Actually, the Agro Pontino Valley is the home to beautiful tourist destinations, and the two cities of Latina and Sabaudia are two big examples of rationalist architecture.
This area, which extends from Lepini and Ausoni Mounts to the Tyrrenian Sea, and from the roots of Alban Hills to the Gulf of Terracina, was largely occupied by marshes.
This was because the water coming down from Lepini Mounts and also spring waters cannot reach the sea due to the low slope and the barrier created by the costal dunes.
The first attempts of reclamation of the Pontine Marshes date from the 6th century B.C.. One legend has it that the swamp was the work of the Goddess Juno, who wanted to punish the Mymph Feronia that lived there and was one of the many lovers of Zeus.
The Romans, thanks to their hydraulic knowledge, managed to regain numerous land. However, the most part of the area remained cover with water for longtime. And the marshes even increased during the barbar invasions.
To escape the barbarians the people took refuge in the mountains and the Pontine Plain was completely abandoned. The Via Appia, one of the major roads built by Romans, who crossed the Pontine Plain, was completely submerged and the passage of goods to the South was interrupted. The commercial traffic were obliged to move on the piedmont way transiting near Ninfa.
The imposition of a toll on anyone who wanted to use the road turned out to be a sourse of wealth and soon became Ninfa a small but rich urban centre, with numerous houses and churches.
In the 16th Century the enterprise to reclaim the Pontine Marhes, considered impossible, also fascinated by Leonardo da Vinci, who studied a system of canals and water-scooping machines: the project, although approved by Pope Leo X, never went into port for the death of the Pope. The system studied by Leonardo, is remarkably correct and was the point of inspiration for subsequent reclamation projects of the fascist period.
During ‘600 and ‘700 Pope Sisto V and Pope Pio VI realized a network of canals that still exist (line of Sisto and line of Pius).
In the following centuries the area, despite the danger of malaria, was populated with small villages that stood in the drained areas.
The boundless forests, also attracted many nobles of Rome which guests of the Caetani who family dabbled in long hunting trips in the 18th Century, hunting in the Pontine Marshes, spread troughout Europe. Among the most famous visitors, the german poet Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, who wrote: “The Pontine Marshes are the most wild and fascinating corner of Europe”. The hydraulic reclamation was enhanced by the fascist propaganda as one of the most extraordinary merit; after the war, however, was evaluated mostly in a negative way because destructive of a unique ecosystem, especially for rare wildlife species living there.
To try to preserve the last strips of wilderness was created the National Park of Circeo. During the 2nd World War the Germans, in an attempt to delay the advance of the allies, had deliberately damaged and destroyed many reclamation works, causing the flooding of acres of land, resulting in many areas even the dramatic return of malaria.
Nowadays, you can only have a little idea of the original marshland visiting the National Park that offer you the opportunity for a beautiful and long bike through the forest, a pic-nic in the equipped areas. For its special characteristics, the forest of Circeo, in 1977, was declared a “biosphere reserve”, and included in the program “MAB” (Man and Biosphere).
The whole story of the Pontine Land is reconstructed and told in the Museum “Piana delle Orme”, Via Migliara, 45 Latina (museo.pianadelleorme.com).