This region initially had various multi-ethnic residents other than the Latins, such as the Italics and Etruscans, which countless archeological artifacts within its borders prove. Indeed until the emperor Augustus came along, Latium was not a unified state, with many tribes in the region. It was Augustus who initiated one of the first attempts at Italian unification, creating a united ancient Italy, divided into 11 separate regions of which Latium together with Campania were Region I. Over the years the regions were conquered by various emperors and countries up to the middle of the 16th century when the Catholic Church unified the region with the Papal State and became its administrator. With the exception of the year in which the Papal State was ruled by Napoleon and the six years in the late 1890’s when it was annexed by the French Empire, Latium remained a part of the Papal State until it was incorporated into the Kingdom if Italy in 1870.
Latium is the region of Italy’s capital, Rome, which is located in the central peninsula area. Today this region has 5 provinces: Frosinone, Rieti, Latina, Rome and Viterbo, and the region’s name is also the name of the indigenous tribe of the area, the Latini. The etymology of the word is indicative of the geography of the region, as “latus” in Latin means “wide,” and describes beautifully the flat land of the roman countryside. However, the geography is much more than just plains. The coast is composed of sandy beaches and the Pontine Islands which lie off the southern half of the region’s coast. The northern section holds the Maremma Laziale which is the continuation of the Tuscan Maremma, and the central section is occupied by the vast alluvial plain surrounding the city of Rome. The region is also marked by the Tiber river, as well as the Apennine Mountains, which make it a rich, geographically diverse, destination with mesmerizing landscapes.
What to see there
The beauty of this region (like that of all of the regions of Italy!) is that it has something for everyone: from the city to the wonders of nature. We’ll start with the most obvious highlight, Rome. Rome has remained one of the most visited cities in the world for thousands of years, due to its fascinating monuments, colorful people, and lively atmosphere. You have to try to be bored here. As they say “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, and as we in travel say “Rome can’t be visited in a day”. Options are endless, from walks through the center of the city with stops at the Pantheon before a coffee at Sant’Eustachio bar, to pictures and wishes at the Trevi Fountain, and visits to Piazza Navona where Bernini and Borromini tell their stories in art. Via Condotti is a hot spot for the Italian fashion lover, and the many parks around the city offer a serene break from the bustling streets. And of course we cannot forget the famous attractions of the Vatican (which is technically not in Latium but its own separate country) and the Colosseum! Our helpful hint for Rome: do the Vatican and the Colosseum on separate days. If you are interested in seeing the Pope, stop by for the Papal Audience at 10:15 on Wednesdays, and if you want to avoid the long lines at the Colosseum, pick up advanced skip-the-line tickets or a tour of the dungeons and upper tiers!
There is much to do outside of Rome, as well. If you are looking for a day trip in the country look no further than Tivoli, with the villas of Hadrian and d’Este worth a full day. Vignanello, just North of Rome, is another “off the beaten path” destination were you can visit the beautiful Ruspoli castle and garden with the special bonus of having a princess as your guide. Instead, if you enjoy the seaside, one of Select Italy’s favorite weekend escapes is to Ponza (see our 2011 A-List destination of choice for more details), a small island outside of Latina where the sea is clear and crisp. Visitors can rent small boats to tour the island or enjoy a variety of fresh fish for dinner, paired with the local Fieno di Ponza wine. For those who wish to stay closer to Rome, a visit into the magical wines of Fattoria Fiorano or Ostia Antica are both fantastic options. Looking for more niche places? Our custom travel experts are ready to suggest any that might fit your fancy!
What to Eat There
This region has a wide array of foods and flavors due to the many travelers and political emissaries who influenced the cuisine. A wide array of cured meats, fresh seafood, and baked goods are the most common foods served when enjoying an aperitivo or an antipasto. In the countryside soups such as pasta e ceci or beef stew are the favorite plates to serve. The region also has many dishes highlighting fresh seasonal vegetables, such as the fried artichokes served with parmigiano, olive oil and lemon sauce (carciofi alla giudea), typical of restaurants in the Jewish Ghetto, or steamed artichokes served with parsley, garlic and olive oil (carciofi alla romana). In the spring time you will find puntarelle or endives served with anchovies and garlic. And how could we forget about the pomodori ripieni, stuffed tomatoes with rice and other spices cooked in the oven? The heavy hitters of pasta and proteins come in many forms: both fresh and dried pasta, which can be served in dishes such as lasagne or fresh gnocchi al pomodoro, or the famous bucatini all’amatriciana and rigatoni alla carbonara, both topped with pecorino romano. Lamb is the meat used during various holidays, especially Easter, and it is normally cooked in the oven with rosemary potatoes. Pork makes an appearance in porchetta or guanciale, and if you are a seafood lover you must have the salted cod or steamed mussels and clam pasta. The common thread of Latium’s cuisine echoes that of Italian cuisine in general: simple but delicious dishes.
Because of its fertile and porous land, the region also provides an optimal environment for grape growing. The soil is rich in potassium which is well-suited for white grapes. Some of the most famous white wines use the Trebbiano and Malvasia di Candia grapes, and Latium is the home of 27 DOC and 3 DOCG wines, with a fine collection of wines from the Castelli Romani, Frascati, Montefiascone, Orvieto and Marino.
Bring Latium to Your Kitchen Table
Since I am from this region, I was honored to represent it and cook pasta all’amatriciana, a favorite recipe of Select Italy’s late founder and president Andrea Sertoli. I received two delicious products from Eataly: La Mola Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Il Pastaio di Gragnano bucatini pasta (which could be likened to fat, hollow spaghetti – perfect for catching amatriciana sauce!). I couldn’t resist making the pasta all’amatriciana, and also bought fresh guanciale and Mutti tomato sauce at Eataly, knowing I had some extra of the required Pecorino Romano at home to top it off with. Once home I immediately grabbed my wooden spoon to make the sauce, which is one of those that the more it cooks the better it is. I started cutting the onions, sauteing the diced pieces with the Mola olive oil and salt until they were tender and transparent before adding the tomato sauce. While I let these marry, I sauteed the guanciale, which I had cut into small pieces, in a separate pan until it was crispy and delicious, adding them into the sauce to cook together until the pasta was ready. The bucatini was thrown into a large pot with salted water (we Italians consider it essential to salt your water before you put the pasta in!), and I took it out a minute before it was ready, throwing it into the pan with the sauce to allow it to finish cooking. Topped off with the Pecorino Romano cheese and basil from my herb garden, this dish took me back to my home in Rome.
@ItalyFoodies: Join Our Discussion-What’s Your Take
1. Lazio has many cultural influences in its cuisine. What is the most prevalent?
2. What are some of the most well known DOC and DOCG red and/or white wines in the region?
3. Which cured meat and other cheeses are the most famous in Lazio?