A look at the geographical and political background of the Val di Comino

Before reading these history pages, it is important to understand
the geography of our ancestral background in the Val di Comino,
an area that takes its name from the ancient city of Cominium,
known to have existed as far back as 293 BC.  One of its most
important towns and once the site of a Roman prefecture is
Atina, which sits on top of
a hill overlooking the valley.

At just over 100km south-east of Rome and nestling midway up a mountain range close to Atina, you will find the town of Casalattico at an altitude of 420m above sea level.  Further up the mountain, and at each end of a road that splits, are to be found the villages of Mortale at an altitude of 625m and Montattico at 719m.  It is in Mortale that one finds by far the greatest concentration of Fortes over the years, although there were other small pockets of the family to be found in Casalattico and some of the other local villages.  The following clickable Google Map shows the exact location of Mortale.











The following map shows the most important features in the Commune of Casalattico today.










Over the centuries, however, our region has found itself ruled by diverse adminstrations belonging to several different States according to the designated boundaries at the time. 
These maps show the territorial limits of the various States in Italy at key points in time.






After being part of the Principality of Capua for many years, the region became part of the Kingdom of Naples in the 15th century.  By the late Middle Ages, central and southern Italy, once the heartland of the Roman Empire, was far poorer than the north.  Rome was a city largely in ruins, and the Papal States were a loosely administered region with little law and order. Partly because of this, the Papacy had relocated to Avignon in France.  Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia had for some time been under foreign domination.  In the 18th century, the Val di Comino was first part of the Kingdom of Sicily and then, when it merged with the Kingdom of Naples, the Kingdom of Two Sicilies.  In particular Mortale and Casalattico were part of the Province of Caserta.  Napoleon began his invasion of the Italian peninsula in 1796.  By 1809, he had occupied Rome but his reign was shortlived after defeat in 1814, when he was exiled to Elba.  It was Napoleon, however, who codified much of the Italian administrative process and it is this codification that ensured that Italian civil registration records of birth, marriage and death were so complete.  For those of us interested in genealogical research, it has proven invaluable to have access to such detailed records from 1809 onwards.  

The Risorgimento was the political and social process that unified different states of the Italian Peninsula into the single nation of Italy.  It is difficult to pin down exact dates for the beginning and end of Italian reunification, but most scholars agree that it began with the end of Napoleonic rule and the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and approximately ended with the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.  However, Italy officially became a nation state on March 17th, 1861, under King Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy.  Italy benefited from Prussia's victory against France by being able to take over the Papal State from French authority.  Italian unification was completed, and shortly afterward Italy's capital was moved to Rome. Rome itself remained for a decade under the Papacy and became part of the Kingdom of Italy only on September 20, 1870, the final date of Italian unification.   In 1926, Casalattico officially became a Commune and part of the Province of Frosinone.  In 1946, King Umberto II was forced to abdicate. Italy became a Republic after the result of a popular referendum held on June 2, 1946, a day celebrated since as Republic Day.  This was the first election in Italy allowing women to vote.   The Republican Constitution was approved and came into force on January 1, 1948.

With the imposing backdrop of the Abruzzi mountains, the Val di Comino remains a most beautiful part of Italy, steeped in local traditions and rich in culture despite its diverse and often troubled history.

© 2010 Paul Forte


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