Latina: Week end Latina, Itri and Aurunci mountains
Itri is a gracious little town situated in the Latium Region of Italy and Aurunci mountainsIts territory extends along the Appian Way, the
main artery of communication to the south. This delightful town was inhabited by various people, even since prehistoric
times; Itri later became part of the Roman Empire.
The Romans left their indelible mark on Itri. It was during the Roman domination that the Appian Way was
constructed, thereby making Itri a very important part of the landscape. Because of its important strategic location,
Itri played a major role during the period of the Roman Empire.
Despite the fact that Itri enjoyed a prominent strategic position as a line of communication to the south, it was only
after the medieval period that its population grew to any significant size. Its strong urban explosion took place around
the now famous “Castle of Itri” and the primitive tower. The “Medieval Center” also called “Terra” was then surrounded
by a strong wall, dotted by towers and gates for defensive purposes.
Today, Itri is an extensive urban development, extending from the town of Fondi to the town of Sperlongo. Itri is located
approximately ninety miles south of Rome and some fifty-five miles north of Naples. It borders with Fondi and Campodimele
to its north, Formia and Gaeta to its east and Sperlongo to its west. Itri is also located less than one mile to the south
of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
During the summer months, the population of Itri increases as its native sons and daughters return from their adopted
foreign countries to their birthplace.
While many have speculated on the origin of its name, it appears that Itri is a derivative of the Latin word Iter – which
means road, passage or street. An ancient Roman inscription on its wall supports this theory.
At the turn of the century and subsequent years, a mass immigration from Itri to America took place. These early
immigrants, among them my grandparents, settled in the Knightsville area of Cranston, Rhode Island.
This village set in the Aurunci mountains, established in the heart of a dense wood, the natural stronghold of shepherds and woodsmen in ancient times, has a round, compact structure, the highest point of which is the bell tower of the parish church.
The houses extend downhill, creating a cone-shaped structure that has defense walls as its base.
Campodimele has a typically medieval character, with squares fronted by similar-sized buildings, not much altered by modern changes.
One's enchantment grows when venturing into the streets of the ancient village, where the white and grey of the cobbled streets and the forms and materials of the building fronts give a feeling of peace which has been lost elsewhere.
The old olive mill, the square with the secular elm tree, the scenic outlook, and the stone houses recall the small and simple world of long ago.
The best view of the village is from the air, because the circular shape of the medieval layout can be seen, with the city walls marked off by twelve towers and a donjon. The walls and towers are protected as historic monuments, and are incorporated in the houses and buildings. The fortification was constructed in the 11th century as a bastion and lookout over the Valle del Liri road, which passes below. The path running outside the walls offers a pleasant, romantic walk with a complete view of the pre-Apennine mountains.
After it was restored, this walkway became known as "lovers' lane." Strolling down the path, one breathes the air of a village and countryside given to agricultural and grazing, such as can no longer be found in Italy.
The parish church of San Michele Arcangelo, built in the 11th century, still appears as it did in a fresco from 1580 found in the Vatican. The church has various paintings of artistic value, including two religious subjects from the 15th century. Along with the remains of an excellent marble tabernacle by the school of Tommaso Malvito, an artist working in Naples in the late
15th-early 16th centuries, there is also a painting signed by Gabriele da Feltre from 1578.
There is also the very old convent of the anchorite St. Onofrius, built in the 11th century by the Benedictines by the will of the abbot Desiderius, later elected Pope Victor III in 1087.
Also worthy of note is the rural chapel of the Madonna delle Grazie, which goes back to the 13th century and is located halfway down the hill, in the Taverna locality. It is built entirely in stone, and restoration work has returned it to its original character. A small window behind the altar frames the sanctuary of the Madonna della Civita to the west on the mountain of the same name.