Terracina Across the Millennia

November 20, 2013 / Art & Archaeology
Terracina, Lazio

In the small simple village of Terracina, nestled into the hillside along the Appian Way, that ancient Roman Road running south from Rome towards Messina and Sicily, stands a stark visual reminder of history, fate, fortunes both good and bad, expectations, evolution, and one transitory view of life’s realities across the millennia.


During the Magna-Grecia period, the Greeks built there a Sacred Temple. Then the Romans some 400 years later, took over the land and began to inhabit, convert, modify and change the landscape into their own form of use and occupation. Eventually over time, this was also partially pillaged, burned, destroyed and ultimately left abandoned by the various Vandals, Goths, and other Barbarian invaders. In their turn, they literally dismantled, dispersed and devastated the world’s … both then and now … most influential, political, and economically powerful society of people ever assembled under one rule and one form of government.


With the ensuing Dark Ages, the remaining built environments were lived in by the myriad countless bands of wanderers and wayfarers, survivors of the continued invasions … who also plundered, robbed and systematically stripped away anything and everything that could easily be carried away. The Middle Ages onward witnessed the elite Italian administrators, governmental leaders, politicians, nobility, including the state church, strip away and steal whatever else of value that still existed to build their own palaces, villas and churches.


What exists today is a hodgepodge of that which has survived; a Medieval church built out of one end of the Greek/Roman Temple; a Roman forum with architecture from every Italian era; tiny apartments carved out of and into the upper storey brickwork that backed the now-missing marble facades; a bar, pharmacy, tobacconist, auto repair, dressmaker and ice cream shop; a tiny trattoria hollowed out of the street level stone plinths supporting the massive masonry above.


Diderot, the 18th century French philosopher poignantly penned these prophetic words, “Everything changes… nothing changes… time passes.”

Life goes on while you are making other plans.


– Generously contributed by Suzanne and Ron Dirsmith, founders of The Dirsmith Group, (Architecture, Landscape Planning, and Lighting Environments), and kind ItalianNotebook readers… many thanks!

10 Responses to “Terracina Across the Millennia”

  1. Rosemary

    Grazie Suzanne and Ron! A history lesson and a travelogue – fascinating, sad, wonderful and so “Italy”! Thank for making me say “WOW” this morning!

  2. Intriging how the Italians can combine spaces and make beauty out of everything they touch. Thank you for my daily ray of sunshine from Bella Italia !

    • Emile van Rijswijk

      Fully agree with the “Daily ray of sunshine”. I could not have expressed it better myself.

  3. Frank Bettinelli

    I was pleasantly surprised upon receiving my daily notebook and seeing my in-laws town of birth as a feature. My wife and I had a great time when we traveled to Terracina to visit relatives of hers. I wish we could have spent more
    time exploring the natural and man made beauty of the area.

  4. I love this article and especially the pictures. Quite often if not careful, Italy can be displayed for her beauty on the exterior while not capturing the actual soul. Your article and pictures bring with them a certain realism, a sadness of a woman forlorn. I wouldn’t change a thing about what you’ve written or captured through your lens. your article is simple and your images allow Terracina to speak for herself. Bravo!!! I would go there. Thank you.

  5. that was fascinating! I agree heartily with Tom’s summation of your article. Well done!

  6. Maia Dellacascata

    This is why my college major was in history….the fascinating facets of human creation and activity on this Earth are utterly mesmerizing! Italy is truly La Bella Donna…shrouded in endless layers of ancient intrigue. Brava on telling such an intriguing tale…Terracina goes on my list of “Must Experience” locations!

  7. Complimenti e grazie per l’interessantissimo e storico articolo. La nostra bella
    Italia è molto più amata e decantata dagli ospiti stranieri che dai nostri politici.


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