The Pontine capital and its province (in Lazio) boast beautiful beaches that overlook the Tyrrhenian Sea, along with charming villages and the natural setting of the Parco Nazionale del Circeo (Circeo National Park). Overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Province of Latina lies at the center of the Pontine plain.
Rather diverse in its morphology, the province consists of mountains, plains and rivers; orotected natural areas are an important part of the province, with the Urban Park of Monte Orlando in Gaeta, the Natural Park of the Aurunci Mountains, and the Suburban Park of Gianola.
Circeo National Park covers about 8,500 hectares and comprises varied topographical features, from forest to coastal dunes, a promontory, wetlands, and islands. The park is home to many animal species, particularly birds, of which migratory species are predominant, as are the peregrine eagle and sea eagles.
The coast and the Islands of Ponza and Ventotene are the main tourist attractions of the area, thanks to an uncontaminated sea. Along the coastline small lakes preside, including Lake Fogliano and Lake Sabaudia. If Latina and its Province are best-known for the beauty of the coast, and a wealth of parks and natural oases, the territory is also of great interest for those seeking remains from the ancient past, or the intriguing architecture of the first half of the 20th century, as seen in the urban planning of Latina and Aprilia.
Latina is the capital of the southernmost province of Lazio, in the heart of the Pontine Marshes area. It was founded in 1932 under the name of Littoria, in an area once covered by marshland that was drained in the 1930s.
The plan of the city is octagonal, with straight roads that radiate from the main square of the city, Piazza del Popolo, and the main buildings, including the police headquarters, Prefecture, and the Municipio (City Hall) are arranged around the center.
Piazza San Marco is overlooked by the eponymous Cathedral, completed in 1933 and entrusted to the Salesians, easily recognizable by the façade and its three tall arches supported by pillars. Not far away is the M Building, of monumental height and form, consisting of 3 blocks in the shape of an “M.” The M of course stands for Mussolini, who wanted to establish here a Forum.
History, nature and a splendid sea are the ideal ingredients for a summertime vacation. Along the coast, we encounter Sperlonga, a charming Medieval village with streets and houses overlooking the sea where, in addition to its deep hues, we can see the grotto of Tiberius, a cavity on the water where 1st-Century artefacts were found. They are now kept in the National Archaeology Museum of San Felice Circeo.
Circeo, a renowned tourist resort on the coast, comprises a Medieval section on Mount Circeo, and a more modern zone at its base. Formia, a charming town overlooking the Gulf of Gaeta, offers beautiful beaches and Roman ruins.
Terracina, then, is dominated by the Temple of Jupiter Anxur, accessible by a scenic road, with its Piazza del Municipio in the old town. Located on the same piazza is the Medieval Duomo (Cathedral), dedicated to San Cesareo; it features a wide staircase leading to a loggia. To the side are the 14th-Century Palazzo Venditti and the Frumentaria Tower, hosting the Civic Archaeological Museum full of local Roman remains.
Finally, Gaeta is located on a leg of land dominated by Monte Orlando. The castle is can be reached by the narrow streets of the characteristic Medieval quarter: Located close to the harbor, rather, is the Duomo, dedicated to St. Erasmus and embellished with Moorish decorations; it is thus easily recognizable from the monumental, 187-ft-tall bell tower. The Church of San Giovanni al Mare (Church of St. John by the Sea) dates from the 10th century, and is remarkable for its beautiful, Arabesque-style dome; its was built on a slight inclination to drain water in the case of high tide.
Roman archaeological remains of great value can be seen in Cori, Norma, Sezze, Monte San Biagio and Ninfa with its memorable historic garden, a natural monument that exhibits specimens of flora and fauna from around the world in imitation of English gardens.
Castles, fortresses and medieval churches are located in Cori, Fondi, Maenza, Priverno with the Fossanova Abbey, Minturno and Sermoneta.
Besides its numerous seaside resorts that make it an ideal destination for the summer holidays, its parks make the Province of Latina particularly suitable for outdoor activities.
In Circeo National Park one can practice trekking and horseback riding or cycling amidst a diverse ecosystem, with many animal species, including 25 different species of birds, such as coots, cormorants, and rare species like the peregrine falcon, osprey, sea eagle, crane, flamingo and spoonbill.
Near the coast, visitors should see the Province's lovely little Lakes of Fogliano and Sabaudia, top spots for birdwatchers to observe both migratory and sedentary species, particularly wild ducks and waders.
For sailing and scuba-diving enthusiasts, the waters off the Pontine Islands are absolutely fascinating (even Jacques Coustea though so!). The Pontine Islands consist of two groups of volcano-formed islands: those westernmost are Ponza, Gavi, Zannone and Palmarola, while those eastern are Ventotene and Santo Stefano. They are beloved by all who know them for their crystal-clear waters.
Many traditional folkloric festivals take place in every town of the Province. Among them, Cori hosts the Carosello dei Rioni (Tournament of the City Wards), whose contestants - wearing 16th-Century garb and representing the three districts of Porta Signina, Ninfina and Romana - compete in the palio dell’anello (ring jousting). And Norma holds the Sagra della Caldarrosta (Roasted Chestnut Festival): stalls are built for the occasion, using chestnut wood and leaves, and offer tastings of roasted chestnuts.
The Sagra delle Torce (Festival of Torches) takes place in Sonnino the night before the religious celebration of the Ascension. Within the enchanting scenery, a long procession lit by torches travels the nearby mountain slopes to then arrive at the Sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie by dawn. Also highly-evocative is the Sagra delle Regne held in the center of Minturno, where wheat sheaves transported by ox-drawn carriages are beaten in the town square. The grain is thrown into the air and then offered, to give thanks for a good harvest.
The local gastronomy is tied to the products of this highly-agricultural province, as well as to those of the sea. Agricultural products are combined to create tasty dishes commonly inspired by typical Roman cuisine, such as roasted abbacchio (lamb) with potatoes; pajata; coda alla vaccinara (oxtail); garofolato lamb and other specialties.
Many are the typical products in the area. These include mozzarella; marzolino, a hard, slightly matured cheese with a sweet flavor; prosciutto (ham) from Bassiano flavored with a matured seasoning of wine, garlic and pepper; Cori ham; and Gaeta olives.
Excellent are the sausages from Monte San Biagio and other towns in Latina Province, prepared using the best part of the pig, spiced with coriander and preserved in oil. Traditional sweets are mostly dry biscuits or cookies, apple fritters, classic and fried doughnuts, and wine doughnuts, some of which are available mainly during local festivities.
The Province's D.O.C. wines are many, including the Aprilia Trebbiano,Merlot and Circeo Trebbiano, a selection of white, red and rosé wines. Moscato di Terracina, one of the most representative I.G.T. wines, and Aleatico are also well-known.