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Terracina is found on the coast in the southern part of the Lazio region in central Italy. It is a fascinating town with a history stretching back at least 2500 years, and each period has left its mark on the city we visit today.
Italy This Way comment: although we describe Terracina old town below, visitors should also know that the town is about 15 minutes walk from a popular beach - one of only a few in Italy that are long, sandy and largely free to access. This beach attracts visitors from far and wide to Terracina!
The upper town in Terracina is set around the central square, the old 'Foro Emiliano', and the center of Terracina in Roman times. In this square we can see the San Cesareo Cathedral and the Town Hall.
The ancient Roman Forum was crossed along its northern edge by the Appian Way and the square still retains the roiginal limestone paving slabs, on which the inscription in bronze letters of the local magistrate (Aulus Aemilius) who ordered its construction can still be seen.
The cathedral, built to incorporate the main ancient temple, was built and consecrated to San Cesareo in 1074, while the bell tower and portico date from the 12th-13th centuries, with column drums from ancient Roman buildings being reused in the building.
The cathedral interior has three naves divided by columns, and a cosmatesque floor*. In the early 18th century a vaulted roof was added to the interior.
* Cosmatesque is a style much used in and around Rome in the Middle ages and cosists of detailed patterns created from inlaid marble
On the right side of the cathedral overlooking the square there is the 13th century Palazzo Vinditti, while on the southern side of the square stands the Tower of the Rose (12th-13th century).
Between the tower and the church is the Bishop's Palace, originally dating from the Carolingian period and renovated in the Middle Ages. Iin the 17th century it was renovated by Bishop Cesare Ventimiglia (1615-1645), and then again in 1786 by Pope Pius VI (1717-1799).
Also in a dominant position in Terracina is the castle of the Frangipane, built in various phases from the end of the tenth century to the 15th century. Severely damaged by bombing in World War II it now only retains the central tower, the oldest part, and a part of the south wing.
Several other town houses in Terracina date back to the Middle Ages. You can see some fortified tower houses and also houses with Gothic lancet windows and sometimes external stairs with galleries that date from the 12th or 13th centuries.
Some of the other buildings you will see as you explore Terracina are due to the restructuring of medieval houses - the rebirth of the city during the 18th-19th centuries led to restructuring and conmining of several groups of these medieval houses.
The lower part of the city had two periods of expansion. The first was under the Romans, between the port and the fertile agricultural valley to the northwest (especially between the first century BC and AD), and the second mainly in the 19th-20th centuries.
It is to the Roman period that the forum called 'Foro Severiano' belongs, with an amphitheater, and the villa called Neptune Thermae.
Around Terracina there are many traditional restaurants, and the local cuisine represents a meeting between land and sea products. The sea is evident in dishes like the fried fish, fish soup and spaghetti with anchovies, whose main ingredient is the tasty blue fishfound in the Tyrrhenian coast.
Meanwhile the Pontine plain offers delicious specialties such as buffalo mozzarella, wine, strawberries and Muscat. The recipes of the sweets are very ancient, such as 'Casatella' (sweet cottage cheese and coffee) and Tortolo, a traditional Easter cake.
See also history of Terracina
You can find more local travel ideas in the Rome - Lazio guide.