Ferdinand Gregorovius, a German historian best known for his studies on medieval Rome, spent the summer of 1858 at Genazzano; from there he decided to visit the towns which are located at the foot of the Ernici Mountains: Anagni, Ferentino, Frosinone, Alatri and Veroli, to see their ancient walls and medieval monuments. Gregorovius described this journey in Aus den Bergen der Herniker, an account written for a German paper.
The district I now have in my mind's eye belongs to the legation of Frosinone; it extends from the river Sacco to the foot hills of the Apennines. This territory of the ancient Hernici contains the towns of Anagni, Ferentino, Alatri, Veroli, and Frosinone, all of them of far greater antiquity than Rome herself; their origin, indeed, is lost in the mythical ages of Saturn and the Cyclopean wall-builders. (..) Ferentino came into sight eight miles away, spreading along a green hillside, from which its brown towers, its convents and churches stood out boldly. It looked a considerable place, its picturesque buildings relieved against the skyline on the crest of a hill, the feet of which were clothed with gardens and vineyards. Gregorovius - translation by Dorothea Roberts
Frosinone is located on a small hill in a commanding position over the River Sacco River, which is popularly known as Ciociaria (the land of those who wear ciocie, a particular type of footwear).
Archaeological Museum of the City of Frosinone: (left) VIIth century BC tomb with the skeleton of an adult and some metal wares from a necropolis near Frosinone; (right) VIth sec BC Etruscan type terracotta "antefix" which was found in 1926 at Frosinone
Monday, November 22, 1790. I resumed my antiquarian researches at Frosinone, the Frusinum of the ancient itineraries. Of this town, which retains only its name, I may say, "stat nominis umbra" (but the shadow of the name remains; that is, the thing has become a mere name in the place of that which formerly existed) for I could not ascertain that a single antique building or inscription was left to attest its past glory or existence. It is, however, frequently mentioned both by the Roman historians and poets. Livy, lib. x, says, "Frusinates tertia parte agri damnati, quod Hernicos ab eis solicitatos compertum." (The Frusinates were mulcted in a third of their territory, for it had been ascertained that they were the instigators of the Hernican revolt). And Diodorus, lib. xx, "Romani, Frusinone expugnato, agrum venundare." (The Romans took Frusino and distributed its land). This event happened under the consulate of L. Genucius, and S. C. Lentulus, in the year of Rome 450 (during the Samnite Wars). Frontinus mentions it as a Roman colony.
Richard Colt Hoare - A classical tour through Italy and Sicily - 1819
The local museum is pretty small. A large collection of Roman and pre-Roman objects from the tombs of the region is on display at Palestrina and Velletri.
Modern mural painting showing Frosinone before it was bombed on September 11, 1943; (left to right) the Cathedral was entirely destroyed, but not its tall bell tower, S. Benedetto, the church with a small dome, was not damaged, whereas Palazzo della Prefettura and the remaining part of the castle were razed to the ground; (far right) the conical shape of Mt. Fumone
It is situated on an eminence, and the streets are both narrow and dirty. The modern city extends more in length than in breadth. The Rocca, or fortress, commands a fine prospect of the adjoining country. Hoare
Of this glorious Latian land I would now talk to my friends, many of whom may have chosen the route to Naples by Frosinone and San Germano, in preference to the lower road by Terracina, and so will remember how beautiful is that valley of the Sacco, with its encircling mountains. (..) I resolved to see the large landed estate of the Carthusians near Veroli. As I was pressed for time I made up my mind to give up seeing Frosinone, though now so close to it, and to ride back to Ferentino. Gregorovius
Small palace in Piazza S. Maria, near the Cathedral, with a stucco frame for a sundial. The inscription "Horas non numero nisi serenas" has a double meaning "I do not count the hours unless they are sunny" (which is factual) and "I count only the serene hours"
There is no longer any direct communication by this road between Rome and Naples; but a diligence leaves every day, except Sunday, for Frosinone, where the traveller may easily procure conveyances to take him to Sora. At the latter place he will find a diligence which runs three times a week to Naples.
Frosinone (Inns: Locanda di Matteis, at the foot of the hill; Locanda di Napoli, halfway up the ascent to the town, kept by Parisi, an intelligent and obliging person, once the landlord of the first-named inn, which he gave up on account of the presumed unhealthiness of the situation) is the capital of an important delegation, comprising a superficial extent of 180 square leagues, and including with Pontecorvo, which is united with its local government, a population of 140,000 souls.
John Murray - Handbook for travellers in Southern Italy - 1853
Murray's notes about the inns indicate that the lower parts of the Sacco valley were still affected by malaria. All the towns of the region were built on high ground chiefly for defensive reasons, but also as a precaution against the disease.
Palazzo della Prefettura previously Palazzo della Delegazione Apostolica di Frosinone
The city itself contains 7900 inhabitants, and is the residence of the prelate who is the governor of the delegation. It contains little to detain or interest the traveller, beyond some remains of its amphitheatre and the new palace of the delegate. Murray 1853
Pope Benedict XIV undertook a series of reforms to improve the effectiveness of the Papal administration during his pontificate (1740-1758). He abolished privileges of some towns and regions which had been granted for historical reasons. He made Frosinone, at the time a minor town, the capital of a large province (delegation) solely because of its location at the centre of it and in doing so he laid the basis for the demographic and economic development of the town. In 1825-1840 a grand new palace for the delegation was built on the site of the fortress, of which only a small part was not pulled down. The palace was rebuilt after WWII as it was before, with the exclusion of a remaining tower of the fortress at its back.
S. Maria Assunta: (left) façade; (right) bell tower (ca 1500), parts of which retain their medieval aspect
The decision by Pope Benedict XIV was a very innovative one because Frosinone was not a bishopric see; it was part of the diocese of Veroli. In 1755 the Pope raised the rank of S. Maria Assunta, the main church of the town, to Collegiata Insigne (distinguished church with a chapter of deans) and its priest was granted the title of archdeacon. It was not until 1956 that it became the Co-Cathedral of the new diocese of Veroli-Frosinone and in 1986 the Cathedral of that of Frosinone-Veroli-Ferentino.
Cathedral: (left) interior; (right) Annunciation by Giovanni Colacicchi (1963)
The church was most likely built on the site of a Temple to Mars on the highest point of the hill. The medieval building was replaced in 1732-1745 by a new one, the interior of which resembles that of S. Andrea della Valle. Almost all the paintings which decorated its altars were lost when the building was bombed. They have been replaced by modern ones depicting events of the life of the Virgin Mary.
(left) S. Benedetto; (right) a detail of the stucco decoration of the interior
The church was built in 1134, but between 1750 and 1797 it was entirely redesigned in a late baroque style (see S. Pietro at Vicovaro for a similar façade) with a rich stucco decoration both in the façade and in the interior. It was not damaged by bombings.
(left) Via Garibaldi, the XIXth century main street; (right) S. Lucia (1840)
On a beautiful April morning we reached Frosinone by rail from Rome. The country was in its freshest, brightest green. At the station we found plenty of carriages waiting, and were soon leaving the town of Frosinone behind on its high isolated hill, and advancing fast into the mountains, through a rich corn-clad country. On the left, the most conspicuous feature was always Fumone, a knot of castellated buildings and cypresses on a lofty conical hill. (..) We went to the excellent country inn at Frosinone and spent a delightful morning in the enjoyment of its invigorating air, and the lovely view from our windows.
Augustus J. C. Hare - Days near Rome - 1875
From Rome the direct railway leaves that city by the Porta San Lorenzo, and passes by Albano, Velletri, Valmontone, Frosinone, Ceprano, San Germano, and Capua. It follows the direction of the ancient Via Latina, passing through a beautiful country: and affords an opportunity of visiting the celebrated Benedictine monastery of Monte Casino, the Pelasgic remains at Segni, Ferentino, Alatri, and Arpino, and the falls of the Liris at Isola. This route forms the most frequented line of communication between Rome and Southern Italy. (..) Frosinone Station. Carriages to the town, which is 2 m. distant, and to Alatri and Veroli. Murray 1883
The position of Frosinone on the main railway line which was built in the 1860s between Rome and Naples was a boost for its development, chiefly in the area between the railway station and the old town on the hill.
(left) Via Garibaldi: plaque celebrating the opening of a mission by St. Gaspare del Bufalo in 1822; (right) S. Benedetto: memorial plaque to Capt. Giuseppe Sgambella who was killed by brigands in 1866
St. Gaspare del Bufalo: His activity in converting the "briganti", who came in crowds and laid their guns at his feet after he had preached to them in their mountain hiding-places, excited the ire of the officials who profited from brigandage through bribes and in other ways. These enemies almost induced Leo XII to suspend del Bufalo. But after a personal conference, the pope dismissed him, remarking to his courtiers, "Del Bufalo is an angel".
Müller, U. (1909). St. Gaspare del Bufalo. (The Catholic Encyclopedia)
In spite of the antiquity of this frontier, it would be difficult to divide the two countries in a more arbitrary or capricious manner. The line of frontier follows neither the course of the great rivers, nor the principal mountain chains; but traverses plains, rivers, and mountains indifferently, and frequently crosses from one ridge to another, leaving one-half of a valley under the dominion of Naples, and the other under that of the Church. Murray 1853
I saw three soldiers following us, and not far off either. Were they banditti? The infamous Gasparone no longer gained his living by plundering travellers in these hills, where you may read the names of bandits, and see their graves, dug by their comrades' daggers. (..) The Italian hate regular military service, being too independent by nature to submit willingly to be disciplined. I saw the army of Francis II at Naples, when they were marching on Aquila in 1858. They looked splendidly equipped and well organised, but those 50,000 men were scattered like chaff before the wind by Garibaldi's volunteers. Now they have placed themselves under the leadership of such adventurers as Chiavone, Crocco, Ninco Nanco, and Cipriani, to fight and be shot down like bandits. Gregorovius
The Neapolitan brigands often crossed the frontier and sacked the towns of the Papal State (see a page with engravings portraying the brigands of Ciociaria).
Tuesday, November 23, Continuing my journey on the Latin Way, (Via Casilina) I descended to the river Cosa, which flows immediately under the town. Here I observed a modern inscription, placed on a fountain, from which water is conveyed to the town above by females, with pitchers on their heads. Hoare
The female costumes at Frosinone, are highly picturesque, and are frequently made the subjects of study by the foreign artists resident at Rome. Murray 1853
See how women carried water at Anticoli di Campagna (Fiuggi) and at Cervara; at Frosinone this practice went on until 1869.
This 1711 fountain at the foot of the hill was designed by Alessandro Specchi, a leading Roman architect who is best known for Porto di Ripetta and its fountain between two columns. It was built at the initiative of Livio De Carolis, a local landowner and grain merchant, who became so rich that Specchi designed a large palace in Via del Corso for him.
Introductory page on Ferdinand Gregorovius
Other pages on this walk: Ferentino, Alatri, Fiuggi (Anticoli di Campagna) and Piglio and Acuto
The Roman Campagna: Colonna and Zagarolo, Palestrina, Cave, Genazzano, Olevano, Paliano and Anagni
The Volsci Mountains: Valmontone and Montefortino, Segni, Carpineto, Norma and Cori
On the Latin shores: Anzio and Nettuno and Torre Astura
Circe's Cape: Terracina and San Felice
The Orsini Castle in Bracciano
Subiaco, the oldest Benedictine monastery
Small towns near Subiaco: Cervara, Rocca Canterano, Trevi and Filettino.