Cropani, between the Ionian and Sila in the heart of Calabria


The name Cropani comes from the Greek Kropos which means rich, fertile land. The village is in the province of Catanzaro; both the Ionian Sea and the slopes of the Sila can be reached from its position in a short time.

The oldest residential part is in the hilly part of the area, which features Mediterranean scrub and extensive olive groves.

Seaside tourism is the main source of income for Cropani, which during the summer months quintuples the population.

The little hamlet of Cuturella di Cropani is on the other side of the River Crocchio, which flows through the whole area until it arrives at the Ionian Sea. The other hamlet of Cropani Marina, a residential area that extends from the sea to Strada Statale 106 Ionica, is in the marginal flat area. The main source of income for Cropani, whose population grows five times in the summer, is certainly seaside tourism. There is a lot of holiday accommodation in the Marina hamlet but the old centre also offers some house for rent. The estuary of the River Crocchio lies within the boundaries of Cropani Marina, and this is listed among the Sites of Community Importance recognised by the European Union for vegetative and zoological biodiversity, and also the quality of the water.

There are some naturalist and hiking routes in the hilly area which include Cropani and the other neighbouring municipalities. The waterfalls of the River Crocchio, ravines and monoliths can be seen on these routes. There is a wide variety of fauna here with rare species such as the spectacled salamander, kite, eagle and long-eared owls, kestrel, common raven and the Egyptian vulture. There are important archaeological sites in the Cropani area. Some digs, carried out by the Archaeological Superintendency of Calabria with the aid of archaeological groups in Italy, have enabled the archaeological sites and references to the peoples that lived in them to be mapped. A series of sites have been found between the Middle Neolithic and Late-Ancient, i.e. before the foundation of the current village of Cropani. The artistic nucleus of Cropani consists of the Duomo the other less important churches. Some historical palaces are worth mentioning - Crocchia watchtower and the Old Gate, which approved entry to the current village centre in the past. Only the ruins now remain of the Crocchia tower; this was the old watchtower erected to defend from possible from the Ionian coast. The Antica Porta (Old Gate, 13th century) consists of a wide granite arch at the entrance to the village near the main square; it gives access to the residential centre, directly on the main façade of the collegiate of the church of the Assunta. In addition to the Duomo, the following are worth a mention - the church of Santa Lucia, church of Santa Caterina, situated among the vinedhe (the lanes of the old centre) and including the Oratory of Sant’Anna, the church of San Giovanni, near the old Pilgrims’ Hospital, with its tall bell tower hosting a concert of two bells, the church of Madonna della Catena, the church of Sant'Antonio or the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, which includes the Friars Minor Capuchin monastery.

The Duomo

In 831, some Venetian merchants arrived near Cropani on their way back from Alexandria where they had collected the remains of the Evangelist Mark. According to this reconstruction, the ship was caught in a bad storm and wrecked near the beach of Cropani. The inhabitants aided the merchants who, as a sign of recognition, gave them a fragment of the kneecap of the saint’s right knee, kept in the church of Santa Maria Assunta (the Duomo). Later, the merchants awarded the people of Cropani the honorary citizenship of Venice. The mother church or the Assunta is a monumental building whose first layout dates to the 13th century. The structure was built with large blocks of tufaceous granite and stands out because of its imposing bell tower, 43 metres high compared to the original 47. 
The church of the Assunta houses notable works of art including statues, relics, paintings and frescoes in 18th century Baroque style and a notable wooden ceiling with arabesques with 15th century paintings. The ‘Gloria di Maria Assunta in Cielo’, an ellipsoidal 18th century canvas by Giuseppe Pascaletti, and the Assunta by Cristoforo Santanna, who also painted the ‘Cacciata dei Venditori dal Tempio’ (Expulsion of the Merchants from the Temple), the majestic panoramic fresco on the internal wall of the main door, dominate at the centre. The work of greatest artistic and historical interest is the ‘Dormitio Virginis’, a 15th century panel on the main altar in coloured marble of an 18th century Neapolitan school. The little ‘Antiquarium Diocesano’ museum inside the Duomo can be visited. It holds many works of sacred art including half-bust reliquaries sculptured in the round, finely decorated in damascened gold leaf dating to the 16th century, precious silver items and sacred 18th century vestments and also an interesting marble tabernacle sculptured bas-relief dating to 1545.

Antiquarium Archaeological Museum

The Antiquarium Archaeological Museum in the complex of the church of Santa Caterina d'Alessandria was restructured by the Superintendency for Cultural Heritage a few years ago. The Antiquarium is on two levels - there are 11 panels illustrating the geo-morphological features of the district, the middle Ionian and the main archaeological sites there (Sellia Marina, Sersale, Cropani, Botricello and Marcedusa) on the ground floor. The upper floor, connected to the deconsecrated chapel of the Oratory of S. Anna, hosts six showcases with educational material, with a chronological display of documents ranging from the prehistoric and proto-historic period to the Greek era, Hellenistic, Roman and the early mediaeval period. Two cases dedicated to the Late-Archaic Greek period, with finds from the sacred area (6th-5th century BC) in Acqua di Friso, in the hamlet of Cropani Marina, are worthy of mention. The articles from the church in Basilicata and Basilica di Botricello, both dated 6th-8th century, are equally interesting.

Wine and food

As far as the culinary area is concerned, the role of local agricultural products is very important. Their processing and preservation create regular dates and true rituals throughout the year. The autumn is marked by the production of oil, obtained by crushing the olives harvested in the olive groves on the hills of Cropani. The drying of the chestnuts and picking mushrooms, used to prepare the preserves, also have leading roles. At Christmas, many types of cakes and sweets are prepared such as pitta'nchiuse (a cake filled with nuts and candied fruits and herbs and spices), crespelle zuccherate (a sort of sugared crêpe) and the pignolate (small balls of dough fried and then covered in a glacé). The preparation of Easter cakes and sweets is also common; the best known is the cuzzupa (a leavened cake), to which donations between engaged couples were connected. Summer is the time for making jam, traditional liqueurs, such as the cedratella and lime liqueur, the picking of oregano and the various preserves with tomatoes and peppers. All this great variety of traditional products can be found in the many village fairs, usually organised at the time of festivities.

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Ultimo aggiornamento: Jul 9, 2020 1:34 PM