Taverna, Mattia Preti's city of art


Jul 9, 2020 12:16 PM

Taverna is a small town in Catanzaro, between two rivers, in a location of natural beauty between the Sila Piccola forests, which offers spectacular views over the valley and on its surrounding peaks. The area of Taverna includes part of the National Park and the picturesque Sila resorts of Villaggio Mancuso and Villaggio Racise.

Taverna is the perfect marriage between art, culture and nature. There are many natural sites to visit in the outskirts, between the villages created inside the park with the typical wooden houses, perfectly nestled amidst the greenery of the Sila mountains.

Taverna is also a city of art and the birthplace of Mattia Preti, one of the greatest Italian painters of the 17th century and Calabria´s most important painter of all times.

The forestry authorities have traced many paths that lead to exciting adventures among the flora and fauna of the Silan Plateau, under the shade of its towering pines. The park offers peaceful surroundings, where visitors can breathe fresh clean air while they observe the many species of animals living in it and admire the rich flora around them; even today, the park is unspoilt, which makes it a unique and truly fascinating experience. This area is also filled, during season, with some of the tastiest and most well-known porcini mushrooms. From the Monaco Visitor Centre (a small museum of the local fauna), guests can observe deer, owls and other animals that live in their natural habitat. On the last Sunday of October, the town of Villaggio Cutura organises the festival of the sausage and Sila’s D.O.P. (Protected Designation of Origin) label potato, that attracts thousands of visitors from all over the region and beyond. The area of Taverna includes part of the shores of Lake Ampollino; one of three artificial lakes of the Sila mountains that offers pleasant relaxation moments immersed in unspoilt and fascinating natural surroundings.

Taverna is also a city of art and the birthplace of Mattia Preti, one of the greatest Italian painters of the 17th century and Calabria´s most important painter of all times, also appointed “Cavaliere Calabrese” (Knight of Calabria). During his lifetime, Mattia Preti painted numerous works of notable artistic value of a religious nature and on getting closer to God, scattered throughout the world. The museum which houses Mattia Preti’s paintings is continually a preferred destination for visitors worldwide. The old town centre preserves buildings which are important from the point of view of historical and artistic interest. The historical piazza San Sebastiano boasts some elegant buildings and the splendid ancient church of San Domenico (St Dominic), dating back to XV century, restored and enlarged several times over the course of the centuries. The square, built in steps, in the highest point allows to enjoy wonderful views overlooking the valley from the top of the Sila mountains, alternated by the colours of rich vegetation. The church of San Domenico features in its interior a coffered ceiling in wood of the XVIII century and eleven oils on canvas of Mattia Preti. Adjoining the church is the home of the civic museum, located in the monastery of the Dominican Friars dating back to the XV century. 
A short distance away there is the church of Santa Barbara, which preserves in its interior other works by Mattia Preti. Other interesting churches are the church of Santa Maria Maggiore (St Mary the Great) and San Nicola (St Nicholas), dating from the first half of '400 and that of San Martino.

Taverna’s Civic Museum

The Museum is housed in the former monastery of the Dominicans, adjoining the Chiesa Monumentale di San Domenico (Monumental Church of St Dominic), and houses splendid works of old masters of the XVII and XVIII centuries, such as Gregorio and Mattia Preti, Giovan Battista Spinelli, Antonio Samelli and Di Mattia. The exhibition follows a chronological order that from the archaeological documentary section arrives to XVII century, which features the paintings of two Preti brothers. Paintings by Gregorio Preti include “St Hyacinth” and “St Vincent Ferrer”, while works by Mattia Preti on display are: the Madonna of the Angels with St Michael Archangel and St Francis of Assisi, St Jerome and a sketch showing St Peter and St Paul. The following rooms, in addition to sculptures, contain works paintings by Neapolitan and Calabrian 17th-18th century artists, among which, Giovan Battista Spinelli, Antonio and Giovanni Sarnelli, Mario Minniti, Antonio De Bellis. Next are the rooms dedicated to the museum’s most recent acquisitions, including a preparatory study by the Preti brothers for the Glorification of St Peter Celestine. The second floor is dedicated to contemporary art and the twentieth century; it houses works by Carmelo and Angelo Savelli, Ercole Drei, Francesco Guerrieri, Lia Drei, Mimmo Rotella, Mirella Bentivoglio, Concetto Pozzati, Giuseppe Gallo and Francesco Correggia.


The convent of the Dominicans, damaged by an earthquake in 1662, was attached to the initial construction of the Chiesa di San Domenico (church of St Dominic). Baroque forms were added to church, rebuilt between 1670 and 1680, enlarging a side nave on the left, while in 1794 the steeple was rebuilt. The present appearance and style are the result of the Mattia Preti's intervention, as well as the cycle of frescoes depicting the Stories of the life of St Dominic, on the nave's arches, completed in 1693 by minor artists. The Church has a wooden coffered ceiling with a painting of the eighteenth century, and welcomed many works of art, including 8 paintings by Mattia Preti stolen on the night of 26 February 1970 and found in subsequent years. As a result of this episode, San Domenico was closed, and the artistic heritage was transferred to other locations. Works currently kept under safe custody in San Domenico are part of 11 oils on canvas by Mattia Preti, numerous other paintings of the XVII, XVIII and XIX century, a circular painting of a Pietà by Giovan Battista Ortega, the frontal of the main altar in coloured and etched plasterwork, the wooden choir with painted canvases, an organ in carved wood, painted and decorated, a wooden gilded and carved pulpit of the XVII century. The “Chiesa arcipretale di Santa Barbara” was built by the Franciscans during the XV century and subsequently enriched with paintings, statues and furniture. Currently it houses several works, including 6 oils on canvas by Mattia Preti, while the lower wall of the apse features the Patronage of St Barbara the tomb of Ignazio Poerio in marble and polychrome stone, ancient altars and wooden furnishings, treasure by unknown silversmiths and southern craftsmen, precious sacred garments and the parish’s book collection. The Chiesa di Santa Maria Maggiore is considered Taverna's oldest church. The original church and part of the interior furnishings have been heavily compromised by the flood of 1957. It preserves works by Giovanni Balducci, Giò Bernardino Azzolino and Cristoforo Santanna. Worthy of a visit is the “Oratorio della Madonna del Carmelo” (Oratory of Our Lady of Carmelo) that boasts a wooden ceiling from the XVIII century and detailed stucco-work. 
The Chiesa di Santa Maria del Soccorso has undergone a large number of restorations works over time and has lost all original decorative elements. A polychrome sculpture of the Madonna del Soccorso of the XVII century is placed on the altar.

Thematic Museum of Biodiversity

In the museum, the exhibit “Le Foreste della Sila” (Sila forests) is about the evolution and structure of the Sila forest highlighting some relationships that govern the functioning of these delicate ecosystems. In fact, the topic’s discussion highlights the relationship between the dynamic nature of all plant landscapes, influenced by climate factors as well as geological and genetic with the complexity of the relationship that is established between plant organisms and other living forms in order to understand the value and vulnerability.


Taverna is the melting pot of ancient gastronomic traditions, with very tasty dishes. Such as the “Pitta 'Mpigliata”, a sweet pastry dish of folk origins based on fruit harvested at the end of the crop year and stored for winter. The fruit used for this recipe are almonds, raisins, walnuts, pine nuts, dried figs. The “Pitte” are in the form of small stuffed rectangles, arranged like a flower on round pastry sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon and honey. They have a lovely golden colour and a fragrant spiced aroma. The great history of this sweet is lost in the ancient traditions of the town, and its perfect execution was one of the qualities of a bride required by the marriage contract.

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