Palizzi has all the elements of fairy tale villages - a castle on a cliff, a mediaeval village at its feet and a bridge which has had water flowing beneath it since the 14th century.
The village of Palizzi is deep in the countryside and is the most southerly municipality in Italy. It sits on a sandstone cliff at the foot of the imposing castle.
Grottos, underpasses and curved tile roofs, which offer a view of a landscape that has remained almost unchanged over time.
A picturesque village on the southern slopes of Aspromonte which immediately charms the visitor because of its predominantly mediaeval features, with imaginative architectural solutions for ‘palazziate e solarate’ (noble houses and houses with an attic), and cellars, underpasses, steps and roofs of curved tiles offering the view of a landscape that has remained almost unchanged in time. Its area corresponds to the most extreme part of the very old region which, after being indicated as Esperia (western land) and Enotria (land of good wine) was called Italy. The bay of Palizze was called Porto Palizze and, not by accident, preserves a seafront that although very small, is the only one where the seafaring life continues even in winter. There’s no trace of the coastal wharf, except for a lookout tower called Torre Mozza (Truncated tower), because the upper parts of the structure have collapsed and now only one corner is left. The village is divided by a river into the two districts of Murrotto and Stracia, clearly alluding to evidence of the past. Two roads leave both districts and go, respectively, to the hamlets of Palizzi Superiore and Pietrapennata along a route studded with the finest vineyards of the Grecanica area. The little village of Pietrapennata, close to Palizzi Superiore, owes its name to the rocky crags overhanging it; apparently, it was founded by the Knights of Malta, to whom it seems the neighbouring church of the Madonna dell’Alica can be connected. The old Alica monastic site can be reached by a path starting near the cemetery in the little hamlet. The road leads along a ridge from where all the circular conformation of the extremity of Calabria can be seen and where the church, on one side of a hill, is also visible. The single-nave building, with an annexed pinnacled bell tower, is embellished by early 17th century sky blue majolica. The remains of a portico or cloister of a Basilian hermitage, indicated by some as the monastery of Sant’Ippolito, emerge alongside the southern wall. Pietrapennata attracted the attention of Edward Lear who, in his ‘Journal of a Landscape Painter in Southern Calabria’ writes of it as follows,
“…Pietrapennata has nothing notable but, from above, one of the most stupendous panoramas appeared to our eyes immediately over it. What isolated and extraordinary fissures! What and breadth and depth of the densest wood! What faint and graceful lines to the horizon, with the blue expanse of the sea and the long plains of the eastern side of Italy! Oh, rare woods of Pietrapennata! I cannot remember seeing a more beautiful place … wherever one goes, it shall be very difficult to find another Pietrapennata…”.
The influence of some Mesopotamian peoples who lived in this area, bringing with them the baggage of their religious beliefs, their metallurgic knowledge and experience as potters, can be felt in Palizzi. Their work as potters produced bottles, vases, plates, tiles, bricks and other tools whose fragments are called ‘straci’ indicating the probable origin of the name of Stracia, i.e. the hamlet that is now the most populated part of the municipality. The parish church of Sant’Anna, which can be visited, lies in the centre of the village and houses an interesting group of statues of saints and madonnas. The cupola included in the left nave is of Byzantine architectural origin, clearly perceptible outside in the use of earthenware to lighten the structure. The mediaeval castle, a national monument recognised by the Ministry for Culture and the Environment, is reached through alleys with particular anti-seismic architectural solutions. The recently built hamlet of Palizzi Marina, which extends on the magnificent Ionian coast of Reggio, has become the nesting site of Caretta (Loggerhead turtle). Palizzi Marina is the municipality leading the Life Caretta Calabria project, part of the Life programme of the Environment DG of the European Commission.
The castle dominates the village of Palizzi Superiore, rising up on an enormous rocky crag with cliffs dropping sheer to the sea. The only access is Via Castello, which demonstrates its strategic position. The castle was considered a formidable defensive stronghold to escape the raids of the Turkish pirates. A fortress was first built in the 13th century but it’s likely that the castle was built in the 14th century. Over the years, there have been many alterations giving it the current appearance. The high external walls with powerful bastions, the cannons that follow the edge of the rocky crag and some traces of battlements and arrow slits remain from the old layout. There are also two towers, a round one with crenellations in the east and a square one on the opposite side. The castle also has dungeons excavated in the bare rock. The main entrance and that on the terrace dominating the village below are in a crenellated avant-corps with a rounded outline. Inside there are clear signs of restoration work with iron strengthening elements for the structures and new attics with wooden beams. The castle has been declared a National Monument by the Ministry for Culture and the Environment and is currently being restored.
Wine and food
Palizzi is a member of the national Città del Vino (Wine Towns) association. The Palizzi area stands out for the cultivation of vines producing an excellent red wine which has obtained the Indicazione geografica tipica (the quality is recognised but it is not to the CDO or CGDO standard) classification. This wine can be tasted in the traditional catoi (cellars) of the village, named ‘wine town’. Palizzi wine is well-known and popular in the area and is a generous red wine. It’s excellent with roast meat, traditional and elaborate dishes based on sauces and goat meat and pork, stews, game, and well matured cheese.
Via Sant'Angelo, Palizzi