Local Area - The History

Le paludi Pontine - The Pontine swamps.

The area where Latina is situated has not always been as it is today. In fact, thousands of years ago it was an area completely flood and water arrived up to the foot of the Lepini mountains. As time passed, the water abandoned the land a bit and left a territory which was however mainly marshland (paludi, in Italian).

Many attempts were carried out to reclaim the land from the water, to include a project from Leonardo da Vinci, which failed due to financial reasons.

Finally, in 1929 Benito Mussolini, when he was Prime Minister in Italy, started his project called "Bonifica dell'Agro Pontino", which featured three stages. The first being the bonifica idraulica, which would drain the swamp and control the waters. Mussolini and his party called it "the battle of the swamps" because it required the recruitment, deployment and supply of an army of workers.

In the second stage, the bonifica agraria, homesteads with stone houses and public utilities were to be constructed and the land was to be parcelled among settlers.

The third stage, bonifica igienica, took measures against the mosquitos (Anopheles labranchiae), such as screens and whitewash (so that mosquitos could be easily identified and killed), and against malaria, such as distributing quinine and setting up health services.

Beginning in 1930, the bonifica idraulica cleared the scrub forest, constructed a total of 16,500 km of checkerboard canals and trenches, dredged rivers, diked their banks, filled depressions, and constructed pumping stations to change the elevation in the canals where necessary.

The final channel, the Mussolini Canal, empties into the Tyrrhenian Sea near Anzio.

The project reached a peak in 1933 with 124,000 men employed.