Montalto Uffugo (CS)

The city of Leoncavallo

The city was originally known as Aufugum in Roman times and anecdotes from this historic period can be found in the Stories of Titus Livius. However, it was unfortunately destroyed by the Visigoths of Alaric in 410 AD and later by Saracen raids during the 9th century. Rebuilt in the same place with the name of Mons Altis, the city became an important Norman military garrison with a castle and several watchtowers.
In fact, it was the Normans who helped Jewish and Waldensian communities immigrate to Montalto. Around this time, the Christian community was building the Duomo dell'Assunta, one of the most famous sacred monuments in Calabria, with its spectacular staircase, round tufa balustrade and majestic portal.
 
Montalto Uffugo extends over a vast, hilly terrain that, in the highest part, benefits from a large wooded area that is perfect for hikers.
Its fascinating historic centre is characterised by old buildings with sandstone portals and wrought iron balconies.
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The city of Montalto Uffugo and the composer, Ruggiero Leoncavallo, form an inseparable bond. The relationship between the composer and the city was formed over the years from the studies, memories and places that inspired Leoncavallo’s greatest opera, Pagliacci.
 

The 15th-century urban layout was harmoniously arranged and the entire Historic Centre is dotted with old, Spanish-style buildings with beautifully crafted portals.
The town’s churches are of great artistic and historical interest. Among them is the Duomo which is considered one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Calabria. It is dedicated to Santa Maria della Serra on account of its priceless wooden statue of the Madonna (14th-15th century) which many believe to be miraculous.
The church of the Annunziata, also known as the church of Saint Francis of Paola, is also particularly fascinating and houses a portrait painted on wood. The facade of its 16th-century convent features a valuable portal in Montalto stone.

 
Montalto Uffugo
 

Also worth visiting are the church of San Domenico, which was built in the mid-15th century and rebuilt in the 18th century; the church of the Capuchins or Saint Anthony, built in the 18th century; and the beautiful church of Carmine which was built in the 1600s and renovated in the following century.
The historic centre also preserves ancient alleyways and noble palazzos, such as the Castelli house or the palace of the dukes Ruffo of Montalto. In the heart of the historic centre you can also admire the remains of a Jewish workshop dating back to the 15th century which still features its original walled entrances. Jewish communities from Spain and Sicily settled in Montalto in the middle of the 15th century and started a flourishing silk, velvet and wool market which transformed the town into a major commercial centre.
Montalto was also placed on the map thanks to Ruggero Leoncavallo, a great Neapolitan musician and tenor who, inspired by a news story that took place near the village, composed Pagliacci, his most famous work, in 1892.

 
Montalto Uffugo
 
Sanctuary of the Madonna della Serra

The Duomo, better known as the Church of Santa Maria della Serra, is situated on a hill supported by imposing walls, and is adorned with a beautiful staircase, a round tufa balustrade and a large terrace.
The decision to build it outside the town walls on Mount Serrone was taken because of the frequent earthquakes that had previously destroyed the old church of the Assunta.
The Duomo is one of the most famous sacred monuments in Calabria.
According to popular legend, the statue of the Madonna of the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore suddenly disappeared, only to be found again thanks to an incredible light that shone on a hill of hedgerows and prunes known as Serra, and previously as Serrone. It is for this reason that the inhabitants of Montalto decided to build the new temple in this area.
Those who constructed the spectacular staircase, the round tufa balustrade and the church portal realised that the local terrain was particularly exposed to earthquakes and recognised the fragility of the construction materials available in the local area.
Three portals were built with round arches that deviated from the baroque style.
Following the disastrous earthquake of 1854, it was decided to restore the Church. However, instead of being rebuilt in the form of a Greek cross, as was common in ancient times, a large Latin cross was chosen, whose neoclassical style contrasted with the external facade.

 
 
 
Montalto Uffugo
 
Ruggero Leoncavallo Museum and Festival

Montalto Uffugo and Ruggiero Leoncavallo form an inseparable bond.
The relationship between the Calabrian town and the famous Italian composer is very strong and developed over the years from the studies, memories and places that inspired Leoncavallo’s greatest opera, Pagliacci.
The museum displays exhibitions dedicated to Leoncavallo as well as a collection of scores, books, letters, manuscripts, memorabilia and paintings that either belonged or can be attributed to this famous musical maestro who lived in Montalto from the age of five. The music festival that takes place in the village every year is also dedicated to this great musician.
The museum is located inside the town hall and was established and is currently owned by the Municipality of Montalto Uffugo.
On 11 January 1903, the city council of Montalto gave Ruggiero honorary citizenship and ever since, Montalto Uffugo has been known as the town of Leoncavallo.
Every Festival has been a success and has gained positive acclaim. Through both tradition and innovation, the festivals have remained firmly centred around the enchantment of opera, the magic of music, the value of art and the eternity of poetry.
The jewel in the crown of Calabrian cultural events, the Leoncavallo festival should be viewed as a project rather than a billboard of events. Year after year new ideas influence this event which has characterised the territory for many years without losing sight of it historical tradition.

 
Montalto Uffugo
 
Events and traditions

The Saracen Carnival is one of the city’s annual highlights. This famous event involves a grotesque re-enactment of the victory of the Montaltese over the Saracens in the battle of 902. The carnival consists of a burlesque procession composed only of men who dress as giants with huge papier-mâché heads. Nightly celebrations are also held in the square, where the battle fought with the scimitars is re-enacted. The Saracen Carnival takes place every year because after the presentation, the masks are burned.
The Festival of the Serra takes place on 12 February to commemorate the miracle of surviving the perilous 1854 earthquake and is accompanied by a bustling fair and craft exhibitions.
The Leoncavallo Festival is of great interest to culture lovers. It consists of a summer music festival including an international opera competition dedicated to the famous composer and author of Pagliacci.

 


 


Address P.zza F. De Munno
  87046 Montalto Uffugo (CS)
Phone nnumber +39 0984 9294299
Fax +39 0984 932490
Website http://www.comune.montaltouffugo.cs.it
 

 

Montalto was deeply influenced by the different cultures it came into contact with, as the following important landmarks indicate: the Norman tower, the remains of an old Angevin castle, portals of different ages and many churches. The majestic Duomo was consecrated in the early 13th century, then remodeled in a Baroque style. It houses a fine 14th-15th-century wooden Madonna with Child and the carved precious façade is the work of local stonemasons. The 16th-century Church of SS. Annunziata, with a full-scale panel reproducing Saint Francis of Paola is worth a visit.

The Church of Santa Maria della Serra is the main tourist attraction of the town. The majestic building, with a baroque-style façade, overlooks a large clearing on an embankment supported by massive walls. A long front staircase leads to three 18th-century portals, the work of Nicola Ricciullo, one of the many skilled stonemasons from Rogliano. The Church of San Francesco di Paola and the annexed monastery were built between 1510 and 1540. The refined main portal, dating to 1540, was carved by local stonemasons, who made the minor portal as well. The sumptuous Mausoleum of Girolamo and Anna Alimena, decorated with colored marbles and inlays, is a Sicilian 18th-century artwork. The Church of Santa Chiara has a side “durazzesco” portal and the Church of San Domenico, located in piazza Municipio, has a baroque portal and the interior is decorated with stuccoes. A ruined Norman tower embedded in the walls of the surrounding buildings, and an amazing belvedere stand in the nearby.



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