Discovering the land of contrasts in the heart of the Pollino National Park



Travel information




Calabria is a land of contrasts: sea and mountains outline the contours of landscapes of uncontaminated beauty, among testimonies of different civilizations and varied expressions of craftsmanship, folklore and traditions. It has been a region of transit, has undergone assaults and dominations and has also been a destination for migrations: the most important mark on the territory is the one left by the Albanian Arbëreshë community. Coming from Albania and from Albanian-speaking groups in Greece, the Arbëreshë settled in Italy between the fifteenth and the eighteenth century: many of them, during the advance of the Ottomans, took advantage of it to emigrate to the safe lands of Calabria and still today communities survive in some municipalities of the provinces of Catanzaro, Cosenza and Crotone. 

When you explore Calabria, you can't help but visit a unique place like the Pollino National Park, which, with an extension of 196,000 hectares, is considered the largest national park in Italy. This green area is located in the southern Apennine ridge between Basilicata and Calabria and develops, from the Tyrrhenian to the Ionian Sea, through rock formations of various origins, among which the peak of Dolcedorme (2267 m) stands out. 
The park enjoys an incredible variety of reliefs, fauna - with specimens of wolf, roe deer, otter and black woodpecker, just to mention the main species - and vegetation, ranging from Mediterranean scrub to high altitude plateaus. Rivers and streams, such as the Lao, the Peschiera, the Argentino, cross the valleys, digging in the territory suggestive gorges with water paths of extraordinary charm and naturalistic value, such as the Raganello, which slides between two rocky walls up to 700 meters high and can be reached through a long staircase of 615 steps. In the Raganello Gorge every year hundreds of hikers and fans of extreme sports, such as canyoning and rafting, attracted by the conformation of the place that allows them to enjoy moments of pure adrenaline.

The itinerary is suitable for everyone, practicable by car in spring, summer and autumn.

Food tips

Arbëreshë cuisine is intrinsically connected to religious rites and is part of Calabrian culinary customs. In the dishes the Mediterranean influence is powerful, especially for the ingredients: dried fruit and honey, for example, characterize the desserts. Simplicity and essentiality are the distinctive features of this type of cuisine: in addition to classic dishes such as meat, herb soups, vegetable omelettes, arbëreshë cuisine offers recipes that are completely unique and to be safeguarded. 
Like the Dromësat, piles of flour to be cooked directly in tomato sauce. To prepare the dough crumbs, first the flour is baptized, then the dough is blessed and finally a sort of marriage is celebrated with tomato sauce and spices, such as laurel and oregano. Shëtridhlat is a recipe of great charm, whose realization is a specifically female task. The dough must be worked without breaking it, creating a long thread which is thinned and then rolled up like a skein. Once ready, it is usually enriched with legumes or vegetables. 
Sweets are the real jewel of Arbëreshë cuisine: there are maiatka, sweet and, in some cases, also savory crepes prepared with water, flour, elder flowers and, sometimes, also sugar and eggs, there is giuggiulea nougat and then again kanarikuj, similar to gnocchi with honey, and cruscoli, made of water, oil and wine, cullurielli, the sweets of the great festivities, made with water, flour and the mother yeast of the day before, kasolle me gijze, rolls of ricotta cheese. Then there is the tasty pitta, filled with dried fruit, raisins and honey, emblem of an entire culture and a fundamental event such as Easter.

Stop 1 - Papasidero

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Papasidero is an ancient Basilian settlement, perched on a rocky spur of Mount Ciagola on the left bank of the river Lao, in the heart of the Pollino National Park in the province of Cosenza. 
The surrounding territory preserves traces of man dating back to the Upper Paleolithic, attested by the findings made in the famous Cave of Romito, where you can admire the Bos primigenius, rock engraving depicting a bovine, dating back 12,000 years ago. The Cave of Romito is certainly the greatest attraction for tourists visiting the small medieval village, and represents one of the most interesting expressions of rock art of the Upper Paleolithic.
Papasidero is also a starting point for exceptional naturalistic excursions in the Pellegrino Massif and in the Pollino National Park. The entire territory of the municipality of Papasidero is in fact included in the beautiful Nature Reserve of the Lao Valley, which covers over 5,000 hectares along the river of the same name.

Stop 2 - Morano Calabro

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An explosion of colors is the backdrop to Morano Calabro, a small historic village perched on a hilltop, along which it stretches like a nativity scene, with the backdrop of the Pollino massif. With its very original panoramic view of houses sloping down to the valley, this village resembles a nativity scene shining with lights at night. The Normans built there a castle whose ruins still embellish the historical center, ennobled by numerous churches, widenings, steps and underpasses, arches, towers and buttresses that recreate the bewitching atmosphere of remote times but never forgotten. 
Morano Calabro is part of the circuit of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy since 2003 and it is also one of the main attractions of the Pollino National Park, which shares the majestic and lush nature with unforgettable landscapes.

Stop 3 - Castrovillari

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Located in a natural depression, called Conca del Re, Castrovillari is surrounded by the Calabrian Apennines and is the largest center of the Pollino National Park. Charming town of medieval origin and rich in works of art and culture, Castrovillari is clearly divided into two areas: the modern part, lying in a flat area, and the old one, which includes the old town and elegant monuments, located at the end of a rocky spur from which you can enjoy a superb view of the Plain of Sybaris. 
Castrovillari owes much of its fame to the magnificent carnival that is staged in the city since 1959 and has been included by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture and Tourism in the list of historic carnivals Italian. The intuition of the Carnival of Castrovillari was to combine masks and folklore, a winning combination determined by the enormous popular participation that still characterizes it today.

Stop 4 - Civita

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Civita, one of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy, rises in the heart of the Pollino National Park and the Raganello Gorge Nature Reserve. The valley in which it stands is surrounded by wooded mountains, where the blue reflections of the Ionian Sea, which can be seen on the horizon. 
Immersed in a unique and varied naturalistic landscape, Civita is one of the oldest Arbëreshë communities in Italy and it is a center renowned for its architecture and natural beauty. Walking through the narrow streets of the village you can notice the suggestive chimneys with bizarre shapes and the so-called talking houses, so called for the anthropomorphic shape of the facades. The old quarters, with the low houses, the cracks in the walls and the old people sitting in front of the house door, give images of other times. 
In the summer months many visitors are attracted by the paths of the Pollino Park and by the possibility of practicing sports such as canyoning and canyoning inside the Gole del Raganello Nature Reserve.

Last update: Apr 2, 2022 9:12 AM