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Calabria ( ; in Calabrian dialect: Calabbria or Calavria, ), in antiquity known as Bruttium, is a region in southern Italymarker, south of Naplesmarker, located at the "toe" of the Italian peninsula. It is bounded to the north by the region of Basilicata, to the south-west by the region of Sicily, to the west by the Tyrrhenian Seamarker, and to the east by the Ionian Seamarker. The region covers 15,080 km² and has a population of 2 million. The regional capital is the city of Catanzaromarker. The other two main cities are Reggio Calabriamarker and Cosenzamarker. The demonym of Calabria is Calabrian (Italian: calabrese).


Calabria is at the very south of the Italian peninsula, to which it is connected by the Monte Pollinomarker massif, while on the east, south and west it is surrounded by the Ionian and Tyrrhenianmarker seas. The region is a long and narrow peninsula which stretches from north to south for 248 km, with a maximum width of 110 km. Some 42% of Calabria's area, corresponding to 15,081 km2, is mountainous, 49% is hilly, while plains occupy only 9% of the region's territory. It is separated from Sicily by the Strait of Messinamarker, where the narrowest point between Capo Peloromarker in Sicily and Punta Pezzo in Calabria is only 3.2 km.

Although the beautiful green sea is ever present in Calabria, it is mainly a mountainous region. Three mountain ranges are present: Pollino, La Sila and Aspromonte. All three mountain ranges are unique with their own flora and fauna. The Pollino Mountains in the north of the region are rugged and form a natural barrier separating Calabria from the rest of Italy. Parts of the area are heavily wooded, while others are vast, wind-swept plateaus with little vegetation. These mountains are home to a rare Bosnian Pine variety, and are included in the Pollino National Parkmarker. La Silamarker is a vast mountainous plateau, about 1,200 metres above sea level, which stretches for nearly 2,000 square kilometres along the central part of Calabria. The highest point is Botte Donato, which reaches 1,928 metres. The area boasts numerous lakes and dense coniferous forests. The Aspromontemarker massif forms the southernmost tip of the Italian peninsula bordered by the sea on three sides. This unique mountainous structure reaches its highest point at Montalto Uffugomarker, at 1,995 metres, and is full of wide, man-made terraces that slope down towards the sea.

In general, most of the lower terrain in Calabria has been agricultural for centuries, and exhibits indigenous scrubland as well as introduced plants such as the prickly pear cactus. The lowest slopes are rich in vineyards and citrus fruit orchards. The Diamante citron is one of the citrus fruits. Moving upwards, olives and chestnut trees appear while in the higher regions there are often dense forests of oak, pine, beech and fir trees.

The climate is influenced by the mountainous and hilly relief of the region: cold in the area of Monte Pollino, temperate with a very limited temperature range in the area of Aspromonte, while the Sila and Serre massifs ensure greater humidity on the Tyrrhenian coast and a drier climate on the Ionian coast.


Calabria was first settled by Italic Oscan-speaking tribes. Two of these tribes included the Oenotri (roughly translated into the "vine-cultivators") and the Itali. Greek contact with the latter resulted in the entire peninsula (modern Italy) taking the name of the tribe.

Greeks settled heavily along the coast at an early date and several of their settlements, including the first Italian city called Rhegion (Reggio Calabriamarker), and the next ones Sybarismarker, Kroton (Crotonemarker), and Locrimarker, were numbered among the leading cities of Magna Graecia during the 6th and 5th centuries BC. Conquered by the Romans in the 3rd century BC, the region never regained its former prosperity.

The Greeks were conquered by the 3rd century BC by roving Oscan tribes from the north, including a branch of the Samnites called the Lucanians and an offshoot of the Lucanians called the Bruttii. The Bruttii established the main cities of Calabria, including the modern capital, Cosenzamarker (then called Consentia).

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the inhabitants were in large part driven inland by the spread of Malaria. and, from the early Middle Ages until the XVII century, by pirate raids. Calabria was devastated during the Gothic War before it came under the rule of a local dux for the Byzantine Empire. In the 9th and 10th centuries, Calabria, which had been the rich breadbasket of Rome before Egypt was conquered, was the borderland between Byzantine rule and the Arab emirs in Sicily, subject to raids and skirmishes, depopulated and demoralized, with vibrant Greek monasteries providing fortresses of culture.

In the 1060s the Normans, under the leadership of Robert Guiscard's brother Roger, established a presence in this borderland, and organized a government along Byzantine lines that was run by the local Greek magnates of Calabria. In 1098, Pope Urban II named Roger the equivalence of an apostolic legate later formed what became the Kingdom of Sicily. The administrative divisions created in the late medieval times were maintained right through to unification: Calabria Citeriore (or Latin Calabria) in the northern half and Calabria Ulteriore (or Greek Calabria) in the southern half.

Beginning with the subsequent Angevin rule, which ruled Calabria as part of the Kingdom of Naples, Calabria was ruled from Naplesmarker right up until unification with Italy. The kingdom came under many rulers: the Habsburg dynasties of both Spainmarker and Austriamarker; the Franco-Spanish Bourbon dynasty which created the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, Napoleon's brother Joseph Bonaparte, and then French Marshal Joachim Murat, who was executed in the small town of Pizzomarker. Calabria experienced a series of peasant revolts as part of the European Revolutions of 1848. This set the stage for the eventual unification with the rest of Italy in 1861, when the Kingdom of Naples was brought into the union by Giuseppe Garibaldi. The Aspromontemarker was the scene of a famous battle of the unification of Italy, in which Garibaldi was wounded.

The 'Ndrangheta organized crime families of Calabria began to appear in 1850.

Until the mid 20th C., Southern Italy was among the poorest regions of Europe and impoverished Calabria was a main source for the Italian diaspora of the early 1900s. Many Calabrians moved to the industrial centres of northern Italy, the rest of Europe, Australia and the Americas (especially Argentinamarker, Brazilmarker, Canadamarker, and the United Statesmarker). Since the 1970s there has been an increased affluence and a much improved economy based on modern agriculture, tourism, and a growing commercial base. Even though the per capita income is still well below that of northern and central Italy, it has improved to the point where it is approaching the European Union median.


A typical feature of agriculture in Calabria is the high fragmentation of the farm structure. Holdings of less than two hectares made up 69% of the total in 2000. The main cultivation in Calabria is olive tree, representing 29.6% of UAA and 70% of tree crops. In fact the majority of farms (137 938 units on a total of 194 600) produce olives.

Within the industrial sector, manufacturing contributes to gross value added by 7.2%. In the manufacturing sector the main branches are foodstuff, beverage and tobacco with a contribution to the sector very close to the national average.

The main Calabrian ports are in Reggio Calabriamarker and in Gioia Tauromarker. The Reggio di Calabriamarker port is equipped with five loading docks of a length of 1,530 metres. The Gioia Tauromarker port has seven loading docks with an extension of 4,646 metres; it is the largest in Italy and the seventh largest container port in Europe, with a 2007 throughput of 's from more than 3,000 ships.

The region is served by three heavily used roads: two national highways along the coasts and the A3 motorway, which links Salerno and Reggio di Calabria along the old inland route. In Calabria there are two main airports: one is situated in Lamezia Termemarker and the other in Reggio di Calabria, both very close to the cities.


The population density in Calabria in 2008 was of 133.2 inhabitants per km2, lower than the national average of 198.8. The population density in the provinces ranges from 101 inhabitants per km2 in the province of Crotone to 178 inhabitants per km2 in the province of Reggio di Calabriamarker.

Government and politics

Administrative divisions

Calabria is divided into five provinces:

Province Area (km²) Population Density (inh./km²)
Province of Catanzaro 2,391 367,976 153.9
Province of Cosenza 6,650 733,628 110.3
Province of Crotone 1,717 173,300 100.9
Province of Reggio di Calabria 3,183 566,884 178.1
Province of Vibo Valentia 1,139 167,513 147.1


Main sights

Tourism in Calabria has increased over the years. The main tourist attractions are the coastline and the mountains. The coastline alternates between rugged cliffs and sandy beaches, and is sparsely interrupted by development when compared to other European seaside destinations. The sea around Calabria is clear, and there is a good level of tourist accommodation. The poet Gabriele D'Annunzio called the coast facing Sicily near Reggio Calabria "... the most beautiful kilometer in Italy" (il più bel chilometro d'Italia). The primary mountain tourist draws are Aspromontemarker and La Silamarker, with its national park and lakes. Some other prominent destinations include:

  • Reggio Calabriamarker, on the strait between the mainland and Sicily, the largest and oldest city in Calabria, renowned for its panoramic seaside with botanical gardens between the art nouveau buildings and the beautiful beaches, and its 3,000 years of history with the old Aragonian Castle and the great National Museum of Magna Grecia where the famous Riace bronzes (Bronzi di Riace) are located.
  • Cosenzamarker, seat of the Cosentian Academy, renowned for its cultural institutions, the beautiful old quarter, a Romanesque Cathedral and a Swabian Castle.
  • Scillamarker, on the Tyrrhenian Seamarker, "pearl" of the "Violet Coast", has a delightful panorama and is the site of some of Homer's tales.
  • Tropeamarker ( VIDEO), on the Tyrrhenian Seamarker coast, is a beautiful town, with a dramatic seaside beach, and the Santa Maria dell'Isola sanctuary. It is also renowned for its sweet red onions (mainly produced in Ricadimarker).
  • Capo Vaticanomarker on the Tyrrhenian Seamarker, is a very famous wide bathing place near Tropea.
  • Geracemarker, near Locrimarker, is a beautiful medieval city with a Norman castle and an ancient cathedral.
  • Squillacemarker, a seaside resort and important archeological site.
  • Stilomarker, the home of Tommaso Campanella, with its Norman castle and beautiful Byzantine church, the Cattolica.
  • Pizzomarker, on the Tyrrhenian Seamarker coast, known for its ice cream called "Tartufo". Interesting places in Pizzo are Piazza Repubblica and the Aragonian castle where Murat was murdered.
  • Paolamarker, a town situated on the Tyrrhenian Sea coast, renowned for being the birth place of St. Francis of Paola, saint patron of Calabria and Italian sailors, and for the old Franciscan sanctuary built during the last hundred years of the Middle Ages by the will of St. Francis.
  • Sybarismarker, on the Ionian sea, a picturesque village situated near the excavation of ancient Sybaris, a Greek colony of the VII century B.C.
  • Catanzaromarker, located at the centre of the narrowest point of Italy, from where the Ionian Sea and Tyrrhenian Sea are both visible, but not from Catanzaro. Of note are the well-known one-arch bridge (Viaduct Morandi-Bisantis, one of the tallest in Europe), the Cathedral (rebuilt after WWII bombing), the castle, the promenade on the Ionian sea, the park of biodiversity and the archaeological park.
  • Soveratomarker on the Ionian Seamarker, also known as the "Pearl" of the Ionian Sea. Especially renowned for its beaches, boardwalk and nightlife.
  • Nicoteramarker on the Tyrrhenian Seamarker, is a beautiful little medieval town with an ancient Ruffo's castle.
  • Ancient temples of the Roman gods on the sun-kissed hills of Catanzaromarker still stand as others are swept beneath the earth. Many excavations are going on along the east coast, digging up what seems to be an ancient burial ground.
  • Samo, a village on the foot of the Aspromonte, is well-known for its spring water and ruins of the old village destroyed in the Messina earthquake of 1908.


Although the official national language of Calabria has been Standard Italian since before unification in 1861, as a consequence of its deep and colourful history, Calabrian dialects have developed that have been spoken in the region for centuries. Most linguists divide the various dialects into two different language groups. In the northern one-third of the region, the Calabrian dialects are considered part of the Neapolitan language (or Southern Italian) and are grouped as Northern Calabrian or Cosentino. In the southern two-thirds of the region, the Calabrian dialects are considered part of the Sicilian language and are often grouped as Central and Southern Calabrian.

Other historical languages have left an imprint on the region. In isolated pockets, as well as some quarters of Reggio Calabria (historical stronghold of the Greek language in Italy), a hybrid language that dates back to the 9th century, called Griko, is spoken. A variety of Occitan can also be found in certain communities and French has had an influence on many Calabrian words and phrases. In several villages, the Arbëresh dialect of the Albanian language has been spoken since a wave of refugees settled there in the 15th century. In addition, since Calabria (as well as other parts of southern Italy and Sicily) were once ruled by the Spanish, some Calabrian dialects exhibit Spanish derivatives.

It is important to highlight the presence of Calabrians in Humanism and in the Renaissance. Indeed the Hellenistics in this period frequently came from Calabria maybe because of the Greek influence. The rediscovery of Ancient Greek was very difficult because this language had been almost forgotten. In this period the presence of Calabrian humanists or refugees from Constantinople was fundamental. The study of Ancient Greek, in this period, was mainly a work of two monks of the monastery of Seminaramarker: Barlaam, bishop of Gerace, and his disciple, Leonzio Pilato. Leonzio Pilato, in particular, was a Calabrian born near Reggio Calabriamarker. He was an important teacher of Ancient Greek and translator, and he helped Giovanni Boccaccio in the translations of Homer's works.


The majority of Calabrians are Roman Catholic. In the southern areas, there are some Byzantine Orthodox congregations in the Albanian communities. There is a small community of Italian Anusim who have resumed the Jewish faith of their ancestors. There are also communities of Evangelist on the western coast. The most famous saint in Calabria and also the patron saint of the region is St. Francesco from Paola.


Essentially a typical southern Italian Mediterranean cuisine with a balance between meat-based dishes (pork, lamb, goat), vegetables (especially eggplant), and fish. Pasta (like in Central and the rest of Southern Italy) is also very important in Calabria. In contrast to most other Italian regions, Calabrians have traditionally placed an emphasis on the preservation of their food, in part because of the climate and potential crop failures. As a result, there is a tradition of packing vegetables and meats in olive oil, making sausages and cold cuts (Sopressata, 'Nduja), and, along the coast, curing fish- especially swordfish, sardines (sardelle rosamarina) and cod (Baccalà). Local desserts are typically fried, honey-sweetened pastries (Cudduraci, scalille or scalidde) or baked biscotti-type treats (such as nzudda).

Some local specialties include Caciocavallo Cheese, Cipolla rossa di Tropea (red onion), Frìttuli or Curcùci (fried pork), Liquorice (liquirizia), Lagane e Cicciari (ceci) (a pasta dish with chickpeas), Pecorino Crotonese (Cheese of Sheep), and Pignolata.

Although Calabrian wines are not well known outside Italy, in ancient times Calabria was referred to as Enotria (from Ancient Greek Οἰνωτρία - Oenotria, "land of wine"). According to ancient Greek tradition, Οἴνωτρος (Oenotrus), the youngest of the sons of Lycaon, was the eponymous of Oenotria. Some vineyards have origins dating back to the ancient Greek colonists. The best known DOC wines are Cirò (Province of Crotone) and Donnicimarker (Province of Cosenza). 3% of the total annual production qualifies as DOC. Important grape varieties are the red Gaglioppo, and white Greco. Many producers are resurrecting local, ancient grape varieties which have been around for as long as 3000 years.

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Calabria is twinned with:

See also


  1. Eurostat 2006
  3. [1]
  4. Pausanias, Description of Greece, Arcadia, 8.3.5, at Theoi Project
  5. The-Wine-Library Short Description of wine in Calabria
  6. List of twin towns and sister cities of Buenos Aires

External links

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