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Anzio is a city and comune on the coast of the Lazio region of Italymarker, about south of Romemarker.

Well known for its seaside harbour setting, it is a fishing port and a departure point for ferries and hydroplanes to the Pontine Islandsmarker of Ponzamarker, Palmarolamarker and Ventotenemarker. The city bears great historical significance as the site of a crucial Allied landing during World War II.

History

Ancient era

Called Antium in ancient times, it was the capital of the Volsci people until it was conquered by the Romans.

With the latter expansion of Rome it was just far enough away to be insulated from the riots and tumults of Rome. When Cicero returned from exile, it was at Antium that he reassembled the battered remains of his libraries, where the scrolls would be secure. Leading Romans built magnificent seaside villas at Antium. The Julian and Claudian emperors frequently visited it: Gaius Maecenas had a villa at Antium; both Emperor Caligula and Nero were born in Antium; the latter founded a colony of veterans and built a new harbour, the projecting moles of which are still existing.

Remains of Roman villas are conspicuous all along the shore, both to the east and to the north-west of the town. Many works of art have been found: the Fanciulla d'Anzio, the Borghese Gladiator (Louvre Museummarker) and the Apollo Belvedere in the Vatican were all discovered in the ruins of villas at Antium.

Of the villas, the most famous was the Villa of Nero at Antium which cannot be certainly identified, but is generally placed at the so-called Arco Muto, where remains of a theatre (discovered in 1712 and covered up again) also exist. It extended along the coast of the Capo d'Anzio some 800 meters of seafront. Nero razed the former villa on the site, where Augustus had received a delegation from Rome to acclaim him Pater patriae ("Father of his Country") to rebuild on its foundations a villa on a more imperial scale, which was used by each Emperor in turn, up to the Severans. Of the famous temple of Fortune (Horace, Od. i. 35) no remains are known.

Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages Antium was deserted in favour of Nettuno: at the end of the 17th century Innocent XII and Clement XI restored the harbour, not on the old site but to the east of it, with the opening to the east, a mistake which leads to its being frequently silted up; it has a depth of about 5 m. The sea is encroaching slightly at Anzio, but some kilomters farther north-west the old Roman coast-line now lies slightly inland (see Tiber). The Volscian city stood on higher ground and somewhat away from the shore, though it extended down to it. It was defended by a deep ditch, which can still be traced, and by walls, a portion of which, on the eastern side, constructed of rectangular blocks of tufa, was brought to light in 1897.

World War II

Anzio and Nettunomarker are also notable as sites of an Allied forces landing (Operation Shingle) and ensuing battle (known as the Battle of Anzio) during World War II. The Commonwealth Anzio War Cemetery and Beach Head War Cemetery are located here.

American forces (5th Army) were surrounded by Germans in the caves of Pozzoli in February 1944 for a week, suffering heavy casualties. A movie based on the events called Anzio (1968, directed by Edward Dmytryk) was made, starring Robert Mitchum and based on a book by Wynford Vaughan-Thomas.
Tor Caldara Tower and the Anzio beach.
On 18 February 1944, the light cruiser HMS Penelope was struck by two torpedoes off the coast of Anzio and sunk with a loss of 417 crew.

Main sights

Along the coast are numerous remains of Roman villas. One, the Domus Neroniana, has been identified as a residence of Nero.

In Anzio can be found the Anzio Beachhead British Military Cemetery and a Beachhead Museum. The American Military Cemetery is in Nettuno. About 8 km north of the town there is a WWF park with sulphur springs and a medieval tower, Tor Caldara.

All along the coast a large number of beaches and sea resorts can be found, including hotels and the famous fish restaurants of the port of Anzio. The city once hosted a Casino that is no longer active and now hosts cultural events. In the southern part of the town, close to the border with Nettuno, are many Italian art nouveau style houses.

Transportation

Anzio is connected to Rome by the Via Nettunense (SS207), the Via Ardeatina (SS601) and by the Roma-Nettuno railroad that stops in the stations of Lavinio, Villa Claudia, Marechiaro, Anzio Colonia and Anzio.

References

  • Antonio Nibby, Dintorni di Roma, i. 181; Notizie degli scavi, passim.


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