Anzio is a city and comune on the coast of the Lazio region of Italy, about 57 km (35 mi) south of Rome. Well known for its seaside harbour setting, it is a fishing port and a departure point for ferries and hydroplanes to the Pontine Islands of Ponza, Palmarola and Ventotene. The city bears great historical significance as the site of a crucial Allied landing during World War II.
Called Antium in ancient times, it was the capital of the Volsci people until it was conquered by the Romans. With the latter expansion of Rome it was just far enough away to be insulated from the riots and tumults of Rome. When Cicero returned from exile, it was at Antium that he reassembled the battered remains of his libraries, where the scrolls would be secure. Leading Romans built magnificent seaside villas at Antium. The Julian and Claudian emperors frequently visited it: Gaius Maecenas had a villa at Antium; both Emperor Caligula and Nero were born in Antium; the latter founded a colony of veterans and built a new harbour, the projecting moles of which still exist. Remains of Roman villas are conspicuous all along the shore, both to the east and to the north-west of the town. Many ancient works of art have been found there: the Fanciulla d'Anzio, the Borghese Gladiator (in the Louvre) and the Apollo Belvedere (in the Vatican) were all discovered in the ruins of villas at Antium.
Of the villas, the most famous was the Villa of Nero at Antium which cannot be certainly identified, but is generally placed at the so-called Arco Muto, where remains of a theatre (discovered in 1712 and covered up again) also exist. It extended along the coast of the Capo d'Anzio some 800 meters of seafront. Nero razed the former villa on the site, where Augustus had received a delegation from Rome to acclaim him Pater patriae ("Father of his Country") to rebuild on its foundations a villa on a more imperial scale, which was used by each Emperor in turn, up to the Severans. Of the famous temple of Fortune (Horace, Od. i. 35) no remains are known.
Anzio and Nettuno are also notable as sites of an Allied forces landing (Operation Shingle) and ensuing battle (known as the Battle of Anzio) during World War II. The Commonwealth Anzio War Cemetery and Beach Head War Cemetery are located here. American forces (5th Army) were surrounded by Germans in the caves of Pozzoli in February 1944 for a week, suffering heavy casualties. A movie based on the events called Anzio (1968, directed by Edward Dmytryk) was made, starring Robert Mitchum and based on a book by Wynford Vaughan-Thomas. On 18 February 1944, the light cruiser HMS Penelope was struck by two torpedoes off the coast of Anzio and sunk with a loss of 417 crew.