Bourbon Calabria: trip to the Royal Ironworks of Mongiana and Ferdinandea

The Iron and Steel Pole and the Bourbon Armoury between industrial archaeology and nature
VV- Tour Calabria - Mongiana

© Regione Calabria

Art and Culture

Who said there has never been fruitful industry in Calabria?

Did you know that in the heart of the Serre Regional Natural Park, in the province of Vibo Valentia, there are the remains of what was Europe's largest iron and steel industry between the 18th and 19th centuries?

These are the Royal Ironworks and Weapons Factory of Mongiana, the grandiose industrial centre commissioned by King Ferdinand I of Bourbon and brought to its full splendour by Ferdinand II.

This marvellous place, immersed in the green of coniferous forests, among spring springs and torrents, is now an unmissable eco-museum.

The Bourbon Ironworks Ecomuseum

The Bourbon Ironworks Ecomuseum is the result of a far-sighted and well-crafted project of industrial archaeology and nature enhancement through special trekking routes.

Reachable by car or along the park and eco-museum trails, the site of the Calabrian Bourbon Ironworks, as well as the nearby site of the so-called "Ferdinandea" (King Ferdinand's summer hunting lodge), is an indispensable testimony to understanding the true history of the rise and fall of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies on Calabrian territory and the repercussions it had from the Unification of Italy onwards for the entire South.

Founded in 1770, the Mongiana Iron and Steel Pole boasts a series of records of modernity since its inception, documents in hand: in 1860, it counted no less than 1,500 specialised workers capable of satisfying a large part of the iron and steel needs of the time and was certainly the main centre of the Calabrian economy; the workers worked regular eight-hour shifts, without child or female exploitation, a more unique than rare case in that historical period.

Also unique was the first Bourbon decree for the protection and preservation of the forest, aimed at the conscious exploitation of the forest resource.

A true "iron and steel village" in the modern sense, whose productive efficiency was confirmed by recent archaeological excavations that revealed the presence of 3 blast furnaces, 3 weapons factories, 29 ironworks and 2 foundries.

Regione Calabria

Limonite, the iron ore from the surrounding mines from which the iron needed to build the first stretch of railway in Italy, the Naples-Portici, another Bourbon record, was processed here.

Next to the iron and steel pole of the Royal Ironworks and Workshops in the municipality of Mongiana, the large summer estate of the "Ferdinandea", in the nearby municipality of Stilo, in the province of Reggio Calabria, bears witness to the king's appreciation for these pleasant and unspoilt places, elected summer residence and hunting estate.

Plundered and dismantled following the Piedmontese annexation of southern Italy, immediately after Unification (1861) the Bourbon hub passed into the hands of the former Garibaldian Achille Fazzari, who, after a period in which he made it a meeting place for artists and intellectuals (writer Matilde Serao was one of its most frequent visitors), also starting up an activity of regimentation and bottling of spring water, in 1881 caused its definitive collapse, with disastrous consequences for the local economy.

Historical and archaeological finds, artefacts, documents and photographic and direct evidence of this precious cross-section of Calabrian history can now be seen at the Royal Ironworks Museum in Mongiana, in a rich and fascinating exhibition itinerary.

Museo delle Reali Ferriere di Mongiana
Regione Calabria

What to see in Mongiana

The visit to the historical centre of Mongiana continues with the discovery of the historic buildings and the present-day town.

A place not to be missed is the enchanting "Villa Vittoria" Park, part of the "Marchesale" Biogenetic Nature Reserve (former State Forestry Corps).

It is a reserve that is a valuable habitat for local flora and fauna, starting with the natural fir forests that are one of the reserve's main attractions. A green corridor inhabited by foxes, hedgehogs, weasels and other small rodents; nested by buzzards and jays, green woodpeckers, owls and different species of hawks.

Inside the Cropani-Micone Nature Reserve, in the immediate vicinity, there is the Sambuco Lake (Lagetto di Mongiana), which offers a relaxing walk surrounded by greenery and the availability of a large picnic area equipped with tables and grills.

Laghetto di Mongiana
Regione Calabria

Ultimo aggiornamento: Feb 15, 2024 11:55 AM