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Calabria. History, art and tradition, picturesque villages and white-sand beaches

Monday, 17 January 2022 10:07

Calabria has it all!  History, art, tradition and so much more, and even if you travel the length and breadth of Italy, you'll be hard pressed to find another region with the variety of attractions and the wild, unspoiled natural beauty you find in Calabria. And it’s really easy to place it, just think of the large region at the toe of Italy. 

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Stunning architecture and underwater treasures

With its craggy mountain ranges and miles of pristine white-sand beaches this region is a treasure trove just waiting to be explored. From the stunning architecture of ancient castles and cathedrals to opera houses and magnificent underwater artistic discoveries, Calabria is a land of many hidden treasures.

Reggio Calabria’s Aragonese Castle 

The Aragonese Castle is considered the symbol of the city of Reggio Calabria. Over the centuries it has seen the passage of many civilizations from the Normans to the  Angevins and the Aragonese. Each one has left its mark on the castle which underwent various modifications down the centuries, but it was Ferdinand I of Aragon who made the most drastic changes and greatly expanded the castle, so it is his legacy that remains. This is one of the city’s most visited monuments for its medieval architecture and unusual maritime setting. Following long years of decay the castle was finally restored and once again stands proud as a focal point in the center of the city.

The 10th-century Church of the Ottimati 

Near the Aragonese Castle we find the Church of the Ottimati. It is said that it was built as early as the 10th century and then rebuilt by a Norman Confraternity. The exterior is simple but classic, with a large main arched portal and a rose window at the front. Its most notable feature is the bright red dome, while the interior of the church is more intricate, with beautiful coloured mosaic floors, tall marble columns, vaulted ceilings, and period artwork. The most famous painting, The Annunciation of the Virgin Mary by Agostino Ciampelli, is inside the church.

A castle overlooking a marine reserve

Perhaps one of the most unique pieces of local architecture is the Aragonese Castle of Le Castella just above the Marine Reserve of Capo Rizzuto. Connected to the mainland only by a thin strip of land, it has a beautiful stone spiral staircase connecting its three floors each of which has a different view. While the views of the Tyrrhenian Sea from the castle are spectacular, from one of the rooms visitors can get a glimpse of the protected marine life on the seabed in real time thanks to the castle's underwater cameras.

Chianalea, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy

There are numerous wonderful and picturesque villages hidden in the heart of the mountain ranges, as well as atop sheer rocky bluffs overlooking the sea.  One must-see is Scilla, which sits atop steep rocks overlooking the sea and the Strait of Messina, as is the little town of Chianalea, which is considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.

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The Riace Bronzes each weigh 300 pounds 

The National Museum of Reggio Calabria has vast archaeological collections of artefacts from Magna Graecia and the Byzantine era.  There is also a particularly interesting underwater section with ancient artefacts found in the waters of Calabria including the iconic Riace Bronzes: two six-foot plus bronze statues each weighing over 300 pounds. The statues were recovered from the bottom of the Ionian Sea and are thought to have originally been launched from a seagoing ship in order to lighten its load.

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Umberto Boccioni.  A pioneer of the Futurist Movement

A key modern figure in the Calabrian art scene is Umberto Boccioni, a pioneer of the Italian Futurist Movement that prevailed in the early decades of the 20th century. Despite a relatively short career, Boccioni's works have been exhibited in many of Italy's major art museums as well as in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

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