Diamante, the Mural and Chilli Pepper Town
© Regione Calabria
Jan 22, 2024 10:06 AM
© Regione Calabria
Jan 22, 2024 10:06 AM
In the labyrinth of lanes and flights of stairs, the old houses seem to lean together as though helping each other to support the weight of the years, revealing bright splashes of colour in the deepest folds.
The village is perched on a spur of rock that plunges into the Tyrrhenian Sea, and a walk through its alleys shows that, surprisingly, it’s a sort of open-air art gallery with large painted walls and poetry written on them.
The splendid Riviera dei Cedri hosts and protects Diamante, a rare treasure chest also named the Pearl of the Tyrrhenian.
Diamante. The name itself attracts and evokes precious jewels and sparkling marine adventures. The splendid Riviera dei Cedri hosts and protects Diamante, a rare treasure chest also named the Pearl of the Tyrrhenian. Diamante has often been chosen as the location for films, fictions and TV programmes, including ‘L’abbuffata’, directed by Mimmo Calopresti, ‘Ma l’amore sì’ by Tonino Zangardi and Marco Costa, and ‘Per sempre’ by Alessandro Di Robilant, because of the beauty of its surrounding countryside. Whoever visits Diamante will be enchanted. A beach worth getting to know with little creeks of a particular colour and consistency and a constantly changing seabed. The splendid Island of Cirella, one of the two Calabrian islands, is just off the beach. The Posidonia Argentata (a type of seagrass) is a guarantee of the purity of its water. The village is embellished by more than 200 murals, created by internationally-renowned artists, which fill the walls of the lanes and alleys of the centre. In August, Diamante celebrates the Incoronazione dell’Immacolata Concezione (the crowning of the Immaculate Conception). According to tradition, sailors carried the statue of the Madonna from a ship blocked in the village port to the church of the same name. The following day, the parish priest noted that the posture of the statue had changed and one of its hands was lifted to the heavens with three open fingers, a sign of protection for Diamante. After this miracle, the celebrating people prevented the statue from returning to the ship.
There’s something that makes Diamante absolutely unique. Walking through the narrow streets, it’s immediately obvious that the walls are splendidly coloured by spectacular murals. There are more than 200 works of art painted on the walls of the old centre and the hamlet of Cirella, created by internationally-renowned artists and painters since 1981. Every year, the number of murals grows with the ‘Muralespanso’ project which adds new paintings to the existing ones. Every alley tells a story and the mural of every house is a part of that story. There are so many that it takes more than a day to see them all, also because there are many alleys and lanes in the old centre. Nani Razzetti, a Milanese painter who adopted Diamante as his home, devised it. He had the idea of making the old centre of Diamante special and suggested a project to revalorise it in an original way without damaging the old, simple aesthetics of the houses. In June 1981, more than 80 Italian and foreign painters arrived in Diamante and started to embellish it with their art. The walls of the old centre turned into large canvases and Diamante is now considered a true open-air art museum. With its beautiful murals, Diamante now tops the list of ‘Città dipinte’ (Painted towns), as it has the highest number of artistic works.
Anyone choosing to visit Diamante in September can go to the historic Festival del Peperoncino (Chilli Pepper Festival). This started in 1992 when the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America was celebrated - the import to Europe of the spice started from there. The Festival del Peperoncino is a journey in the discovery of old flavours and the traditions jealously kept by Calabrians. The old centre hosts many food stands where not only any pepper-based dish can be tasted but also tasty food from the local culinary tradition. The event lasts a week and there are entertaining eating competitions down to the last chilli pepper and many other amusements, such as Mangiare Mediterraneo (Eat Mediterranean), hot, spicy workshops, cabarets, and the spicy cinema show. It’s hardly surprising that the Accademia Italiana del Peperoncino (Italian Chilli Pepper Academy), with thousands of associates worldwide, is based in Diamante.
One of the two Calabrian islands, the Island of Cirella can be visited from Diamante. This little island has an appealing shape and wild flora and has become a marine park on the Riviera dei Cedri. Many tourists spend whole days on the island, fishing or simply exploring it.On the mainland, the hamlet of Cirella has the ruins of Antica Cerillae, the Teatro dei Ruderi, the Roman Mausoleum and the Minim Monastery. There is lots to see as it is full of natural, historic and cultural attractions.
Diamante is part of the Riviera dei Cedri, an area of the Alto Tirreno Cosentino (on the Tyrrhenian coast north of Cosenza) in Calabria, where the citron is grown, and the smooth citron of Diamante is one of the products that makes it well-known internationally. Large quantities of the fruit are exported to Israel and the United States, where it is used by Jewish communities at Sukkot (the Feast of the Tabernacles). Various specialities are made with the citron, such as bocconotti, shortbread pastries filled with a special citron jam. Citron liqueur, a favourite of gourmets, is obtained from an infusion of citron bark. Lastly, candied citron is produced after a complex procedure involving brine and ‘penicilli’, aromatised grapes wrapped in citron leaves, tied with willow and baked, and which the writer and poet Gabriele D'Annunzio defined as a real delicacy.
In addition to the chilli pepper and citron, there are excellent local fish-based specialities in Diamante, such as the pitticelle di rosamarina, delicious whitebait fritters, rosemary with pepper, the so-called pauper’s caviar, and anchovies in salt and chilli pepper in clay containers called cugnitti.