The town of Fondi has an interesting history. Legend has it that it was founded by Hercules, and it is known that the area was occupied by the Italic Aurunci tribe, followed by the Volsci.
During Roman times Fondi was an important staging post and garison situated along the route of the Appian Way. The Roman town was fortified by defensive town walls which had several towers and gateways.
Some architectural remains from this period can still be seen such as the Roman baths in Piazza Unita D’Italia. These were unearthed in 1964 during work to clear the rubble from the site of the former 16th century Chapel of San Rocco. The chapel was built in 1503 and was sadly bombed in 1944 during the Second World War. It is thought that the baths, the calidarium and tepidarium, may have belonged to a villa constructed during the Roman Imperial era.
More Roman ruins and artefacts can be seen in Fondi’s Museum and in the Garden of the Villa del Senatore Camillo Cantarano.
Fondi was also a town of some importance during the Middle Ages and belonged to the Kingdom of Naples. In 1140 Fondi was controlled by the Dell’Aquila family who were of Norman origin. In 1299 the town came into the possession of the Caetani family, a duchy that lasted for two centuries until the dukedom was taken over by the Colonna family.
Vespasiano Colonna married the 14 year old Italian noblewoman named Giulia Gonganza, but the marriage was short lived as Vespasiano died just a few years later. The widowed Giulia went on to reign in her own right and surrounded herself with scholars, artists and poets. During this period Fondi became a vibrant centre of the arts and culture.
However in 1534 Fondi was invaded by the Saracens. Giulia was famed for her beauty and the notorious pirate Khayr al-Din (better known as “Red Beard” or “Barbarossa”) attempted to abduct her and take her back as a prize for the sultan Suleiman The Great. Fortunately Giulia was able to make her escape. The enraged “Barbarossa” took his revenge by sacking Fondi and massacring many of its inhabitants. Fondi was attacked once again by the Saracens in 1594 and from this point the town began to fall into decline. Fondi was surrounded by stagnant marshes which became malaria infested. The town was plagued by a terrible epidemic in 1633 which further took its toll on the local population.