This is an excerpt from the book “Calabria” by Enrico Massetti.

Capo Vaticano
Capo Vaticano

Often called the Switzerland of the South, Calabria covers the mountainous toe of Italy. Here one finds the most beautiful forests, and the hillsides are included with the white leaves of ancient olive trees.

Traveling between the Calabrian mountains, in a vast land of magnificent beauty, you are in a region bounded with two seas of approximately eight hundred kilometers coasts, where for this particular configuration, incalculable views are present and where the nature has plot in a magnificent way the lines that talent and human work must follow, or art efforts can improve.

Calabrian land must not only be limited to approached through cliffs and beaches but also must be looked from the centuries-old roots, the unpolluted and superb environment, traditions and ethics that have been surviving along the time because of the generosity of nature.

Calabria village with mountains in the background - Photo ©
Calabria village with mountains in the background

Closed in the north with the Pollino and Orsomarso imponent relieves, Calabria has a predominantly territory mountainous, vast green reserves, and lakes with muscular splendor inside Sila, demoted summit to peak into the sea on the Range Coast, very high silver firs and rushing streams on the Serre, the last window on the Mediterranean between the Aspromonte summits.

Eternal clashes, legendary stories of shepherds and brigands about inaccessible paths, a continuous alternate between harmonious relieves and vertical summits, unlike places “with fancy and queerness”, that fascinate and disconcert, as vegetation and fauna, unexpected and unforeseen, make you think “to be in Scotland” two steps distant from the Mediterranean marquis. A world to explore, where nature is confused with ancient civilization shapes, rediscovering protected centers, churches, monasteries, castles, old palaces, traditions, art and folklore, languages and dialect always different; and then lots of amusement occasions for lovers of adventure, of ski, of nature, of hiking, of extreme sport.

The synthesis of a trip that different authors had told with precision and knowledge: as a trip fellow of the XIX century aristocrat, Norman Douglas, author of Old Calabria, maybe the best book written about the region, which narrates the atmosphere of the beginning of 19th century where valleys and Calabrian mountains are described with love and wonder.

In ancient times, the Greek Pythagoras founded his school at Crotone, while at Locri Zaleucus dictated his laws, creating the first written code of rules in the Western World. The most prestigious gymnasiums of the Olympic athletes of the time were at Sibari, and it was here that Strabo dictated the example that historians were to follow: “seventy days were enough to destroy the rich and famous town.”

They shared the same roots in Magna Graecia, being founded by Greek colonists between the 7th and the 6th century B.C., and for a long time they were in conflict with one another: Croton won the day over Sybaris, but he succumbed, in the battle of the fair, to Locri Epizephiri. But in the intervals between the fights, with the inevitable intervention of various divinities, there were long periods of splendor in the arts and philosophy.

Bronzi di Riace

In 572 B.C. the people of Croton defeated those of Sibari”. In the early 1980s, a famous archaeological find became the symbol of Calabria: the Riace Bronzes. They are the two stupendous Greek statues dredged from the sea and exhibited, from the early 1980s, in the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia in Reggio Calabria, one of the most important archaeological museums of all the Italian Peninsula.

One of the two bronze statues is attributed to Fidia, the Greek master sculptor of the Vth century and famous for the relieves of the Parthenon. Since their exposure at the Museo Nazionale, hundreds of thousands of visitors arrived in Calabria to discover the marvelous archaeological and historical heritage of this region.

Calabria boasts almost 800 km of coast washed by the waters of the Tyrrhenian, of the Straits of Messina and then, on the opposite side, by the Ionian Sea. Castles and watchtowers are also natural sights along the Tyrrhenian coast, starting from the one built by Charles V at Amantea, a fortress town that was later embellished by the Franciscans who left several traces of their presence, the most outstanding of which is the church of San Bernardino da Siena (1436). On the Ionic strip, there were three city-states and three ancient civilizations: Sibari, Crotone, and Locri.