The Southern coast
The Via Severiana, named after the emperor Septimius Severus who built in 198 A.D., connected Ostia to Terracina, using the already existing road sections and making the entire Southern coast more easily accessible.
The silence and the scent of the air, the attractions of the sea and the spectacular sunsets have made these places, since ancient times, the ideal destinations of statesmen, intellectuals and artists in search of an oasis of peace.
In this plain crossed by the road, Augustus, Nero, Cicero and many others wanted to build their villas, imitated, after the pause of the Middle Ages, by cardinals, aristocrats and artists. The territory therefore confirms itself as a place of fascination in spite of urbanisation, sometimes illegal, that has cemented entire areas.
After leaving Ostia, the road ran along the coast passing Castel Fusano and Castelporziano, where several excavation campaigns brought to light remains of sumptuous villas, heading towards Anzio.
Citadel of Latin origins, then occupied by the Volsci, Anzio, the ancient town of Antium, became a Roman colony in 338 B.C. It was a holiday resort for the Roman ruling class, as evidenced by the remains of the ancient villas, among which the monumental complex of Nero’s Villa stands out, more commonly known as the imperial villa.
It is a magnificent residence used by the emperors of the Augustan period up to the Severi. In the villa, Caligola and Nero were born and, under the latter emperor, important expansion works were carried out, together with the construction of the Neronian port, whose significant structures still remain.
The entire complex, now Archaeological Park of the imperial or Nero villa, was built on terraces facing the sea; its opulence is still witnessed today by the remains of pavilions, nymphaeums, gardens and richly decorated rooms used for theatrical and museum performances.
At the time of the barbarian invasions and especially the Saracen raids, the ancient Antium was abandoned. The port continued to operate, albeit with difficulty, while along the coast stood defense towers or sightings against the Saracens. The resumption began in the 17th century when Monsignor Bartolomeo Cesi commissioned a “rock mess”, today known as Villa Adele (named after the princess Borghese who lived there in the 19th century), where the municipal offices and the Landing Museum are located, with remains of the Allied military operation of 21st January 1944.
At the beginning of the 18th century, Innocent XII built the port still in use, while in 1728 it was built, on Roman remains, Villa Albani at the behest of Cardinal Alessandro, a passionate archaeologist, perhaps on a project by Alessandro Specchi.
Between 1732 and 1735, another famous cardinal, Neri Maria Corsini, built his villa in Anzio that was bought in the 19th century by the Aldobrandini family and is now known as Villa Sarsina.
During the belle époque, Anzio was a noble and upper-class holiday destination. There arose charming eclectic and liberty villas and in the Twenties, the “paradise of the sea”, a neo-liberty style building that stands on a monumental staircase overlooking the sea.
Continuing along the road, it is worth visiting the Forte Sangallo, built between 1501 and 1503, at the behest of Cesare Borgia. The fort is one of the most appreciated military works of the time, and at present houses the Municipal Antiquarium and the Beachhead Museum. Not far away, stands the medieval village of Nettuno, tightened by its ancient walls. There are the baronial palace, the Pamphili Palace, decorated with 17th century frescoes, and the medieval church of Saint John.
About ten kilometers from Nettuno, Torre Astura rises up in the sea, probably built in the 11th century on a site inhabited since the Iron Age and became an important port under the Volsci for the town of Satricum. The tower, built on Roman ruins, was the scene of a famous historical event: the betrayal of the young prince Corradino di Svevia, nephew of Frederick II who, in 1268, was captured by the feudal lords Frangipane and handed over to King Charles of Anjou, who had him beheaded in Naples.
The road then continued to Terracina and Circeo as reported by the Tabula Peutingeriana, a medieval copy of a Roman itinerarium of the late Imperial age.