Lazio is the ninth Italian region on order of geographical extension. The region is mountainous in its northern part, in the "Zona Appennina", where it connects to the mountain range extending from the neighboring regions of Toscana and Umbria. It has many sea resorts along its western border where it is entirely exposed to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The central part of the region is formed by verdant, gentle hills and valleys. The eastern part of the Lazio confines with the Abruzzo region and its southernmost part with Campania. The Lazio region is home to the Italian capital, Rome, which is also the center of the Italian government and the world headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. There are four other cities in the Lazio region besides Rome. These are Viterbo, Rieti, Frosinone and Latina.
The name Lazio came from the name of this region's first inhabitants, the Latini. Other noted inhabitants in the Lazio were the Volsci and the Etruscans. Little is known about the early history of Rome. Traces of some primitive huts dating to the eighth century BC have been found around the Palatine Hill, although other finds in the valley of the Forum suggest that this site was occupied from at least the tenth century. By the sixth century BC, a federation of Latin states formed under Rome. Latins were warned not to attack cities under Roman influence and not to build forts in Latin territory. The inhabitants of the Latin cities were incorporated into the Roman state and became Roman citizens. In return, they were obligated to supply Rome with soldiers. The Latins struggled to resist Rome's attempts to expand its influence over them, and though many wars occurred, most Latin cities finally came under Rome's sway by 338 BC.
Over almost seven centuries, the Roman Empire grew to be one of the leading civilizations in the history of man, and its borders expanded through Europe, Asia Minor and Africa. In 405 AD, hoards of Barbarians crossed the Rhine River and invaded the northern provinces of the Roman Empire. By 476, the last Roman Emperor was forced to abdicate to Odoacer. As the northern provinces gradually cut their ties with Rome, in Rome itself the papacy began to accrue power. Eventually, southern Lazio was incorporated into the Papal states. The Popes ruled over Lazio until the nineteenth century when the Vatican was made an independent state.
Since the Romans had a particular love for wine, they were tremendously influential in the development of viticulture in Lazio and throughout their empire. Although Lazio is better known for its white wines, particularly Frascati and Est Est Est, the red wines such as Falernum were celebrated by Roman poets and philosophers. These wines were reserved for celebrations and anniversaries. During the middle ages, the hill towns of southern Lazio became a popular destination for the Popes who went there to get away from Rome and to establish permanent residences. The hilly areas surrounding the southern provinces of Frosinone and Latina are where some of the famous vineyard sites in the region are located. Frascati, Velletri and Marino are some of the towns in the area, and they are also the names of some very well known wines. The most popular grape varieties grown in the area are Malvasia, Trebbiano, Cannelino, Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet and Montepulciano.
In recent times, Lazio was the site of a tremendous discovery - the DNA from thirty-some ancient local grape varieties were recovered from fossils found in the region, and the species were successfully cloned and cultured. This most recent discovery makes Lazio a very exciting and important place in the world of viticulture today.