Tiriolo, between myth and history
Comuni_Tiriolo Panorama

Historical centres

Jul 8, 2020 10:55 AM

Tiriolo, an agricultural centre of the Sila Piccola, is placed on the top of a hill that acts as a watershed between the valleys of the Amato and Corace rivers, at the narrowest point of the isthmus of Catanzaro. From the village, it is possible to let our gaze drift to form a unique image comprising the Ionian Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Sila and Serre, the Archipelago of the Aeolian Islands with the Stromboli volcano, and in the distance, the snowy peak of Mount Etna. In the town’s east is Monte Tiriolo, Natural Park and Archaeological Museum, conical in appearance and of a calcareous nature, the last witness of the Apennine belt, rich in Karst caves. On top, we find the remains of a Byzantine fortification that bears witness to the use of the mountain for strategic-defensive purposes.

Recently on the terrace of one of the old nineteenth century buildings an Astronomical Observatory was set up.

Archaeological finds corroborate the theory of the existence of an inhabited centre in the area of Tiriolo since Neolithic times.

The houses in the old town centre, perched as in a manger, constitute the town's old part, while newer buildings extend along the foot of the hill, nestled between mountains and valleys. The legend dates the origins of the settlement of Tiriolo to the Greek people of six centuries before the Trojan war or even identifies it with the mythical Scherie; happy homeland of the Homeric people of the Phaeacians. Archaeological finds corroborate the theory of the existence of an inhabited area since the Neolithic period, as revealed by findings such as polished axes, rudimentary chisels and obsidian rakes. 
The subsequent Roman presence can be attested by its most important evidence in the famous bronze tablet engraved with a text concerning the Senatus Consultum de Bacchanalibus. This was a decree of the II century B.C. with which the Roman Senate forbade the bacchanalia; orgiastic rites involving also the elites and therefore considered the context of possible conspiracies against the State. The exhibit, discovered in 1640, is located today in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, offered in 1727 in homage to the emperor Charles VI of Hapsburg.

In today's Antiquarium civico di Tiriolo (Tiriolo’s Civic Antiquarium) a copy is kept together with inscriptions, coins, pottery and various other items related to the local history; the Museo Provinciale di Catanzaro (Provincial Museum of Catanzaro) also contains evidence of these items. Tiriolo is a centre where even today, there are art and handicraft workshops which produce work on a loom and using a bobbin, including traditional shawls and fabrics in wool and silk. Agriculture is mainly based on wheat, olives and grapes which are processed on-site by mills and wine-making facilities. Tiriolo is in fact the Town of Olive Oil. During the month of August many events take place such as the “Festival Bacchanalia” that refers to the discovery of the tablet with which the Roman Senate forbade the Bacchanalia and which features jazz, ethnic and pop music concerts from dawn to dusk, tasting of wines and typical products of the area and theatrical performances.

The Brettia Chamber Tomb

Of great significance is the Brettia chamber tomb, recently discovered in Castaneto and that has been re-built in a room of the Antiquarium Civico. A monumental work of the IV-III century B.C. which is part of a necropolis, in contrast with the isolated location that is usual among the Bruttii for this kind of tomb. On the front, matching the corner blocks, we must point out the elegant presence of two grooved semi-columns lined by a vertical strip that completes the decorative motif. From the ruins, it was possible to retrieve various finds including: balsam containers, fragments of strigils in bronze, a small fragmented amphora, part of a wind musical instrument in bone, strips of leather, a female head in terracotta, two fragments of an equine limb in terracotta, iron nails, decorative elements in lead worn by a horse, an iron knife, fragments of grappa in lead, and fragments of pottery painted black relevant to a small cup and one skyphos.

Dolphin Palace

Tiriolo’s most striking archaeological discovery is one that occurred in 2015 in the town of Gianmartino, following a survey with georadar; the survey revealed the presence of a dense network of masonry structures and floors buried at a depth ranging between 15 and 90 centimetres from the current countryside ground. The area has thus revealed some structures which refer to a building of the IV-III century B.C. (probably used religious-sacred purposes), richly decorated and very well preserved, which allows to interpret various construction stages, restructuring and re-purposing, before a violent fire destroyed it. Scholars describe a space divided into a long corridor colonnade which is overlooked by the three environments, in addition to a paved room with “cocciopesto” (lime mortar with crushed pottery) with the central panel with a mosaic portraying two dolphins and a third fish of unknown specie; a second room with a monumental doorway, a third floor with a paved floor with “cocciopesto” (lime mortar with crushed pottery) decorated with geometrical motifs, and finally a large atrium-basin.

Palazzo Alemanni

At the centre of Tiriolo’s main square is the ancient palazzo Alemanni, in neoclassical style and characterised by a central monumental balcony and by the presence of windows surmounted by small decorative triangle gables alternated with a fanlight. The entrance portal under the balcony is a stone arch and, on the keystone, features an apotropaic mask in white marble. Inside, a large courtyard gives access to the upper floor by means of a staircase. The building is famous for having served as a shelter to Garibaldi during one of his stops in Calabria.

Archaeological Museum

Formally established in 1995 by the Municipality of Tiriolo and by the Soprintendenza archeologica della Calabria (Archaeological Superintendency of Calabria) with the name of “Antiquarium civico”, Tiriolo's museum, in 2018, was acknowledged as a Regional Archaeological Museum. The first room displays a selection of items accidentally discovered in the XX century in the area of Tiriolo and handed over to institutions by various private citizens for the establishment of the museum in 1995. The collection is mainly composed of finds of the Bruttii era (IV-III century B.C.), but also preserves some prehistoric and protohistoric artefacts, in addition to a few but very important finds of Roman times. Not to be missed is the copy of the famous “Senatus consultum de Bachanalibus” and the “defixio osca”. The second room houses the monumental Brettia tomb found in Castaneto, in 2008 and which became famous immediately throughout the region.

Museum of Regional Costumes

The exhibition is the result of a careful study carried out on the field and faithful reproductions by hand, which has grown over time, until reaching the current number of 36 costumes. The museum is recognised as one of the richest and most interesting collections of the region, also embellished by the presence of two original costumes. The section of the traditional costume is without a doubt of extreme importance, both from the point of view of art and crafts, as from the historical-anthropological point of view.

Natural Ecomuseum

The Ecomuseo naturalistico is included within the wider context of the Parco Fortezza di monte Tiriolo, based in a historic building dating back to the end of the nineteenth century, initially used as a meteorological observatory. In 2016, a series of exhibition spaces were set up on the building’s ground floor, specifically dedicated to Tiriolo's natural and geological heritage; in addition, a series of educational spaces were also set up on the first floor.

Parco-Fortezza Monte Tiriolo

The Parco Fortezza-Monte preserves the monumental ruins of the Byzantine kastron of Monte Tiriolo. Probably established in the second half of the VI century A.D., the fortress is composed by majestic walls, the ruins of towers and by the foundations of the church. At the southern end of the park is the enclosed semicircle area commonly known as “Giudecca”. The area is also worth a visit due to its breathtaking views in addition to the geological and natural features of Monte Tiriolo.

Parco Archeologico Urbano Gianmartino

The “Parco archeologico urbano Gianmartino” preserves the wonderful facilities of the building known as the “Palazzo dei Delfini”, due to the presence of a mosaic floor with the image of two dolphins. The archaeological park is a unique site, at regional level and in the context of Italian archaeology, due to the level of conservation of the structures and wealth of artefacts found. Finds on the site include splendid capitals, many bronze and pottery artefacts and approximately 300 coins.


Tiriolo’s cuisine combines the aromas and flavours of the most ancient traditions, which boasts the “scilatelle al sugo”, pasta in sauce, prepared following ancient methods, with spicy flavour and a sprinkling of pecorino cheese. Genuine olive oil, like the land where it comes from, is a key ingredient in the preparation of any local dishes. The killing of the "puercu" (pig), almost a ritual linked to pagan traditions is of great historical value. Typical food derived from this ritual includes “frittole”, obtained by heating the pig's rind in a tin-plated copper pot, called “caddara”. There are several typical sweets, which include "e cuzzupe" (Easter sweet), "a pignolata" (a Christmas sweet), "i cuddurieddi" (Calabrian doughnuts) and “graviuoli".

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