The Italian journalist and novelist Corrado Alvaro wrote of Polistena emerging on the slopes of the Aspromonte;
a town overlooking the Gioia Tauro plain and whose eighteenth-century town centre is one of the most interesting of the entire province of Reggio Calabria.
Its gardens, numerous palaces and monumental churches, still well-preserved, create a perfect architectural balance between them and the more recently built town centre.
Although not within the administrative boundaries of the Aspromonte National Park, Polistena is nonetheless located in an area of great natural value which features an element of significant importance in the local landscape; the massif of Aspromonte (rough mountains), as well as undulating hills that slope down toward the sea and Mediterranean scrubland.
Archaeological finds, among which a protohistoric spearhead and a large number of burial tombs, are evidence of a number of visits to the area and suggest the presence of some urban areas prior and after ancient Greek times. In Polistena's Museo Civico (a civic museum attached to the municipal library), it is possible to admire several glass show-stands displaying archaeological material found in Polistena and the neighbouring area; fossil materials, historical finds of the old town of Polistena (including ancient prints and stone relics), sketches and statues by Polistena’s artists as well as Riolo's piano; a unique piano, built in 1867 by Angelo Riolo (a cabinetmaker in Polistena and sole manufacturer of pianos in Calabria). Other items on display are thousands of items related to material culture, such as tools and equipment of farmers and craftsmen as well as household items which belonged to a civilisation prior to the industrial era. These items make up a collection of high ethno-anthropological value that gives meaning to the recovery of a culture from past times.
Churches to visit
Polistena boasts some religious structures of notable interest, among which are the Chiesa Matrice with an imposing floor-plan with three naves and that within it preserves the beautiful Pala Marmorea della Deposizione di Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo (a marble altarpiece on the laying of the body of Jesus Christ); a sixteenth-century work of undoubted artistic value. This masterpiece is one of the prides of Calabria. Inside the church visitors can admire other works of art by various artists and from various eras. The Chiesa della SS. Trinità (the Church of the Holy Trinity) is a building with a façade on two floors with two orders of granite columns, a stone portal and a dome covered with polychromed majolica tiles. Its interior features an impressive wooden statue of 1797 representing the Madonna dell'Itria. The Chiesa del SS. Rosario (Church of the Holy Rosary) is a monumental building built in the middle of the nineteenth century, around a smaller church already called S. Giuseppe. Inside it boasts stucco-work and neoclassical high relief decorations of the Morani, as well as precious statues including that of San Giuseppe and Misteri (Mysteries) groups.
A respect for traditions
Polistena has maintained over time many of its past traditions that even today are just as meaningful in terms of sacredness and culture. One of these concerns the many feasts whose history can be traced back in time. Currently, the feasts of Tutti i Santi (All Saints), dell’Immacolata (Immaculate) are still held as well as many religious rites linked to them which have remained intact. Celebrations in honour of its Patron, Saint Marina, on 17 July, and the Christmas “novena natalizia” with the traditional sound of the bagpipes at dawn are always eagerly awaited. Other rites linked to religious festivities are those of Holy Week: Good Friday begins at dawn, with a procession that departs from the Chiesa Matrice, while at midday the agony and execution of the "Sette parole" (Seven Words) by Michele Valensise (a musician of the XIX century) take place. In the afternoon, the Pietà procession departs from the Chiesa dell'Immacolata (Church of the Immaculate) and at the end of the evening, the procession of the Mysteries departs from the Chiesa del SS.Rosario (Church of the Holy Rosary).
On Easter Sunday the "Affruntata" takes place; this truly evocative and eagerly awaited event celebrates the encounter between the Risen Christ and the Madonna in Piazza del Popolo. Even the Carnival retains its typical traditions, with the unique parade of masks and allegorical floats made by Polistena's artisans. Last but not least is the “Notte dei Giganti” (Night of the Giants) that is held in the month of July and which consists in the Ritual dance of several pairs of "Giants" (about 3 metres high) depicting the legend of Mata and Grifone; mythological characters of Polistena's history. Polistena is invaded from its outskirts right to its town centre by giants who amidst music and dance can be found wandering the village’s alleys. The pairs reach Piazza della Repubblica to prepare the great final dance that is held, according to a secular tradition, on the Piazzale Trinità after midnight.
Polistena’s cuisine is rich in flavours and seasonings, deeply rooted in the Mediterranean tradition. A typical dish par excellence are "maccarruna" ( macaroni with meat sauce), oven-baked pasta.
Main courses include the Calabrian zeppole fritters, peperonata (sweet bell pepper and onion stew), polpette (Italian meatballs), stocco (stockfish/dried cod), stuffed aubergines, frittole (boiled pork). Typical sweets are theNacatole (sweet fritters) (egg-based fried biscuit, lard and fragrant liquor), pitta di San Martino (bread dough with fresh fruit and nuts), pignolata (Italian honey-balls) and Sguta (Easter bread) for the feast of Easter. Typical local cuisine includes home-made tomato sauce and various products in brine or oil, such as olives, chilli peppers, sardines and a mix of garden vegetables, soppressata (a typical type of salami), sausages, capocollo (pork meat taken from the neck), Italian pancetta.
irizzoPiazza della Pace 89024 POLISTENA (RC)