Calabria

Located in the south of Italy, nestled between the regions of Puglia to the east and Sicily to the west is Calabria. This often overlooked region contains some of the most picturesque scenery in Italy, with mountains in its interior and a long coastline with beaches stretching as far as the eye can see. In this post I will provide a brief introduction to this often overlooked and untouched region and highlight some places of interest.

History

Calabria has a long history, it was colonised by the ancient Greeks, this part of Italy was known as Magna Greacia  (greater Greece) the landscape was dotted with Greek towns such as Locri. In the Roman period the area was known as Brutium, the landscape was wooded with the sea playing an important part in trade.  After the fall of Rome, the Byzantines (Greeks) ruled Calabria, building many churches in hilltop towns such as Gerace. The Normans, French, Spanish all ruled over this region until it was finally incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy in the C19.

During the C19 -20 Calabria suffered due to the Mafia, war and the economy. Because of this many people emigrated to Europe and America. The infrastructure has also been slow in reaching this part of the country, consequently there are few trains and driving is recommended if you want to explore the interior of Calabria.

Santa Caterina Dello Ionio Marina

Located next to the Ionion sea, with the mountains as its backdrop lies Santa Caterina dello Ionio. A quiet sleepy town, a relatively new town with a church, train station,  several café’s and a white beach. A bar near this beach regularly plays traditional music such as the Tarantella ( tarantula in English).

IMG_1717                                              Pic 1: The clear blue Ionion Sea

 

Santa Caterina Dello Ionio

Within the mountaintops lies the old historic town, today few travellers venture up into the mountains. However, it’s well worth doing because on the top of the hills  you get a wonderful  view of the sea and the surrounding landscape but also a insight into how little this region has changed.

IMG_1778                                              Pic 2: A typical old street in Santa Caterina Dello Ionio

 

The population has dwindled in recent years due to emigration and earthquakes. I found the locals to be friendly and they often invited us in for a glass of wine. I walked around this old town in the evening, the crumbling ruins of some of the houses made the place feel more enchanting. In the centre of the town, I was told that a aristocrat used to live in a large town. I later found out that this C18 town house was home to the Marquise of Francia, now the house is left in a dilapidated state. We walked around the eerie interior, with its magnificent staircase up into what must have been the ball room, glass shattered on the floor.  Many of the buildings were left in such a state because of regular earthquakes which affect this area. When we left the town and drove back through the winding roads towards the sea, I felt like I had experienced the real Calabria. I wondered, how long would this last?

IMG_1800                                        Pic 3: The first floor of what was the Marquise of Francia’s townhouse

 

IMG_1798                                                 Pic 4: The first floor, showing ballustrade

IMG_1797                                                 Pic 5: The grand staircase

Gerace

Further down the coast in the vicinity of the ancient Greek town of Locri is Gerace.  This medieval town has its roots in the Neolithic period, it became an administrative and religious center under the Byzantines. Situated on top of a hill, the views are spectacular. The town once boasted 128 churches but today the most impressive is the Norman Cathedral, this was unfortunately closed when we visited however you can get a scale of it just by the exterior with its grand nave.

 

 

 

 

IMG_1859                          Pic 6: An early Byzantine church in Gerace, note the niches

IMG_1879                                               Pic 7: The Norman Cathedral of Gerace

Tropea

Situated along the coast near Reggio Calabria lies Tropea, nestled between the mountains and the Mediterranean sea is this picturesque town. The highlights of this town,include an early church located high up on hill adjacent to the clear white sands of the beach. The town itself is perched on the side of steep cliff, it appears as though at some point probably in the 19C an arched structure, was built to support the houses above.

 

IMG_1996                                              Pic 7: A view of Tropea facing towards the town

 

IMG_1986                                             Pic 8: Tropea

 

There are many sides to Calabria, from the beaches to the ancient hilltop towns. In economic terms it has always been poorer than the north, however It has a warmth and character, the locals are friendly and the food is distinct. At the moment few people visit this part of Italy, preferring the delights of Tuscany and Rome. Perhaps it is better that way.

 

IMG_1949                                              Pic 9: Sunset over Tropea

 

Author: Jeremy Hallatt

Photos: All photos taken by author

 

 

 

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One response to “Calabria

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