Itinerary of the UNESCO Sites in Calabria

Discover the UNESCO Calabria: monuments, nature areas and popular rituals

© Regione Calabria


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Did you know that there are 10 UNESCO Sites in Calabria and another 5 proposed by the Region as World Heritage Sites?

Come and discover them all in a unique itinerary that, from north to south, passes through the fascinating encounter with the UNESCO Calabria and its internationally protected jewels: monuments, works of art and traditions of faith and folklore that represent some of the most precious heritages in the Mediterranean.

Below are the Calabria UNESCO Sites and a travel itinerary to visit them, one stop after the other:


This is the list of sites nominated by the Region and awaiting UNESCO approval:

Stop 1 - Papasidero

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Covering over 190,000 hectares (between the Calabrian side in the province of Cosenza and the Lucanian side), the Pollino National Park is the largest in Italy and takes its name from the mountain massif of the same name.

Since 2015, it has been part of the Calabria UNESCO Sites with the international designation of Pollino Global Geopark, part of the UNESCO World List of Geoparks.

The Pollino Geopark counts 69 geosites scattered between the Calabrian and Lucanian slopes: glacial cirques, moraine deposits, snowfields, rudist fossils and particular rock formations, such as the unmissable ‘timpe’ and prehistoric caves, among which the absolute jewel of Calabrian prehistory, the Romito Cave (Municipality of Papasidero).

In addition to simple trekking exploration, more adrenalin sports enthusiasts can cross the limestone gorges by canoe, rafting in the Raganello Gorge Nature Reserve and the Lao River Valley Nature Reserve.

Are you an experienced speleologist? Don't miss the breathtaking thrill of being "swallowed up" by the Bifurto Abyss (known locally as "Fossa del Lupo", in the Municipality of Cerchiara di Calabria), one of the deepest vertical caves in the world (40th swallowhole with its 683 m depth), starring in the award-winning film "Il buco" by director Michelangelo Frammartino.

Stop 2 - Castrovillari

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The oldest beech trees in Europe? You will find them in the Faggete Vetuste del Pollinello in the municipality of Castrovillari, the heart of the Pollino National Park.

Declared a World Heritage Site in 2021 (UNESCO Calabria Sites), the Faggete del Pollinello are among the 94 ancient beech forests surveyed around the world and are composed of centuries-old trees. A wonder to be seen and "embraced".

Lovers of fauna and nature observation can come across an extraordinary variety of species: large birds of prey, the Apennine wolf, the typical roe deer of Orsomarso (an indigenous species), medicinal and aromatic herbs. In spring, the surroundings of the beech forests are embellished by the spectacular flowering of orchids; in summer, of the extremely rare red lily.

If you reach the summit of Serra Dolcedorme (2,267 metres), the highest in the park, you can admire a 360° panorama, embracing both the Tyrrhenian and Ionian coasts. 

Stop 3 - Cosenza

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Among Calabria's UNESCO sites is the jewel of Cosenza's historic centre (Cosenza Vecchia), the splendid Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.

Acknowledged in 2011 as "Heritage Witness to the Culture of Peace" by UNESCO, Cosenza Cathedral stands on the remains of the ancient church destroyed in the 1184 earthquake. These are the reasons for the prestigious recognition: "Cosenza Cathedral has been the centre of gravity of cultural, historical and religious activities since the 11th - 12th centuries, which have enriched the knowledge and cultural and social heritage of Calabria. At the same time, over the centuries, the Cathedral has been a beacon for migrants from different countries to whom it still continues to offer itself as a place for fraternal encounters, where they can find space for cultural moments and events and also for interreligious prayer".

The consecration took place in 1222, in the presence of Emperor Frederick II of Swabia, with the donation of a very precious reliquary cross (12th century) by goldsmiths from Palermo, the Stauroteca, now on display at the Diocesan Museum. Inside, there are two important Baroque chapels: the first, dedicated to the Madonna del Pilerio, with a 12th-century Byzantine icon of the Galaktotrophousa type ("Madonna suckling the Child"), to whom the people of Cosenza have been devoted since 1576 (miraculous end of the plague); the second, houses the tomb of the Calabrian members of the "Expedition of the Bandiera Brothers" (1844).  

Other noteworthy works include the Mausoleum of Isabella of Aragon (1271) and the 19th century polychrome frescoes by Domenico Morelli and Paolo Veltri.

Stop 4 - Corigliano-Rossano

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Among Calabria's most precious UNESCO World Heritage Sites is the ancient Gospel Book known as Codex Purpureus Rossanensis.

It was 2015 when UNESCO included it among the World Heritage Sites in the "Memory of the World" category.

It is a Greek illuminated gospel book dating back to the 6th century, which collects, in 188 sheets of very fine purple parchment (hence the name with reference to the red colour of the pages), the gospels of Matthew and Mark enriched with 15 beautiful miniatures. 

It is hosted by the Diocesan and Codex Museum in Rossano (Municipality of Corigliano-Rossano, in the province of Cosenza). The text is accessible to all thanks to an innovative tactile tablet, which also allows the blind and visually impaired to enjoy the beauty of the artefact. It is the only museum in Italy to offer this kind of sensory experience, combined with a QR Code through which it is possible to access a video in Italian and international sign language, making the visit inclusive also for the deaf.  

Stop 5 - Taverna

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Always nicknamed the "Great Wood of Italy", due to the wooded resources exploited in the Mediterranean since the times of Magna Graecia, the Sila Plateau, today the Sila National Park, is among the UNESCO Global Parks.

Custodian of one of the world's most significant biodiversity heritages, the Sila National Park finds its symbol in the Sila Wolf, a species depredated for centuries and survived thanks to the protection of the Park Authority, among the reasons why it is a UNESCO Calabria site.

The Sila Plateau, where you can breathe the best air in Europe (certified by a team of international experts), stretches between the provinces of Cosenza, Crotone and Catanzaro.

Within the park there are 9 Biogenetic Nature Reserves, among which the so-called Giants of Sila, colossal trees over 500 years old, and the Golia-Corvo Reserve, an area where deer (about 150 specimens) spread and acclimatise.

Sports and nature activities not to be missed include: a trip to the Sila lakes (both trekking and by boat), skiing in the winter season at the park's three ski resorts (Lorica, Camigliatello Silano and Palumbo Sila); visits to historical villages and artistic sites, and tastings of Sila's PDO/ PGI products (Silan Potato and Caciocavallo Silano).

Stop 6 - Palmi

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The Varia of Palmi is among the most important religious festivals in Calabria and is celebrated on the last Sunday of August.

One of Calabria's UNESCO jewels included in the list of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2013, the Varia celebrates the Assumption into Heaven of Holy Mary of the Holy Letter, patron saint of the city of Palmi, along the Costa Viola, in the province of Reggio Calabria

The fascinating procession of the Varia of Palmi consists of the procession of a gigantic "votive machine on the shoulders" (over 15 metres high), carried by the faithful through the streets of the town.

The history of the Varia is also evocative: imported from Messina in 1582 as a thank-you to the people of Palmi for having come to their aid during the plague that struck the city, the Varia of Palmi replicates the Sicilian one "in a small way". It involves hundreds of participants carrying in procession the structure on top of which is tied the so-called "Animella", a little girl representing the Madonna. Tied to the structure, the other children represent the angels, while at the foot of the float are positioned the apostles and, finally, the bearers.

Stop 7 - Santo Stefano in Aspromonte

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The Aspromonte National Park, characterised by great animal and plant biodiversity, falls entirely within the province of Reggio Calabria, between the Ionian Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Different from the rest of the Italian Apennine ridge in terms of geology and morphology, the Aspromonte Massif has always been the subject of study by international experts, fascinated by the imposing lithic scenery of the Valley of the Great Stones, one of the most recent UNESCO World Heritage Calabria Geosites (Aspromonte Global Geopark). 

Among the most spectacular monoliths are Pietra Cappa, the Rocche di San Pietro with its hermitage, the Caldaie del Latte and the Rocca del Drago.

From the Aspromontane peaks, it is possible to ski "sea view", thanks to the ski facilities of Gambarie d'Aspromonte (Municipality of Santo Stefano in Aspromonte).

Among the unmissable paths through the park are the Englishman's Path, inspired by the Grand Tour of Edward Lear and other illustrious visitors of the time, and the itinerary through the "Corrado Alvaro" Park, in the footsteps of the writer, a native of San Luca.

Some of Calabria's Greek villages (ancient Greek-speaking communities) and the so-called ''ghost villages'', such as Pentedattilo, fall within the park.

Stop 8 - San Luca

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We remain in the heart of the Aspromonte National Park to discover another unparalleled naturalistic treasure. We are talking about the Valle Infernale Vetuste beech forests, in the municipality of San Luca.

Primordial beech woods, which have resisted environmental and anthropic transformations for centuries, gaining in 2021 the important recognition among Calabria's UNESCO Sites.

Immersed in an impressive ecosystem, beech forests can be up to 600 years old, preserving their life cycle unchanged, from germination to natural death. In fact, dead trees are not removed, but left in place as a source of nourishment and refuge for many other organisms.

Silent witnesses to the geological evolution of Aspromonte, the Faggete Vetuste della Valle Infernale are one of the places not to be missed during an excursion through the forests of the massif.

Stop 9 - Reggio di Calabria

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The Metropolitan City of Reggio Calabria, the continent's southernmost province, has been included among the UNESCO Learning Cities since 2022.

The motivation that gives the "City of the Strait" this important recognition among the UNESCO Calabria Sites concerns the opportunity for its citizens to practice constant and fruitful learning through the sharing of "know-how" and "best practices".

Belonging to the prestigious UNESCO "Global Network" is one more reason to visit Reggio Calabria and discover its wonders: from its most ancient face, kept in the "temple" of the Riace Bronzes, the National Archaeological Museum, to its most contemporary one, which passes through the sculptures of Rabarama and Tresoldi, on the famous "Falcomatà" Seafront.

Stop 10 - Bova

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The Greek of Calabria, the ancient language that has merged with the local idiom since the first Greek colonisation (Magna Graecia) to create a veritable linguistic enclave, is to all intents and purposes one of Calabria's UNESCO heritages.

Mentioned in the UNESCO Red Book, among the languages at risk of extinction, Greek of Calabria is an expression of the Greek community that still inhabits the Ionian side of the province of Reggio Calabria, along the so-called Costa dei Gelsomini.

The Greek area of Calabria, known as Bovesìa, takes its name from the urban centre of Bova, one of The Most Beautiful Villages in Italy, and is home to an ethno-linguistic minority that preserves its customs through associations and local realities aimed at protection.

Those wishing to further their studies on the Greek of Calabria and Grecanica culture can visit the "Gerhard Rohlfs" Museum of the Greco-Calabra Language in Bova.

Another "must" of Grecanic folklore is linked to the music and traditional instruments of the East, which enliven the traditional "Festival Paleariza" in August.

Last update: Jun 24, 2024 10:03 AM