This picturesque route follows the path taken by Edward Lear, an English artist who fell in love with Calabria. Along the way you will discover some of the most fascinating parts of Aspromonte.
Edward Lear, a 19th-century English writer and illustrator, was completely enamoured with Italy.
He travelled through the Roman countryside, Abruzzo, and then Molise, but it was undoubtedly Calabria that captivated him the most. In 1847 he visited the province of Reggio Calabria but was unable to continue his journey due to the uprisings that characterised the area. His Journals of a Landscape Painter in Southern Calabria, published in 1852 in England, gives a fascinating account of his journey through Calabria and Basilicata.
With just a friend and a donkey for company, Edward Lear set off on foot to Aspromonte. And it is this journey walked by Lear that the Sentiero dell'Inglese retraces today. The route skirts the Aspromonte National Park and can be covered in a week, starting from the beautiful village of Pentedattilo and finishing in Staiti. The route crosses Calabria’s Grecanica area and passes through the towns of Amendolea di Condofuri, Gallicianò and Bova.
This is Aspromonte National Park, an area of immense biodiversity thanks to its geographical location in the centre of the Mediterranean which overlooks the Ionian and Tyrrhenian slopes. The Park has a variety of microclimates that enables a wide range of landscapes and habitats to harmoniously coexist: from the Mediterranean scrubland characterised by tall holm oak woods that are completely unique on the Peninsula, to the vast natural pine forests and beech woods. The park is also traversed by valleys containing distinctive riverbeds, however, the rivers do not always flow and in the summer many of them transform into beds of pebbles and stones.
The entire route is reserved exclusively for expert hikers.
The village of Pentedattilo was abandoned in the 60s and is located in an almost inaccessible area of Aspromonte where it remained hidden behind the mountains for decades. The village is named after a hand-shaped peak located behind it which partially collapsed due to the landslides that led to the village’s abandonment.
Pentedattilo is not currently inhabited, but areas further down the valley are populated by some of the village’s previous inhabitants who moved there and decided to resume certain activities. Today the village is equipped with a hostel, a bar, a restaurant and even a museum of folk traditions. Various agritourism establishments have also sprung up in the surrounding areas where you can enjoy a bite to eat.
Pentedattilo is one of the most characteristic towns of Calabria’s Grecanica Area. When it was dominated by the Romans it became a major military centre thanks to its strategic position over Sant'Elia river, one of the most convenient ways to access Aspromonte.
Bagaladi is one of two gateways to the Aspromonte National Park. It may be a small town but it certainly has a colourful history. The village is a magnificent melting pot of cultures, as can be seen from its name which is believed to be of Arab-Greek origin.
Situated on a hill at the foot of Mount San’Angelo, Bagaledi is particularly well-known for the production of a special olive oil which, for many years, was a source of income for its entire population. The Iacopino Oil Mill, one of the first water-powered mills, is now one of the main gateways to Aspromonte National Park. Now completely restored, it houses the Oil Museum and has become a place that brings ancient traditions alive.
Amendolea is an ancient village of Greek origin located by the river of the same name in the southernmost part of the Calabrian peninsula.
Today, the ancient Ruffo Castle can be seen rising from the ruins of the village. This imposing structure is mainland Italy’s southernmost Norman castle which was built after the conquest of the Byzantine territory.
The castle is located in the north-western section of a long and impenetrable rocky ridge above the confluence of the Amendolea and Condofuri rivers. It is practically an extension of the south-western hill occupied by the monumental ruins of the village.
The village’s long-standing isolated existence has allowed it to live according to its own customs and traditions as, perhaps, almost no other village has managed to do. This has helped it conserve its ancient Greek origins that led to the construction of a small, Byzantine-style church in an attempt to reintroduce the ancient orthodox rite to the area.
Gallicianò is a very small village which is often referred to as Calabria's Magna Graecian Acropolis because it is the only entirely Greek-speaking village still to exist in Italy. Calabrian Greek is also spoken in the village; however, its use is become increasingly restricted to domestic environments.
Thanks to its isolated existence, the village has managed to keep the cultural, artisanal, musical and dance traditions alive and has instilled in its inhabitants a strong sense of community and hospitality, characteristics that are particularly common among the Greeks of Calabria.
There are many elements that contribute to the romantic and vibrant ambiance of the village such as the fontana dell'amore (fountain of love), which bears an inscription reading Cannalo Tis Agapi. According to tradition, it was right here at the fountain that a villager fell in love with a young man whilst washing her clothes, hence the name of the fountain. Another must-visit attraction in this dynamic location is the Orthodox church dedicated to Panaghìa tis Ellada, or Our Lady of Greece. The church is particularly popular among couples as it was the site of many Christian orthodox marriages.
Despite the outward signs of modernity, the pace of life in Bova is still somewhat relaxed.
The Greek culture of days gone by has been preserved by the village and was further reinforced with the arrival of the Byzantines. In fact, for many centuries the Greek culture prevailed over the Latin one. The village’s rituals, language, traditions and, in particular, the outstanding hospitality of its inhabitants are constant reminders of its Greek origins. Visitors to Bova are welcomed in a simple yet genuine way by a community that has not lost the memory of its past, as can be clearly witnessed by the street names which are also written in Greek. From its uninhabited houses that blend seamlessly with the surroundings to the small alleys that suddenly expand into open spaces and the sun drenched square that seems to have been designed by De Chirico: Bova is a bright and peaceful location that encourages tranquillity and reflection.
This is a fascinating route along which you will be fully immersed in the ancient world of the Calabrian Greek Communities as you walk along paths once trodden by the pilgrims, shepherds and traders of days gone by who descended from the mountain to Bova and vice versa. As you cross the plateau of Campi di Bova you will be able to admire the breath-taking views of the rivers and the sparkling sea at the bottom, where the municipality of Delia is located.
At an altitude of almost 1400 metres, the Panoramic Viewpoint of Monte Grosso is the perfect place from which to take in the stunning views of the surrounding scenery. You will be able to marvel at the panorama of the Amendolea river, the abandoned villages of Roghudi and Africo Vecchio as well as various other villages in the Grecanica area and the peak of Aspromonte. You may even be able to catch a glimpse of Etna on the horizon.
Palizzi encompasses all the elements of a fairy-tale village: from its castle perched on a cliff with a medieval village at its feet to the humpback bridge dating back to the fourteenth century that overlooks the stream.
Immersed in the heart of nature, the village of Palizzi is the southernmost municipality of the Italian peninsula and clings to a sandstone cliff at the foot of the imposing castle.
This picturesque village nestled on the southern slopes of Aspromonte captivates all those who visit thanks to its typically medieval character and imaginative architectural features. Among these are the palazziate (noble houses), solarate (houses with attics), curved tile roofs, catoi (underground structures) and a maze of underpasses and stairways. All these elements combine to create a spectacular landscape that has remained virtually unchanged over time. It is located in the most remote part of the ancient region which, after being called Esperia (land of the West) and then Enotria (land of good wine), became known as Italy.
The small village of Pietrapennata, which owes its name to the rocky ridges above it, is thought to have been founded by the Knights of Malta, to whom the nearby church of the Madonna dell'Alica appears to be connected. The ancient monastic site of Alica can be reached via a path that starts near the cemetery of the small hamlet. The path leads to a ridge from which you can see the entire circular shape of the end of Calabria and the church perched on the slope of a hill. This early 17th-century church is a single-naved building with an adjoining cusped bell tower decorated with celestial majolica tiles. Emerging from the sides of the church’s southern wall are the remains of a portico or cloister of a Basilian hermitage, which many believe to be the monastery of Sant'Ippolito.
The particular urban layout of Staiti's steps, with the surrounding houses firmly anchored to the twisting shapes of Rocca Giambatore, means you can observe the entire Ionian panorama and the Bruzzano river valley from any point.
Over the years, the inhabited centre of Staiti has managed to retain its sense of calm and tranquillity that was particularly suited to the ancient hermitages. Staiti is also part of a circular naturalistic route that meanders among the old paths and mule tracks up to the borders of the Aspromonte National Park. It leads to the ancient monastery of the Madonna dell'Alica (in the municipality of Palizzi) and then heads to Pietrapennata before returning to the start point.
One of the village’s must-see attractions is the church of Santa Maria dei Tridetti, a rare example of Byzantine architecture in Calabria whose ruins, already under restoration, are located just a few kilometres from the town.