Latium (Lazio, in Italian) is a region in Italy, consisting of five provinces, of which Roma, with around 4 million inhabitants, is the biggest. The remaining 4 provinces (Viterbo, Rieti, Frosinone and Latina) together come to around one and a half million people. Rome itself is the capital of the region.
All about Latium
Province of Roma
The most important one of the five provinces Lazio consists of is the Province of Roma. Its capital, and the capital of the country itself, is Rome. Other important tourist destinations are Tivoli, Bracciano, Anzio, the small towns that are collectively known as the Castelli Romani, and Subiaco. There are two airports (Ciampino and Fiumicino) just outside Rome, and the cruise ships arrive in Civitavecchia.
Province of Viterbo
Viterbo is the northernmost province in the Lazio region. It is also known under the name Tuscia. Its capital is Viterbo itself. Other interesting towns are Bagnoregio, Tarquinia and Tuscania. In the summer, the Lago di Bolsena in the northern part of the province is a popular destination for tourists.
Province of Rieti
The Province of Rieti is located to the north-east of Rome. It is only sparsely populated and is one of the most earthquake-prone parts of Italy. The most best-known cities are the provincial capital Rieti and Amatrice, which was however severely damaged by the earthquake of 2016.
Province of Latina
The province of Latina is the southernmost province of the region. Most of the province stretches along the coastline, where some of its most interesting cities (Sperlonga, Terracina and Gaeta) are found. The capital is Latina itself, which was only founded in the 1920’s, after the marshes in the area had been drained.
Province of Frosinone
The province of Frosinone takes up the south-eastern part of the region. The borders of the province are mostly determined by mountain ranges. It consists of many small towns, the best known of which are the capital Frosinone, Cassino and Alatri.
A brief history of Latium
What is now the Lazio region was already inhabited in the Lower Paleolithic era (more than 300,000 years ago). The oldest archaeological is Colle Marino, near Anagni.
In successive eras, the most important cultures became the Rinaldone culture (between the 4th and 3rd millenium BC), named for a small town near Montefiascone in what is now the province of Viterbo, and the Asciano culture, (2nd millenium BC), also in the northern part of the region.
From the 12th century BC onward the area north of the river Tiber became Etruscan territory. The Sabines became dominant in the area south of the river. By the 9th century BC the two areas had become completely different, culturally speaking.
The name Lazio came in use midway through the 6th century BC. One of the first mentions of the name in is the Tomba degli Auguri in the Tarquinia Necropolis.
Between the 10th and the 8th century BC the tribe of the Latins settled in the area now known as the Alban Hills. The settlement of Alba Longa became the centre of a confederation of villages. Other tribes in those days were the Volsci, Rutulians, Aequi, Hernici, Sabibi, Aurunci and Falisci.
The second half of the 8th century BC saw the foundation of Rome. From then on the history of Latium is really the history of the Eternal City. Rome quickly became the most important city in the area and in 493 BC managed to form an alliance with its neighbours in order to be able to withstand the Etruscans and the other Italic peoples living nearby.
After a long period of instability in 338 BC Rome managed to beat the Lega Latina, an alliance of the neighbouring peoples.
Early middle ages
Barbarian invasions, Emperor Giustinian‘s war between 535 and 553 to reconquer the whole of Italy, the Lombard invasion of 568, all took their toll on Lazio.
Starting with Pope Gregory the Great, from the beginning of the 6th century the popes assumed ever more political power. In the 8th century, through an agreement with Charlemagne, this power was consolidated and even strengthened.
Although attacked and plundered by the Saracens (9th century) and the Hungarians (10th century), the church kept flourishing. After the Pope had moved to Avignon in 1309, the most important noble families in Lazio gained in influence, but these all hated each other and thus never made common cause against the church. Moreover, several members of these families became popes themselves. As a result, form the 15th century onward, Lazio was part of the Papal State.
After the middle ages
Later Latium was divided into the Districtus Urbis, containing Rome and its immediate surroundings, and the provinces Patrimonio di San Pietro (north of Rome), Sabina (east) and Campagna e Marittima (to the south).
The Popes were at their most powerful between the 15th and 18th centuries. Parts of Latium were under direct control of the church. Other areas were given as feuds to the families of the various popes, such as the Borghese, the Pamphilj, the Chigi etc.
As a result, Rome itself became very prosperous, while the normal people outside the capital were living in poverty. People starting fleeing the countryside and the thus abandoned parts of the region became marshy and prone to malaria and other diseases. Several of these areas were taken over by brigands.
The papal power ended in 1798, when Napoleon‘s troops entered Rome. They deported Pope Pius IV to France and annexed the Papal State.
After the Unification of Italy
On September 20th 1870, Rome was made into the capital of the Italian republic, which had been proclaimed 1849.
In 1927 the region was divided into the four provinces Rome, Viterbo, Rieti and Frosinone. Seven years later, a fifth one, Latina, though it was still called Littoria then, was added.
Lazio, and especially the southern part, was severely damaged during battles in World War II.
The name Lazio derives from the Latin word Latium. Though there were many tribes at the time the main inhabitants of the area were the Latini. When the Latini started taking over adjacent territories these came to be called Latium Adiectum or Latium Novum.
Nowadays there is very little industry in Lazio, and what there is is mostly concentrated in the area south of the capital. Tourism is probably the region’s main source of income.
Lazio borders with, starting from the north-west, Tuscany, Umbria, the Marche, Abruzzo, Molise and Campania. The Tyrrhenic Sea forms the western border.