Amantea's three souls
© Regione Calabria
Jul 7, 2020 8:05 AM
© Regione Calabria
Jul 7, 2020 8:05 AM
Amantea, a wonderful Calabrian town not too far from Cosenza and Catanzaro, just a few kilometres from the equally important town of Paola, is one of the most beautiful jewels of the Tyrrhenian coast.
A renowned seaside resort on the Tyrrhenian coast, Amantea is rich in cultural traditions, events, works of art and monuments of historical and artistic interest.
Amantea has three souls; each of them has a strong deeply rooted identity that adds to the town’s charm.
The town is split in two different areas: the old town centre perched on the top of a rock hill, and the lower area developed along the coast. The narrow lanes and streets of the old centre are quite picturesque. Walking through the streets, tourists surely will note the strong contrast between the majestic elegant buildings of the nobles, and the humble dwellings of the common people. Amantea has three souls; each of them has a strong deeply rooted identity. The old town centre, perched on the castle’s cliff; the flat area that finds in viale Margherita its main strength; finally, the Marina, which develops around the promenade and close to the enchanting beaches; the pride and joy of Amantea's citizens. The old town offers visitors the distinctive feel of enchanted villages of a by-gone era. The town unfolds in the midst of fascinating nineteenth-century houses and gardens, along a path of alleys and narrow cobbled streets that are ideal for walks. From the top, the views are absolutely amazing and capture at a glance the stone arch that overlooks the pitched roofs of houses located at the foot of the cliff and the horizon of the vast and majestic Tyrrhenian Sea.
Amantea's castle remains perched in the unspoilt greenery, distant from a village that is teeming life both night and day; due to its location, it can only be accessed by hikin enthusiasts. The castle's remains are sufficient to give us an idea of how majestic and imposing it was from an architectural point of view. From the church dedicated to St Francis of Assisi only the ruins remain; however, these are well worth a visit as in order to reach the area where the building once stood, it is necessary to cross breathtaking paths that climb up in the midst of a rugged and unspoilt landscape. Also worth a visit is the Palazzo delle Clarisse (Convent of the The Poor Clares), now converted into tourist residence and once the headquarters of a convent that was confiscated and resold when the area was under French rule. Not to be missed is the cave that seems serve as a pillar to the old town. To all effects, this is a historical location, as opposite it was the place where merchant ships disembarked that came to the Tyrrhenian coast after many months of travel. Grotta di Amantea (Amantea's cave) also had a significant strategic importance, as a secret passage was discovered inside it which allowed to reach the castle and pass the fortified walls.
The flat area is the most populated and where most shops are found; a lively miniature town filled with services which is something quite rare - along the Calabrian coasts. Although this area is more modern with respect to the old town centre, the street is surrounded by beautiful old houses with wrought iron railings and chimneys that soar in the sky. Along the route that leads to Piazza Commercio local artists usually display their works, always committed to immortalising on canvas the castle, the alleys and the beaches of this authentic village. During the summer, Amantea’s promenade witnesses the continual coming and going of tourists. Over the course of time the area of Marina has evolved to become Amantea’s true attraction. The beaches rival those of other well-known towns, while the shops and restaurants scattered on the waterfront add to the lively nightlife. A few years ago, the tourist harbour of Campora San Giovanni was inaugurated; point of departure of boats for the Aeolian islands and great idea for a lovely day out.
The top of the balustrade staircase leads to the seventeenth century façade of the church of S. Biagio, Amanthea’s Cathedral, due to its beautiful portal with stone jambs of stone worked richly decorated wih side swirls. The interior has three naves with the main body of the church separated from the other two by round arches on sturdy pillars. The main altar features a frame in gilded wood of the 1600s that is beautifully carved. The church boasts three significant historical paintings, that have been undergoing restoration works, depicting the Annunciation, work of the Roman school of the first half of the eighteenth century; the Madonna with Saint Teresa and Saint Bernardino, an eighteenth-century painting by an anonymous southern author; and the presentation of Jesus in the temple, unknown work of master of the province from the XIX century.
The remains of the ancient castle are located on the flat top of the rocky hill overlooking the ancient village. The castle’s construction was on a square base with two sides encircled by a moat and with a masonry bridge that allowed to cross it; the other two sides surge on the steep cliffs. The castle had four angular towers of which the oldest is the circular base to the escarpment.
Of great importance in terms of art and aesthetics are the portals of Palazzo Mirabelli and Palazzo Cavallo Marincola. The narrow streets of the old town centre converge in wide flat areas (Agora) bordered by houses that adhere to the rock and that resemble collected courtyards with edges of gardens and ornamental plants which add colour to the ensemble. The staircases wedge among the houses to overcome the unevenness of paths. The arch is the fundamental element of the language of the local architecture and marks the urban historical landscape. Often, you can see external stairs with long ramps with iron handrails that climb in a daring weave, assisted by a rampant arch that precedes an arched passage, while a support arch is wedged between the walls. Only alleys can allow access in such a thicket of dwellings, and some of them offer splendid views of the sea below.
The alleys end in small plazas with public fountains with external stairs and terraces to enjoy outdoor spaces, actively lived in meetings and rendez-vous. These places favour the growth of Amantea's oral tradition that includes popular songs, stories, proverbs, magical traditions, material culture and food, festivities on holidays and death.
The building was built at the beginning of the seventeenth century as the site of the Convent of the Poor Clares and it remained as such until 1806, when the French, following the siege of Amantea , confiscated it together with other ecclesiastical goods. Built in 1603, is rested on a projection of the ancient cliff which was broken up by a marine cave. Elegant lobed windows, mullioned windows with thin corded columns, wooden ceilings, emblems of ancient lineages on the walls, restore to its interiors the feel of a by-gone era. Following a period of abandonment and serious disrepair, the building was bought and restored by private individuals. The Palazzo delle Clarisse currently hosts cultural and commercial activities and is the headquarters of the Accademia degli Arrischiati, the Museo della Copia d'Autore and a restaurant.
Local dishes include the delicious “pasta ccu alici e sardi” (pasta with anchovies and sardines) and the “rosamarina a pitticelle” (fritters with the whitebait of anchovies and sardines). Amantea is famous for the Buccunotto, a typical cake in the form of a boat filled with chocolate and spices and also for the processing of dried figs with dark or white chocolate or in other recipes. Fish curing is a remarkable activity: anchovies, sardines and whitebait are processed by local firms following traditional recipes handed down by old fishermen.