Lanuvio has origins that date back to pre-Roman times. Today’s populated centre was built on the ancient city of Lanuvium yet information about its origins appears to be conflicting. According to the first known facts, it was one of the thirty populi of the Latin League. Following the defeat of the last battle between the League and Rome in 338 BC, Lanuvio lost its independence. Nevertheless, Rome granted preferential treatment and the civitas cum suffragio was offered in exchange for a share of the profits coming from the Santuario di Giunone Sospita (Sanctuary of Juno Sospita), of which we can still visit the remains on top of the town’s acropolis today.
It underwent great periods of splendour and many renowned historical figures such as Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, Marcus Junius Brutus, Augustus and Marcus Aurelius, chose to live here. It was also the birthplace of the consul Lucius Licinius Murena as well as the Emperors Antoninus Pius and Commodus.
In the year 391, the Theodosian Decrees sanctioned the conclusive victory of Christianity imposing all Roman citizens to follow the Christian faith and this was the beginning of the end for Lanuvio. The town was forced to close all pagan temples, including the Sanctuary of Juno Sospita that used to be a great source of income for the town that attracted many visitors.
In 1216, during the Medieval Age, Pope Honorius III Savelli assigned Lanuvio to the monks of the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le mura (Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the walls). Later, it became property of the Savelli family until 1410 when it was given to the Colonna family.
It was purchased together with Ardea and Genzano di Roma by Giuliano Cesarini Marquess of Civitanova Marche, in 1564.
Under this family and then under the rule of the Cesarini-Sforza family the town underwent a period of calm and splendour. It also became more elegant thanks to the masterwork of Carlo Fontana, from the Bernini school, and to Tommaso Mattei, from the Borromini school, as well as the painter Giulio Romano, an apprentice of Raffaello Sanzio.
It was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War by air and sea bombings.