Calabria: the warm and enchanting land of the Riace Bronzes
Origins and historical background on Calabria
The history of Calabria has its origins in distant antiquity, as demonstrated by the Necropolis of Torre Mordillo, a site of great archaeological interest that has yielded important Iron Age artefacts that are now preserved in the Archaeological Museum of Cosenza.
The territory has been inhabited by various ancient peoples: among the first were the Aschenazi, the Ausoni and the Enotri, the latter of Greek origin who settled in a large territory, Enotria, which included today's southern Campania, part of Basilicata and Calabria. From the happy mix of cultures belonging to these peoples came the civilisation of the Western Greeks, which went down in history as Magna Graecia.
After the decline of the Oenotrians, the Bruzi arrived, settling in what is now Calabria, which was made up of a confederation of cities. The Bruzi were allies of Hannibal but had to cede their territory to the Romans following Hannibal’s defeat in the Pyrrhic War.
The great works of infrastructure date back to the golden era of the Roman Empire, including the Via Popilia, built by order of Publius Popilius Lenate to link Reggio to Capua.
With the fall of the Roman Empire, it was the turn of the Byzantines, Normans and, under the Kingdom of Naples, the Angevins and Aragons.
The main cities of Calabria
Situated between the Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas, Calabria, the land of sunshine and strong flavours, is rich in valuable destinations.
Among the most important cities, Reggio Calabria is on the slopes of Aspromonte and opposite the Strait of Messina. Its privileged position allowed it to weave intense trade relations with Sicily.
It has Greek origins, but a modern appearance shaped by the devastating earthquakes that struck it. The city houses the famous Riace Bronzes in the Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria.
Crotone is one of the newest provinces. Facing the Ionian coast, it was a fundamental cultural and trade centre in the times of Magna Graecia. To this day, it remains the most industrialised centre in the region. Here is Capo Colonna, one of Calabria's most famous archaeological sites.
Cosenza, a city in the centre of one of the most fertile valleys in the area that has made it an important agricultural area, is also full of charm. Founded as the capital of the ancient population of the Bruzi, it still retains a medieval appearance in the oldest part on the hill. Cosenza Cathedral is an interesting stop: in full Romanesque style, it towers over the city's historic centre.
Of great importance for the region is also Catanzaro located on a hill ridge. Founded by the Byzantines in an elevated position for defensive reasons, it was isolated for a long time in the course of history, but in the 20th century it developed by expanding towards the sea.
Nature lovers will be enchanted by the Catanzaro Biodiversity Park dedicated to the flora and fauna of the Mediterranean area.
What to see in Calabria: 4 unmissable destinations
In addition to its most important cities, Calabria offers numerous points of interest such as Capo Vaticano, between Pizzo Calabro and Nicotera, 7 kilometres of crystal-clear waters, with picture-postcard views of smooth tufa cliffs, sheer cliffs and coves with crystal-clear sandy bottoms.
The Island of Capo Rizzuto is located on a promontory in the heart of the Capo Rizzuto marine area, the largest protected area in Europe and contains interesting archaeological sites and unspoilt beaches. Sea lovers cannot help but sunbathe on the beaches of Tropea, a corner of paradise with white sand and crystal-clear sea.
Among the most beautiful in the region is the characteristic Arcomagno Beach in San Nicola Arcella: it is a small lagoon consisting of small pebbles and gravel and owes its name to the large rock arch that protects it from the sea.
The unusual places of Calabria: 2 destinations for the curious
In the beautiful Riviera dei Cedri, a jewel in the Calabrian landscape, stands the Isle of Dino, the scene of many historical battles and used to sight pirate ships. It inherited its name from the ancient Greek word “dina”, meaning storm.
Also not to be missed is Pentedattilo, a mysterious ancient village of the “five fingers”, so called because it takes its name from the shape of the cliff of Mount Calvary, shaped like a giant hand. Long abandoned, it has become one of Italy's most atmospheric ghost spots.
The typical products of Calabria: 4 delicacies to savour
Calabrian cuisine is very rich: among the products of the local culinary tradition that you absolutely must try is the nduja di Spilinga, a soft and spicy spreadable salami ideal on bread, pizza and in sauces.
Cured meat lovers will also appreciate Calabrian soppressata, a sausage made from lean meat and pork fat, to which chilli pepper and wild fennel are often added.
Among the cheeses is the caciocavallo silano, of ancient origin and made from fresh whole milk.
One of the typical Calabrian products that symbolises the region is the red onion of Tropea PGI, which is sweeter due to the particular climatic and geographical conditions in which it grows.
Events in Calabria: an opportunity not to be missed
One of the most beautiful traditions is the one held every year on 29 August in Taurianova: U ‘mbitu is the bonfire held in honour of the town's patron saint, Our Lady of the Mountain, in which dried lupine stalks, "i luppinazzi", are burnt.