SituationThe region of Calabria occupies the southwest of the peninsula, the toe of the Italian boot, between the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas.
Landscape and vegetationThe region is traversed by the Calabrian Apennines - three massive ranges of granite and gneiss belonging to an ancient mountain rump. In the north is the Sila (Botte Donato, 1,930m/6,369ft) and in the south the Aspromonte range (Montalto, 1,956m/6,455ft), separated by an expanse of low-lying land, once marshy and malaria-ridden, which is caught between the Golfo di Squillace and the Golfo di Santa Eufemia. Along the west coast of northern Calabria, separated from the Sila by the fertile Crati valley, extends the Calabrian Coastal Chain (Catena Costiera), falling down to the sea in precipitous cliffs.The lower uplands are covered with dense mixed forests of beeches and pines (representing about 40% of the total area of Calabria), which give the landscape an almost Central European character. There are few beaches along the coasts, which are much indented by bays and coves. The region has been frequently devastated by violent earthquakes, particularly along the Strait of Messina.Population and economyEconomically Calabria is one of the most under-developed parts of Italy. The overwhelming majority of the population live by agriculture. In the fertile low-lying land a mixed agriculture of Mediterranean type predominates, producing wheat, olives, citrus fruit and figs; at the higher levels only pasturing is possible. The only minerals of any consequence are rock salt (at Lungro) and sulfur (at Strongoli). A number of dams in the Sila range supply electric power for the industrial area around Crotone.HistoryIn ancient times the name of Calabria was given to the Salentine peninsula, the "heel" of Italy between the Gulf of Taranto and the Adriatic, which was occupied by the Iapyges and conquered by Rome in 272 B.C. Present-day Calabria was then the land of the bruttii, and formed part of magna graecia from the eighth century B.C. until occupied by Rome during the second Punic War. After the fall of the Ostrogothic kingdom it passed to Byzantium and was given the name of Calabria after the loss of the Salentine peninsula. In the ninth and 10th centuries Calabria suffered repeated Saracen raids. It was conquered by the Normans in 1060, and later became part of the kingdom of Naples until its union with Italy in 1860.
The Sila Range covers a large plateau like area with an average height of approximately 1,300 m to 1,400 m.
Places to Visit
The capital of the region of Calabria is Catanzaro (320m/1,056ft; pop. 100,000), well-known as an industrial center and the see of an archbishop, beautifully situated on a plateau which falls away to the south, east and west. In the center of the town are the cathedral and the church of San Domenico or Chiesa del Rosario, (richly decorated with good pictures and sculpture). There are very fine views from Via Bellavista, on the south side of the town, and the municipal gardens to the east.
13km/8mi south of Catanzaro, on the coast of the Ionian Sea between the mouths of the rivers Corace and Fiumarella, is the port and seaside resort of Catanzaro Marina (5m/17ft). On the Gulf of Squillace is the Robinson Club Calabria.
About 17km/11mi west of Catanzaro, in a delightful setting, is the little town of Tiriolo (690m/2,277ft; pop. 5,000), renowned for the beautiful costumes of its women and for its embroidery and lace. Above the town to the northeast (30minutes climb) is Monte di Tiriolo (838m/2,765ft), with a ruined castle. From here there are fine views.
34km/21mi northwest of Catanzaro, in a gorge near the coast and on the hillside above, is the little town of Paola (94m/310ft; pop. 17,000). 1.5km/1mi northwest of Paola is the convent of San Francesco di Paola (1416-1507, founder of the mendicant order of the Minims), built in the 15th century across a gorge and enlarged in the 17th century. There is also an attractive drive from Paola (17km/11mi) to the Passo Crocetta (979m/3,231ft; view).
About 70km/43mi southwest of Catanzaro is the little town of Tropea (61m/201ft; pop. 7,000), an elegant seaside resort on the Tyrrhenian Coast, with a fine cathedral.
In the fertile Crati valley in northwest Calabria lies Cosenza (240m/792ft; pop. 107,000), once capital of the Bruttii (Cosentia), now a provincial capital and the see of an archbishop. The Visigothic leader Alaric died in Cosentia in A.D. 410 and was buried with his treasure in the bed of the River Busento. To the northwest - on the slopes of the castle hill - lies the handsome new town; the old town with its narrow winding streets is built on the tongue of land within the confluence of the Crati and the Busento. In the winding main street, Corso Telesio, is the early Gothic cathedral (consecrated 1222), in which the unhappy Hohenstaufen king Henry VII was buried in 1242; in the north transept is the tomb of Isabella, wife of Philip III of France, who died in Cosenza in 1271. From the municipal gardens on the south side of the old town the road climbs northwest to the Castello (385m/1,271ft; view), with walls 3m/10ft thick which nevertheless were not strong enough to withstand the frequent earthquakes (particularly severe in 1783 and 1905).The flea market, Via Lungo Crati De Seta opens everyday.
On the east coast of northern Calabria is the port and industrial town of Crotone (43m/142ft; pop. 60,000), in antiquity the famous Achaean colony of Croton, founded in the eighth century B.C., which was ruled in the sixth century B.C. by Pythagoras and his disciples. Noteworthy is the cathedral with a Byzantine Madonna and treasury. Near the Castello is the Museo Archeologico Statale (Via Risorgimento), with prehistoric and classical material.
From Crotone an interesting excursion can be made (11km/7mi) to Capo Colonna which has the remains of a temple of Hera Lacinia. The rounding of this cape by the Romans in 282 B.C. led to the outbreak of the Pyrrhic War. In 203 B.C. Hannibal sailed from here, leaving a record of his deeds in the temple.
On the east coast of southern Calabria, 3km/2mi south of the resort of Locri (5m/17ft; pop. 13,000), are the remains of the ancient Greek city of Lokroi Epizephyrioi (signposted "Scavi di Locri"), famous for the code of laws compiled by Zaleucus (century 650 B.C.). Near the coast road are the foundations of a temple rebuilt in Ionic style in the fifth century B.C., and on the hill of Mannella, to the north of the excavation site, are remains of the town walls. There are also a notable theater, a Doric temple and a pre-Greek and Greek cemetery.
Stilo was the bastion of the Basilian monks and is famous for the Byzantine church, La Cattolica. Small in size but of perfect proportions in the form of a Greek cross.
Serra San Bruno
Serra San Bruno is situated amidst the Calabrian mountains covered with oak and pinewood forests. This small market town was built around a hermitage founded by St. Bruno. The 12th century charterhouse and cave served as heritage to this saint.