The Vicolo Rappini. History of fishermen’s houses in Terracina.

With pride, we from Terrace say that we are “Sang De Pesce”. The expression, for those who are not from Terracina, my country of origin a few miles from Rome, proudly reaffirms the maritime origin of our people. Our blood comes from the sea and the sea flows in our veins.

Precisely for this reason, today I want to tell you something more about our blue sea, which, with its whims (evil tiemp) and its goodness, is the clock of the life of the people of  Terracina, including those who, for various reasons, live far from the sea. Because as Baricco says, “the sea calls… It never stops, it goes inside you, you’ve got it on us”.

 

Terracina (Credits: Andrea Moretti).

 

History of a city on the sea

The ancient Tarracina – this is the name with which the Romans renamed the volsca city of Anxur after conquering it in the fifth century BC – contrary to what one might think, was first born as an agricultural city. Some archaeological remains, mostly large polygonal terracing walls, testify to the presence of farms that were founded in Roman times in the plain of La Valle. Thanks to the strong economic development reached, it was possible to realize in the time numerous and great works in the city, whose most ancient nucleus (Terracina Alta) is risen, still today, on a sloping slope of the Sant’ Angelo Mount, to the confluence of numerous canals and streams and in the only point of the southern Lazio in which the mountainous chain of the Lepini – Ausoni touches the sea.

Terracing of a Roman villa in “La Valle” di Terracina (Credits: www.fotografia.iccd.beniculturali.it).

 

Terracina. The side of Mount Sant’Angelo, on which the ancient city lies, is highlighted.

At the end of the Republican period, but especially in the Imperial Age, the city “doubled” expanding into the lower part. A new public square (the so-called Severian Forum) and an amphitheatre were erected. New thermal baths were built and a coastal variant of the ancient Via Appia was built, made possible by the cut of the cliff of Pisco Montano in 112 AD. A large port basin was also built, the most important in Lazio after that of Ostia. This is the moment from which we can say that our maritime vocation officially began.

Plant of the ancient port of Terracina (Credits: terrapontina.it).

 

A more intense development of the role of Terracina on the sea, however, took place only towards the end of the eighteenth century with Pope Pius VI Braschi (1775-1796), promoter of a great work of reclamation of the Pontine Marshes, the area of swamps and marshes at the gates of the town. The pontiff visited the city several times and restored the port that, abandoned by the end of the Roman Empire and condemned to oblivion throughout the Middle Ages, had become silted up. He also called from Torre del Greco and other places in the South, many families of fishermen who, having moved to Terracina, gave a strong impetus to fishing.

 

Pope Pius VI bless the people of Terracina from the window of Palazzo Braschi in Terracina. Painting by Philipp Hackert (Credits: h24notizie.com).

 

The Vicolo Rappini and the fishermen’s houses in Terracina

Newcomers needed accommodation. So it was that they were transformed into houses a set of existing building complexes, mostly warehouses, located in Borgo Pio, the triangular-shaped neighborhood near the sea, in the heart of the modern city.

In this group of houses should also be included those of the Vicolo Rappini that are a precious testimony in the history of urban planning Terracina, being the only surviving example of social historical housing of the Borgo Pio.
The Vicolo Rappini was so called because it was originally inserted in the land properties barns and houses of Gaetano Rappini, hydraulic expert and director of the reclamations wanted by Pius VI Braschi. The buildings that open along the road, historically known as “New Houses”, were renovated between 1840 and 1860. After the destruction of the Second World War, they were healed and returned to be inhabited by fishermen.

The Vicolo Rappini today

 

The Pilgrim Houses: lost twins of the houses of the Vicolo Rappini

The Vicolo Rappini was not the only area of the lower town that welcomed the new fishermen of the Bourbon Kingdom. Alongside the “New Houses”, there were also the so-called Pilgrim Houses in Terracina, today no longer visible except in some postcards and historical photographs as they were demolished in 1927.

The appearance of the area of the Pilgrim Houses, which stood in a corner of Piazza della Repubblica in the garden of the current Villa Salvini, must have resembled that of the set of houses of Vicolo Rappini. Comparing the words of the historian Arturo Bianchini with what my grandmother told me, born at number 24 of the houses of the Vicolo, I can say that the articulation and internal organization of the houses of the two districts was very similar.

These were houses with narrow entrances and narrow spaces, without toilets (for any physiological needs there was the beach, much closer to the town than today). The houses were on two floors, the highest of which was accessible via an external staircase. There was no drinking water/electricity. The apartment buildings could use the water from the springs that flowed near Porta Napoletana.
Most of the life took place outside the house which, with only one bed and a small kitchen area, was just a support.

The Pilgrim Houses rested directly on the Appia Traianea and, once knocked down, brought to light their precious floor, which is currently the only visible urban stretch of the Trajan variant of the ancient road.

 Tract of the Appia Traianea inside Villa Salvini.

An irresistible charm

The residential complex of Vicolo Rappini has gone down in history for another reason. As a plaque placed next to one of the houses overlooking the road recounts, in the mid-1950s Pier Paolo Pasolini stayed for a few months in Terracina, remaining deeply fascinated by the “New Houses” and above all by the fishermen who loved to reach the port every morning at dawn.

And Pasolini loved the scent of our sea so much that he became the protagonist of the story Terracina, discovered at the bottom of Pasolini by a group of young people from the Arturo Bianchini Institute of Terracina, led by Prof. Iudicone. Terracina, which initially had to be included in the collection Ragazzi di vita, but then was published in various cuts in the daily Taranto La Voce del Popolo, è la storia di due giovani, Luciano, alterego di Pasolini, e Marcello, entrambi innamorati del mare. And it is precisely the passion of the sea that drives them to steal two bicycles with which they reach Terracina.

Pasolini in Terracina (Credits: anxurtime.it).

And after arriving at Terracina, the boys go to visit their uncle Zocculitte, who lived in Vicolo Rappini. The story of his house and his life is a valuable document for the reconstruction of the days of the fishermen of the time and their homes in the alley.

This is the story of our sea, our origin, our blood. An artistic heritage and invaluable values, all to be preserved, all to be discovered. Keep following me and find out step by step, day by day. See you soon #aspassoconsara .

Posted by Sara Pandozzi

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