The town of Locri is located on the slopes of Aspromonte in an intensely populated area of the province of Reggio Calabria. Its territory extends as far as the Jasmine Riviera (the Ionian coastal area named after its cultiva-tion of jasmine) which has been thriving since the 1920s.
The town is famous for its important archaeological area known as Epizeph-yrian Locris which is situated near the new town centre and is often de-scribed as the pillar of Calabrian archaeology.
The enchanting colony of Epizephyrian Locris was once at the centre of the restless political and artistic life of Magna Graecia. It outlived the entire Roman period.
Homeland of Zaleucus, the first legislator of the western world, and Nossis, a gentle and loving poetess, the city of Lokroi was one of the most important centres of the Calabrian Magna Graecia. It was a Greek colony founded at the end of the 8th century BC by Greek refugees who settled on the coast. The enchanting colony of Epizephyrian Locris was the centre of Magna Graecia’s restless political and artistic life and outlived the entire Roman period until the Arab raids and malaria led to its abandonment.
Epizephyrian Locris is one of Calabria’s most famous archaeological areas thanks to its numerous excavations within the vast urban areas inside the walls of the Greek era. These have unearthed important architectural remains from the Greek-Roman and late ancient ages. The fact that no modern settlements have been built over the ancient city has facilitated archaeological explorations which, since the end of the 19th century, have been focussed on discovering the main features of Epizephyrian Locris. Today, the area offers visitors the opportunity to explore archaeological remains whilst being immersed in a typical Mediterranean environment that boasts a wealth of beautiful scenery and nature, especially in the hilly area.
Churches and the historic centre
The Church of Santa Caterina dates back to 1843 and was the first place of worship in the seaside village. It was founded by the fishermen of the Geracese coast who built it just opposite a building that sold salt. The present-day church, in Romanesque-Lombard style, dates back to 1923 and houses many valuable wooden processional sculptures dating back to 1850, which were created by Serrese craftspeople. The Church of Santa Maria del Mastro draws inspiration from the Geracese church of Santa Maria de Jeragio, whose parish was transferred to Gerace Marina in 1908. Its Latin cross-shaped interior has three naves with lateral aisles ending with two small chapels. The one on the right bears the names of the Jerusalem soldiers who died in the First World War, whereas the second has a marble altar. The Church of San Biagio (Saint Blaise) can be found in the Sbarre district and was actually moved there in 1908 from Gerace where it had been built in the 15th century. Architecturally speaking it is very simple and on its facade, at the same level as the tympanum, you can admire the statues of Saint Blaise, Saint Anthony and Saint Theresa. Its single-naved interior displays a painting from 1842 representing the Annunciation and the apse is decorated with a fresco depicting the "Wedding at Cana". The Renaissance-style town hall is the largest public institutional building in Locride. This three-storey building with an internal courtyard has a harmonious facade adorned with ashlar pilasters above which is a large pediment displaying the city clock with Roman numerals. Of the four wings planned for in the original project, only those facing the North, East, and South were built. The western wing, arguably the most architecturally interesting, was intended to be the municipal theatre, however it was never built and the “Palazzo della Cultura” now stands in its place.
The Archaeological Site of Epizephyrian Locris
The archaeological site of the ancient Epizephyrian Locris is located just a few kilometres from the town of Locri. The number of sanctuaries discovered thus far in the area of Epizephyrian Locris is remarkable. Most of the sacred areas are located near the city walls, almost as if to form a sacred defence system. The sanctuaries within the walls were equipped with imposing temple buildings, whereas other sanctuaries located immediately outside the walls have a less monumental appearance. Interestingly, the importance and popularity of such religions were often reflected by the number of votive offerings. The sanctuary of Contrada Marasà is the largest of those excavated in the archaeological area and is the one that, at its current stage of excavation, offers the most authentic depiction of a Greek sanctuary. It is equipped with a temple of great architectural importance, an altar, and a portico used as a shelter by pilgrims. The sacred area of Marasà had been occupied since the 7th century B.C., at the end of which the first temple, one of the oldest in Magna Graecia, was built. In addition to the remains of the foundation and the lower part of a single column, which can both be seen in the archaeological site, there are numerous fragments of the upper part of the building from which it was possible to reconstruct an image of the original temple. A large sample of these fragments is on display at the museum of Reggio Calabria where you can also admire the architectural terracotta from the oldest areas of the temple. Of particular interest is the sculptural decoration on the western front of the temple. This is one of the most remarkable decorative elements of Magna Graecia and consists of two symmetrical and mirror-like groups portraying two naked youths dismounting horses supported by Tritons. These sculptures, displayed in the triangular space of the pediment, are made of marble from the island of Paros in the Aegean sea. They were carved by a Magna Graecian artist who drew inspiration from the great Athenian sculptor Phidias, creator of the Pantheon’s sculptural decoration.
A Doric temple once stood near the theatre by Casa Marafioti, however only a few fragments of its capitals and frieze have withstood the test of time. The temple was dedicated to Zeus, as can be seen from the immensely precious archive of bronze tablets, found in a nearby stone shrine, which record the sanctuary's accounts. Just outside the wall that runs parallel to the coastline, near the town of Centocamere, stood a religious complex that worshipped Aphrodite. Given its proximity to the sea and the probable existence of a port for the two buildings, the goddess could be considered a protector of sailors and the sea. The complex consists of a series of rooms placed side by side so as to form a U-shape. They are also equipped with a portico in front that overlooks a large central courtyard. In addition to offering shelter to pilgrims, the building was used for sacred ceremonies such as communal banquets, as evidenced by the food remains and fragments of ex-votos found in a number of small pits dug in the central courtyard area.
Outside the walls, between the hills of Mannella and Abbadessa, is the famous Persephoneion, which was described by Diodorus Siculus as "the most illustrious sanctuary in Italy". Between 1910 and 1912, the remains of a small building that stood on an older trapezoid-shaped terrace were excavated. In the immediate vicinity, one of the most important votive deposits of Magna Grecia was found. In addition to various ceramics and terracotta, the deposit contained noteworthy pinakes, and terracotta tablets decorated in relief with scenes from the myth of Hades and Persephone. The majority of the artefacts discovered are now on display in the Museum of Reggio Calabria. The theatre of Epizephyrian Locris dates back to the 4th century BC and was substantially modified during Roman times. During the Greek period it was used both for theatrical performances and for assembly meetings. As was customary in the Greek world, the Locrian theatre was built along the natural slope of a hill, in an area blessed with extraordinary acoustics, with its cavea facing the sea. Its remains, which can be visited in today's Pirettina district, were discovered in 1940 although the excavation was only completed in 1957. The three main areas of the building, namely the orchestra, the stage, and the cavea, are still clearly identifiable today. The cavea is divided into five sections separated from each other by four steps.
The pinakes are some of the most important and refined artistic pieces that the ancient realm of Magna Graecia has handed down to us. Found in fragments, according to the ritual custom of the time pinakes are thin rectangular terracotta tablets decorated in low relief, which date back to a period between 490 and 450 BC. Linked to the rituals of worship that took place at the Sanctuary of Persephoneion, most of them represent scenes related to the myth of Persephone, although other divinities, such as Aphrodite, are sometimes depicted. Most of the pinakes discovered can be admired at the National Museum of Reggio Calabria, whilst others are now on display at the National Archaeological Museum of Epizephyrian Locris.
National Archaeological Museum of Epizephyrian Locris
The Museum is located on the edge of the sacred area of Marasà by the corner where the walls, after running parallel to the coast, head towards the hills. It is a small structure spread over two levels. The upper level is a classic exhibition area in which the finds, in their various cases, are arranged according to the place in which they were discovered; the lower level is an open space situated beneath the upper level which forms a kind of portico. Here, larger exhibits such as sarcophagi, tombstones, and a variety of architectural elements are on display. This space has also been used for conferences and presentations relating to the archaeological activity that has taken place over the years. In 1998, the Antiquarium was awarded the status of National Museum, thereby recognising the fundamental importance of the archaeological area of Epizephyrian Locris to the Italian cultural heritage.
Locri's cuisine is particularly flavoursome and usually contains extra virgin olive oil produced in the surrounding areas, often in centuries-old olive groves. In Locri the olives are also eaten ammacate, meaning they are crushed after the stones are removed, put in water to sweeten the taste, and then seasoned with oil, chilli pepper, garlic, and fennel seeds. Among the first courses, one must-try dish is maccarruni which consists of handmade pasta served with a tomato, pork, or goat meat sauce. Other much-loved dishes include mutton or beef cooked with tomato, garlic, and oregano, and the Calabrian salad made up of boiled potatoes, onion, and peppers seasoned with oil, salt, and pepper. You cannot visit Locri without tasting its famous seafood including grilled sardines, stuffed anchovies, and swordfish rolls that can be cut into pieces and added to sauces with tomato and 'nduia as an accompaniment to pasta. A special mention must also be made of Locride’s DOC wines: Bivongi and Grecanico, which are ideal for desserts.
Via G. Matteotti, 152, Locri