Seminara was once even described as “the most valuable town for 16th century sculpture in the whole of Calabria.” And quite rightly so: between the 16th and the 17th centuries, it had no fewer than 33 churches and 8 monasteries. Unfortunately, the subsequent earthquakes of 1783 and 1908 destroyed many important examples of its rich history. However, the ancient village of Seminara, surrounded by green olive trees, is a small treasure trove in which artistic treasures of unexpected beauty have been preserved. In any one of the town’s ancient churches and buildings, visitors can marvel at valuable Renaissance works of art, true symbols of the historical and artistic importance of the town in the sixteenth century.
In the Middle Ages, Seminara became the most imposing fortress in southern Tyrrhenian Calabria and the remains of its surrounding walls can still be seen in the village area today.
In the 16th century Seminara was in its heyday and became an important destination for leading painters, sculptors and writers who left lasting marks on the town.
Stately buildings, churches and monasteries were built around the military buildings; the town was then adorned with monuments and, following its occupation by the Normans and Angevins, it became a cultural point of reference for the whole of southern Italy. In the 16th century the town was in its heyday and became an important destination for leading painters, sculptors and writers who left lasting marks on the town; but in 1783 and 1908, two devastating earthquakes razed it to the ground. Fortunately, it was rebuilt in a way that maintained its ancient medieval urban plan, however, it lost many of its important architectural treasures along the way. There are many elements that make Seminara a popular cultural destination, starting with the thousand-year-old Santuario della Madonna Nera (Sanctuary of the Black Madonna) or the Basilica della Madonna dei Poveri (Basilica of the Madonna of the Poor). The ancient village church, an impressive example of Byzantine art, is also a notable attraction and houses a statue discovered in 1010 which was miraculously saved from the same fire that destroyed the city. To this day the city remains a much-loved destination for pilgrims.
The medieval citadel is clearly visible within the remains of the sixteenth-century Castello Mezzatesta (Mezzatesta Castle), of which only the perimeter walls remain. The Palazzo Municipale (town hall) also contains fragments of marble from monuments of the old Seminara which was destroyed by several earthquakes.
Seminara is also known as the town of ceramics, as demonstrated by the numerous craft shops in the town's main street. Founded in the 18th century, the local ceramic tradition has been preserved over the centuries, making the village one of the most well-known Italian towns for the production of vases and artistic ceramics. Local ceramic pieces tend to be made in particular shapes, such as two-handled amphorae, mugs, which are sometimes decorated in relief, pitchers with spouts, unusually-shaped jars, doughnut or fish-shaped water bottles, lanterns, bottles and flasks, grotesque masks and gabbacumpari, a type of wine pitcher with a series of holes which call for a very skilled drinker.
In order to introduce tourists to its local treasures, Seminara hosts many folklore events, one of which is the historical re-enactment of the passage of Em-peror Charles V. During the event, the village is illuminated with lights, col-ours, costumes and decorated with bales, thus transforming itself into an exceptionally atmospheric Renaissance setting. One of Seminara’s most fascinating traditions is the dance of the giants, Mata and Griffon, two huge statues that dance to the unwavering rhythm of the percussion instruments.
The ruins of Castello Mezzatesta
Only the imposing perimeter walls of the noble Mezzatesta family’s ancient residence are still standing. The facade, made up of megalithic blocks with complex shapes, was enhanced by ashlar stones and a keystone on the postern. Most likely built between the end of the 16th and 17th centuries, it is now in a very poor condition. The magnificent upper floors were probably accessed via various, partially preserved staircases.
The Palazzo Municipale
The staircase and halls of this building, which currently houses the municipal administration, contain preserved marble artefacts from monuments of the old Seminara which was destroyed in the earthquake of 1908. Among these is a sixteenth-century bas-relief that was part of a monument to Carlo Spinelli in which Spinelli is depicted during the 1495 battle of Seminara. Visitors can also admire several stone coats of arms and two mutilated stone statues, which possibly date back to the Renaissance period.
The Church of San Michele
After the 1783 earthquake, the church was rebuilt in a baroque style. At the left hand side of the hall you can see a sixteenth-century marble altarpiece of the school of Messina depicting a scene from the Epiphany. The presbytery, decorated with marble bas-reliefs, a wooden statue of St. Rocco and a 16th-century canvas depicting Santa Maria delle Grazie, is al-so well worth a visit.
Church of Sant’Antonio dei Pignatari
This small church houses a marble sculpture of the Virgin and Child which is probably of the Gaginian school from the 16th century. Its tasteful facade is embellished by a bas-relief just above the entrance. Two carved vases are displayed in the two side alcoves and a square bell tower takes pride of place alongside the building.
Santuario della Madonna dei Poveri
A must-see attraction for those looking to explore the historic and artistic heritage of the city is the Santuario della Madonna dei Poveri (Sanctuary of the Madonna of the Poor). Since 3 September 1659, with the title of Distinguished Collegiate Church, the Santuario had had primacy over all the collegiate churches and parishes of the Diocese of Miletus. Subsequently, with a bull dated 30 May 1955, Pope Pius XII awarded the Santuario the esteemed title of Basilica Minor. Today the Basilica Santuario, is part of the Diocese of Oppido-Palmi. This majestic building features a pronaos and double bell tower. It is divided into three naves by two rows of arches, each of which is supported by columns covered in polychrome marble with intricately carved capitals at the top. Inside, the high altar is topped with a wooden statue of the Madonna wearing a golden crown, which originally came from the ancient city of Tauriana. The current gold-laminated throne dates back to the mid-1700s when it was presented as a gift from a wealthy Spanish family. Other valuable sculptures include the 15th century statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, both made of marble, which were formerly positioned on the facade of the previous building. The Madonna and Child of the gaginian school, on the other hand, originates from the ancient church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. The two altarpieces depict, respectively, the Most Holy and a scene from the Adoration of the Magi. The new exhibition spaces that house the precious works of the Basilica Santuario della Madonna dei Poveri consist of three rooms adjacent to the Basilica. The first room, called Amaranth Room, displays liturgical ornaments, silver votive ex-votos, and terracotta works relating to tradition and faith. The second room, known as the Blue Room, exhibits a number of canvases. Among the most important are the Immaculate, a portrait by Giovanangelo d'Amato, and a portrait of Blessed Angelo of Acri. In the same room you can admire precious parchments and the historical archive of the Insigne Collegiata di Seminara (Distinguished Collegiate Church of Seminara). In the third room, the Throne Room, sacred vestments, and the wooden throne of the Madonna dei Poveri are on display, as well as the furnishings that were placed on the statue. All of this is set against a backdrop of tombstones and the marble remains of the destroyed Basilica.
The beach of Cala Junculla (from the ancient Greek meaning "woman who has relations with another woman") is nestled between two spurs of rock and, due to its inaccessible location, can be reached almost exclusively by sea. It can also be accessed by foot but only via the Tracciolino Trail, a long and difficult path well-known among avid hikers, which runs along the cliff halfway up the coast. The beach is part of the Special Protection Area and is a Site of Community Interest of the Calabria Region.
Cala Junculla is a small yet enchanting jewel in the heart of the Costa Viola, where the fine, clean, and uncontaminated sand gives way to a mirror of crystal clear and transparent water from the deepest depths. Between the cliffs, one side of the cove gives access to the Grotta delle Rondini (Swallows’ Cave). The caves known as the Grotta delle Sirene (Mermaids’ Cave) and the Grotta Perciata are also just a stone's throw away.
Out of the most characteristic local dishes, you must try the baked broccolettti (mini broccoli), beans sautéed with red onion and 'Nduja, stuffed peppers and stuffed olives, roast swordfish, tagliatelle alla reggina or the fillet of the republic of Sbarre, as well as the typical doughnut-like desserts of zeppole and chinulille.
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, 3, Seminara