Considered the land of the charms and enchantments of D'Annunzio, which were very popular among 19th-century English travellers, Reggio Calabria stands out for its variety of unmissable works of art and pathways waiting to be explored. Not many people know that Reggio Calabria, in addition to being referred to as the City of the Bronzes, is also known as the City of the Fata Morgana because visitors can witness this peculiar optical phenomenon just off the coast of the city. As you look at the mirage, which can be seen within the narrow band above the horizon, the coast of Sicily appears to be just a few metres away from the shores of Calabria and the objects on the opposite shore are clearly distinguishable.
The name Fata Morgana is a reference to Morgana of Celtic mythology, who made sailors have visions of fantastic castles in the air or on land in order to entice them before leading them to their death.
The captivating Lungomare Falcomatà is a veritable corner of paradise teeming with palm trees and exotic species in an atmosphere of intense aromas and colours. As your feet wander, you will be caressed by the sea breeze and enchanted by the panoramic views over the Strait.
This charming city is typically Mediterranean in style and has the irresistible allure of a tourist resort. The captivating Lungomare Falcomatà, named the most beautiful kilometre in Italy, is a veritable corner of paradise teeming with palm trees and exotic species in an atmosphere of intense aromas and colours. It forms the heart of the spring and summer tourist season and is also the centre of the city’s cultural scene. As your feet wander, you will be caressed by the sea breeze and enchanted by panoramic views over the Strait. Nature and history, culture and traditions and entertainment and curiosity all harmoniously coexist in this beautiful setting. As you stroll through Via Marina you will notice the ruins of days gone by such as the Greek Walls and the Roman Baths. The National Archaeological Museum is located at the end of the promenade and houses the famous Bronzes of Riace as well as magnificent ancient artefacts from Prehistoric, Greek and Roman times. The Museum is well worth a visit on account of its important collection dating from prehistoric times to the time of Greek colonisation and its large display of Roman, Byzantine and medieval works of art.
The heart of the old town is undoubtedly Corso Garibaldi which is home to many boutiques and Art Nouveau buildings as well as the magnificent Cilea Theatre, an imposing Cathedral, the Duomo, which is illuminated at night, and the Aragonese Castle. Along the so-called Greco-Roman, road you will find the Church of the Ottimati, the only Arab-Norman style church in the city, and the Church of the Greeks. Villa Genoese Zerbi, with its neo-Gothic Venetian style, features red brick facades, similar to those of the Venetian cà, which are adorned with Gothic arches, columns, decorative doorframes and balustrades. Until recently, the villa served as southern Italy’s exhibition venue for the Venice Biennial art exhibition and displayed Rabarama's three gigantic sculptures which now permanently adorn the promenade. At the end of this long avenue you will encounter the magnificent garden of the Villa Comunale, which is just a stone’s throw from the Experimental Station for Essences and Citrus Oils. This well-known research centre for the study of jasmine and bergamot is equipped with several research laboratories, a specialist library and the Bergamot Museum which displays historical pieces of equipment that were used to process this fragrant citrus fruit. The area of Reggio Campi, connected to Via Marina by a series of picturesque staircases, forms a kind of balcony on the Strait from which you can enjoy panoramic views over the entire city. It is also the site of the magnificent Basilica of San Paolo alla Rotonda.
Meanwhile, further north along Reggio Calabria’s coastline you will find the wonderful inlet of Scilla. This completely unique bay is home to Ruffo Castle, which can be found right next to the sea and overlooks the entire panorama. At the foot of the Castle lies the Marina Grande, an ethereal bay that never fails to enchant visitors. However, the real pearl of Scilla is Chianalea, a fairy-tale village that seems to have risen from the water. At sunset, amidst the purple and orange tones of the sky, make sure you catch a glimpse of the Sicilian coast from the district of San Giorgio which overlooks Marina Grande.
The city is dotted with several churches of great artistic value. One such church is the modern Basilica of Santa Maria della Consolazione which is a popular destination for pilgrims on account of the painting of the Madonna della Consolazione, patron saint of Reggio Calabria, that decorates its interior. The Church of San Giorgio al Corso, also recently built, is dedicated to the fallen of the First World War. Its classical style facade is adorned with a depiction of Saint George killing the dragon.
The Church of San Paolo, on the other hand, has a Romanesque style facade and houses an impressive collection of mosaics portraying important episodes of the Gospel. In front of the Castle is the Church of the Ottimati which stands out thanks to its red Norman-Byzantine style dome, an emblem of the Spanish rule over Reggio Calabria. The church, in addition to displaying important works such as the 1597 painting of the Most Holy Virgin of the Annunciation and the painting of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, contains the most precious mosaic in the world. Created more than 1000 years ago from over 33 different types of marble, the mosaic portrays God in the centre, the evangelists in four surrounding circles and the Apostles in several other circles. For lovers of the sea, Reggio Calabria’s best beach is undoubtedly the city Lido, which is beautifully landscaped with palm trees. It is located at the Rada dei Giunchi to the north of the old town and overlooks the Strait of Messina. Visitors to Reggio Calabria are strongly advised to explore the Grotta Perciata coves as well as the Calette della Sirene (Coves of the Mermaid) and the Calette delle Rondini (Coves of the Swallows). The beaches of Bova Marina and Melito Porto Salvo on the region’s east coast are also well worth the detour.
National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria has been recognised as one of the most prestigious archaeological museum institutes in Italy and was granted autonomy following the 2014 MiBAC Reform. The building that houses the museum was one of the first in Italy to be designed exclusively for that purpose and is named after Marcello Piacentini, one of the greatest figures in early twentieth century architecture. Piacentini actually designed the building itself, and constructed it in a modern style, drawing inspiration from the main European museums he had visited. Located in the heart of the city, the Museum was created by combining the State Museum with the Civic Museum of Reggio Calabria. The latter opened on 18 June 1882 and displayed numerous archaeological finds from the region. The Museum has four exhibition floors, plus a terrace and an area for temporary exhibitions. On the ground floor visitors are welcomed by the Bronzes of Riace, the symbol of Reggio Calabria, and the Porticello Bronzes. The room in which the statues are displayed maintains a constant temperature in order to preserve the various artefacts. On the mezzanine floor, visitors can step into the shoes of the inhabitants of Magna Graecia as they discover utensils and everyday objects from the era. They can also admire the region’s traditional clothing, decorative mosaics and everything related to the funerary customs of the time, such as the magnificent amphorae in traditional black and red chrome. Touch screen monitors among the various displays provide further information and 3D reconstructions of the houses, scenarios and environments from which the artefacts originate, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the experience. The first floor contains everything relating to the cities and sanctuaries of Magna Graecia as well as numerous objects of worship such as statuettes, jars, engraved stones and architectural fragments from the various temples found in the region’s sacred areas. The highlights of this section are the Pinakes (terracotta tablets) displaying scenes in relief which tell the tales of culturally important historical events. The second floor displays an exhibition of the prehistoric era, from the Stone Age to the Metal Ages, providing an insight into the economic and social transformations of the time. Among the finds on display are objects from the Macchiabate necropolis, men’s and women’s ornaments and utensils, weapons, amphorae and polished stones. But perhaps the most impressive artefacts are the animal and human skeletons and an impressive engraving of an ox on a rock. The Museum's basement is highly atmospheric with its bluish light that illuminates the room. There you can admire various naval artefacts, including the remains of boats and numerous amphorae recovered from the seabed. The terrace is the perfect vantage point from which to admire the natural beauty of the Strait in all its splendour.
The Castle is the city’s main fortification and stands in the square of the same name. Passed from the Byzantines to the Normans in 1059, and then to Charles I of Anjou in 1266, the fortress has undergone numerous restorations and modifications over the centuries in order to adapt to the evolution of siege engines and artillery. It was King Ferrante who, in 1458, had two crenellated towers and the moat added, while, in 1539, Peter of Toledo increased its capacity so that it could shelter the inhabitants of Reggio from the Turkish invasions. Converted into barracks at the time of Ferdinand I, the Aragonese castle was transformed, during the Risorgimento, into a political prison and a place of execution for the rebels. In the aftermath of the earthquake of 1908, the option of saving the bastion but demolishing the building, which had been left badly damaged, was considered. And so, the decision was made to demolish nine tenths of the fortress forever. Home to the observatory of the National Institute of Geophysics until 1986, the building currently hosts exhibitions and cultural events.
Cathedral of Most Holy Mary of the Assumption
The largest religious building in Calabria is located in Piazza Duomo, in the city’s historic centre.
The Cathedral dates back to the beginning of the second millennium when, following the Norman invasion of southern Italy, the city underwent a process of Latinisation with the consequent abandonment of the Greek-Byzantine rituals. The centre of the imposing facade features a triforate window surmounted by a rose window and three bronze portals. The statues of Saint Paul and Saint Stephen of Nicaea, sculpted by Francesco Jerace, dominate the churchyard. Upon entering the building, which is illuminated by large polychrome windows, visitors encounter a basilica with three naves divided by three transepts and rows of marble columns. Of great artistic interest is the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, the most important monument of baroque and 17th century art in the archdiocese of Reggio Emilia, which has been declared a national monument.
Civic Art Gallery
Opened on 26 May 2008 in a wing of the Francesco Cilea Municipal Theatre, the Pinacoteca Civica contains some of the most prestigious works of Reggio Calabria’s artistic heritage. The pieces on display date back to between the fifteenth and twentieth century. Inside you will find the collections of the former Civic Museum as well as several state-owned works such as The return of the prodigal son by Mattia Preti. Also on display are famous works by Luca Giordano and Antonello da Messina, such as Penitent Saint Jerome. You will also find several creations of Lavagna Fieschi and Enrico Salfi, Jerace, Rodriguez, Covelli and the Reggio Emilia natives Cannizzaro and Benassai. The section dedicated to the 20th century features a painting by Renato Guttuso depicting swordfish fishermen.
Diocesan Museum “Mons. Aurelio Sorrentino”
The Museum is located on the ground floor of the late 18th-century Archbishop's Palace which was built next to the Cathedral of Maria Santissima dell’Assunta. Among the works on display the most noteworthy are The Resurrection of Lazarus by Neapolitan painter Francesco De Mura, a pupil of Francesco Solimena; the Radiating Monstrance designed by Polistena native Francesco Jerace for the occasion of the Regional Eucharistic Congress held in Reggio Calabria; the silver and enamel Pastoral Baculus of Monsignor Antonio de Ricci, Archbishop of Reggio from 1453 to 1490, from the Neapolitan school; an ivory Crucifix donated to the Cathedral by Archbishop Alessandro Tommasini; a precious French Chalice in silver and painted ceramic, donated in 1879 by the Queen of Spain, Maria Cristina, to Cardinal Luigi Tripepi; valuable textile artefacts that belonged to the Confraternity of the Immaculate in the Church of the Santissima Annunziata including a refined silk brocade drape made in Lyon during the second quarter of the 18th century; and, last but not least, two silver crowns dating back to 1614 which originally belonged to the Renaissance marble bust of the Madonna and Child that was housed in the Co-cathedral of the Madonna Isodia in Bova.
The Pythagoras Planetarium, a structure owned by the Metropolitan City of Reggio Calabria, was opened on 12 March 20104. It displays reproductions of almost all the astronomical phenomena, which can be observed both during the day and at night and at all latitudes. But perhaps its most impressive feature is its ability to display these phenomena accelerated in time thanks to a device that projects the image and the movements of the celestial vault as they would appear to an observer in an instant and in a specific place. Thanks to the construction of the Planetarium which, for its size and thanks to the beauty of its external Geode, is one of the most beautiful in Europe, the Metropolitan City of Reggio Calabria is one of few European cities that has at its disposal this spectacular and effective tool for teaching and disseminating scientific disciplines.
Perhaps even more so than other regional Italian cuisine, that of Reggio Calabria is closely tied to religious and spiritual life and various rules and customs that are often linked to important events in the region’s 3,000 year history, from the Magna Graecian era to the Unification of Italy.
At Christmas and Epiphany, it is customary to eat a thirteen course meal, whereas at Carnival, macaroni and pork are the traditional dishes. Easter is celebrated with roast lamb and religious breads. The customs of today remain firmly rooted in ancient traditions. In fact, the area’s cuisine, consisting of the traditional dishes from the various cultures of its inhabitants, has changed very little over the years. Preserved foods such as anchovies, pork sausages, cheeses, vegetables in oil and dried tomatoes, which allowed the local population to survive in times of famine and during the long periods of occupation by Turkish pirates, form an important part of the staple diet.
Palazzo San Giorgio Piazza Italia, 1, Reggio di Calabria