Melissa is a place of myths and legends, witches and bloodshed. The town was recalled by Ovid in Metamorphosis, and has ancient origins; it takes its name from a Greek toponym that means ‘village of bees and honey’.
Others link it to the witch Melissa who, according to legend, lived in the caves in the village. Yet others think of the nymph Melissa, a mythical being found on the old municipal coat-of-arms.
The village is perched, with houses, churches and cave caves, once used as dwellings.
The centre of Melissa, on a rocky spur in the hills between the Ionian Sea and the eastern slopes of the Sila Grande, is stepped and only accessible through many hairpin bends. The many houses and churches of the village appear sheltered, and there are also caverns, used as homes until not too long ago.
The old centre
The old centre preserves the evocative features of a typical feudal village with Melissa Castle at the top, and is the symbol of Aragonese historic and archaeological culture. Only some parts of the structure and the city walls encircling the town are now visible. The castle, whose towers can still be seen, was built in the mediaeval period. Its strategic importance, decisive at the time of its construction in dealing with possible raids from the sea, still distinguishes it from the other fortifications in the Crotone area. Merita una visita la Chiesa di San Francesco di Paola, realizzata sulla preesistente chiesa di Santa Maria dei Francesi del 1690. Al suo interno, In una nicchia in vetro vi è conservata una suggestiva scultura di notevole pregio artistico risalente al 185 d.C., raffigurante il Santo e realizzata in legno di carpino. All’esterno è possibile vedere la lapide del XVIII secolo in ricordo del culto di San Cesareo e di Sant’Aloi. The Church of San Giacomo shouldn’t be forgotten; this old building was constructed by the noble Campitelli family in the 16th century and became famous for the events linked to the Count of Melissa who, according to legend, was killed by the people because he tried to reinstate droit du seigneur (ius primae noctis). Not to be missed are the Monument to the Fallen of Fragalà, donated to Melissa in 1979 by Ernesto Treccani, the Milanese artist and son of the founder of the Treccani encyclopaedias, on the anniversary of the massacre of the peasants of Fragalà in 1949. During the peasant rebellion for the conquest of uncultivated land, the police killed three people and seriously injured many peasants in an attempt to re-establish the law. This tragic event caused considerable interest both in Italy and abroad. Treccani became interested in the affair and remained close to the peasants; in November of the same year he went to Melissa to find out about the problems of local people. His interest was returned by the people of Melissa, who elected Treccani as a member of Melissa Municipal council. There is a group of rock caves in the Melissa area, some of which are now found in the built-up area while others can be clearly seen in the countryside; in the past, they acted as homes. In some cases, the entrance is closed by stones and mortar while the ceilings are either flat or gabled. Some research has shown that the type of cave dwelling in the Melissa area was typically small groups of homes on a single level.
One of the best-known areas of Melissa is the coastal hamlet of Torre Melissa, featuring the crenellated tower (Torrazzo), so called because of the crowning element which almost seems embroidered. The Peasant Culture Museum has been opened inside the tower and reproduces the different environmental, social and work situations of peasant life in the upper Crotone area. Torre Melissa has been a Blue Flag beach since 2012; this award is given by the Foundation for Environmental Education to European coastal resorts which meet the criteria of quality of the water, cleanliness of the beaches and the services offered.
Wine and Food
Melissa is a well-known centre for the production of the CDO wine of the same name and Cirò DOC wine produced near to the border with the municipality of Cirò. Melissa is one of the Calabrian municipalities in the province of Crotone registered with the national Le Città del Vino (Wine Cities) association. The wine and food tradition boasts an extensive and varied range of traditional dishes such as sardella, homemade pasta with a meat or legume sauce, typical of harvest time, and stigliole, salted codfish with chilli peppers. Other traditional recipes are ‘sauza di fave’, a vegetable dish of tender broad beans and olive oil, and ‘pipi friuti ccu’ patati’ cooked with green chilli peppers and potatoes, a dish par excellence of Calabrian cuisine.
Via Provinciale Sud, 109, Melissa