Latium – Lazio

Lazio is the province that contains Italy’s capital, Rome. Most of it consists of a plain, with a few mountains to the east and south. The coast has mainly sandy beaches and a major harbor at Ostia. The approach to Rome from the north runs along the major Roman road, the Via Cassio, which passes two extinct volcanic formations which contain crater lakes. Because of the history of the former inhabitants, the Etruscans and the Romans, most of the cities and the road system are based on ancient structures so radiate from Rome, bearing out the adage – All roads lead to Rome.

Rural Lazio has agriculture (especially wine), and cultivates fruit, vegetable and olives as products for the Roman market. Some industry exists south of Rome. Rome itself has a population of over 4 million, and is the centre of the state and national services, as well as a major tourism centre. In the centre of Rome is a separate state belonging to the Pope – the Vatican city – over which the Italian government has no jurisdiction.

History of Lazio

Historically, Rome was founded on seven hills, as a democratic state including elements of Etruscans as well as Latins. Led by elected Senators and magistrates, it maintained a democracy until it rewarded Augustus for winning the civil war against Mark Antony by making him Emperor for life. Under Augustus, Rome expanded to include present-day Italy. Rome was able to maintain the core of the Empire until the 5th Century, when the Goths invaded. Rome became part of the eastern, Byzantine state, with the bishop of Rome as one amongst five leaders of the church.

However, the split of the Empire into Greek-speaking east and Latin-speaking west led to many misunderstandings culminating in the permanent separation of the Catholic and Orthodox churches.  This was exacerbated because both religious leaders (in Constantinople and Rome) were installed, manipulated or by various emperors. From the Renaissance, the sponsorship of the arts by wealthy popes contributed to Rome’s grandiose monuments and churches and other artistic achievements. Rome became the capital of Italy after reunion in about 1870.

Interesting Places in Lazio

Ponte Gregoriano

Ponte Gregoriano is a bridge on the Via Cassia, just before it climbs to Acquapendente.


Acquapendente was founded by the Etruscans but Otto 1 first named it after some waterfalls on the Paglia river. It has a castle Torre Alfina, built by the Lombards.

Acquapendente cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre was part of a Benedictine Monastery and destination for pilgrims seeking cures. The original crypt has unusual pillars with carved capitals and a stone said to come from the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

San Lorenzo Nuovo

San Lorenzo Nuovo was moved from a site closer to the lake and laid out on a grid plan in 1774. It has a Church to San Lorenzo Martire with a wooden cross from the original church.

Lake Bolsena

After San Lorenzo, the route has a view over Lake Bolsena, which is inside a volcanic crater and surrounded by caves. The ruins of an octagonal church of San Giovanni are close to the lake.

Bolsena has catacombs and an archaeological museum with the relics from Etruscan tombs found in the area. A small castle looks out over the lake and once guarded the Via Cassia.


At the entrance to the walled hilltop city of Montefiascone, the Torre del Pellegrini tower at the Rocca dei Papi has 360 degree views, including over the lake of Bolsena.

Bagnaccio spa is based on natural hot springs which were on the earlier line of the Via Cassia; the road has been moved 1km east. The baths, with a Roman baths building recorded by Michaelangelo, is open for use.


Viterbo is a walled and gated city, famous for pottery, marble and woodwork, right on the Via Cassia. The cathedral has an ornate striped bell-tower.

Viterbo papal palace was used by the popes for 200 years; the adjacent cathedral, with a tall bell-tower, houses the grave of John XXI; another pope was buried in the Church of San Francesco.

Ponte Camillario

Ponte Camillario is the ruin of a Roman arch where the Via Cassia crossed the Fosse Urcionio, an artificial channel.

The church of S Maria di Forcassi marks the position of the Roman Forum Cassii; walls and paving still exist.


Vetralla the town later moved to its current hilltop position and was defended by walls. It has several churches, a museum and a rock necropolis.

Torri d’Orlando

Torri d’Orlando is a collection of ruins of Roman and medieval times, including remains of two towers. Remains of a church have also been found. According to legend, the medieval knight Orlando was born in Sutri.


The older part of the hilltop town of Capranica, gated and partly walled, is defended by deep ravines. The Via Francigena runs below the walls.

The Renaissance section of Capranica is also enclosed behind a gate with a clock and includes many churches of the 13th C onwards.


Sutri is an ancient town on the Via Cassia, with a Roman theatre and Mithreum, a temple to Mithra, in the crypt of the Madonna Del Parto. It was once a bishopric but burned in 1433 and declined thereafter.

Monte Gelato

Monte Gelato waterfalls are in the Valle de Treja park and, while not spectacular, are in a wooded area pleasant for a picnic.

Parco dei Veio

Parco dei Veio is a large natural area on the site of Etruscan town of Veii, with ruins of a sactuary to Minerva. Ruins of a Roman temple to Apollo, a villa and interesting flora and fauna are within the park.

Madonna del Sorbo

Madonna del Sorbo church is on the road side. It is associated with a convent of the Carmelite nuns and has an icon of the virgin that was rumoured to perform a miracle.

Isola Farnese

Isola Farnese village was a medieval fortress on a cliff; it was later incorporated into the 17th C palace. Stone houses surround the palace and some sections of column and old towers remain.

La Storta

La Storta was a station on the Via Francigena mentioned by Sigeric; it is reported that St Ignatius Loyola saw a vision here; a chapel commemorates the spot.

Bastioni di Michaelangelo

Bastioni di Michaelangelo’s bastion of the city walls of Rome is decorated with marble crests. This is the point at which the pilgrim enters the old city of Rome.

St Peter’s square

St Peter’s square is a circular plaza directly in front of the Basilica of St Pater in the Vatican city and the final point of the pilgrimage.


The discover Italy website gives details of the nine stages or 196km of the route along the via Cassia in Latium, plus transport to and from the route. The route through the province is signed with Via Francigena signs and all stages are easy.  Viterbo has a via Francigena site in Italianز

Two lists of accommodation are available here.

Other information on the main website is not available in English; the Italian is easy to follow.

The official Lazio website seems to be still under construction (let is know when it comes available!).


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