatory of Terracina (Credits: Venceslao Grossi).


The confessional of the Church of Purgatory with the decoration of a skull (Credits:

At the inner base of the dome, an inscription, interspersed with eight skulls with bones crossed with “ics”, says: “Holy and right is the thought for the dead”. The inscription clarifies the mission of the church, the place where, even today, we go to pray for the souls of the dead.

The inner surface of the dome is painted with remarkable skill. The perspective piercing allows a characteristic glance that reaches up to the lantern, also completely painted. The dominant colors are blue and gold.

Interior of the dome of the Church of Purgatory di Terracina (Credits:; photo by Anna Marchese).

It is not the triumph of the macabre, but the celebration of the mystery of life and death, the manifestation of the greatness, piety and charity of the confreres of “Good Death”.


The Purgatory today

Purgatory, contrary to what many popular voices say, is a consecrated church and it is possible to go there to pray for the souls of the dead. The worship building refers to the Cathedral of Terracina and is open every day, both in the morning and in the afternoon. Guardians are some ladies resident in the village of Cipollata. It is not a daily workshop, but only on certain special occasions.

On Good Friday the statue of Christ, placed under the high altar, is carried in procession through the streets of the city along with that of the Madonna Consolatrice. This procession, as it still happens today, starts from the church of Purgatorio on the evening. The procession is accompanied by the city band playing funeral marches while walking by candlelight. In the past, then, the confreres of Death wore a white habit and wore a hood on their heads. Tradition has it that the coffin was accompanied by pious screaming women, while crowds of boys beat chains on the pavement and shaken the “traps”, three jointed wooden boards that, once shaken, slammed together. The deafening noise accompanying the procession symbolised the primordial chaos into which the Universe had plunged after Jesus’ death.

The Church of Purgatory, then, is also at the center of the commemoration of November 2, the day on which the Latin Church celebrates all the faithful deceased. After a small celebration, a procession leaves from Purgatory to arrive at the Terracina cemetery.

In addition to being a building of Christian worship, the Purgatory has been transformed, on some recent occasions, into a real stage, hosting, within it, musical concerts of Italian and foreign artists. Its conservation conditions, like those of other small churches in the city, are unfortunately very critical. Water infiltration, and neglect have led to a gradual deterioration of paintings, stuccoes and decorations.

This small speech of mine is only intended to draw the attention of my fellow citizens and not to a monument which, in my humble opinion, is a real treasure to be discovered and admired.

Some faithful in front of the Purgatory Church of Terracina (Credits:


Posted by Sara Pandozzi in CHURCHES & HOLY SITES, 0 comments
When Ulysses arrived at Terracina

When Ulysses arrived at Terracina

Legend has it that Ulysses, the traveling king of Ithaca, the smartest man in the ancient world, landed with his companions on the island of Eea, where he met the charming sorceress Circe.

But if in addition to Torre Paola, the beach of San Felice Circeo (province of Latina, about 100 km from Rome) from which you can see the hilltop of the Promontory of the Circeo, where the story places the house of the terrible sorceress, Ulysses had also passed to Terracina?

The promontory of Circeo (Credits:

I’m not under the effect of one of the Circe potions, I assure you! I just saw a wonderful Roman painting and, like many others, I saw a similarity with something that comes from our city!

I refer to the so-called Odyssey of the Esquiline, a rich cycle of frescoes that adorned a domus discovered by chance in Via Graziosa (now Via Cavour), in Rome, in 1848. The sumptuous residence, built on one of the foothills of the Esquiline facing the Viminale, stood in a district chosen by the Roman elite since the Republican era (509 BC – 27 BC).

The frescoes, perhaps dating from the middle of the first century BC, adorned the walls of the portico (ambulatio) of the house, reproducing the story of the entire adventure poem of Homer. An extraordinary sequence of landscape paintings, populated by mythical monsters and characters, accompanied the walks of the landlord, his family and his guests, suddenly catapulted, thanks to the perspective breakthroughs, into a magical and imaginative dimension.

Map of Rome. In evidence the Esquiline Hill (credits:

It is estimated that there are between 35 and 150 painted scenes, of which, unfortunately, only 8 survive, 7 of which are preserved in the Aldobrandine Wedding Hall of the Vatican Museums.

The scene that interests us is at Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. Looking at it, the affinity between the mountain of painting and the massif of Pisco Montano, the cliff of Terracina overlooking the sea that Trajan (Emperor of Rome between 98 and 117 AD) had cut (by hand, you can still see the signs of the chisels on the wall!) for the realization of a coastal variant of the ancient Via Appia.

Scene of the Esquiline Odyssey. The painted mountain is very similar to the Pisco Montano di Terracina. The fresco is kept in the Museum of Palazzo Massimo alle Terme (credits:

The Pisco Montano of Terracina (credits:

An ancient inscription that recalls the height progressively reached by the ancient Romans during the cutting of the Pisco Montano (Credits:


Doesn’t it seem to you too? Whether Ulysses arrived in Terracina or not, what is certain is that our wonderful city fascinated travelers and painters as early as the first century BC!

The painter of the Odyssey of the Esquiline, to bring the Pisco Montano back into its landscapes, must certainly have seen it and been very impressed! Now you too, like me, can look at that severe mountain with different eyes … the eyes of the enchantment, the eyes of Ulysses!


Posted by Sara Pandozzi in ART & CULTURE, 0 comments
The Roman Villa at Vacone (Rieti)

The Roman Villa at Vacone (Rieti)

Mosaics, plasters and two presses for the production of oil. A rich archaeological heritage perfectly preserved. A Spasso con Sara to discover the Roman villa of Vacone, a town in the province of Rieti 55 km north of Rome.


In a grey Friday in August…

The best discoveries are made by chance. And the story I tell you today is nothing more than the confirmation of this commonplace.

It all starts on a grey Friday in August when Francesca (my friend and talented archaeologist) and I leave Rome with a rather uncertain weather and arrive at Vacone after an endless ride (never trust the navigator!).

The rain surprises us on the way and we look at ourselves uncertainly, wondering if there was anyone ready to explain something to us. Let’s park the car in a flood of mud, take the umbrellas and start. Here we are welcomed by a kind gentleman who with a smile leads us to the excavation area.

Speaking with him, we discover that he is Dr. Roberto Renzi, Major of Vacone, a tiny town, as well as all the hills and villages of the Sabina Tiberina, the side facing the Tiber of the much wider historical sub-region Sabina, characterized by a hilly landscape of rare beauty, among the most beautiful in Central Italy.

Maps of Sabina Tiberina. Location of the Roman Villa of Vacone and its geographical position on the Italian peninsula (Upper Sabina Tiberina Project)

The enthusiasm shown by Dr. Renzi (and I assure you that I have met many mayors) in describing and showing me the treasures of his beloved land have prompted me to tell you about this archaeological site that today, as unfortunately every year, after being excavated and studied, was again covered by the earth.


Dr Roberto Renzi, Mayor of Vacone, while showing me some details of one of the mosaics found on the site of the Roman Villa at Vacone


How it started.

The presence of a Roman villa at Vacone, situated in the locality of Sassogrosso, on the southern side of Monte Cosce, was already amply attested by literature.

Its “rediscovery”, however, took place in the sixties of the twentieth century during the construction of a nearby road, thanks to the emergence of some structures identified as ancient.

Thus, between 1986 and 1987, the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici del Lazio undertook a restoration and static consolidation of this evidence and, through some excavation tests, found floors, mosaics and even traces for the installation of machines for the production of wine or oil.

Graphical representation of the mosaics found by the Superintendence during the excavation between 1986 and 1987 (from the SBAL Archive). The mosaic was removed and taken to Tivoli.


But a systematic scientific investigation only began in 2012 when Rutgers University (NJ, USA), led by Professor Gary D. Farney, Director of the Upper Sabina Tiberina Project, started a new excavation of the Roman Villa at Vacone. Since that year, every summer (the last excavation campaign ended the other day), dozens of American students have excavated and studied the villa, giving, with their work, a fundamental contribution to the knowledge and discovery of this wonderful archaeological site.


Professor Gary D. Farney with some of the young people who participated in the excavation of the Roman villa of Vacone


The Villa

In the research campaigns carried out over the years, the traditional archaeological excavation methods have been flanked by the most recent new technologies applied to cultural heritage (such as laser scanners), which have made it possible to create three-dimensional documentation of the archaeological layers and the structures and decorative devices found.

Investigations have confirmed the presence of a large Roman villa in the countryside, on several levels and with breathtaking views over the valley below.

The residence, subjected to various restorations and building interventions by the various owners who followed one another over time, was inhabited for a long period of time roughly between the second half of the first century BC and the third century AD.

Like all Roman country houses (villae), Villa di Vacone was divided into two distinct areas: on the one hand there was the so-called “representative” area (pars urbana), that section of the country house where the landlord and his family lived, ate, slept and received their guests; on the other hand there was the so-called “productive” area (pars rustica or pars fructuaria in Latin), destined, instead, to the shelter of tools for agricultural activity, to the conservation and processing of wheat and other products, to the shelter of animals, and to the residence for staff dedicated to work on the estate.

Vacone, Roman villa, plan as of 2016 excavation season (photo USTP).


Stone Carpets

As far as the late republican phase of the residential part of the villa is concerned, we can say that very little is preserved. Remains of a floor with coloured limestone tesserae were found where the breakthroughs made in modern times for the planting of vines have damaged the most recent layers.

Most of the testimonies  date back to the Imperial Age and consist of a wonderful series of well-preserved mosaics characterized by sometimes very small tesserae and original, geometric, colored and refined motifs.

Cottanello stone, with its reddish colour, is the protagonist of many of the mosaics found that, like precious stone carpets, covered the floors of the urban pars of the house.






Various types of floor mosaic found during the archaeological excavation campaigns held in Villa di Vacone (Credits: Villa Romana di Vacone on Facebook)

A different floor adorned each room and the passage from one room to another of the house was marked by thresholds that were also mosaic. Among these elements of separation, I would like to point out the discovery, in the course of the latest excavation campaign, of a threshold with a meander motif. It so happened that part of the decoration was lost, revealing the scheme and the design on the basis of which the workers arranged and put into place the coloured tesserae that made up the mosaic. It is a unique testimony, capable of catapulting us directly into the building site of the time, shedding light on the way in which the workers of the time operated.

Marble threshold found in the last archaeological excavation of Vacone, which ended a few days ago. In the left part the preparatory scheme of the mosaic is clearly visible

Worthy of mention is the extraordinary mosaic with a white background bordered by an elaborate braid. In the middle, in the heart of the room, there is a refined representation (emblem). In a box bordered with black, vine shoots and leaves, interspersed with birds, depart from a vase. The decoration, very refined, was probably made separately by the master of the workshop and then assembled in situ, as the traces on the floor suggest.



 Details of the beautiful mosaic found in the last excavation campaign of Villa di Vacone

By way of exception, some fragments of plaster have also been preserved that allow us to reconstruct the appearance of the walls of the rooms. In one of them, white garlands were painted on a lively red background. The ceiling, with very few fragments found, was instead to be decorated with roses.



Fragments of wall decoration found in previous excavations. Their quality and colours suggest an idea of the beauty and refinement of the Roman villa of Vacone (Credits: Villa di Vacone on Facebook).

The recent excavation campaign has also revealed interesting information about the cryptoporticus, the underground warehouse that surrounded the villa (from one of the rooms there emerged a passage that led to the cryptoporticus below), and also about the portico above, where instead, for a time, was placed the official entrance of the villa. A red and white diamond mosaic, fragments of plaster with white flowers on a red background, windows overlooking the valley below, a pillar with shaped stucco, are the material traces that give a less blurred idea of this section.


Not just luxury…A great production centre

The findings made in the part of the excavation near the area already investigated by the Soprintendenza, tell us that this beautiful residence also had a highly developed production, probably intended for the production of oil, product of excellence in the Sabine territory.

Archaeologists of the Soprintendenza had already found a press, two channels in opus spicata (a floor that can withstand a heavy workload) and two tanks. But the removal of the preparatory layer of a late pavement surface in 2013 revealed further valuable details. There are actually two presses for pressing olives and two housings for the levers. The presence of five presses in total is considered possible, data that currently make the Roman villa of Vacone one of the largest oil production plants in Lazio.



Archaeological excavation in the productive section of Villa di Vacone. Traces of presses used for pressing olives are still evident (USTP)

Reconstruction of an oil press with torcularia and accommodation for the levers (Credits: Martín e Bayés 2007).

Who was the owner of the Villa?

It comes as no surprise at this point that the question arises as to whether we have the name of an owner. Tradition helps us. The villa we are talking about is in fact commonly referred to as “Villa of Horace” and contrasted to the other famous villa of the Latin poet that would be found instead in Licenza, in the province of Rome.

The latin poet Horace (Credits:

From sources we know that between 33 and 32 BC, Horace received a gift of a country farm from Maecenas, director of cultural policy of Augustus and his dear friend. The poet, originally from Venosa, would have retired here to devote himself to writing and a simple lifestyle.

This link between Horace, the town of Vacone and the ancient remains found is well rooted in time. The first to establish it was in fact Flavio Biondo in the fifteenth century, who linked the name of the town of Vacone to that of the sanctuary (fanum) of Vacunae that the Latin poet describes as located near his residence in the countryside, so as to go there often to write his poems.

Antiques and travelers, fascinated by this mystery, tried to witness the attribution of the villa to Horace through some inscriptions. And two inscriptions, found during the excavations in 2013 and 2014, bear the very name of Horatius. However, a more detailed examination of these documents has shown that they are false documents relating to a practice which was intended to use forged epigraphic evidence to attribute the villa to the poet Augustus.


In 1703  Carlo Bartolomeo Piazza quoted as evidence even three inscriptions, one of which also mentioned patron saints.

Near the villa is the fountain Bandusia, the source in a famous Ode the Poet promises libations of wine, wreaths of flowers and the sacrifice of an animal.

The Bandusia Fountain in Vacone (credits:

Going up the village and returning the view from the site of the villa you can finally see the Soratte, the famous mountain sung in the Ode at Taliarco.

Monte Soratte seen from Vacone (Credits:

It is only a matter of suggestions and, as we know, archaeology is based on material traces, on certain evidence. But we do not care here. Perhaps most important is the extraordinary pride with which the Mayor and all the inhabitants of Vacone are committed every year to protecting, studying and making known the remains of this wonderful villa. My contribution wants to be just another voice to push as many people as possible to visit these wonders (the ideal period is in July, during the excavations) so that one day Gary and his boys no longer have to cover the excavation area, but take care of it permanently and continuously, like a real open-air museum, available to the public and to the enjoyment of those who want to come to Vacone (like in this last beautiful photo).

People visiting the archaeological site of Villa di Vacone (Credits:

Posted by Sara Pandozzi in OUTDOORS, 0 comments
Ostia Antica

Ostia Antica

Discovering the ancient city of Ostia, the Pompeii at the gates of Rome!


An ancient colony: between legend and archeology

According to tradition, the foundation of Ostia is located in 620 BC by Anco Marzio, one of the Seven Kings of Rome. Archaeology has actually revealed that the installation of the castrum (military camp) of Ostia, placed to guard the mouth of the Tiber river (Ostia derives from Ostium, mouth of the river), threatened at the time by the Greeks and Syracusans, did not happen until around the beginning of the fourth century BC.

King Anco Marzio, mythical founder of the Ostia settlement (Credits:


Its commercial importance was developed from the second century BC. From that time on, thanks also to the consolidation of the power of Rome over the Mediterranean, Ostia gradually became a commercial port center linked to the supply of wheat to the city.

The castrum of Ostia (Credits:


This function was amplified in the imperial age when the emperor Claudius, in 42 AD, began the construction of a new port just north of the mouth of the Tiber and connected to it through an artificial canal.

The importance of the port of Ostia was also grasped a few years later by the Emperor Trajan who, between 106 and 113 AD, had a new hexagonal-shaped port basin built.

The growing trade of Rome, the largest metropolis in the ancient world, allowed, over time, not only the construction of a protected port, but also a whole series of other facilities for navigation and storage of goods that made Ostia the real arm of Rome on the Mediterranean.


The ports of Claudio and Trajan (Credits:


The Archaeological Park of Ostia Antica: how to get there, opening times and contacts

The ancient remains of Ostia are now included in a beautiful archaeological park.

The excavations of Ostia are located in Viale dei Romagnoli 717 and are perfectly accessible by car or public transport. By car, take the Grande Raccordo Anulare – exit 28 and then take Via del Mare or Via Ostiense as far as Ostia Antica. If you want to move by public transport, from Ostiense Station (Metro Stop B – Pyramid), just take one of the trains of the Rome – Lido line and get off at the stop “Ostia Antica” and then walk for 5 minutes and you will find the entrance to the archaeological site.

As far as opening hours and costs are concerned: the archaeological site is closed every Monday, 1 January and 25 December.

From the last Sunday of October to 15 February: from 8:30 to 16:30 (last entry at 15:30); from 16 February to 15 March: from 8:30 to 17 (last entry at 16:00); from 16 March to the last Saturday of March: from 8:30 to 17:30 (last entry at 16:30). From the last Sunday in March to 31 August: from 8:30 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. (last admission 6:15 p.m.). From 1st September to 30th September: from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. (last admission 6 p.m.); from 1st October to the last Saturday of October: from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (last admission 5:30 p.m.).

The full price of the ticket is 10 €. The reduced ticket costs 5 €. The archaeological site very often hosts temporary exhibitions. In this case, the ticket may be subject to a small price increase.

Tickets can also be purchased online at the following address:

For further information:

The entrance of the Archaeological Area of Ostia (credits:

Why visit Ostia?

The importance of Ostia, beyond its commercial role in ancient times, lies above all in the fact that this colony looks like a kind of miniature Rome. While in Rome some testimonies of the ancient city have been destroyed / reused as a result of the extraordinary continuity of life of the City, in Ostia this did not happen. The ancient settlement on the Tiber can therefore be an excellent example to look at and admire building types almost entirely disappeared in Rome. We can say that, after Pompeii, it is certainly one of the most important archaeological sites in Italy to take a dip in the life of ancient Rome. It is in fact called the Pompeii at the gates of Rome!


The house of Diana in Ostia, a well-preserved example of an ancient Rome condominium (Credits:

Today’s scenario is, however, very different from that of the ancient world. From historical sources we know that a flood in 1557 modified the bed of the Tiber, diverting it northwards. For this reason, therefore, between the remains of the ancient city and the current Lido di Ostia there are 4 km away.

The excavations of the area were begun by Pope Pius VII in 1800 and were carried out by Pius IX in 1909 who, thanks to the help of Vaglieri, Paribeni and Calza, made a significant contribution to the discovery of this wonderful and important archaeological centre.


Must See in Ostia: itinerary in the area of the excavations

You can stop in the ancient city following the course of the Decumanus Maximus, the main road that cut through the town and on which you can still identify the grooves of the wagons that passed over it.

Decumanus Maximus in Ostia (credits:

I suggest you to see the Forum, the main square of the time, the real beating heart of public life in Ostia, accompanied by the Piazzale delle Corporazioni. Visit also the insulae, the palaces of the time, with shops on the ground floor, overlooking the street, and the apartments on the upper floors shared by various families (often only the first floor is preserved).

The Piazzale delle Corporazioni in Ostia Antica (Credits:

Remarkable the Thermal Baths of Neptune, with splendid mosaics, the barracks of the firemen and above all the Thermopolium, the pub of the ancient Romans (I like to call it so!).


The Thermal Baths of Neptune and some of the splendid mosaics discovered during archaeological excavations (Credits:


fresco painting found in the bar of the Thermopolium of Ostia(Credits:


Also worth a visit is the beautiful Roman Theatre, one of the best preserved buildings of the entire archaeological area. Built in the Augustan Age, it is still used for various shows and concerts.


The theatre of Ostia Antica (credits:


Not only ancient Rome: the Borghetto

In Ostia, the so-called Borghetto is also worth a visit. Born around the ninth century AD, when Pope Gregory IV built a fortification to protect the inhabitants of that stretch of the Via Ostiense from Saracen raids, the village of Ostia took on its present appearance only in the fifteenth century.

Martin V had the circular tower, the moat and the houses built in the village.

The Castle, however, was built by Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, better know as Pope Julius II. The Rocca housed the Dogana Pontificia and the papal apartment frescoed by the Baldassarre Peruzzi school.

Following the change in the course of the Tiber, the castle was used first as a barn and then as a prison.


the Castle of Julius II in the Borghetto of Ostia (Credits:





Posted by Sara Pandozzi in ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES, 0 comments