The Presidential Estate of Castel Porziano is heritage of the Presidency of the Republic. The access is not free and you have to book a visit. The park covers an area of 59 square km (5.892 hectares) and it is 24 km from the city centre. It arrives to the sea. The other two borderlines are via Cristoforo Colombo and via Pontina, partially also the road which goes from Ostia to Anzio. The main entrance is on via Cristofoco Colombo km 18, on the left coming from Rome. A second entrance, for locals only, is in via di Castel Porziano in Infernetto.
The estate contains many of the ecosystems typical of the Mediterranean environment. From the sea inland, we have a part of uncontaminated beach, recent sandy dunes with pioneer and colonizing plants and ancient and consolidated dunes. Behind them is an area of Mediterranean scrub, both high and low, with aromatic and green plants. The wood is mainly flat with oaks, which is the last trace of the vast forest and humid woods which in ancient times extended up to the coast. There are various species of oaks – cork, holm – but there are also other trees: poplares, ashes, alders, maples, hornbeams which grow here thanks to nutritional and microclimatic reasons.
The undergrowth is rich of bushes typical of the Mediterranean scrub: juniper, myrtle, lentisc, heather, cistus, strawberry tree, broom flower, laurel, phylirrea, smilax. Among the many flowers the most common is the sea lily.
Recent researches have identifies 1082 botanic species, the domestic pine, even if it was introduced artificially, is now a fundamental element of the environment and it supplies consistent amounts of pine nuts.
Woodlands are alternated with prairies and green clearings, which host trees which are hundreds of years old. Of a particular interest are the pools, pools of natural water which demonstrate the presence of humid environments and flooded woods that arrived up to the Pontina plain.
To this great variety of vegetation, corresponds the same richness of wildlife. There is a richpopulation of boars and deers with families of roedeers and a smaller number of deers. The mammals have a relevant biological value: hares, martens, badgers, foxes, hedgehogs, porcupines.
The Estate’s environment is a perfect refuge to various species of birds, both sedentary and migratory. To the first category belong woodpeckers, jays, nocturnal prey birds – buzzards, owls, yokels, barn owls – among the latter there are various waders, geese, doves, wood pidgeons, scrins, woodcocks and the famous black kite.
Domestic animals represent a consistent part of the ecosystem and o the landscape. On the Estate you can find equines and Maremma cattle which are endangered. They are reared in the wild and looked after by expert cowboys, according to a very old tradition. The selection of the race is careful and this is why the animals from Castel Porziano always have very high ranking in the major shows and sector’s events.
The Estate of Castel Porziano initially was a hunting reserve and a farm. It then slowly lost the characteristics. In 1977 hunting was forbidden., the cultivations, historically destined to create an income, today are considered and integral part of the environment and of the Roman landscape. The guidelines tend to minimize the impact and today the 500 hectares reserved to non intensive crops give only cereals and feeds, partially used for the animals. Of very high interest, but not of great value are the orchard and the experimental vegetable patch all organic.
In 1985 the area of Capocotta (about 1000 hectares) was added to the Estate, saving it from urban speculation. With Presidential Decree n. 136/N dated 5 th May 1999, the Estate is subject to a protection regime with principals similar to the ones of the reserves. According to this Decree, the Estate has been recognized as a National Natural Reserve. A commission has been nominated, composed by high level representatives of the academic and scientific world. They must give indications and make proposals to guarantee a sound and balanced management of the Estate.
The undergrowth of the holm oak groves is characterized by the abundant presence of butcher’s broom and cyclamens with colorful pink blooms, which often form a dense carpet on the dry leaves, as well as from that of the laurel, of the very colorful coronilla, of the ivy and of the omnipresent fillirea and alaterno, even the latter is more common here than in the bush.
Beautiful are the summer blooms of the honeysuckle, which accompany those of the cysts and brooms in a competition of colors that stand out on the dark greens of the background.
The Estate of Castel Porziano includes a vast and ancient territory called Laurentino, named after the town of Lavinio-Laureto. This town is connected to the arrival of Aeneas in Lazio in a location between Colli Albani (Alban hills), the Tiber’s plain and the sea.
The name is probably due to gens Procilia, a Roman family present in this area, which have owned some land called Procilianus. It could also come from the pig rearing (porcile). The toponym Portianum was found on a tombstone in 1568 near the spring near the castle.
The area occupied today by the Estate of Castel Porziano, is the heart o the Ager Laurentinus. It was popular in ancient times, in fact some items from the upper Paleolithic are on it: disks and chips. In this area, ancient writes and historians placed Latino’s Palace, Lauretum. It should have been founded by King Latino, Pico’s son, son of Saturn. The name comes from Laurus where the king built his palace, according to Virgilio. There is no reliable source for this information.
Beginning from the Augustan age, along the coastal axis which will become via Severiana in the II century, a group of rustic villas appear here, well connected to Rome and served by an acqueduct. One of these is a small group called Vicus Augustan Laurentium. Some buildings have been used up to the V century. They have been abandoned and this has given way to marshes and bushes.
On 3 rd January 1872, the dukes Pio and Mario Grazioli sell Porcigliano, Trafusa and Trafusella to the Reign of Italy for 4.000.000 liras. After WWII, Decree Law n 1077 dated 9 th August 1948 transfers the Estate to the Presidency of the Republic.
Along the southern border is Tor Paterno. The most ancient structure dates back to I century. Among these an acqueduct, some villas and a thermal complex which was reused in medieval times. Here, in the IX century was built San Filippo Neri’s church and a lookout tower. This was four storeys and crenellated. It was destroyed on 17 th August 1812, by 80 Englishmen (soldiers and sailors) who landed near it. It was defended by eleven people only and they blew it up. Around this tower and the church, was a little settlement, which was inhabited up to the beginning of the XX century.
Along via Severiana, in the area of Castel Porziano, at least 8 Roman villas can be recognized.
One of these is Villa della Palombara, probably the first to be built. They are rustic buildings used in the summer as houses and around which some farms grew of little fishermen’s houses were built. One of these tiny settlements was called Vicus Village. It was a great honour for Vicus Augustanus Laurentium.
Around the Estate (you must book a visit) are Castel Porziano and the Borgo. The original nucleus is composed by a tower built in X century on a Roman structure, around it a fortified settlement was built. In the XIV century it was called Castrum Porcigliani. In the XVII century cartography, the castle has a square shape, with towers on the corners and a double access gate. Between 1823 and 1872 the Grazioli family changed it radically.
In the Borgo is a historical archaeological museum. There are over 200 objects from excavations in this area, since the XIX century. These objects are shown according to the chronological context and origin. Very important is a funeral treasure from Castel di Decima ‘s necropolis. From the Imperial
villa of Tor Paterno come some remains of a painted ceiling.
The Estate includes the beach which is inaccessible and guarded from the sea and from land.
Excerpt from: S. Lorenzatti (edited by), Ostia. History, environment, itineraries, Rome 2007