COSENZA, THE LITTLE ATHENS OF CALABRIA

A city just waiting to be discovered and explored, it offers visitors magical views from its intricate labyrinth of tortuous narrow streets. The province of Cosenza is characterised by many interesting sites, going from the slopes of the Apennines, which cross the whole of the region, to magnificent seaside resorts facing onto both the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas.

History

The roots of this Calabrian city lie in the Greek civilisation. Legend has it that the city was founded by Brettio, the son of Hercules, in 365 BC. In a short time the city became important and wealthy, although little is known about the period preceding Roman rule. The city then passed through periods of Byzantine, Arab, Norman, Swabian and Angevin dominion. A period of Spanish domination began following the end of Aragon supremacy, lasting until the 18th century, but it was in the 16th century that Cosenza experienced the greatest development, constructing magnificent secular buildings and attracting many merchants coming mostly from Genoa for the silk trade. In 1638 the city was badly hit by a terrible earthquake and subsequently by plague and famine. Finally there was a cultural revival with the arrival of the French.

The city and its monuments

The city is characterised by numerous monuments, including Piazza Campanella, which lies at the meeting point between the historic centre and the new city. On the eastern side of the square there is the church of San Domenico, founded in 1448 but reconstructed in subsequent centuries. Corso Telesio is known as the “street of merchants and jewellers”, reflecting the city’s long tradition of traders and artisans. The Duomo was constructed in the 12th century and renovated starting from 1748 according to the baroque manner of the period. Piazza XV Marzo, has a bronze monument  dedicated to Bernardino Telesio and another monument dedicated to the martyrs of 1844. Among the religious monuments one should not miss the complex of St Francis of Assisi, which includes a church and monastery, founded in 1217 but reconstructed several times. The church of St Francis, was extended and transformed in the Baroque style in the middle of the 17th century. To conclude, there is the castle, which dominates the city from the top of the Pancrazio hill. It was built by the Normans on the foundations of existing Saracen constructions, then extended and transformed by the Angevins, who turned it into a royal residence.

The geographical area

Scalea, Amantea, Praia a Mare, Spezzano Albanese and Cassano allo Jonio are just some of the towns along the coast lapped by the crystal-clear waters of the sea. Amantea is a seaside resort and agricultural and fishing town, with a wealth of history and magnificent tourist spots. The surrounding area is very popular in the summer and by boat one can reach the Isca reef, where the rocks jut out of the sea, in a magnificent marine setting. Praia a Mare is one of the most well-known and popular tourist resorts along the Calabrian part of the Tyrrhenian coast, with numerous hotels and tourist villages immersed in lush citron groves. Spezzano Albanese is so-called because it was founded by Albanian refugees, and the traditions and customs of the Albanian culture are still very much alive here. Those looking for relaxation should visit the thermal springs, well-known since ancient times, where the salutary waters gush forth at a temperature of 20° C. Finally, there is Cassano allo Jonio, already inhabited in the Neolithic era, situated in the foothills which divide the Sibari plain from the Pollino mountain, forming a natural amphitheatre.