which includes the old town centre and elegant monuments, located at the end of a rocky spur which enjoys superb views on the Sybaris plain.
The origins of the town date back to the middle ages, and since then, due to its strategic position and the efficient connections between inland and the coast, it was one of the most important economic and commercial centres. Castrumvillarum is the town’s oldest name, whose roots, nonetheless, are much more remote than its Latin ones, as evidenced by the considerable archaeological remains found in the countryside, of the Hellenistic-Roman period until sunset of antiquity, as in the case of the necropolis which is located on the small hill of Celimarro (VI-VII centuries A.D.) wit mainly bronze items and tableware.
The “Protoconvento Francescano” is among Catrovillari's most beautiful works of art. It is situated on the hill of Lauro and was founded in 1220 by Pietro Cathin, a disciple of St Francis of Assisi. The convent has undergone various transformations and in 1586, the first cloister was re-built, and on one of its sides stood the church and bell tower. The renovated rooms of the Franciscan Protoconvento house the small archaeological museum of Castrovillari, that displays stone and bone relics of the Paleolithic and other various prehistoric finds coming from outside the town.
The chiesa di San Giuseppe (church of St Joseph), originally dedicated to S. Maria di Costantinopoli (St. Mary of Constantinople), dates back to the second half of the XVI century. It contains a fresco of the Madonna di Costantinopoli (Our Lady of Constantinople) of the XVI century and two paintings: one depicting the Assumption of the Virgin, the other St Rocco. The Castello di Castrovillari (Castrovillari Castle) is a massive medieval complex built by the Aragonese during the course of the XV century. It is the town's best well-known and obvious monument as well as one of Calabria's best-preserved castles.
During the XV century, the Aragonese took over the throne of Naples and out of concerned at both Calabria’s internal revolts and the pirate attacks along the kingdom's coasts, they began to protect themselves through the construction of fortresses and castles. The Castello di Castrovillari (Castrovillari Castle) rises over the remains of a fortress of the Swabian period and lies on a flat isthmus of the ancient village, overhanging on the Coscile and Fiumicello valleys. The structure presents itself as a single masonry block with a trapezoidal shape on the outside while inside it is rectangular and its uniformity is interrupted by four angular cylindrical towers. The castle’s brick-work concealing sections had only one entry where there was once a drawbridge and in the wing overlooking to the north-east slits were made recently to allow light to enter and illuminate its interior.
The castle was conceived, desired and built following the plans and architectural criteria of the famous military engineer, Francesco di Giorgio Martini. It was to serve as a prison which, based on notarial deeds and death certificates dating back to the XVI, XVII and XVIII centuries, was one of the most horrific in ancient times. The basements of the fortress are characterised by a series of dark corridors, secret passages and wet and gloomy rooms with barrel vaults. Its dungeon decorated by hanging arches is sadly known as the Torre dell’Infame (Tower of Infamy) due to the terrible punishments inflicted to robbers who were arrested and imprisoned within it. TheTorre dell’Infame, considered the town's symbol, has more than five hundred years of stories of torture and still arouses collective awe at every turn.
The origins of Castrovillari's carnival date back to 1635 when, during the “riti carnascialeschi”, when the theatre farce Organtino was performed for the first time. The first event designed by Castrovillari's Pro Loco (an organisation for promoting the area) is dated 1959, the year in which the first edition of the Pollino Carnival and International Folklore Festival took place. In subsequent years, the Pro loco has developed and enlarged and improved the manifestation, giving the people the role of true protagonist through which the "passive spectator" has returned to be the "main actor". Recognised as Calabria's Carnival due to the grandeur of the event and to 60 consecutive editions, it is considered one of more interesting tradutional Italian “carnascialeschi”events. In 2017 it was included by theThe Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities (Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali - MiBAC) in the list of historicised Italian carnivals.
Castrovillari's Carnival has been quite intuitive in combining masks with folklore; a winning combination determined by the huge popular participation that today still characterises it. A spectacle that fully complements that of folklore and that has seen the participation in the event of groups coming from Italy and the world as a whole. Within the event, many cultural, artistic and sporting activities and many events have been organised that last for a period of up to ten days and that make Castrovillari's Carnival unique in terms of the cultural scene for the whole of Calabria. A great event which contributes to the social growth, cultural and economic of the entire area and that promotes the image of Castrovillari throughout Italy.
The closeness of Pollino National Park allows visitors to Castrovillari to take advantage of the many opportunities for hiking and trekking, such as Via dei Moranesi, Sassone and Grotta di Donna Marsilia, Lago di Tavolara, Grotta di San Paolo and Gola del Coscile. Together with these activities it is possible to also take part in rafting and canyoning along the river Garga, river Argentino and, especially, the descent of the Raganello; a true rafting experience among rapids and natural slides.
The cuisine of the area of Pollino National Park has its roots in its most ancient popular traditions, where the use of vegetable products, especially cereals and legumes is predominant. Not to be missed is the Zucca lunga (Cocuzza longa) which is a long variety of squash; a classic dish of the “cucina povera” (poor peasant cuisine) is still today a typical dish of the season; asparagus omelette with sausage (frittata i sparici cu savuzizza) is a typical dish of the area of Pollino. In addition other winter recipes include Pan cotto (Panicottu) or cooked bread, which is prepared with stale bread and a broth, in general the cooking water of beans flavoured with beans crushed in olive oil, some vegetables, salt, grated cheese and tomato slices; tagliatelle with chickpeas (Lagani and ciciri) a widespread dish in the whole region which in some places of Pollino National Park, it is eaten on the feast of St Joseph.