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The town stretches on a volcanic origins floodplain strongly shaped by reclamation of the Pontine plain.

In this area we had to find the ancient city of Vosca Ulubrae. Cisterna is located on the ancient Roman town of Tres Tabernae (three taverns also reported in the Cisterna emblem), a resting place along the Via Appia, built in 312 BC. Here also St Paul stopped to be welcomed by Christians, as reported by the Acts of the Apostles.

Tres Tabernae was destroyed by the Saracens in 868 and the inhabitants moved to the top of a small hill Terra di Cisterna from an ancient cistern built by Nero to supply water to his villa in Anzio.

Cisterna became a fiefdom of the Counts of Tusculum first and then the Frangipane, who built a fortress. It was destroyed in 1165 along with Ninfa by Frederick Barbarossa who was opposed to Pope Alexander III and in 1328 by Louis IV of Bavaria.

In 1504 it came under the Caetani family who rebuilt Cisterna, transformed the ruins of the castle into a palace and built churches. Transformed, it became the capital of a principality and many popes have come to Cisterna.

Pope Pius VI began the reclamation of the area but the Napoleonic troops systematically destroyed every work and returned it to a swamp.