Lacio. Italian Marinas.
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Latium (Lazio) is a region in Central Italy, on
the Tyrrhenian side of the peninsula, except for a small strip on the Adriatic
side. Lying to the west on the Tyrrhenian Sea, this region borders to the north
with Tuscany, with Umbria and for a short stretch with the Marches.
To the east Latium borders with Abruzzo and briefly with Molise and with Campania to the south; within its present limits it has not, however, geographical unity.
The morphology of Latium is very complex but four
main sub-regions can be defined: the Tyrrhenian coast, the inland plains, the
mountains of the Latium Preapennines and a true Apennine area. The coast is
mainly low and uniform, broken only by the spurs of Linaro point, Mount Circeo
(541 m.) and the Gaeta headland: the Ponzian Islands, which are part of Latium,
lie opposite the south coast.
Behind the coastal strip, to the north lie: the Latium Maremma (the continuation of the Tuscan), interrupted at Civitavecchia by the Monti della Tolfa (616 m.), in the centre by the Campagna di Roma and to the south by Agro Pontino. This area, once swampy and unhealthy, was reclaimed over the centuries (though work was finished only in the 1930s) for repopulation and agricultural exploitation. The Latium Preapennines, marked by the Tiber valley and the Liri with the Sacco tributary, includes on the right of the Tiber, three groups of mountains of volcanic origin: the Volsini, Cimini and Sabatini, whose principal craters are occupied by the Bolsena, Vico and Bracciano lakes. Other mountain groups south of the Tiber also form part of the Preapennines: the Albani (or Latium) Hills, also of volcanic origin, and the calcareous Lepini, Ausoni and Aurunci Hills. The Latium Apennines are part of the Abruzzi Apennines: the Reatini mountains with Terminillo (2,213 m.), Mounts Sabini, Prenestini, Simbruini and Ernici which continue east of the Liri into the Mainarde.
The major river is the Tiber; its course, initially southeast in a valley lying longitudinally to the Apennines, deviates south-west across the Campagna di Roma. Various rivers are its tributaries: the Velino, Salto and Turano (through the Nera) and the Aniene. The courses of the Sacco and Liri are similar to that of the Tiber. Other smaller rivers such as the Fiora, Marta and Arrone flow directly into the sea and are relatively short. All the rivers in the region empty into the Tyrrhenian Sea except for the Tronto which crosses the Amatrice dip and flows into the Adriatic. Apart from the lakes already mentioned, others are Albano and Nemi, lying in the craters of two extinct vulcanoes in the Albani Hills.
The climate is temperate over all the region though with considerable differences between the temperature and humidity on the coastal strip, subject to marine influences, and on the higher zones inland, where there are greater extremes of temperature and rainfall is more abundant-often with snow in winter. The vegetation has been radically modified by man, and the once widespread woodlands now cover an area of 368 thousand hectares, little more than a fifth of the surface. Along the coast and in the lowlands stretches the Mediterranean scrub, with stands of wild laurel giving way, further inland and with increasing altitude, to cork woods and mixed woods of white oak, hornbeam, sycamore, elm, holly oak and chestnut. This is followed by chestnut, Turkey oak and white oak woodland up to approximately 1,100 m.; higher up lie beautiful beechwoods, which in some areas even stretch up to 1,800 m.
One of the most interesting zones as far as nature, human settlement and history are concerned, are Circeo, now a national park, including the Mount Circeo headland, the Sabaudia forest, the island of Zanone, the coastal lakes of Sabaudia (or Paola) Caprolace, Monaci and Fogliano and the Pontine coast, for a total of approximately 8,400 hectares. All these, together with sites of cultural and tourist interest, including paleontological, archeological and historical remains, sunny beaches, shady woods, and mineral springs, add to the importance of the national park. The vegetation is rich, varied and abundant in places. On the south side, called 'the warm zone', the headland is covered with Mediterranean scrub with holly oak, strawberry bush, myrtle, shrub heather and many kinds of other low bush; dwarf palms grow on the rocks. The northern side instead, known as 'the cold zone', is characterized by high underwood, with holly oak, white oak, hornbeam and broom. At the foot of this stretches a luxuriant oakwood.
The Sabaudia forest, a surviving tract of the Pontine forests destroyed by land reclamation, consists mainly of deciduous oak such as the Turkey and pedunculate oaks. Though some of the most characteristic animals (wolf and deer) have disappeared, there is still some interesting fauna, such as the wild boar (chosen as emblem of the park), and the fallow deer-introduced in the past and now being gradually replaced by the roe deer, and moufflon, still found at Zannone.
Still partly a wilderness, with broken hills, woodland and large stretches of scrub that contrast with wide areas of rough ground and grazing land for herds of half-wild cattle, is the Monti della Tolfa area, slightly to the east of Civitavecchia. The vegetation is profuse and varied, comprising Mediterranean scrub and coppices of white oak, hornbeam, sycamore, elm and chestnut, as well as riparian vegetation with poplar, willow, ash and tamarisk.
The fauna includes many wild boar, beech-marten and weasel. On the slopes of the Monti Lepini lie a splendid garden and the medieval ruins of the town of Ninfa: among enormous centuries-old pines, cypresses, holly oaks, poplars and olive trees, 10,000 exotic trees, including magnolias, Japanese cherry, maple, beech and bamboo have been planted.
An extremely beautiful little area is that of Lake Posta Fibreno, near Sora, with its veritable underwater forest of algae and macrophytes with beautiful blue-red-greenish highlights.
The lake is also the site of one of the strangest works of Nature in Italy: a floating island formed by the transformation of algae, weeds, bushes and trees into peat, which drifts over the water with the wind.
The population distribution
is clearly influenced by Rome, where 55% of the population is concentrated. The
presence of the capital of Italy gives Latium the fourth highest density of
population in the country.
In the past, the somewhat underdeveloped north of the region has undergone progressive depopulation (especially in Rieti province), and this, to a certain extent, is still continuing. By contrast, south of Rome the creation of new industrial areas (especially in the Pontine) has contributed to a marked rise in population, though urban growth occurs to the detriment of the rural areas.
The regional dialects can be identified with two fairly well-defined areas: the north-west is influenced by the southern Tuscan dialects, while the rest of the region speaks Central Italian dialects, though with marked individual linguistic characteristics (Sabine, Ciociaro and Roman).
Sociological statistics reveal a standard of living above the national average, but the north of the region is penalized by an underdeveloped economy, while the south of Latium has on an average a better standard of living.
With regard to environmental conditions, unfortunately the Thyrrenian Sea is highly polluted and environmental deterioration is found particularly in Rome where the traffic is choking the city, and the suburbs have spread in a disorganized sprawl.
The agricultural sector is characterized by farms of varying sizes and productivity which differs from one place to another. In the Rieti and Viterbo areas farms are large, while the reclaimed districts (Agro Pontino) make use of modern production techniques and holdings are smaller, becoming tiny in the rural areas of Ciociaria.
Part-time farming is a growing phenomenon carried out by workers in other forms of employment, who often spend some time growing fruit and vegetables.
The most widespread crops are cereals (wheat, maize) and vegetables in the Viterbo area, Campagna di Roma and Agro Pontino; vines are cultivated in the Colli Albani area and olives in Sabina.
There are particularly high numbers of sheep, and cattle-breeding is slowly developing. Fishing, though affected by pollution and less than optimal environmental conditions (sandy coasts, few inlets), is important on a national scale.
Industrial development in Latium is fairly recent and closely linked with the Mezzogiorno Fund, though limited, as already mentioned, to the areas south of Rome. Communications have also been an influence, favouring the areas with the best links to Rome and those near the Autostrada del Sole (motorway), especially around Frosinone. Firms are often small to medium in size and operate in the building and building materials (Rome, Civitavecchia), paper (Frosinone), petrochemical (Gaeta, Rome), textile (Frosinone), engineering (Rieti, Anagni), automobile (Cassino), food (Rome, Aprilia), electronic and electrotechnical (Viterbo) sectors. There is a reasonable production of electricity (nearly all thermal), one tenth of which is provided by the Foce Verde nuclear power station (near Latina).
Approximately the 73% of the working population is employed in the services sector; this is a considerable proportion, but is justified by the presence of the capital, which is the core of public administration, banking, tourism, insurance and other sectors.
The centralizing force of Rome has also influenced the communications network which tends to link each centre with the capital rather than constitute interurban communications. All the major highways (in part corresponding to the ancient Roman consular roads) converge on the metropolis, causing considerable traffic problems. The railway network is in a similar condition, though the situation is aggravated by antiquated railway lines. The busiest ports are Civitavecchia and Gaeta. There are two airports, Roma-Fiumicino, the most important in Italy, and Roma-Ciampino, for domestic flights.
Though penalized by the extraordinary
centralizing influence exerted by Rome on vast numbers of visitors, the whole of
Latium has considerable tourist potential, for it offers a range of alternative
itineraries with a wide choice of historical and artistic sights and scenery.
One interesting itinerary might begin in the north of the region, in search of
the mysterious and fascinating Etruscans, fierce rivals of the Romans, whose
spiritual depth is here revealed in their fine and evocative necropoli. Mention
is here made of the most important: first of all, the Vulci ruins, on the Tuscan
boundary, the centre which has furnished the best examples of Etruscan bronzes;
farther south lies Tarquinia, near which lies one of the most important
necropoli yet discovered, particularly famous for its paintings which provide a
tangible and fascinating picture of Etruscan life and customs. Proceeding south
again, lies Cerveteri, with architecturally important necropoli: the tombs
reproduce the interior of an Etruscan home and its evolution can be traced from
the simplest of forms (7th century BC.) to the most complete (4th-2nd centuy
BC.). Another itinerary in the heart of Etruria lies inland, combining the
beautiful landscapes of the great Latium lakes with the environmental interest
of ancient, picturesque villages submerged in a gentle silent countryside.
In the immediate vicinity of the capital, some pleasant localities constitute an ideal addition to a visit to Rome: to the east is Tivoli, near the Aniene Falls and the stately ruins of Adrian's Villa (2nd century BC.); a little farther south lies Palestrina, with the remains of Fortuna Primigenia (2nd-1st century BC.), a large pagan sanctuary; turning west one reaches the Castelli Romani area (Colli Albani), a favourite residence of Popes and aristocrats.
Places near the Apennines have fewer visitors but are no less beautiful: Subiaco, for example, with the nearby Benedictine convent of S. Scolastica (11th-16th century), and the monastery of S. Benedetto (12th century), built on the grotto where the Saint lived. Entering Ciociaria, one can visit Fiuggi, a famous spa; then Anagni, where Pope Boniface VIII was taken prisoner, Ferentino, Alatri and Veroli, not far from Casamari Abbey.
Farther south lies Priverno, with Fossanova Abbey (13th century) and its beautiful cloisters. From this point, the visitor proceeds to the Circeo National Park, on the Tyrrhenian Sea, which demonstrates what Agro Pontino must have been like before land reclamation. Along the coast, lies Terracina, with an interesting medieval Duomo and ruins of the temple of Giove Anxur (1st century BC.). Beyond this, still on the sea, lies the Grotta di Tiberio where it is thought the Emperor enjoyed his leisure; next comes Gaeta with its Baroque Church of SS. Annunziata (with a rich Renaissance chapel).
Deviating inland, one reaches Montecassino Abbey, with tra gic memories of World War II; it was almost totally destroyed in 1944 and then faithfully rebuilt to the original plan. Traditional tourism is linked with the many Tyrrhenian seaside resorts, the favourite destination of Romans for summer holidays or weekends. From the north, these resorts are: Santa Marinella, Ladispoli, Fregene, Lido di Ostia, Tor Vaianica, Lavinio, Anzio, Nettuno, Lido di Latina, San Felice Circeo, Terracina, Sperlonga and Formia. Of no less importance are the rocky islands in the Pontino archipelago (the Ponzian islands), looking onto the Gulf of Gaeta; only Ponza and Ventotene, linked by ferry to Anzio, Terracina and Formia are inhabited. Latium also has a very famous ski resort-Terminillo (2,216 m.), the so-called `mountain of the Romans' in the province of Rieti.