Here begins an exploration of the places in the reclaimed Agro Pontino, where, before 1932, there was only the infamous expanse of the Pontine marshes and the immense forest, Selva di Terracina.
A tour through the four “new cities” founded between 1932 and 1937 under Mussolini’s regime.
It starts from Sabaudia, founded on August 5, 1933, which today preserves the original urban and architectural layout, defining ii as the “City of Rationalism”: the Piazza del Comune, with the 42-meter civic tower and Municipal building, the former Casa del Fascio, the school, the church of the Annunziata, the hotel, cinema and original buildings. Today it is a high-level tourist town, and for years has been a sought-after and beloved summer destination for Italians and foreigners. As soon as you leave the centre of the original core, you are already on the banks of Lake Paola (or Sabaudia), which has numerous arms with dense vegetation. It is not unusual to see herons, egrets and a number of smaller birds take to the wing. The lake is also home to rowing training camps and regattas, producing Italian, European, World and Olympic champions here.
From Sabaudia you reach Pontinia, inaugurated on December 18, 1935, an exact year after the laying of the foundation stone. The Pontinia area has numerous historical sites: the Roman statio Ad Medias (the current Mesa di Pontinia), at km. 85 on the Via Appia, with the 18th-century Palazzo della Posta commissioned by Pope Pius VI. Its entrance hall houses two landmark columns of the Roman Appia and the numerous tombstones bear witness to the area’s antiquity. Near the palace stands a large Roman mausoleum, stripped of its cladding, which, according to an intriguing story, was erected by the freed slave Clesippo and the matron Gegania.
Continuing from Pontinia you reach Latina, the first of the new cities (December 18, 1932) baptized with the name of Littoria. Created as a rural centre, it transformed its economy, driven by the development of industry, trade and the creation of structures for culture, services and tourism: the Pontina University, the Theatre and Palace of Culture, the large museum area of Piana delle Orme, sports and recreational facilities, the Intermodal Hub of Latina Scalo, and the fruit and vegetable market of Latina (Mol). Located at the centre of a marine-mountain area, its tourist area extends along the wide sea front, from the mouth of the Astura River to the mouth of Rio Martino. The eastern part lies in the Circeo National Park area, which includes the important oasis of Fogliano, with the homonymous coastal lake, the English villa, the botanical garden and facilities for nature and ecology activities and study. Borgo Sabotino to the west and Borgo Grappa to the east are the “urban” poles of this tourist area which is completed by the archaeological area of Satricum, near Borgo Montello – Le Ferriere, where the sanctuary, Casa del Martirio di Santa Maria Goretti is also located.
The fourth city in the itinerary is Aprilia, the youngest in the province of Latina, founded on April 25, 1936 and inaugurated 18 months later, at the conclusion of the great Pontine Marsh Reclamation works. Worth visiting are the church of San Michele Arcangelo (the bell tower, destroyed by bombs, was rebuilt in 1999), the bronze statue of the saint; in Campoverde, the tomb of General Menotti Garibaldi, son of the Hero of Two Worlds, a 19th-century reclamation expert and a parliamentarian in the area for several legislatures; the ancient defensive Tower of the Pavilion (now private). In the town are various golf facilities, the Oasi Golf Club, at km 26,400 on the Via Nettunense, a venue for competitions throughout the year and preparation courses.
“These cities in rational style speak not to reason, but to imagination, with their melancholy and echoing charm that blends marvellously with the reclaimed landscape: so flat, so spread out, so boundless, between the blue mountains and the lagoon’s sleepy waters.” (Alberto Moravia).