Praia a Mare (CS)

The rugged charm of Dino Island

Praia a Mare is a popular tourist resort located on the Tyrrhenian coast of Calabria in the province of Cosenza. Praia's coastline is characterised by beaches of fine sand that extend along a high and jagged stretch of coast-line on the Riviera dei Cedri. The depths of its crystal clear sea are teeming with starfish and gorgonians.
Since ancient times, Praia a Mare has also been recognised for its econom-ic and strategic importance thanks to its use as a maritime harbour and port of call situated along the main trade routes of the western Mediterranean.
Dominating the coastal landscape is the Island of Dino, an imposing rock spur famous for its picturesque caves and Palinuro primroses.

A heavily populated village of farmers and fishermen can be found on the narrow beaches between the Noce river and the rocky spurs of the Lao riv-er. Over the centuries, the ancient customs and traditions of the nearby na-tive fortress have stood the test of time.
The municipality of Praia a Mare is part of Pollino National Park, where ex-treme sports enthusiasts can try their hand at rafting and canoeing along the river Lao, one of Calabria’s major torrential waterways.

Praia a Mare

Dominating the coastal landscape is the island of Dino, located opposite Capo dell'Arena. This imposing rock spur, which is the natural habitat of pal-inuro primroses, one of the oldest protected species of Italian flora, is fa-mous for its picturesque caves including Grotta Azzurra, Grotta del Leone, Grotta delle Sarde, Grotta del Monaco, and Grotto delle Cascate.
In addition to its numerous seaside areas and natural points of interest, Praia a Mare is home to a variety of culturally and historically valuable mon-uments. The historic centre is where you will find the city’s major monuments includ-ing the Church of the Sacred Heart, the Church of Jesus Christ the Saviour, and the Church of Saint Paul the Apostle, with its refined lines and contem-porary style.
However, the most important place of worship in Praia a Mare is undoubted-ly the Santuario della Madonna della Grotta, which is named after the fact that it is contained inside a cave on the hillside. According to legend, in 1326 a Turkish vessel loaded with merchandise suddenly stopped near the Island of Dino. The superstitious sailors forced the Christian captain to get rid of the statue of the Madonna which was being kept on-board the ship. Howev-er, rather than tossing it overboard, the captain decided to abandon it on a large boulder on the shore, which is still an object of worship today. The statue was discovered by a young mute shepherd from Aieta, who, in order to announce it to the town, regained his ability to speak, thus becoming the first miracle of the Madonna della Grotta.
Since then, the Madonna has become the patron saint of the village and her statue is carried through the village in celebration during a three-day pro-cession (14, 15 and 16 August). On the 15 August, pilgrims flock to the sanctuary to ingratiate themselves with the Madonna. The Santuario della Madonna della Grotta houses many fascinating works of art, including a wooden icon on a gold background and the bell from an English steamship that torpedoed Dino Island in 1917.
Another breath-taking monument is the Torre di Fiuzzi (Fiuzzi Tower) which crowns the stack of the Fiuzzi cliff. At over 15 metres tall, it is one of the tall-est towers in the area and was used to defend the coast from Saracen at-tacks.
The 16th-century Fortress built by the Lords of Aieta is also particularly in-teresting and controlled Praia a Mare until the first few decades of the 20th century. Two further must-visit attractions are the ruins of the Norman castle and the municipal museum of contemporary art.

Dino Island

Dino Island (Isola di Dino) is the symbol of Praia a Mare and is the largest of only two islands in Calabria. The spur emerges majestically from the seabed in front of Capo Arena and has the shape of an enormous cetacean. The island is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna that are typical of the Mediterranean scrubland.
 It is thought that the name of the island possibly derives from the Greek word "Dine", meaning vortex or storm, or from the island’s small temple (aedina) which was built by the Greeks. Some people believe the temple in question was dedicated to Venus, goddess of love, whereas others thought it was dedicated to Leucothea, protector goddess of sailors, or to the two Diskouri, Castor and Pollux.
 On the western tip of the island stands a tower of Norman origin which was once used as a watchtower to protect the island against the numerous coastal invasions.
The island is brimming with natural caves containing stalactites and stalagmites and its seabed, 45 metres deep in places, is covered with a carpet of colourful gorgonians. In terms of the island’s caves, highlights include the Grotta delle Cascate (Cave of Waterfalls), named after the sound of the nearby cascading waterfalls; the famous Grotta Azzurra (Blue Cave), reminiscent of Capri; and the Grotta del Leone (Cave of the Lion), so called because of a rock immersed in the water that is shaped like a crouching lion.

Praia a Mare
Santuario della Madonna della Grotta

Set in three rocky cavities at the foot of Mount Vingiolo, the Sanctuary can only be accessed via a ramp paved with sea pebbles, from which you can admire the entire Gulf of Policastro. It was most likely the Basilian monks who brought the statue of the Madonna here. However, due to a lack of reliable information, legend has it that superstitious Turkish sailors abandoned the statue.
 In fact, the first cave houses the large rounded rock on which, according to legend, the statue was placed in 1326. In the largest cave, the floor is almost always wet due to the water that drips down from the vault. The right hand side features a white chapel whose altar is topped with a marble statue of the Madonna della Neve (Our Lady of the Snows). The third cave, illuminated by a natural opening, houses a rectangular chapel with a high altar base for the statue of the Madonna. The bell tower, the cloister, and the rectory were built just outside the caves.
The patronal festival commemorates the arrival of the Madonna at the caves of Mount Vingiolo on 14 August 1326. It is celebrated with an evocative procession at sea in which the statue of the Madonna is placed on a large boat, followed by other boats, and is transported around Dino Island before heading along the coast to moor at the beach. The procession continues towards the Sanctuary and onwards to Viale della Libertà to the Church of the Sacred Heart.

Praia a Mare
Municipal Museum

The Municipal Museum of Praia a Mare is located just a stone’s throw from the seafront and houses sections on Archaeology, Seashells, Photography, Contemporary Art, Calabrian Artists, Artists' Postcards, Sacred Art, and Ceramics, as well as a Library and Video Library. 
The museum gives visitors an in-depth education on the evolution and growth of the man-artist in Calabria and on the Tyrrhenian coast of Cosenza.
The archaeology section presents the "The path of man” exhibition which showcases stone and ceramic artefacts found predominantly in the cave of Torre Nave and in the caves in which the Sanctuary is located. There are also small bronze and silver pieces of jewellery, and ceramics and pottery dating from the Bronze Age to the Imperial Roman period.
The museum’s contemporary art section displays works from the different fields of artistic experimentation, as well as sacred art with paintings depicting the places and images that evoke the Sanctuary. Of particular interest is the section on seashells which exhibits 300 specimens from all of the world’s seas. These were collected by a Roman enthusiast and then donated to the Museum.
The Contemporary Sacred Art Section houses 14 works depicting the Madonna and Child donated by 14 contemporary Italian artists.

Tower of Fiuzzi

The Tower stands on a stack about 15 metres high on the Fiuzzi cliff, just opposite Dino Island. Combined with other coastal towers, it constituted a defensive system along the coastal strip of the kingdom of Naples to defend it from frequent Saracen incursions and raids. It was linked to the watchtower on the western end of Dino Island and communicated with it in case of danger.

Praia a Mare
Praia Castle

The castle can be found in Foresta on top of a spur facing the sea and is also known as Rocca di Praia or the Norman Castle.
Built at the time of Charles of Anjou, it was constructed to defend the coast from Aragonese and Saracen raids. It was subsequently adapted to its current design at the beginning of the 17th century. The plan is typical of a medieval castle, with its rectangular shape and two cylindrical corner towers connected by wide walls and topped with battlements.
 This privately-owned castle boasts all the splendour of the past, which has been perfectly preserved over the centuries.

Praia a Mare


Address Piazza Municipio 1
  87028 Praia a Mare (CS)
Phone number +39 0985 72353 - +39 0985 73800
Fax +39 0985 72555


Praia a Mare is among the most frequented bathing resorts in the Northern Tyrrhenian coast of Calabria, and the first one to be provided with tourist facilities. Seashore is characterized by fine dark sand and pebble beaches, jagged coastlines, sea bottoms where soft corals, sea stars and fish species live. All these natural beauties have made Praia a Mare one of the most renowned tourist resorts in Calabria.

The Municipal Museum in Praia a Mare consists of two areas: the first one includes contemporary artworks by Achille Pace, Romano Notari, Ernesto Treccani, Pietro Perrone and Umberto Raponi. The second area houses artefacts dating from the Middle and Upper Paleolithic to Neolithic ages, found in the Praia area. The female grave goods dating back to the 4th century B.C., include bronze and silver ornaments and a black painted vase. Several Hellenistic potteries and oil lamps were found in burials discovered in the Dorcara area. The permanent exhibition “Il Cammino dell’Uomo” (The evolution of man) has been established since 1997. Workshops for pottery engraving and printing, video archive and library were equipped. For the Jubilee, the Museum promoted an Artistic and Religious Itinerary, a symbolic route that led to the Cave of the Sanctuary where a copy of the wooden statue of our Lady is kept. During a 9-year period, the Museum has increased its collection with more than 200 works by Italian and foreign artists. The archaeological room keeps pre-historic and historic artefacts found in the cave of the Sanctuary of Our Lady, Cardini cave and the sites of Dorcara and Torre Nave. The first display stand keeps Middle-Paleolithic stone tools, fragments of red-banded potteries and obsidian points. A baked mixture perforated globe and gross ceramic tankards typical of the Bronze-age Apennine populations are exhibited in the second display stand. The third one houses fibulas, ornaments, small bronze and silver jewels. The grave goods dated from the 4th century B.C. found in a Lucanian necropolis and fragments of Imperial Roman vases are also displayed. Around the room walls a set of learning panels illustrate the evolution of man from the Lower Paleolithic to Roma Age, mainly in the areas of Calabria and the Northern Tyrrhenian Coast. The Contemporary art room houses a collection of important works that renowned artist from Calabria, Italy and abroad donated to the Museum. They illustrate very well the today’s art expressions in different artistic fields. In the room dedicated to the Calabrian artists, the works by regional exponents involved in experimental production in every field of contemporary arts are exhibited. This room houses the works of Post-Meridionalism artists who were the protagonists of recent art history. On the occasion of the first centennial of the Incoronazione della Madonna della Grotta, the museum established the Permanent Exhibition of Contemporary Sacred Art. The exhibition collects the works of significant artists coming from all over Italy. They include the peculiar Annunciation by Aurelio Caruso, Nativity set in the Vingiolo Cave by Italo Gafà; different interpretations of Our Lady with Child by Giuseppe Ascari, Patrizia Boschi, Raffaele Famà, Carmine Iannone and Nico Valerio; the clay rough cast of Beata Vergine del Soccorso by Alfiero Nena, the renowned sculptor whose works are kept in the Vatican; Our Lady with Child with the Praia landscape in the background by Giuliano Presutti; Madonna della Grotta looking at the sea by Emanuele Pandolfini; personal interpretations of Madonna della Grotta by Emiliano Paolini and Rossella Petronelli; the engraved The Crucifixion by Aldo Riso and the delicate Resurrection watercolor by Giovanni Di Puglia. The in-progress room keeps color photos of the sea bottoms of the Dino Island, Cave of the Sanctuary and other caves in Mt Vingiolo, and a series of old photos reproducing Praia views. The Library has a collection of 5000 books concerning many issues, particularly in the field of historiography of Calabria and Southern Italy, and art. The workshops established in 1996 are geared towards young people, and they have a social intent. The aim of the courses is to bring young people closer to art, improve their social relationships and teach skills on both manual and creative forms of expression.