Latina: Italy’s Only Completely Modern City
The vast throng of tourists travelling between the urban buzz and glories of Ancient Rome, and the spectacular islands and volcanic cities of Naples often miss out on what is one of Italy’s most unusual and charming cities which also holds the title of being Italy’s only fully modern city: Latina.
Latina lies just inland from the infinite and immaculate sugar sand beaches of Latina Mare about a third of the way south of Rome towards Naples. Up until the 1920s this entire area was known as the Pontine Marshlands, a huge swamp area that was effectively uninhabitable due to the massive clouds of malaria-bearing mosquitoes which thrived in the hundreds of square miles of bog. The area was a scourge of Ancient Rome as it is just on the doorstep of the Seven Hills, and was considered for centuries a morass that could never be tamed or populated to any extent.
This is an entire modern city which is built on former boggy swamps: Mussolini’s historic project drained the Pontine Marshes and turned the entire region into arable farmland. The major city built on the marshland was Latina, a small metropolis built from scratch unlike all the other cities in Italy which boast city centers that date back millennia. This “carte blanche” form of development created a city that is almost “American” at first sight, with very un-European wide, straight streets, logical traffic interchanges, flowing and immaculately maintained green spaces and massive ultramodern shopping centers.
The best way to describe Latina would be as an “American” city in Italy. Latina would be very much at home in California or Florida were it not for the very identifiable Fascist architecture which forms the core of the city. For the uninitiated, this particular form of building is an imposing form of purified Art Deco, which takes Roman shapes and forms, simplifies them to pure, smooth, sparse design and incorporates them into enormous, blocky, stone fronted monumental edifices. It is truly an indescribable form of architecture that has to be seen to be understood, and nowhere in Italy is it more evident than Latina which was founded on that very type of building.
In a country where these elements are the exception rather than the rule, Latina can be said to be the perfect, clean, safe and modern Italian city. Latina is an amazing and completely offbeat Italian urban environment. Although it is most certainly not the primary destination for the lover of ancient cathedrals or museums filled with precious antiquities, it does offer a considerable city center which features a wide variety of very Italian bars and cafes where the citizens gather to discuss soccer and politics over cups of fragrant espresso, or simply engage in the southern Italian’s favorite passtime, “Dolce Far Niente” or how sweet it is to do absolutely nothing!
What is missing are the endless traffic jams, noise, chaos, confusion, diesel fumes and exasperation which mark the core of many Italian cities (Latina’s southern neighbor the filthbag Naples being the ultimate example). Latina is a completely modern, spotlessly clean, fully decent, low crime and worry free Italian city. There aren’t many other places that can make that claim!