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Next - Castelforte (page 2)

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Castelforte is situated in the foothills of the Aurunci Mountains,  at 130 metres above the sea level and overlooks the River Garigliano  and the coastal plains.  It is thought to have been founded on the ruins of an ancient settlement, named Vescia, which was the capital city of the Aurunci people.  This was invaded and destroyed by the Romans in 342 BC.  New settlements occurred from 881 to 915 during the time of repeated Saracen invasions. The local people found themselves vulnerable, especially those that lived and worked down on the plains, so they who fled this area seeking refuge on higher reaches. Thus a fortified town, known as Castrum Forte, was constructed.

The town  was protected by strong town walls guarded by cylindrical towers which had a dominating view of the terrain below.  In 1320 many inhabitants from the nearby fortification at Suio also moved here to flee an outbreak of malaria.

Both of these strongholds were built to guard the fast flowing River Garigliano, which served as an important inland waterway, connecting Montecassino and the Tyrrhenian Sea.  Due to its strategic importance the Garigliano was the site of numerous fierce battles over the ages.

The first, fought in 915, was between the forces of the Christian League - a coalition of  Pope John X and some loyal Christian princes from southern Italy, against the Saracens who themselves had established a fortified colony near the ancient town of Minturnae/Traetto.  The Christian victory over the Saracens ended this long period of terror and plunder.

Some parts of the old Medieval quarter can still be seen today, including sections of the ancient fortified walls and towers.

This is “Porta Santa”, one of the several gateways that lead into the old Medieval section of town.

In 1503 another Battle of the Garigliano was fought, this time between the French forces of  Louis XII and the Spanish lead by Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba.  The outcome resulted in the Spanish gaining control of the Kingdom of Naples.

In 1798 / 1799, during the Napoleonic invasion local citizens fought alongside the notorious brigand, Fra Diavolo, to stop the French from entering the town. However the town eventually fell to the French on Easter Day of 1799.

In 1807 Suio, now severely depopulated, became part of the municipality of Castelforte.