Brancaleone has deserved the name of the town of sea turtles because the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) sea turtles lay eggs in the beaches near the village. This stretch of coast is in fact the main deposition area in Italy and it hosts a Sea Turtle Recovery Center that has been involved for some years in their recovery and re-habilitation. Calabria's Greek beaches are the main nesting area of the whole of the Mediterranean for this species, hosting in fact well over 70% of nests recorded in Italy. As a result of the project "Tarta Care" carried out by researchers at the University of Calabria, from 2000 this species is subjected to monitoring and protection and more than 10,000 small turtles have been born on the Ionian coast.
Brancaleone Marina keeps the memory of Cesare Pavese alive; he was confined here by the fascist regime between 1935 and 1936. Here he wrote the diary “Il mestiere di Vivere” (The art of living) and the first novel “Il Carcere” (The prison). Pavese loved and despised once upon a time that land and those people who were his hosts and in a letter to his sister wrote: "These people have a tact and courtesy for which have only one explanation: once upon a time, the civilisation here was Greek".
The ancient village of Brancaleone Superiore, now abandoned, evokes its medieval origin, linked to a need to defend and protect the valley below.
The history of Brancaleone has a double connection to the abandoned village, in ancient times called Sperlinga, from the Greek Spèlugx, i.e. cave and still today there is a via Sperlongara, a watchtower with this name and even some caves. In particular, in Brancaleone Superiore it was possible to analyse in more depth an interesting and vast complex of rocky environments mutually co-existent, constituting a heritage of great historic and artistic value. Most of these caves are simple rocky caves, used as monastic cells and places of meditation, but also as essential environments where daily life unfolded. Subsequently, some of them were transformed into shelters by the first local inhabitants, in order to escape the frequent attacks of foreigners, while others continued to be used as service areas attached to dwellings. Some caves-churches, that still preserve in their interior sacred Armenian engravings and housings designed to serve as niches for icons and as altars are of notable importance.
The highest point of the rock housed a fortress when the site began to take on the name of Motta Leonis. The village is divided into two centres. The first is arranged in proximity to the site of the ancient main church or Chiesa Matrice dell’Addolorata (Church of Our Lady of Sorrows), of which remains only the ground surface, while the second extends further south, behind the Chiesa Arcipretale dell’Annunziata, built in the seventeenth century over the ruins of the monastery of the Capuchins. Near the chiesa dell’Addolorata a rock church formed in tuff, with a column carved in the rock at its centre still survives. On the western side of the town there is another cave, decorated in modern times with a scene of angels in the presence of the Virgin.
In Brancaleone Superiore stood the church dedicated to Maria SS. dell’Annunziata that was completely destroyed by the earthquake of 1908. Of the old building situated in the town centre, only the walls just mentioned remain at present and a sort of small square where it is possible to see through the floor underground tunnels where priests and some noble town authorities were buried.
In 1933 the church was rebuilt with the same features, with an entrance preceded by a small portico supported by four columns. The church’s floor-plan is a Greek cross, the floor is of gravel. The baroque altar of the 1500s, preceded by two balustrades of columns, is the same as that in the old church.
The Faro di Capo Spartivento is made up by a white quadrangular tower and has one storey. The lighthouse is fully controlled and managed the Reggenza fari di punta Capo dell’Armi. It is located on a hillock in Capo Spartivento; the most southern point of the Italian peninsula. Capo Spartivento in ancient times was called Heracleum Promontorium; a name that refers to the myth of Hercules that tells us he rested here from his efforts. The lighthouse's headlamp casts its light for 22 nautical miles and in fact accompanies ships from the Faro di Punta Stilo to the Faro di Capo dell’Armi and vice versa.
Brancaleone’s typical gastronomy is very similar to that of the whole Italo-Greek coast but differs often in the use of raw materials and methods of preparation and cooking. For example, salami, represent the excellence present on the tables of Brancaleone: sausage, capocollo (pork meat taken from the neck), pancetta, soppressata and other delicatessen, are still produced following ancient recipes of the local culture, as well as cheese, wine, extra virgin olive oil, honey, production and distillation of Bergamot and other citrus fruits that during various periods of the year are collected and exported worldwide.
Typical local starters include without a doubt "maccheroni", dressed with a sauce made with goat meat, pork, or even simply meat sauce, all sprinkled with a good local pecorino cheese. Another local speciality are "Zzippuli", stuffed with anchovies fished in the sea in front of Brancaleone; typical traditional dish that is eaten during various periods of the year and local festivities. Typical sweets include “i Pretali”, a typical Christmas shortcrust pastry sweet filled with a paste of dried figs and almonds.