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Reggio Calábria “The tip of Italy”
Reggio Calabria: exceptional for its Tyrrhenian Coast, is one of the most visited cities of Calabria. Known for its pleasant coastline, it was defined by Gabriele D’Annuzio as “the most beautiful kilometer of Italy”.
The ancient history of Reggio Calabria begins with a mythological origin of 2000 BC, to then follow with the foundation as a Greek colony, in the 8th century. Its name was “Reghion”, which in Greek means ‘to separate with force’, refers to the nature of the rift or geological crack that led, in ancient times, the formation of the strait. After Cumae, it was classified as the oldest colony in southern Italy. In fact, it was founded by Greek settlers from Colchis and then from Zangle, in the years 730-720 BC. It was a prosperous city of Magna Graecia and, later, ally of Rome. It was, then, one of the great metropolis of the Byzantine Empire, but was dominated by Normans and Swabians, Anjous and Aragonese. In addition it was destroyed several times by serious earthquakes in 1562 and 1783. It began to be part of the Kingdom of Naples and after the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, and finally, of Italy.
In 1908 suffered one other destruction, this time by an earthquake and a terrible seaquake. It was rebuilt soon after, in the Art Nouveau movement, but later it was partially damaged by the bombings of World War II. It developed significantly during the 20th century, but in the early 1970s it was the protagonist of serious local upheavals, culminating decades of decadence. Nevertheless, thanks to a series of successful administrations, the city managed to recover, becoming, according to demographic, economic and tourist data, the main one of all the Mediterranean landscape.
Its modern appearance, with regular ground, limited height for buildings, wide streets and rectilinear blocks, is due to the reconstruction after the earthquake of 1908, which devastated the region.
The city lives in deep relation with the sea, even because it is facing one of the most famous sea routes: the Strait of Messina. Therefore, of course, part of its economy is based on tourism, both for beaches and art.
What to see in Reggio Calabria?
Reggio Calabria is considered the pearl of the Mediterranean; we will then discover everything that surrounds this magical city: monuments, art, culture and also legends
Firstly, we will talk about its charming waterfront and also the interesting historical center, which lies between the sea and the mountains of the National Park of Aspromonte. For sure you will be impressed by the Matteotti waterfront, it is a kind of botanical garden filled with palm trees, flowers and exotic plants of a huge variety.
Waterfront in Reggio Calabria.
Another enchanting landscape is the Strait of Messina, where on the cleanest days you can even see Mount Etna. Anyone who has visited Reggio Calabria will agree that its waterfront is one of the most beautiful in Italy!
Villa Genoese Zerbi
The Villa Saverio Genoese Zerbi, commonly called Villa Zerbi or Villa Genoese Zerbi, is an important historical monument and was also one of the exhibition centers of the town of Reggio Calabria. It lies on the edge of Falcomatà, in the area where, before 1860, it was the old baroque village of the Genoese family. This was a well-known noble family that at the end of the 19th century changed its name to Genoese Zerbi. After being destroyed by the earthquake, the Villa was rebuilt by a versatile project designed by engineers Zerbi, Pertini and Marzats, in 1915. The building, which is a true example of neo-Gothic architecture, faces Corso Vittorio Emanuele III.
Between Myths and Legends
In Reggio di Calabria there is an attraction for myths and mysteries. Legend has it that when you stroll along the edge of the city on a hot summer night, you can see the village and the mansions of the Sicilian Coast mirrored between the sky and the sea, to the point of distinguishing people. If that happens, do not be afraid, it’s just Morgana’s spell. Another optical illusion that looks more like a mirage is when the atmosphere is calm and the sea still. It is said that even Count Roger I of Sicily was bewitched. In order to induce him to conquer Sicily with a magic wand, the sorceress Morgana made it appear so close that he could touch it with his hands, but the Norman king, indignant, refused to take the island. And so, without the help of the Sorceress, it took him thirty years to conquer the island. When this phenomenon happens, the Costa Siciliana is a few meters away from the Costa Calabresa. You can see the houses, the cars and the people walking in the streets of Messina. This happens when sea droplets, rarefied on the surface, act as a magnifying glass. The phenomenon is also one of Morgana’s witchcraft, the witch of Celtic mythology.
This small town does not only stand out by the legends and seaside landscapes, but also offers a lot of art. It is possible not to visit several monuments, the cathedral and churches of various architectures (consequence of the various domains the people been through). You can also see public and private buildings with fantastic Art Deco and classics styles that appear on the streets – and many other sights.
Another renowned monument of Reggio Calabria, located right in the center of the city:
Reggio Calabria Cathedral
Strolling along the main avenue of the city, Corso Garibaldi, you will find the Duomo, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, in romantic-gothic style with an extraordinary frontage along with the staircase from where it is possible to observe the statues of Saint Paul and Saint Stephen, sculpted by Francesco Jerace. Inside the cathedral there are several gothic decorations and stained glasses, not to mention the exquisite marble pulpit and the altar of Our Lady of Consolation, matron saint of the city.
In addition to the Cathedral, the ruins of the Castello are worth a visit as well, which refer to the Aragonese period. Today it remains only the two great towers and part of the wall. The history of the castle goes hand in hand with that of Reggio, at least from the 6th century AD. In the Greek, and then Roman times, the mountainous region, where today there is what remains of the castle, had a fundamental role in the protection system of the city.
The Aragonese Castle is the main fortress of the city and is located in the homonymous square, between the streets Aschenez and Possidonea. It is considered, along with the bronze sculptures of Riace, one of the main historical symbols of the city of Reggio Calabria, where it houses the Observatory of the National Institute of Geophysics since 1956.
Since the end of World War I until 1986, the Aragonese Castle was the headquarters of the Observatory of the National Institute of Geophysics, a seismic and meteorological center. On May 7, 1986, due to unsuitable restorations, a piece of the castle collapsed. Today, thanks to the skillful and modern restoration work, the castle presents itself in all its beauty and was reopened to the public in 2004, becoming an important exhibition center. With the renovation of the monument and its surroundings, in Piazza Castello with Via Aschenez, the Aragonese Castle has become a historical and cultural landmark, home to temporary expositions and art exhibitions.
The Campanella Palace
The Campanella Palace, known as “the house of all Calabrian”, seats the Regional Council of Calabria. Called in honor to the celebrated Calabrian Tommaso Campanella, the building is located on Cardinale Portanova Street, in the northeast of the historical center, in a huge area where used to be a military base and, before that, a barracks. The palace has a modern look, even a little futuristic: a building extends over eight floors, with an entire frontage in mirror glass, in modern overlapping angles.
The architectural complex is formed by several buildings interconnected by metallic catwalks that were, as a joke, nicknamed “spaceship”. In the center of the Palace there is a square called Agorà, where the Regional Council Hall stands, supported by imposing pillars.
National Archaeological Museum
When one speaks of Reggio Calabria, the bronze statues of Riace come to mind, consequently the National Archaeological Museum which, in addition to the sculptures, houses a great collection of archaeological finds from the Greco-Roman period.
The institution of the state museum was promoted by the superintendent Paolo Orsi, who wanted to join the objects of the Civic Museum (coordinated by the City Hall since 1882) and the archaeological findings (goods of the excavations carried out on Calabrian soil). The National Museum of Reggio Calabria is the main cultural attraction of the city, especially for the uniqueness of the exhibits (such as the bronze sculptures of Riace).
The abundant archaeological collection, with materials found in the excavations in the region of Calabria and Basilicata itself, is important to approach the ancient culture of this part of Magna Graecia. Mainly the world-famous bronze sculptures of Riace, two large original Greek warrior statues from the mid-5th century BC, believed to be authored by the artist Fidia (or else his pupils). Also, of great prestige, are the remains of the old Lócris, with the pinakes (ceramic images in relief), offered for the incredible mythological goddess Persephone. In addition, it has the collection of Dióscuros in marble (from the early 5th century BC). In the medieval and modern art section, two paintings stand out: St. Jerome and Abraham and the Angels (1457), by Antonello da Messina, and the Return of the Prodigal Son, by Mattia Preti.
Some information about the Museum.
The inauguration of the Museum took place thanks to the initiative of a group of artists, patriots and scholars of Reggio Calabria who introduced, in 1882, a Civic Museum with archaeological, ethnographic and artistic collection. After the earthquake of 1908, the collection had to be transferred to another place. The building, designed by the architect Marcello Piacentini, in 1932 and inaugurated in 1959, was one of the first Italian buildings specifically configured to be a museum. The frontage is decorated with medallions that reproduce the currency of Magna Graecia. The most recent extensions of the Museum come from the years 1981-1982, when the new section of Underwater Archeology was created, destined to house the famous bronze statues of Riace, among them the “Head of the Philosopher” and the section dedicated to life of the Greek colonies.
Addresses and opening hours:
The Museum is located in Piazza Nava, downtown. Open every day (except Monday) from 9am to 7pm.
Admission: admission cost is € 8 and half price is € 5 (from 18 to 25 years old), free for young people, under 18 and seniors, over 65.
Phone number: + 39 0965 812255
Fax: +39 0965 25164
How to get there:
Reggio Calabria is an ancient city, which sits on the Strait of Messina. It is an important destination of Italy, both tourist and cultural.
By car: From Milan, Bologna, Florence and Rome – just take the A1 road. Before arriving in Naples, enter the A30 to Caserta-Salerno and then on the A3 to Salerno-Calabria (there is no toll). Access is through the entrance of Casello Porto.
By train: State trains serve the city of Reggio Calabria.
By plane: The city has an airport called the Strait Airport Tito Minniti, located in Provinciale Ravagnese Street.
By sea: From Sicily there are ferries on the State Railway. Fast transportation: Messina / Reggio Calabria and Aliscafi SNAV.
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