Europe > Italy > Central Italy > Lazio > Viterbo (province) > Latera
Latera is a small town in Italy, in the province of Viterbo, Lazio. With an elevation of 508 m (1,667 ft) (660 m in the highest point), and an area of 22.66 km2 (9 sq mi), Latera had a population of 994 inhabitants in 2004. It's the last town before entering Tuscany.
Latera is first of all a little medieval town. Its current heritage is a combination of medieval history and rural traditions. Latera has a population formed most of all by senior citizens. This situation, and emigration of local younger people to the big cities such as Rome, Milan and Viterbo, reflects the high decrease of population since 1950's.
Latera can be a good destination both for high and low periods. It can be pleasant a short visit of half day to discover the little medieval town, but also a journey of some weeks if your looking for relax, nature and points of interest. Situated in fact in a strategical position, Latera is almost near to lakes (Lake Bolsena and Lake Mezzano), mountains (Amiata), sea (Montalto di Castro and Mount Argentario), UNESCO sites (Val d'Orcia and Pienza), historical and archeological sites (Vulci, Castro, Sovana, Pitigliano, Bolsena and many others).
You can reach Latera only by car. The nearest airport is in Rome and there isn't a rail network connected to the area (the closest are Orte and Viterbo (40-50 km far). The only main road that passes in Latera's territory is SS Castrense, a narrow and slow road which runs from Montalto di Castro to SS2 Cassia at Lake Bolsena.
It's very easy to visit Latera by foot: the historical centre is almost small and can be walked in about 1 hour. The only disvantage is that Latera is built on some hills, so you'll have to climb up at least one time. Taking a bike would be pleasant to visit the town and also its surrounding and very nice rural landscapes: the only trouble it's the same, climbing up. Avoid car if you're not experienced, you'll risk to remain fit in with your car in very narrow streets with huge medieval walls.
There are a lot of interesting buildings in Latera. The main is the big structure composed by the church, the belltower and the castle. They are united in a nice complex of medieval origin, situated at the top of the main hill where the town has been built, dominating the ancient walls and the old surrounding houses.
The San Clemente church, dating back about 1598, replaces and older medieval church and it has been restored several times. If opened, it's a worth a visit inside. The small square outside forms a semicircular shape with medieval houses and an arch of entrance. Outside the arch there's a little but tall bridge. The belltower, with a nice clock on its northern side, dominates the whole old town and it's a landmark of Latera.
On the back of the church there are the remains of the old castle of Farnese dynasty: unfortunately the interior is in ruin but it's anyway interesting outside. Another arc connects Farnese Palace to Latera's Comune (town hall): you won't notice it if you don't look at it carefully, because it's only a small door: the main things of town hall are inside, because the ceilings and the roofs are original of centuries ago. The interior of town hall is composed by offices so it's not opened to public to visit them, but you can even ask to watch them to some officers (maybe you won't be satisfied by them, but an attempt it's not a trouble).
Outside the western side of Farnese Palace there's a little but very nice square, Piazza della Rocca ("Rock's Square"), a rectangular shaped place with some trees: recently restored and re-paved, it's a very pleasant place for the stunning views that offers. Piazza della Rocca has been historically built over the top of Latera's walls, and the little stone at the edge wall faces a 20 metres tall slide, overlooking great part of the old town with its characteristic roofs and, in clear days, the valley and the far Valentano town.
Walking down the medieval walls it's a good experience, you'll be able to visit great part of the old town: the main and best preserved are in the western side of the town, in "Via delle Mura" (Walls' Street). Anyway the most interesting part is in a narrow and hidden street just after the Farnese Palace, which contains a combination of archs (I quattr'archi, "The Four Arches") with a little "Our Lady".
One of the landmarks of Latera is its fountains' cultural heritage. There are 4 historical fountains in the town, each one situated in an angle of the old town. Their position has contribute to associate them to four historical districts of Latera: the southern is "Ducal Fountain" (Fontana Ducale) but it's bettern known as Ponte ("Bridge"); the western is Canale ("Channel"), a nice big fountain situated in a wooded ditch just outside the town; the eastern is Piscero (historically Viscero); and northern, today no more existing despite replaced by a new version on a public park, Trinchieri.
Latera hosts a curious museum, the Museo della Terra ("Country Museum"). Located in an old granary built by some monks come from Mount Amiata, the exposition is made up of a private collection which includes tools and memories of the borough of Latera. Inside the building there are contained the tools used by the peasants to work in the fields and those of the craftsmen of the shops of the town, along with objects related to the religious and social life and children games. Some tools date back to XIX century. You can learn more at the official site. The Museum is opened:
Saturday 9-13, 17-19
Sunday 9-13, 17-19
Saturday 10-13, 15-18
Latera is surrounded by a lot of woods and fields. Excursions in the territory is a good and pleasant experience, both for trekking and bike. Local people enjoy sometimes bike excursions to Lake Mezzano, situated in Valentano's territory but very close to Latera border (the lake is closer to Latera's town than Valentano's one). Beware of hunters in hunting days! Or consider to hunt if your an hunter.
Latera's greatest public park, I Castagneti ("Chestnut groves"), is located on the top of the town: it's a part of a chestnut wood transformed in a recreational area. In Castagneti you'll find tennis, basketball, volleyball and futsal fields. The park is almost crowded by younger popolation of Latera in summer days. In the evening they are open but almost empty because they are not lightened. The other public park is in Latera's entrance.
In autumn, if weather permits it, Latera is a very good place for mushrooms fanatics. Consider that to look for mushrooms you'll need a permission granted by the authority and to use particular chests and behaviours: if Guardia forestale (a public police authority for the protection of the wild and woods in Italy) officers meet you without these requirements, they'll impound your mushrooms and sanction you with a huge fine.
Lake Bolsena, not in Latera's territory but very close to the town, is easily reachable by car, bike and, evenctually, even by foot: car is the better option. Lake Bolsena's waters are pleasant for a bath, but be careful of streams and stones. The nearest beaches to Latera are San Magno in Gradoli's comune, and the long Bisenzio strip in Valentano's one.
Latera has a good soccer/football field. Their team play in lower Italian categories.
If not an Italian speaker, talking in Latera will be almost surely a trouble for you. Consider to bring with you at least a phrasebook. Latera's people talk in laterese between them, a dialect formed by a combination of roman, northern latium, tuscanian and umbrian dialects; laterese is very similar to Italian language (to be precise, it's Italian with some particular expressions and slangs) and is easily understood by every Italian. Most of all can speak good Italian of course, but consider that some older person will speak only in the local slang.
Forget to talk in English or other languages. It would be very hard to find someone who speaks English, because the young population is little and they are not used to interact with tourists or travellers. Maybe you'll be lucky, but don't trust on this evenience.
Latera has only a chemistry/pharmacy:
Farmacia "Giambra Gianluigi", Via I Maggio 8.
Consider that, due to the small size of the town, sometimes you won't find the medicine you're looking for. Consider to check it in bordering towns like Gradoli or Valentano, or better Acquapendente. If not, you'll have to wait the ordination.
There are not hospitals or clinics in Latera, usually population goes to Acquapendente or Montefiascone.
There's only a doctor in Latera, people will indicate you him.
It's a worth trying local wine, most of all if someone will offer you its own from a fresh and old cellar. In the region of Latera there are some famous wines, such as Est Est Est! produced in Montefiascone and Aleatico, in the bordering town of Gradoli. The tuscanian towns of Scansano and Montalcino, famous for their Morellino and Brunello, are not far from Latera and you'll be able to appreciate their wines in restaurants.
Latera was once a town rich of spring water. A lot of sources were sold in 1970's by local administration. Now you can find some water fountains, but they have been marked as not drinkable. Don't worry if local people invite you to drink that water, they'll say "I've grown up drinking this water, is fresh and good and I've never felt bad". The water is in fact tasty and fresh, but drink it at your risk: you could be the first one to feel bad.
There's a post office in Latera's main street, but you won't find internet points or other forms of contact. An old but still working telephone box is situated at the entrance of the town.
When you are in Latera, consider that is a small town with a lot of senior citizens. Catholic customs are a sensitive matter in small towns like Latera so avoid discussions, most of all with older people. Be polite with local people, and consider that offending one person would involve the dislike of one third of the population. A person in Latera is linked with at least half of the inhabitants for kin, relationship of friendship.
If you come in Latera for the first time and feel yourself a bit scowled by local people, don't worry. They are only trying to understand who are you and what are you looking for there. Knowing or helping someone will bring you an immediate esteem and friendship: after the first impact, lateresi are very friendly and opened to 'foreigners'.