Calabria is brimming with reminders of its warrior past, not least of which are the powerful walls of its castles dotted along the coast and further inland. These fortifications were originally designed to defend the area against frequent foreign invasions but are now appreciated for their outstanding architecture and beauty.
The region’s Byzantine and medieval castles are steeped in history and culture but are also closely intertwined with fascinating myths and legends that are hidden in the stones of these ancient buildings. Calabria’s castles are the artistic and historical legacy of a fiercely proud population. In the past, they majestically defended the cliffs and are now a characteristic feature of their surrounding landscapes.
The castles of Reggio Calabria were a place of refuge for populations fleeing overseas pirates. They also played a pivotal role in developing the region’s culture during periods of great historical turmoil.
Stilo is one of the most beautiful and visited cities in Calabria thanks to its wealth of history and monuments, its culture that spans more than a thousand years and the numerous events that it hosts throughout the year, much to the delight of its visitors.
The old town and the nearby village are surrounded by a maze of narrow streets of adjoining houses which almost appear to be propping each other up. Visitors can also admire the plethora of enchantingly poetic courtyards and small gardens, majestic noble palaces, beautiful churches and, of course, the surrounding walls with towers and city gates. The walls give Stilo the appearance of a typical medieval town and make it one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
Stilo has many delights to offer. Its position overlooking the river from which it guards the Ionian coast tells of the extraordinary culture that emanates from this town, which interprets and represents the culture of the whole of Calabria.
The first evidence of the existence of the Norman Castle of Stilo dates back to 1093, when the Normans chose the village for its strategic position overlooking the whole Stilaro Valley.
The Castle was surrounded by various defensive structures, making it absolutely impenetrable. Some of these are still visible today along the steep slopes of Mount Consolino.
Other barricades, water tanks and shelters preceded the Castle itself, which was equipped with autonomous fortifications crowned by several semi-circular towers. The remains of the vast fortification include the ruins of the perimeter walls, the towers and the gateway.
It is now possible to visit the Castle of Stilo thanks to the works carried out on the access route. From the route, you can admire the beautiful surrounding landscape that extends from Capo Spartivento to Crotone and towards the sea.
Recently, a small monorail was also constructed to facilitate access to this breath-taking location.
Hidden away in the highlands of the Locride area you will find the village of Gerace. It is characterised by its Norman and Byzantine roots and has a simple yet sophisticated beauty.
Carved into the rock face on a hill overlooking the Ionian Sea, Gerace is a maze of alleys that weave a landscape where culture and nature are completely at one with each other. The town's periods of foreign rule are reflected in the eclectic styles of its beautiful buildings which have their own complex artistic identity that vibrates with the energy of a proud and elegant land.
In Gerace, everything revolves around civilizations, cultural exchanges and religion. In fact, although the town now has only 17 churches, at one point it had 128 and, for this reason, was referred to as the Holy City.
However, there is much more to Gerace than its churches and palazzos. As you wander through its charming streets you will be mesmerised by the small squares, arches, underpasses, lavish portals and the domed wood-fired bread ovens. Its walls are full of history and hide many secrets that dazzle like precious stones. And then there’s the cathedral. This wonderful work of architecture is considered one of the most important cathedrals in Southern Italy and is the largest in Calabria.
The Castle of Gerace stands on top of the fortress around which the original village centre expanded.
The castle was built during the 7th century AD as a simple fortification but, along with the rest of the town, was destroyed by Byzantine troops in the middle of the 10th century.
The castle was surrounded by mighty defensive walls and equipped with ingenious rainwater channelling systems which flowed into a large central well. Alongside the castle there was a small Byzantine oratory with a beautiful apse decorated with priceless paintings. The oratory remained functional until as recently as the 17th century.
Unfortunately, very little of the Castle has survived the passing of time. The only ruins still visible today are its cylindrical tower, a few stretches of wall and other scattered ruins. It was once connected to the city by a drawbridge and was used as a shelter by the locals whenever there was trouble in the city. The clearly visible remains of the imposing central cylindrical tower, as well as the long monolithic bases and walls made of megalithic blocks from the Gerace cliffs are all of great historical interest.
The area in front of the castle is the site of Baglio square, which was once used for trading and military activities. The square is also the perfect place from which to admire a picturesque view over the village of Antonimina and the valley of the same name which is home to thermal baths and the famous Acque Sante Locresi.
The town of San Giorgio is arranged in terraces and stands on a hill at the top of which can be found the ruins of a castle surrounded by a pine forest.
San Giorgio Morgeto is one of the 37 municipalities that are part of the Aspromonte National Park. It is situated on the south-eastern edge of the Gioia Tauro Plain and flanks the short and compact ridge that connects the mountains of the Aspromonte Serre which overlook the Aeolian Islands.
A town of medieval origins, San Giorgio is arranged in terraces and stands on a hill at the top of which can be found the ruins of a castle surrounded by a pine forest. The Castle, which dates back to the beginning of 1296 and whose origins drift somewhere between history and legend, is a typical example of Norman-Swabian architecture and is currently undergoing restoration work.
The hilltop rising behind the village is the site of the historic centre that preserves all the charm of the medieval village as well as various monuments, buildings of great architectural value and several churches. The Dominican convent stands at the entrance of the village and was where philosopher Tommaso Campanella received much of his education.
Most likely built in the pre-Norman era around the 9th or 10th century AD, the luxurious Morgezio Castle dominates the entire Plain of Gioia Tauro and its grandeur is visible from the entire surrounding territory.
According to legend, it was inhabited by King Morgete, descendant of the Enotria lineage. Thanks to the Castle, the entire town was unconquerable during the Saracen invasions.
Its location on a rock face and the care with which the local authorities manage the surrounding nature park mean that the castle can be visited all year round.
The area's most famous product is the legendary Greco di Gerace wine. This liqueur wine made with Greco grapes has a 17% alcohol content and is produced in limited quantities.
Tradition has it that the Greeks offered this wine mixed with honey as a sign of hospitality.
Greco di Gerace wine is obtained solely from Greco di Bianco grapes which are grown in vineyards located in Gerace itself. It is characterised by sweet pastry notes such as panettone with candied fruit and marzipan. It also has pleasant hints of medicinal herbs and a bitter almond finish which is typical of wines from the area. Once you’ve tried this pleasant wine you are sure to return to it time and time again.