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The little town of Ninfa sits at the foot of the Lepini Mountains on the edge of the large Pontine Plain. Along the river there was an ancient Roman Temple dedicated to a mythical nymph. It is said that the tears she shed for her lost lover developed into a stream, thus the river became known as Nymphaeus and later as Ninfa.
During the Medieval era Ninfa was a thriving town along the Via Pedemontana which linked Rome with Naples. Over the years the main route of the Via Appia had become impassable through the marshy Pontine wetlands. At Ninfa a Toll gate was instigated which brought the town significant prosperity.
At the end of the 1200’s Pope Boniface VIII (of the Caetani family) purchased the town, and made a gift of it to his nephew. Under the rule of the Caetani’s the town continued to prosper and expand, with the construction of a castle, six churches, a town hall and numerous dwellings which were fortified by a double town wall. However turbulent times were to follow with the rise to power of the French King Philip IV, who sought to raise money to finance his wars by taxing the clergy. Pope Boniface issued a decree claiming total papal supremacy indicating that kings were subordinate to the power of the Church. A long drawn out diplomatic battle ensued, however Philip was eventually the victor, Pope Boniface was arrested and a new French Pope was instated in his place. This consequently lead to a huge split within the community of the Catholic church and even within the members of the Caetani family itself. In 1382 two Caetani heirs went to war against each other. Thus Ninfa was repeatedly threatened and attacked until it was finally overrun and razed to the ground.
The few remaining survivors were eventually to be driven out by the plague and by malaria which infested the nearby Pontine Marshes. Ninfa was finally abandoned and lay deserted and overgrown for hundreds of years.
It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that a descendant of the Caetani family rediscovered Ninfa and began to drain the site, and subsequently over three generations, it was transformed into a beautiful romantic English style garden.