Cassino is the second largest city in the province of Frosinone and is located in the southern part of this province, at the foot of the Montecassino hill, almost on the border with the Campania region. The main attraction is the Abbey of Montecassino.
Cassino travel guide
Tourist information: Via G. Di Biasio, 54. Phone: +39 0776 21292.
Town hall: Piazza De Gasperi – 03043 Cassino (tel. +39 0776 2981).
Railway station: The city has two train stations. The main one is in Piazza Garibaldi, in the city center. There is a direct train connection to both Naples and Rome. Travel time from Rome is between one and a half and two and a half hours.
In addition to the Montecassino Abbey already mentioned, there are a number of Roman ruins to see, including an amphitheater and the Mausoleum of Ummidia Quadratilla, converted into a church in the Middle Ages. The Rocca Janula Castle dates back to the 10th century.
The most important sight of Cassino is not in the city itself, but towers above it. On Monte Cairo is the Montecassino Abbey, which pretty much ruled the region during the Middle Ages.
Mausoleum of Ummidia Quadratilla
This mausoleum is one of the many Roman ruins found near the city. In the Middle Ages, it was converted into the Chiesa del Crocifisso. Other remains from Roman times include the Baths and the Villa of Varrone and what remains of the 1st century Amphitheater.
The Rocca Janula is the name of a castle built in the 10th century. This fortress built by the abbot Aligerno has recently been restored.
The Cathedral of Cassino is located near the Montecassino Monastery mentioned above. Inside the church are the relics of San Benedetto and of Santa Scolastica. In 1944 it was rebuilt as true to the original as possible after being completely destroyed in the war.
The Cimitero Commonwealth is located near the Folcara University campus. Buried here are soldiers from Commonwealth countries who died at the Battle of Montecassino. There were also a German and a Polish cemetery with World War II war dead in Cassino.
Palazzo Barone de Rosa
The Palazzo Barone de Rosa is the only historic building that survived the bombing in World War II. It was built in the early 19th century. During the war it was the headquarters of a German paratrooper army unit. After the war, it was converted into school and office space.
A brief history of Cassino
Cassino lies at the foot of the Montecassino hill, which is very important in the city’s history, since it overlooks the road between Rome and Naples, which of course means that it has often been fought over by these two cities over the centuries. The city’s history is largely defined by that of the Abbey of Montecassino. Until 1863, the town was called San Germano.
The first inhabitants of the area settled in the hillside caves, but it was not until the Iron Age that the first settlement was formed, as demonstrated by the discovery of a necropolis.
In 313 BC, Casinum came under Roman influence. The Roman colony Interamna Succasina was founded nearby and took part of the territory of Cassino and Aquino.
Cassino fought on the side of the Romans against Hannibal.
Very little is known from the time after these wars. In those days, the settlement was located on the site of the present suburb of Crocefisso and was crossed entirely by the Via Latina consular road. A 4-kilometer-long city wall protected the center and its monuments.
The Roman colony went from municipium to colonia to praefectura, indicating that it was increasingly becoming a true Roman city. The land was also divided into centurions (square pieces of farmland measuring about 750 by 750 meters), following Roman custom.
The most important god was Apollo, who had a temple dedicated to himself near the Acropolis.
Monuments from the Roman period include the aqueduct, the Forum (which was outside the city walls and destroyed during World War II), the Amphitheater (which still exists) and the recently restored Theater.
Other sights from Roman times include the sepolcrum of Uminidia Quadratilla, later converted into the Chiesa del Crocifisso, the Baths and the Villa of Varrone on the banks of the Rapido River.
The Acropolis was located on the site of the present monastery and was protected by a double wall. No cement was used in its construction. Only after World War II did it become possible to excavate the buildings that used to be here.
Outside the city were a number of pagi (singular pago), small farming communities that formed around a larger center.
After the Romans
St. Peter himself is said to have preached here. As a result, there are multiple martyrs who were born in the area.
Invasions by Germanic peoples caused much damage to the ancient city. By the end of the 6th century, Cassino was completely destroyed by the Lombards led by Zotto.
The Middle Ages
In 529, Saint Benedict came to the city. With the city’s approval, he made the acropolis his headquarters. He had the pagan temples demolished and founded a monastery.
The settlement that evolved around the abbey was called Castellum Sancti Petri.
The medieval city was built not on the hill but on the lowlands. In the process, the old Roman Forum was reused to build a number of churches.
In 797, the Chiesa del Salvatore was built, by Gisolfo.
Cassino came under the Abbey of St. Benedict and became the center of a large fief. The abbot Bertario rearranged the city to withstand the Saracen threat. Although this people did maage to raze the city and the San Salvatore Church to the ground, the inhabitants rebuilt everything very quickly.
In the following centuries, Cassino became the capital and administrative seat of the so-called Terra di San Benedetto.
The inhabitants of what by now was called San Germano fought with the monks in the conflict between emperor and church. They built a defensive wall and a castle called Rocca Janula.
In 1199, the city was occupied by the imperial troops. Until 1230, many battles took place in the area. In that year, peace was signed by Frederick II and Pope Gregory VII.
In 1266, another great battle took place in San Gennaro, between the Swabians and the troops of the Anjou.
In 1521, the population revolted against the abbey. The monastery was besieged and subsequently looted.
Although the monks retained political power, it was not until 1669 that they also managed to regain control of the entire civil service. The public assembly was then replaced by a council of 50 deputies.
In 1527, a plague epidemic decimated the population.
After being occupied by Neapolitan troops who wanted to attack the papal state, San Germano was overpowered by the French. The city came under a government favorable to the French.
After the French troops had been driven out of Naples, San Germano was razed to the ground by the fleeing French soldiers.
On May 23, 1863, San Germano was renamed Cassino.
After the unification of Italy, the area was plagued by highwaymen.
Major works were carried out to make the swampy areas around the city healthier. Cassino became an important stop on the train line built in 1863 between Rome and Naples.
Between 1824 and the end of the century, the population grew from five thousand to thirteen thousand.
Until 1927 Cassino was part of the province of Caserta.
The beginning of the 20th century was characterized by the many emigrations, followed by the period of fascism.
During World War II, the Battle of Cassino took place, during which much of the city was destroyed. English, German and Polish cemeteries from this era can still be seen in the city.
After the war, there was great poverty. The economy was at a standstill and malaria returned. There were not enough homes and children were sometimes adopted by well-meaning people in other parts of the country.
Gradually the city was rebuilt. Beginning in the 1960s, new buildings were constructed and Cassino became an important industrial center.
Festivals and events
The town’s most important festival is dedicated to San Benedetto. The festival lasts an entire week and there are all kinds of events, culminating in the Terra Sancti Benedicti, on March 21st. This is a large procession in costume through the central streets of the city.
The volcanic hills surrounding the city do not hold rainwater, so parts of the valley below often turned into swamps in the past.
The city’s name may be derived from the Sabine word for “ancient,” cascum, referring to its long existence. In Roman times, the name morphed into Casinum. In medieval times, this became Castellum Sancti Petri, then Eulogimenopoli (city of San Benedetto) and still later San Germano. In 1863, Cassino regained its original name.
How to get to Cassino by car
From Rome and Frosinone take the E45 southbound. The distance is about 140 kilometers. You can also take the cheaper and more beautiful, but slower Via Casilina. From Naples take the E45 north. The distance is about 90 kilometers.