Hystory of Ciociaria

Because of the 'ciocie,' the typical footwear used by shepherds in the area in ancient times, the area around Frosinone is known as Ciociaria. Some sporadic settlements of individuals who preferred to hunt in the flat parts of the Sacco and Liri valleys may be inferred from the few lithic artefacts made of flint and limestone pebbles with a single sharp edge discovered in Castro dei Volsci and Ceprano.

Ciociaria has never been given a geoanthropic description that solves the issues of its frontiers and ethnic peculiarities, as is the case with many regional historical designations. Throughout the historiographical and demological research that uncovered the social aspects of the inhabitants of Latium, known as Ciociari, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the region under consideration was always administratively referred to as Latium, Campagna e Marittima or Campagna di Roma.

Adele Bianchi, who clearly identified a region or sub-region in a publication of the De Agostini geographic institute in 1916, was the first to conduct a systematic study on the subject. After a few years, the research was picked up by Fascist intellectuals from Frosinone, who proceeded to build an anthropology based on the ‘Ciociara race,’ bringing fresh perplexity to the topic.

Bianchi’s studies were resumed and reworked in 1930 in the ‘Enciclopedia Italiana,’ but Ciociaria was considered part of the Sora district and the Gari valley, and its geographical region was explicitly described as “lacking its own character.” The local administrations promoted the regional identity of Fusinate with the phrase ‘ciociaro’ (from Ciociaro), and the subject was questioned by different writers whether a ‘historical area’ of Ciociaria existed and what its features and limits were after WWII, when the administrative framework of the dictatorship remained intact in Lazio; they proposed several radically different answers.

Ciociaria has been identified with the region between the Liri river and the Roman Castles, or even with the whole province of Frosinone or a major portion of southern Lazio, according to anthropological and toponymic studies published since the early 1960s. The ‘Greater Ciociaria’ is, according to some experts, the entire southern Latium area, which includes the provinces of Latina and Frosinone.

Like many other medieval settlements, seems to have been erected around a monastery, which is now surrounded by a belt of turreted walls that has been partly modified for residential use. The massive bulk of the feudal castle rises on the highest point of the hill. Along the tiny alleyways, one can see structures with mullioned windows, ogival arches, and gates with coats of arms and friezes that tell the town’s history. The beautiful church of Santa Maria (1165), a great example of Cistercian-Gothic architecture constructed in local limestone, squared and chiseled, stands at the entrance gate, known as the ‘Santa Maria’ gate.

A long ampulla set in a somewhat modeled crown holds the blood of Saint Lawrence, and this temple is the site of a remarkable miracle. A strip of skin, easily distinguished from the exterior of the ampulla, floats on the blood serum on this occasion, and it has been melting for centuries between 8 and 9 August. The blood coagulates again and then reappears in a dry, indistinct lump after the anniversary of the martyrdom and Saint’s feast day (10 August).

The production of buffalo breeding and buffalo mozzarella has grown to become the town’s mainstay economy in recent years.

The origins of the Ciocia

Farmers and shepherds in the Ciociaria area wore the ‘ciocia’ type of footwear until recently. The river Liri, which runs through that section of southern Latium washed by it, passes via the towns of Frosinone, Sperlonga, and Fondi as well as Filettino and Arcinazzo on one side, while extending on the other to Subiaco and the Abruzzo border.

Farmers and shepherds in the Ciociaria area wore the ‘ciocia’ type of footwear until recently. The river Liri, which runs through that part of southern Lazio and touches Subiaco and the Abruzzi borders on one side, and Frosinone on the other, is the major river in that area of southern Lazio.

Nevertheless, the limits of Ciociaria are impossible to determine with precision, as is the expansion of Ciociaria across central-southern Italy. Ciocia is the Abruzzo term for these types of shoes, which are often known as ciocchi or ciòccole (a kind of clogs or slippers) in Umbria and chiòchiere in Calabria.

The ciocia may be derived from the Latin soccus or socculus, a type of sandalwood popular among the Romans, and its origins are extremely ancient. Several variants of sandal were indicated by the term soccus, including one that was worn by most inhabitants of Roman cities (the so-called calceus), another that was worn by farmers, shepherds, and legionnaires. The calceus repandus, which the Romans got from the Etruscans and was a kind of sandal with a pointed end and laces along the calf, seems to indicate that it came from peoples in the eastern Mediterranean with whom they frequently traded. Everything points to the fact that once the Etruscans brought it to Italy from the East, it spread so widely among the Romans that it is still used today by peasants and others in the lowest and most impoverished layers of society, such as peasants.

The ciocia continues to tell an extremely old narrative, which started in an unknown era and place, but was destined to become a tiny (but extremely significant) component of our culture and traditions.