Suio Terme in South Lazio
The History of Suio Terme
The small town of Suio has had an interesting history. In ancient times this was the territory of the Pentapolis Aurunca. The first settlers here were people of the Italic Aurunci tribe.
In 314 the Romans took control of the area. The Roman town became known as Aquas Vescinas, which translates as thermal baths. This name is derived from the natural thermal sufphurous springs that flow there, as a result of volcanic activity in the area. The Roman baths became popular during the Imperial era when a road was constructed by Emperor Septimus Severus linking Aquas Vescinas to the nearby Roman port of Minturnae in Minturno. At Terme Duratorre, which is sometimes refered to as the Vasca di Nerone, a Roman bathing chair has been discovered.
During the 900’s the area was plagued with raids by Saracen pirates. The Saracens created a colony close to the River Garigliano. They were eventually driven out of the area by Pope John X and the Catholic League following the Battle оf Garigliano in 915. The local people then began to move to live on higher ground.
In the early part of the 11th century a fortress named Castrum Suji was constructed on a hill (148 metres) overlooking the Garigliano to guard the mouth of the river. The remains of the towers and fortified town walls can still be seen today. The town was then governed by Docibile II of Gaeta and his son Count Ugo until later the ownership passed to the Abbey of Montecassino. There was a gateway in the southern section of the fortified walls, which was opened each morning and closed each evening. At the heart of the castle once stood a tall majestic tower, unfortunately this no longer exists. Down by the river there was a river port for transporting goods up-river to Montecassino. There was also a raft used for crossing the river.
In 1807 Suio became part of the town of Castleforte because of a drop in its population.
The Church of San Michele Arcangelo
World War II
During World War II Suio and Castelforte were a major German stronghold on the Gustav Line. The local people suffered greatly under German occupation and during the heavy bombing of the Allied forces. Near to the church is a small piazza named after an English soldier by the name of Ernest Foster.
19 year old Ernie, of the 5th Hampshire Regiment 46th Division, was amongst the Allied troops striving to breach the Gustav Line. Whilst serving in the town of Suio, during a period of heavy bombardment, he suddenly heard desperate cries from a dying woman (Pasqualina Ciorra) who was trapped beneath the rubble of a building: “Save my child! Save my child !” she implored. Ernest heroically found the child and carried him to an infirmary. The boy’s name was Alessandro Lefano. In gratitude the boy’s father gave Ernest a gold locket decorated with an image of the Madonna. Many years later Ernest returned to Suio to try and find the child he had saved. He met up with Alessandro and they became good friends, until sadly Ernest passed away in 1992. Alessandro campaigned to have a square in the village named after the hero that had saved his life.
Finally, in 1998, Alessandro’s efforts were successful and the official naming of the square of Piazza Ernest Foster was celebrated with a special mass in the parish church, which was followed by a display of folk dancing, a colourful military parade and a grand unveiling of the plaque in his memory. This ceremony was attended by local officials, British diplomats and Ernie’s widow and their three children.