Calabria is a peninsula of the Italian peninsula, outstretched into the sea. Its coast approximately 500 miles (or 800 km) long: from Praia a Mare to Reggio Calabria it follows the Tyrrhenian sea and from Reggio Calabria to Rocca Imperiale it follows the Ionian sea.

The ancient Greeks originally called Calabria – Brettia, from Bretto, son of Hercules. The Romans translated the name into Bruzio and the name remained until the Byzantine period. In ancient times Calabria had been the home of Morgheti, Coni, Enotri and Itali. The last two populations gave Calabria two things: the Enotri gave it the name Enotria and the itali, later gave it the name Italia which was consecutively extended to the whole peninsula.

Were you to drive around a friend eager to become acquainted with this region? Coming down from the northern part of Italy, you would first stop in Cosenza. You would begin by visiting the cathedral built around the XII-XIII century and where the magnificent tomb of Isabel of Aragon, Queen of France, is kept. You would climb to the top of the ancient city to admire the castle of Arab-Norman origin and to appreciate the vast landscape.- The Crati where, according to the legend, ties the tomb of Alaric and the modern growing city. You would tell your foreign friends about the Telesian Academy, about Telesio and about the philosophic and cultural traditions in Cosenza which are always present and flourishing. You should know that Telesio represents the most important and “new” philosopher of the Renaissance, having been the first to detach himself from Aristotle’s dogmatic ideas that had dominated the Western culture for centuries. You would tell your foreign friends that it was due to Telesio’s work, if nature’s phenomena began slowly to be examined, and explained with scientific rigor, showing that hypotheses cannot be invented. This was later scientifically proven by Galileo Galilei's research and experiments. Also we would visit Rende, a town barely detached from Cosenza and whose old centre is surprisingly beautiful with its buildings, its squares and its clean streets.

After the first part of the journey, a problem would arise concerning the next stop. Two are the possibilities: Either to cross the Sila Grande and arrive in Sibari, following the Ionian coast to Crotone and then to Reggio Calabria, or go down to Larnezia Terme and follow the Tyrrhenian coast.

The plain of Lamezia Terrne is a green sea with the Tyrrhenian sea in its background. it is covered with large plantations of orange-trees and olive'-trees, large vineyards and cultivated straw-berry beds, and with a large number of artesian wells used to irrigate the extensive plain. Man's dominion over Nature is felt here, equipped as he is with modern machinery and up-to-date agronomy methods.

Along the coast, villages follow one another. Every few kilometers the scenery changes. The light is intense, the colors are strong. The beauty of landscapes in Pizzo and Tropea is striking. Our spirits are dominated by an invisible force and we are tempted to fly up towards infinity. The splendor of the cloudless sky and of the transparent sea, the silvery green of the hills covered by giant olive-trees, are inebriating. The Aeolian islands just ahead are like a cluster of clouds grazing land. Tropea is set in nature's beauty and appreciated by tourists for clean sea and for the loveliness of its streets buildings, the and Cathedral and for the fine, polite hospitality of people. Life of course is at its peak in summer. You should know that Tropea is the native town of a famous philosopher, and acute 19th century scholar of Kant, Pasquale Gallupi, called “ The Baron”. From Tropea we can reach Nicotera. There, the castle dominates a unique landscape. Set before our eyes is a corner of Sicily, a vast plain called with reason The Pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is a heavenly extent that goes from Nicotera to Palmi, all the way to Gioia Tauro. It is covered with orange-trees and orchards, and with hills covered by olive trees. From Nicotera, we can arrive in Palrni, an evocative site –and home of the great and well-known Calabrian musician Francesco Cilea. There are many villages along the coast and on the hills from Palmi to Scylla. On the right the sea never leaves us, while on the other side the blue dorsal of Aspromonte seems to invite us up to admire the view. We can go to Scylla and admire its castle from a distance. We then can enjoy the sight of the unique and incomparable Strait of Reggio and Messina,- from the central square. Charybdis is only at a stone's throw. That strait is being ploughed by ships and fishing boats. It is impossible to remain unmoved before such a scene. Yes! The strait represents a sacred site, eternalized by the most beautiful world poetry. In The geography of the Odyssey, during Ulysses sea voyage, the strait represent a crucial point. Scylla and Charybdis made the adventurous Ulysses tremble. Goethe, in his Trip to Italy, writes that to understand Homer, one must go to Southern Italy. In the town of Scylla, better still from Tropea going south, including the beautiful Aeolian islands, forever visible, we are in full geography of the Odyssey's poetic world.

Reggio Calabria rises at a few kilometers from Scylla. it is a very ancient city which was destroyed four times in the last thousand years, by violent earthquakes. Little, therefore, remains of the ancient city: The ruins of the Roman walls along via Marina and the Aragonese castle. Yet, who knows how many works were created by sculptors like, Learcu, Nearco and Pythagoras. Reggio, is a bright city with vast open spaces. its museum is considered a precious jewel and this not only because of Riace's famous bronzes. The head of the philosopher, found years ago in Porticello near Villa S., Giovanni, is another work of art. A head bent into its being and which envies nothing to the absolute beauties of the warriors that face it. Apart from these three works, there are fictile statues nonetheless fascinating. Let us recall just one of them: Fictile Group with Horse Nan on Sphinx. Other works to admire are the Pinakes, the votive tablets of baked clay found in the excavation of Locri. They represent in a delicate and poetic relief, scenes pertaining to the myth of Demetra and Persephone. of course Reggio Calabria is not just this. From the cultivated vineyard hills, the strait, the towns Scylla and Charybdis and the surrounding countryside rich with citrus orchards and vegetable patches, create a harmonious whole which visitors should not miss seeing.

The journey proceeds along the Ionian coast towards Catanzaro. On our right, the great eye of the sea observes all while on the other side we find hills of bare marble and precious citrus fruit gardens. We have in fact entered the land of the bergamot which extends from Reggio to Bova Marina. Nowhere in the world except in this sunny strip -of land, does this precious plant grow. Another one of the mysteries of Calabria is that in Bova Marina one can turn left and climb the southern part of Aspromonte. As one climbs by the curving, ascending road, the scenery for every kilometer seems so much more immense. on the other side of the sea, Mount Etna with its wreath of smoke, rises splendidly against the sky. Sicily is a blue cloud ahead though it is lit up by the sun's rays ... Once again, Ulysses comes to mind and so does Poliphemus and the cows of the sun. The Asprornonte is terribly silent. its pine forests speak of ancient things. Until thirty years ago, these places were alive with shepherds and cowherds. Looking around, one sees mountain-tops, deep valleys and a few villages built on rock. There are three villages: Roghudi, Roccaforte, Gailiciano. The Calabrian dialect is not spoken here. instead the people of these villages speak a Greek dialect that the other Calabrians cannot understand. According to Gerhard Rohifs, a well-known Glottologist and Philologist, their dialect represents the purest of what is left of ancient Greek.

Back on the state road, after a quick look at Pentidattilo, a surrealistic village cast between the walls of a five-peaked height. We soon could arrive in Capo Spartivento which is found at the most extreme point of Italy and of Western Europe. Africa is just on the other side. We therefore enter the most famous area of the Magna Greece, nucleus of the great culture that had once made Locri, Crotone and Sibari the most modern centers of the civilized world. Today, barely anything is left of that splendid civilization buried by earthquakes, seaquakes, floods and through Man's negligence and scarce farsightedness Thurio, where Herodotus died, Posidonia, Acherontea, Potamia, today's San Luca , Sarno , Locri, Caulonia, Crotone and Sibari are no sites of some of these glorious cities. Excavations have been made in Sibari and Locri, yet a number of things remain to be discovered. In Locri the Antiquariurn, built in the recent years has collected a lot of important material. Of this ancient city, one may admire: the foundation of the Ionic Temple of Marasa, the Theatre with perfect acoustics, the Necropolis of the mirrors, the Temple of the Marafioti Family, the Temple of Athens. Surrounding these ruins, there are fig-trees, olive-trees, jasmine plantations and all is silent except for movement of the waves.

A profound need for meditation is felt and a question spontaneously comes up: How did the Locresi people live at the time of Zaleuco, the first Legislator of Western Europe? How did they behave during Tlmeo's lifetime, the dear friend of Plato and of the Pythagoric Fifolao? Filolao, a native of Crotone, was the first to create the Heliocentric Theory, demonstrated two thousand years later by Galileo Gatilei. it was in Locri and through Tirneo's intercession that Plato was able to buy from Filolao, the Pythagoric texts considered secret and sacred, and which Plato had been anxiously searching for. It was in Locri that -Drneo discussed for the first time, about the three souls that controlled the psychic and intellectual activities of each individual, thus anticipating Freud, by twenty-five centuries.

Than you can take the road that from the modern Locri, brings to Gerace. Like Orvieto, Gerace rises on a rock of tufa. The scenery extends endless. The vast plain of the Locride and the sea from Capo Spartivento to Punta Stilo, are before our eyes. The citrus orchards, the fields of jasmine, the massive Asprornonte, the Ionian sea that becomes the color of wine when reflected by the sun. The most beautiful and solemn offal Calabrian cathedrals is found in Gerace. Consacrated in 1040, it was probably a model for other basilicas in Italy. It represents a great architectural. work of art and was built in large part with material from the ancient temples of Locri. Gerace is a jewel and probably the most evocative of all the Calabrian region. Those who visit Gerace for the first time, are surprised and amazed by the beautiful, noble buildings, the Church of S. Francesco, the small, superb and silent alleys, and by the ruins of the Norman-Aragonese castle that overlooks the city and promises one of the most enchanting view in Italy.

Than - Stilo, a village “planted” by steps along the pendent of a solemn mountain, and with a gorgeous view of the sea. This town is considered the country of Tornmaso Campanella, author of “Citta del Sole” (Sun's City), and one of the most important philosophers of modern times. You can stop to admire the famous “Cattolica”, a cathedral in miniature, a jewel of Byzantine art and evocative for its architectural rarity.

After Stillo - provincial road from Monasterace in order to get to Serra San Bruno. You can visit the Certosa (chartreuse) which was founded by San Brunone of Colonia, who came south of Europe in 1090. Apart from the Certosa, everybody impressed by the surrounding nature; the woods and the fertile land. it almost feels as if we were in another region, and no longer in the Calabria of the Ionian coast, harsh and at times barren, intruded. upon by the broad streams and as if oppressed by the massive Asprornonte. Rather, the sensation is that of being in Tuscany in all the plateau which includes most part of the province of Catanzaro. Many are the magnificent, touristic villages like Soveria Mannelli, -Tiriolo, Chiaravalle and Squillace, homeland of Cassiodoro. A fascinating thesis comes to mind. According to a German scholar, Tiriolo was the ancient residence of the Feaci. It is said, that Ulysses was seen by Nausica, on the banks of the river Amato which opens into the gulf of S. Eufernia. Fromnriolo both the two seas and the two gulfs are visible: The gulf Of S. Eufemia in the Tyrrhenian sea and the gulf of Squillace in the Ionian sea. Basing his theory on this data, the German scholar believes that Tiriolo is the homeland of that civilized people. it is said that the wise Feaci, after having understood by Ulysses tale that the hero had lost his route, took Ulysses to Squillace and put him on a ship for ltaca.

We now descend towards the sea and take the state route. We stop in Roccelletta, in the territory where the ancient town of Squillace once stood. Roccelletta is an archeological site, There are those who believe that remains of a small Pompei are buried in this area. Very little is known of the ancient Rornan Squillace and few are the marks left, as for example, the evocative amphitheatre just recently discovered. The same may be said of Crotone. Crotone, during the age of Pythagoras, was the most important city in Europe and yet, today nothing is left except for a column of the Temple of Hera Lacinia and very few, splendid findings kept in the small museum of the town. Everything else is buried. Yet, I tell my friend that in this town, the first Medical School in the world, was founded. it was in Crotone, six centuries B.C. that Alcmeone dissected the eye, the ear, the brain, the spinal marrow. According to Herodotus, it was in Crotone that Dario the Great, searched for the skilful and famous surgeon, Democede, to operate the Emperess Atassa. Democede operated thus curing the wife of the king of kings. Again, it was in Crotone and with Pythagoras, that the first philosophic- scientific School was founded and of which we are so proud of. The philosophers of that long ago age, spoke, of “monad” as the beginning of everything and believed, thus anticipating contemporary Philosophy (Bergson and other.), that knowledge is perceptive. They developed Geometry and affirmed that all things contain a number in them. Thus, implying that the secret language of creation is contained in numbers. Today, the external marks of that enlightened period (who can tell how many beautiful bronzes like those of Riace, rest under thick layers of hardened mud!) have disappeared. Yet if one is attentive, it is possible to witness the interior marks of the past, still present today. They have roots inside the mind , and are found in the behavior and in the collective unconsciousness of the Calabrians. They live on, in the dialect, a compound language of classic structure, in the traditions, in the courteous hospitality that leaves foreigners surprised; they are present in the religious aspects of life, in the popular culture (fables, songs, verses, proverbs), in the interpretation of dreams that for the plain people continues to represent messages from heaven (of the gods) and from the dead.

Next we can see Rossano, a town rich in historical memory and monuments (the Codice Purpureo - the Purple Code -, S. Nilo,S. Maria del Patir); Corigliano Calabro with the imposing fourtowered castle, and decorated with “Durazzesco- Aragonese” elements. Cassano, with its sybarite hot springs and the remains of an ancient castle located on a rock called “Rock of the Castle”. We finally arrive in Cerchiara di Calabria after a panoramic drive up-hill. From here we go towards the Sanctuary of the “Madonna delle Armi” (Virgin of the Weapons) fitted on the pendent of the Sellaro, a last mountainous ramification of Mount Pollino on the Ionian sea.

Than a castle Castrovillari. A quick look at the castle built by order of Ferdinand I of Aragon and we arrive in Morano Calabro, an exquisite, ancient town dropped as if by divine will, onto a peaked mountain. The road ahead opens onto gorgeous views and in Altomonte we can admire a stately church, S. Maria della Consolaziofie (Virgin Mary of the Afflicted), a rare jewel of Calabrian gothic architecture. We leave the clean and well-cared town of Higher Calabria and set off towards Catanzaro. remember a sentence from “At the time when Rome was a shepherd's village, Pythagoras was teaching in Crotone”.

Next stop - Catanzaro. Catanzaro indeed, shortly after passing through a long tunnel, there appears above us the city of the three hills, framed by the arching of a steep bridge. Suddenly the words of George Gissing, an English traveler who visited the city at the end of the 19th century comes to my mind: “One evening, I spent an hour in the oldest cafe of Catanzaro. . The tone of the conversation was definitely on a higher level, than the one that might be found in a group of country Englishmen, spending their free evening hours together. They conversed in the real sense of the word ... Those men exchanged with one. another, real opinions and reasoned intelligibly ... it is not only a difference between the rough Anglo-Saxons and a language of classic origin; there's a radical distinction of the mind. These people have natural respect for everything touching the spirit, which is totally lacking in the typical Englishman ... in England I have left many cafes feeling oppressed by boredom and from aversion; in comparison, that cafe in Catanzaro seemed an assembly of wise men and philosophers “

So, is that all? Of course not. It’s only beginning an ultimate adventure called “Discovering Calabria”. Every one of us could reveal something new, because beauty and mystery of Mezzogiorno is borderless. 


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