Castrovillari (CS)

The Carnival town at the foot of the Pollino mountain range

Castrovillari stands in a natural hollow called Conca del Re, about 360 m above the sea level. It is surrounded by the Calabrian Apennines and is the main town of Pollino National Park.
Suggestive town of medieval origin and rich in works of art and culture, Castrovillari is divided into two separate areas: the modern town built on flat land, and the old town called Civita,
The key strength of Castrovillari's Carnival has been to combine masks and folklore; an ideal pair when it comes to an event with massive participation.

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.

The Aragonese castle

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.

Castrovillari's carnival

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.

Hiking trails

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.



Address Piazza Municipio, 1
  87012 Castrovillari (CS) Italia
Phone number 0981/2511 (10 linee)
Fax 0981/21007


While crossing the large Corso Garibaldi, tourists admire the ancient noble buildings overlooking it. Of remarkable interest is the building complex of Palazzo Gallo located in Vittorio Emanuele square. The two-unit complex hosted an ancient Benedictine Monastery and a massif construction constructed around a courtyard, as the 19th century Neapolitan architecture prescribed. At present, it is the seat of local Public Museum and Library U. Caldora. The Museum houses a rich collection of archaeological artefacts found in the area in the last fifty years: pottery fragments, bronzes, arms, jewels, from the Iron Age to the Norman period. The Castle, completed by Ferrante d’Aragona in 1490, overlooks a small square where some 16th and 17th-century constructions stand. The 17th-century Palazzo Gesualdi has a wonderful wrought-iron Spanish-style balcony. The 1704 Church of SS. Trinità, located in the same square, has an unfinished reddish façade. The apparently bare and unadorned interior preserves several works of art coming from ruined buildings: a wooden Crucifix dating to the end of the 16th century and the notable ciborium with mother-of-pearl inserts that stands above the main altar. The Franciscan proto-monastery founded in 1220 by Pietro Catin, one of the disciples of the “poor man of Assisi”, is worth a visit. The imposing recently restored complex has two cloisters. It houses the Municipal Art Gallery dedicated to Andrea Alfano (1879-1967), and keeps the artworks that the painter, who is one the most representative authors of the 20th-century artistic culture in Calabria, donated to his birthplace. Through the narrow streets that branch off from the Monastery, characterized by underpasses, Medieval architectures, remarkable buildings with stone carved doors and inner courtyards, visitors reach the heart of “Giudecca”, the Jewish district where Jews lived till the 16th century, when they were obliged to leave the Reign. The 16th-century ruins of the ancient Municipal Building overlook San Giuliano small square. From here, the road clambers up to the monumental symbol of the town, Santa Maria del Castello. The Conservatorio delle Pentite, founded in 1635 to host “fallen women” who “sought refuge in Religion’s arms”, is located halfway up. There are few remains of the Conservatorio, but the adjacent chapel dedicated to Santa Maria Egiziaca keeps remarkable 17th -18th -century works, including a Madonna col Bambino by Giuseppe Marulli and a Piety by Antonio Sarnelli. Of equal interest are other religious places such as the Churches of Trinità and Santa Maria di Costantinopoli, both of Medieval origins, and San Francesco di Paola, evidence of the intermingled relationships between history and art.

A visit to the Church of S. Maria del Castello is unmissable. The Church was built on a hill having the same name, and some ruined dwellings and hermit caves (7th-8th century A.D.) stand on the hillslopes. The majestic Monastery complex of S. Francesco d'Assisi and Chiesa della SS. Trinità is located on the Lauro hill and was founded in 1220 by Pietro Catin, one of the disciples of Saint Francis of Assisi. The church was re-built in 1363 and remodeled in the 16th and 18th centuries. Remodeling works deeply changed the building, that has now a front porch façade with arched windows and traces of frescoes. The 16th-century Church of S. Maria di Costantinopoli (S. Giuseppe) was once devoted to S. Maria di Costantinopoli and it is now dedicated to Saint Joseph. The Church of San Giuliano, patron saint of Castrovillari, stands in the heart of the Giudecca district. It was originally erected in the 12th century, and was later enlarged in the 13th century. Evidences of tuff Gothic elements and stone fragments are still visible in the plastered atrium. The building was radically remodeled in the 16th century and the remarkable wooden ceiling and the new altar were completed in 1647. The façade has a beautiful cast stone Renaissance gate with two small double columns and floral decorations, and a front double staircase.

The remarkable Castle of the town was completed by Ferrante d'Aragona in 1490 on a pre-existing building. The design project was probably developed by Francesco di Giorgio Martini from Siena, who worked for the Aragon House in Naples. The building has a square layout with round towers at each corner. The Castle was used as a jail till few years ago. A stone spiral stairway leads to the roof with a spectacular view of Mt Pollino and the old town. Walking in the narrow streets that branch off from the Monastery, visitors go through underpasses, and admire Medieval architectures, remarkable buildings with stone carved doors and inner courtyards. Then they reach the heart of “Giudecca”, the Jewish district where Jews lived till the 16th century, when they were obliged to leave the Reign.

The Archaeological Museum of Castrovillari, accomplished by Agostino Miglio, a Calabrian researcher and scholar, was established by the city in 1958. It was transferred to the Franciscan Proto-monastery in 2002, and the Pollino Archaeological Group supervised the re-opening of the Museum on December 21, 2002. In 2007, to celebrate the 25th anniversary, the Museum was redesigned with modern display stands and labels, and it was equipped with a multimedia hall. The Museum displays evidences of the archaeologic heritage of Castrovillari and its surroundings, from Prehistory to Early Middle Ages. Stone and bone artifacts from Celimarro area, where a Paleolithic site was discovered, are exhibited at the Museum. Prehistorical rests were also found in the Caves of Sant'Angelo in Cassano Jonio that hosted evidences of the Bronze Age as well. Of particular interest is the chronological sequence of artifacts discovered at the Protohistoric Necropolis of Bellu Luco, an area located along the Coscile river. Another chronological sequence of fragments from the Madonna del Castello hill, where Castrovillari settlement originated, documents that the hill has been inhabited since Prehistory. In fact, Prehistorical stone tools, Bronze-and-Iron-age fragments, Roman and Greek artifacts and Early Medieval pottery are exposed in the Museum section dedicated to the hill area. Greek evidences come from the Vescovado quarter and Proto-monastery where, during restoration works, a series of relief and red-figure Italiote pottery were found. Grave goods of Ferrocinto necropolis have the same origin, together with a well-preserved skeleton lying with little vases and a spearhead, identified as an ancient warrior of the 3rd century B.C. Moreover, the museum documents the Roman presence in the Castrovillari area where a series of rural villas were discovered. The refined terra sigillata pottery, glass containers, iron farm tools and fragments of great food vases were discovered, evidences of a strong agricultural exploitation in the area since the Roman Age. Among the Early Medieval remains, those coming from the Celimarro necropolis are particularly valuable and refined. In fact, a bronze fibula representing a little horse decorated with small circles and a lead cross made of small spheres were found in the rock carved tombs. Furthermore, rich collections of autochthonous and Roman artefacts found in the sites of Francavilla Marittima and Torre del Mordillo in Spezzano Albanese can be admired in the Museum.