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Calabria

Territory and economy

Calabria is a 250km-long peninsula at the southernmost point of Italy lying between the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas.
It is so narrow that no town or village in the area is more than 50 km from the sea and it is crossed by mountains from the border with Basilicata in the north down to the Strait of Messina in the south. Thus only 9% of the territory is less than 200 metres above sea level. Agriculture still accounts for a considerable slice of its economy: the most profitable crop is citrus fruits, but the area also produces oil, wheat and Denomination of Origin (DOC) wines. Its forests provide wood for building, and chestnuts. Industry is relatively developed in the building and construction sector. The Port of Gioia Tauro is specialised in transhipment and, in just a few short years has become a European leader for traffic volume. Arcavacata di Rende (Cosenza) there is also an excellent membrane technology research centre run by the National Research Council.

History

Calabria is a land of ancient Mediterranean civilisations, and gave the Italian peninsula its name: Calabria was once called 'Italy' in honour of its inhabitants who were known as Itali.
Calabria still preserves important visible signs of the fundamental eras in European culture and history ranging from prehistoric settlements to the great epoch of the Magna Graecia. And the Romans, Goths, Lombards, Byzantines, Normans, Swabs, Angevins, Aragonese and Bourbons all left architectural traces of great cultural and artistic importance here. Calabria has always been a bridge for a variety of cultures and retains their influences even today in its folklore.

Curios

The terracotta of Squillace and Rogliano, where the "pignatari" ceramic artisans work, is beautiful. The name comes from "pignata", the clay container which still exists today and is used for cooking beans over a fire.
They were even mentioned by Cassiodorus, who lived between the 5th and 6th centuries BC. The pipes made in Brognaturo, San Roberto and San Vito on the Ionian coast are interesting: they are made of 2-year aged blocks of briarwood, a tree that grows almost exclusively along the Mediterranean coasts and is considered among the best for woodworking. Precious also are the silks made in Catanzaro, San Floro and Curinga where the worms are still bred with mulberry leaves, and other local activities include lute making in Bisignano, Soveria Simeri glass, the Chiaravalle and Morano antiques, Serrastretta chairs-making; then there are peach orchards. Sibari plain and the Acconia and Botricello greenhouses with their marvellous flowers; not to forget all the special Calabrian delicacies: "mostaccioli" biscuits from Soriano; nougat from Bagnara, Taurianova and Siderno; mushrooms from Camigliatello; "Bergamots", a citrus fruit from the area around Reggia; "soppressata" and "capocollo", sausage, bacon, nduja (a spreadable mixture of pork meat with hot red chilli pepper) from Spilinga; wines from Donnici, Cirò, Lamezia, Bivongi, Pellaio and Verbicaro; dairy products from the Sila area and swordfish from Bagnara; onions from Tropea and the famous red Calabrian chilli pepper.

Tourist Itineraries

Calabria is still a region capable of astounding the traveller with its strong contrasts, its varieties of nature, cultural overlaps and history.
The whole of Calabria is waiting to be discovered: its 740 kilometres of coastline washed by two seas, the Ionian and Tyrrhenian , and its shadowy, rocky interior with the Pollino, Sila, Serre and Aspromonte mountains.
The Region is rich in archeology, from the prehistoric Grotta del Romito to remnants of Magna Grecia in Sibari, Crotone, Roccelletta di Borgia, Locri, Caulonia, Reggio Calabria, Gioia Tauro and Ipponium, which bear witness to the various civilisations that have settled here over the centuries. But Calabria also has an excellent itinerary of castles: in Origlio, Roseto Capo Spulico, Rocca Imperiale, Corigliano, Santa Severina, Crotone, Isola Capo Rizzato, Squillace, Reggio Calabria, Scilla, Vibo Valentia, Pizzo, Cosenza and Fuscaldo. Calabria is proud of its many medieval towns with their artistic heritage rich in palaces that still preserve their majestic and elegant architecture.

Calabria is also rich in museums, from the National Museum in Reggio Calabria, which preserves the famous Riace bronzes, to the Picture Gallery in Palazzo Arnone in Cosenza, the archaeological museums in Sibari, Crotone and Locri, the State Museum in Vibo Valentia, the Provincial and Civic Museums in Catanzaro, Taverna, Castrovillari, and the Ecclesiastical Museums in Rossano and Serra San Bruno.
Finally, Calabria's churches have a particularly rich artistic heritage. Located in the province of Catanzaro is Taverna, where in the Church of San Domenico you can admire the paintings by the great Mattia Preti and Borgia, with the ruins of the Basilica of Santa Maria della Roccella. If you then go up into the Serre mountains, you come to the Province of Vibo Valentia where, located in Torre di Ruggiero, is the Church of Maria SS. delle Grazie whose sanctuary attracts many worshippers. Nearby is the Certosa di Serra San Bruno, a monastery with the Church of Santa Maria del Bosco, founded at the end of 1000 by Saint Bruno, whose tomb is still venerated today.
Located in the Province of Cosenza is the Church of Santa Maria delle Armi in Cerchiara. The Church dates from the 11th Century and today is a popular destination for pilgrims based on the prodigious events that have happened there. Finally, there is the Sanctuary of San Francesco di Paola, the patron saint of Calabria. The façade dates to the 16th Century, while that of the adjacent Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, where the saint's relics lie, is Gothic in style; Reggio Calabria’s Monastero della Visitazione di Santa Maria built in 1754 is a must, and from there a panoramic road leads to the hermitage of the Madonna della Consolazione dating back to the year 1000.

last update: 20/02/2008

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