Known in the past as Calabria Ulteriore Prima, the Province of Reggio Calabria has the highest population density in the Region. It is located in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, between the seaside and the mountains of a land rich in flavors and colors. On the west it overlooks the Tyrrhenian Sea, in the south and the east, the Ionian Sea and it borders with Catanzaro in the northeast and with Vibo Valentia in the northwest. In the southwest it looks out at Sicily, just 2 miles away across the Strait of Messina.
The terrain is characterized by thick woods of chestnuts, beeches, holm oaks and white firs thatalternate with the olive and vine cultivations, centuries-old torrents and overhanging coastal cliffs covered by ferns, brooms, strawberry trees, myrtles, oleander and cactus pears. And the coast between Villa Sand Giovanni and Gioiosa Ionica is the ideal habitat for the cultivation of the bergamot.
From the mountains to the sea, the torrents are a peculiarity of the Province. Their flow, even if brief, moves on various levels of depth, creating wide depressions in the ground. The biggest torrent of the grecanic area is the Amendolea, which flows in Condofuri Marina, drawing an enormous silver band of pebbles coasted by citrus trees and broom. The Locride area is also full of torrents, as is La Verde, between Bianco and Samo, characterized by spectacular gorges.
Another characteristic is the area of the Tyrrhenian coast, with terraces built on the hills overhanging the sea. This expanse is called Costa Viola, due to the reflections that, especially at sunset, color the sea. Most of the area of Reggio is formed by the National Park of Aspromonte, with hectares of pine forests on the Tyrrhenian side and beechwoods on that Ionian.
Finally, the area of Tauro, famous for the production of clementines, boasts a great variety of landscapes. The Piana di Gioia Tauro comprises very fertile lands, attributed to the drainage begun in 1818 by the Marquise Nunziata and continued by the State during the following decade.
Historical vicissitudes marked this Province deeply, and are still reflected by its artistic heritage of inestimable value. Ideal stops through the localities telling of Norman-Byzantine spirituality are the Basilica of San Giovanni Teresì in Bivongi and the Gerace Cathedral.
Prestigious residences, such as the 18th-Century Villa Caristo in Stignano, Villa di Palazzi in Casignana, today housing a nearly-intact floor mosaic, or the wonderful Villa del Naniglio in Gioiosa Jonica. In the small centers, it is still possible to discover artisan traditions, among which the ceramics of Seminara. Here, according to popular belief, apotropaic masks were used to keep away evil spirits away. Even the ancient tradition of the procession of the broom is one of these intriguing local customs.
Reggio Calabria is famous worldwide for the Riace Bronzes, hosted since 1981 in its Archaeological Museum, established in 1882, while the Cathedral dates back to its founding by Saint Paul. On the main altar, visitors can admire the Madonna della Consolazione, Reggio Calabria's Patron Saint. A ritual since 1636, it prescribes that on the first Saturday after the 8th of September, 100 men at a time - under the 10 tons of the Vara - bring the Venerated Effigy from the Hermitage to the Cathedral, where it stays until the Sunday following the 21st of November, Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, when it is brought back to its normal resting location.
Mythology and history meet in Scilla, protruding towards the Messina Strait; with its Ruffo Castle dominating. Then, the municipality of Bova (site of the ruin of a Norman Castle), Condofuri, Gallicianò, Roccaforte del Greco, and Roghudi display traces of the Magna Graecia culture.
The ancient village of Brancaleone Superiore also features the ruins of a castle and of the Church of the Madonna dell'Annunziata. Along the main road of Stati, in the district of Batia, are the remains of the Norman-Byzantine Abbey of Santa Maria di Tridetti. The sacred and archival heritage is preserved in the Angelo Versace Museum in Bagnara Calabra, with an interesting archaeological section.
Be sure not to miss the Saracen Tower in Bagnara, or the precious archaeological remains of the Marasà and Greek Temples in Locri. The Cattolica of Stilo is an imposing byzantine church that dominates the Medieval Center. Meanwhile, Gioia Tauro, once Matauros, comprises an archaeological area and an archaic necropolis in the district of Pietra and some of the villages of the area are characterized by Medieval hamlets and noble palaces, like Oppido Mamertina in Scido, housing the Civiltà Contadina (Peasant Society) Museum. Every year, in August, a procession in period costume replicates the visit of Emperor Charles V to Seminara in 1535.
The mix of sea and mountains makes the Province of Reggio Calabria a paradise for activities in close contact with nature. Here, art and culture interweave in a succession of symbols and popular traditions, and relive in the folk events tied to religiousity.
Birdwatching is favored in the area that has been most Greek-influenced (Grecanico), as it is inhabited by a rich variety in bird species: exemplary are the black woodpecker, the eagle, the harrier eagle and the honey buzzard known as adorno; they move from Africa to Europe via the Messina Straits to nest in springtime. Here, photography experts will not be wanting for choice.
The Fogliatelle Waterfalls form in the territory of Samo, while the magnificent Marmarico waterfalls, among the highest and most evocative in Italy, are in the municipality of Bivongi. The barren aspect of parts of this terrain has allowed for the diffusion of Scotch broom. The fibers extracted from its branches are used for the manufacture of underwear and furniture accessories. The flora is quite varied and rather appreciated by bio-watchers.
In the National Park of Aspromonte the most widespread fauna comprises: follow deer, wild boar, fox, roe deer, badger, sparrow hawk, hawk, and kingfisher. The wolf, considered to be extinct for several years, reappeared in 1988. Several sources of mineral and sulphurous waters make up the landscape, such as those in Zomaro and Galatro, a modern thermal spa establishment. Further inland, it is possible to take on horseback riding and trekking excursions.
In the Aspromonte area, the touristic center Gambarie offers over 6.2 mi of ski slopes and ski-lifts, making this location one a favourite destination for Sicilian and Calabrian skiers. Many diving and snorkelling experts travel to Costa Viola, where seabeds just 10 ft from the beach offer a submerged paradise of caves, sea fan and sponge colonies, and Neptune Grass oases. It is a near-pristine habitat for an infinity of fish and mollusks.
The gastronomy of Reggio can be described as a reminiscence of a simple art made of strong sensations and traditions, handed down from generation to generation and linked to the abundant use of hot pepper. The most famous charcuteries are the soppressata, the capicollo, the filetti and the 'nduja.
Other traditional dishes are the traditional cheeses, the rosamarina, known as the "caviar of the South" (young sardine with chilly pepper), and the extra virgin olive oil. The art of conserves is very typical of this province: tomato sauce, mushrooms, aubergines, tuna and other products bring the flavours and the colours of the vegetable garden to the table.
The Aspromonte area offers many varieties of mushrooms, which made Giffone the main production and processing centre. The grecanic area, instead, is still linked to ancient Magna Graecia and its main products come from the process of the pork meat, from the use of the goat meat for the roasts and sauces, and from the processing of fresh and ripe cheeses.
Traditions like home-made pasta and the corn bread cooked in the wood ovens built aside the houses are still alive. The swordfish, fished from April to September, is the symbol of the Tyrrhenian coast together with the “bluefish”, taken to the port by fishermen every day.
Ancient autochthon vines allow the production of white and red wines like Zibibbo and Cerasuolo. The Greco di Bianco D.O.C., flagship of the entire Locride area, is considered one of the most valuable Italian dessert wines, to accompany dry confectionery and almond pastries. In Reggio Calabria itself, the vegetables represent the main ingredients for many different recipes (parmigiana, peperonata, filled peppers and tomatoes, and fried aubergine flowers).
The local patisserie is deservedly famous (torrone, cannoli with ricotta cheese, pignolata, tartine di sanguinaccio, pastries with bergamot, marmalades, marzipan or morticeddi), as is the homemade gelato.
Finally, in the area of Tauro, flour, honey, almonds and mulled wine are the ingredients for the nzuddhe, typical pastries prepared during popular festivities. Not to forget is the high-quality oil produced in the local olive presses, and the the oranges cultivated in the Piana zone.