The portal of the Rome Chamber of Commerce for agritourism and the local area
This itinerary goes through the old town of Nettuno and the nearby Torre Astura pinewood: it is one of the few areas on this stretch of coast that has not been badly spoilt, because it is a military area in which development is not allowed. The park and the coastal pinewood will soon become a nature reserve and will provide a rare example of original and spontaneous vegetation (Mediterranean maquis) with pine trees transplanted in the past to reclaim the malarial zones.
The modern town of Nettuno only stands on a part of the ancient Roman Antium, which probably extended between modern Anzio and Torre Astura in a series of villas and sumptuous holiday residences that have left us many masterpieces of classical sculpture. During the Middle Ages, Saracen raids and the spread of marshland and malaria led the few remaining inhabitants to settle in the remains of the great Santuario di Nettuno on the highest cliff of the cape of Anzio. From 1163 the town belonged to the monks of Grottaferata, then it passed to the Frangipani, then the Colonna and finally the Borghese.
On the main square is the massive fort built by Antonio da Sangallo for the Borgia Pope Alexander VI Inside is the Antiquarium Comunale, a museum of antiquities, which holds finds from the very important nearby pre-historic sites, and the Museo dello Sbarco Alleato, a museum showing exhibits from the Allied landing on 22 January 1944 which led to the liberation of Rome. Back in the square go to the nearby Piazza Mazzini, where there is a fine fountain of Neptune, after whom the town is named, by Ottavio de Angelis. Continue this tour of the old town, surrounded by walls that are negotiable on foot; there is the Collegiate Church of San Giovanni built by Carlo Marchionni in 1749 over the remains of the Tempio di Nettuno and the Palazzo Colonna, a former mediaeval fortress transformed into an imposing family palace. After Piazza Mazzini and its terrace overlooking the sea, continue along Via Nettunese for about 8 km, passing Acciarella, turn right towards Foceverde and go on for a further 3 km as far as the bridge over the River Astura.
Follow the road by the river as far as the beach, from which there is a pleasant view of the Circeo promontory and then enter the dense pinewood, which completely covers the contours of the coast. After a stretch of pinewood the beach comes into sight again after a watch-tower and some ruins. Further on there is another building with a fence round it, some Roman ruins and a bridge leading to the Torre Astura, which is not accessible. From here the complex of Roman ruins can be seen that is popularly known as Cicero’s Villa: this is what remains of an ancient Roman villa with a fish pond in an excellent state of preservation and a small harbour, a luxurious structure but quite a common one along this section of coast, which was considered the most prestigious resort area in Roman times. The Astura tower is a singular five-sided fort built on rocks and linked to the land only by a small bridge. It may have been built by the Taccola family at the mouth of the River Astura to control the principal watercourse in the area and the Via Severiana, a Roman road which is also very important in modern times. It is equipped for mooring with a small internal fortified harbour and is famous for having received Conrad of Swabia after his defeat at the hands of Charles of Anjou. He was betrayed and handed over to his enemy by the castellan, Giovanni Frangipane.
Entrance from Pratica di Mare
The reserve is open from 1 July to 30 September and every Saturday and Sunday throughout the year