Briatico is not far from the more famous tourist resort of Tropea and shares a stretch of spectacular coast named the Costa degli Dei (the Coast of the Gods) with a constant succession of sandy coves bordered by rocky cliffs, all lapped by the turquoise water of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
This wonderful scenario is embellished on the horizon with the outlines of the Aeolian Islands, Stromboli in particular, and, to the north, the mountains of the Calabrian coastal chain. Long beaches start from the little port of Briatico, where there is a ruined tower (known as the Rocchetta), one of the most photographed points of the coast. They continue beyond Safò Bay in the direction of Vibo Valentia Marina.
June is the month of the flower festivals, events that attract thousands of tourists and onlookers every year to see the maestros of land-based artistic design at work. The streets of the old centre of Potenzoni, a hamlet of Briatico, turn into an open-air museum for a weekend, with a triumph of colours which the local residents also create. The locals compete in the organisation of the most beautiful works of art made just with flowers, sand, wood and natural elements.
By tradition, the Potenzoni infiorata is a ritual of faith. The residents dress the village for a festival at the feast of Corpus Domini, creating floral carpets of great artistic value. In the past, it was the custom to enliven the Corpus Domini religious procession with a shower of petals thrown from the balconies as the procession passed. The master flower arrangers aim to celebrate one of the most important days in the Church calendar in a different way, and their creations tend to portray scenes from the Gospels and the Bible. The topics are mainly sacred ones, linked to the cult of the sacred heart of Jesus and the Madonna.
The master flower arrangers of Potenzoni have now reached such technical abilities and expression that they can be considered at the same level as the great Italian and European maestros. They are called on to produce their works in leading national flower arranging events. During the infiorata, the old centre is divided into four districts, each of which is given a name with a meaning. The residents in each district work harmoniously to create artistic compositions worthy of competing with those of the other districts.
Briatico has a long history independent of the recent tourist development. Unfortunately, not much is left of old Briatico, completely destroyed by the devastating earthquake of 1783; however, there are some ruins in some parts of the coast.
The ruins of the mediaeval castle and the old town centre of Briatico Vecchio remain. At the time of the earthquake, there were 12 churches, 3 monasteries and it was very important historically and culturally. Only two of the five towers of the anti-Turk defence system are left on the beach - the Rocchetta, a high coastal lookout tower with a pentagonal plan, originally built by the Greeks, reconstructed by the Romans and reworked in the mediaeval period, and the Sant'Irene tower, erected by the deputy Royal Spanish government to watch out for barbarian incursions.
Prehistoric finds, such as terracotta items and other flint and obsidian tools, a vase containing human remains and a full trousseau including a crystal pendant in rock, amber grains and one in carnelian with incisions, have been made in the area. The site was a human settlement dating to the Chalcolithic era. There are also Roman necropoleis of the Imperial age and the remains of a building complex (perhaps a spa) from the same period. There are mediaeval hermit caves, some called the ‘Grotte delle fate’ (Fairies’ caves), along the Murria valley.
As in many other Calabrian municipalities, there is the traditional Affruntata on Easter Day; this evokes the meeting of the Madonna, accompanied by St John, with the resurrected Christ. A classic summer date is the festival of the Madonna del Carmine, held in the middle of July. The festival of San Nicola da Bari, celebrated on 6 December, is very popular in Briatico.
There is still an old gastronomic tradition based on local food resources in Briatico.
Specialities are olives and olive oil, prickly pears, local wine and dishes like fish soup, swordfish and grilled tuna. The well-known red Tropea onion PGI should have a special mention; this is produced in the surrounding area including Briatico.