Belvedere Marittimo is a municipality in the province of Cosenza that extends along the Tyrrhenian coast. It stretches across the Riviera dei Cedri from Serluca Calabaja to Santa Litterata, with Capo Tirone in-between.
The town overlooks the Tyrrhenian Sea and is framed by the stunning natural landscape of the mountains of Pollino National Park.
For over 300 years the Convent of the Capuchin Fathers of Belvedere has safeguarded a vial containing the blood and bone fragments of Saint Valentine.
The ancient village stands on a rocky protrusion facing the sea and is overlooked by the well-preserved Norman castle. Still to this day the castle is inhabited by private individuals, however part of it is open to visitors at certain times of the year. The urban area contains a myriad of narrow overlapping streets and alleys, beautiful period buildings, and ancient Angevin and Aragonese city gates. In 1500, the Spanish decided to build a series of towers in the area including the Tirone Tower and the Tower of Paolo Emilio, whose remains can still be seen today. A visit to the town centre would not be complete without admiring the castle, the four medieval gates, the wooden crucifix preserved in the Chiesa del Crocifisso, and the alabaster marble high relief adorning the main door of the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo. In the past, the village was enclosed by walls containing four gates known as Porta della Piazza, Porta del Fosso (or del Praio), Porta di Mare, and Porta degli Orti, respectively. However, today all that is left of the city walls are some ruins on the north side of the city, which can be seen from the road leading into the historic centre.
The new area of the town is located on the promenade of Belvedere Marina. The seafront is equipped with a range of accommodation that, during the summer months, attracts a large number of tourists both from Calabria and further afield. The territory of Belvedere is characterised by ravines, distinctive natural sculptures that were formed as a result of soil erosion caused by the run-off of water on clayey rocks. Until the 1960s, the coast of Belvedere Marittimo was home to many of these natural phenomena which can still be seen today in Santa Litterata at the Marina. Belvedere Marittimo is known as the "City of Love" because for over 300 years the Convent of the Capuchin Fathers has housed a vial containing the blood and bone fragments of Saint Valentine, the Saint of Lovers.
Every year on Saint Valentine's Day, married couples from near and far gather here to renew their wedding vows or even just to exchange vows of love.
A symbol of the city and an important testament to the medieval period, the castle was built in the second half of the year 1000 at the behest of Count Roger the Norman. Built in the heart of the historic centre on a pre-existing Roman fortress, it has undergone continuous repairs and modifications by various feudal lords. At the beginning of the 19th century it became the private property of the Spinelli family. The Castle has been declared a National Monument and a plastic model of it is on display in Rimini along with several other miniature Italian monuments.
During the Angevin era, the village was protected by walls and access was permitted via two very narrow, easily defensible gates. The Porta degli Orti protected the area of "Vallata" and was the most commonly used entrance, especially by farm workers. The Porta di Mare was the entrance leading to the marina and feudal property. The Aragonese built two further gates: the Porta della Piazza, which was the main entrance to the medieval area and the ancient workshops, and the Porta del Fosso, which gave access to the Prince's house and had a large moat with a drawbridge
The Tower of Paolo Emilio, located on a hill north of the Castle, was used as a means of defence and most likely dates back to Roman times. The Tower, which in ancient times communicated with the Castle via an underground conduit, owes its name to Paolo Emilio De Layse Imperatore, owner of the land who may also have funded the tower’s construction. The Tower of Santa Litterata, located in the village of the same name, was built around 1583 and used as a customs control. Demolished in 1893, it now has only a few perimeter walls left intact. The Tower guarded one of the most important communication routes in the early Middle Ages. Renovated several times, it has preserved its original structure almost entirely. The Tirone Tower, built at the end of the 16th century, was more suited to being a lookout than a means of defence. Currently, it is used partly as a residence and partly as the small church of San Daniele, which houses a statue of Saint Daniel during the patron saint's festival.
The Belvedere area is home to numerous religious buildings, many of which are of great historical and artistic value. The Chiesa del Crocifisso, located outside the medieval walls of Belvedere, houses an enchanting and majestic 17th century wooden sculpture depicting Christ dying on the cross. The proportions of the work and the meticulous care taken over the anatomical details have given the sculpture such a high artistic value that it has been declared a National Monument. The Church of Santa Maria del Popolo is the Mother Church and was built in the 16th century by the Aragonese on the ruins of a pre-existing Cathedral Church destroyed by the Saracens. Its internal structure has three naves with a baroque style high altar which is closed at the sides and decorated with the heads of two angels. Behind the altar, you will find a carved wooden choir and an altarpiece depicting the Assumption of the Virgin displayed in a superb wooden frame. The canvas, painted in oil, depicts the Madonna among a flock of angel musicians and the empty tomb surrounded by the apostles below.
The Church of the Madonna del Rosario was the first sacred building in Belvedere. Of particular artistic interest is the 18th century wooden altarpiece with gilded and painted inlay. It is situated just behind the main altar and depicts the Virgin of the Holy Rosary in the centre. The Mysteries of the Rosary, dating back to the 18th century, are set around it. At the entrance, on the right hand wall, visitors can admire the fresco of 1513 depicting Saint Margaret, Patroness of the Parturient, with a dragon on a lead whose belly she rips open with a cross-shaped stick. The Convent of the Capuchin Fathers, dedicated to Saint Daniele Fasanella, patron saint of Belvedere Marittimo and follower of Saint Francis of Assisi, was built at the end of 1500 on a fortress in front of the Castle. The Convent, completed around 1600, had a school where illustrious religious men and women taught, including Saint Angelo of Acri during the period when it was used as a place of study and novitiate. The church is adorned by three baroque style wooden altars with twisted columns and impressive mother-of-pearl carvings and inlays. There are also some reliquaries including that of Saint Valentine, martyr and patron saint of lovers.
Recently, part of the Belvedere promenade has been embellished with artistic and colourful mosaics made by renowned national and international artists as part of the Tutto il lungomare è d'aMare project. The trecandis mosaic technique has been used which, starting with a background design, entails the creation of a landscape using fragments of coloured tiles and abandoned materials.
Sacred rites and traditions
There are many sacred rites that accompany the religious feasts of Belvedere in a centuries-old union of mystery and tradition. One of Belvedere’s ancient traditions is the Good Friday Procession, referred to as the Procession of Mysteries, which presents a medieval scenic representation of the life of Christ. The statues that symbolise the mysteries of the Passion, including Our Lady of Sorrows, Saint John the Evangelist, and Veronica, are brought to the Calvary. On the return from the Calvary, the procession crosses the streets of the village, stopping at the piazza del Castello. In Belvedere, the custom of the vattinti (chosen men who whipped each other with corks impregnated with shard of glass) was continued until 1872. The aim of this ceremony was to create wounds to imitate those of Christ. The vattinti have now been replaced by the fratilli, men who beat each other with chains.
The Madonna of Portosalvo is the protector of fishermen and those who have fallen into the sea. She has been venerated for centuries at Belvedere Marittimo in the small church that bears her name.
The statue of the Madonna and Child is transported from the small church to the Marina where it is placed on a boat for the traditional procession on the sea. It is followed by numerous other illuminated boats, which travel the entire coastal stretch of the Marina di Belvedere. At the end of the procession on the sea, the Madonna statue is carried back on foot from the seafront to the small church.
Notes of Fire
The very first discovery of humankind was to create fire and control its light and heat, yet, still to this day, fire has a certain element of magic. The NDF festival of pyrotechnic art is one of the best events in the whole of southern Italy and transports spectators on an unparalleled multi-sensory journey. The greatest Italian pyrotechnic masters gather at Belvedere Marittimo to light up the skies with spectacular and colourful pyro-musical performances. You will be blown away by the harmonious relationship between the fireworks and the music, which can be appreciated from anywhere along the seafront. The festival consists of five days of magic in which the craftsmanship of made in Italy fireworks combines with the most cutting-edge technologies. The breath-taking fireworks, positioned on EC-certified floating rafts about 400 metres from the spectator area, create a panoramic spectacle spanning over more than 200 metres which is even visible from many neighbouring villages.
What happens during the days of the event is simply incredible: tens of thousands of people pour into the beautiful Gulf of Belvedere, all with their gaze turned to the skies. In 2016 the event became international and hosted performances by various European fire artists. NDF is a quintessentially Calabrian success story and is one of the most historicised events in the Calabrian region. It has strong ambitions to become one of the best live entertainment events yet.
irizzoVia Maggiore Mistorni, 1 87021 Belvedere Marittimo (CS)