Discovering Gerace, among The Most Beautiful Villages in Italy

History, art and events in an enchanted village

© Regione Calabria

Art and Culture

A jewel of Byzantine-Norman architecture in Calabria, Gerace appears among The Most Beautiful Villages in Italy in the province of Reggio Calabria.

Carved into the rock and facing the Ionian Sea, this historic centre with its medieval charm is also known as the "Enchanted Village", because of the summer event of the same name: the International Festival of Street Performers that lights up this place with light and magic every year at the end of July.

What to see in Gerace

We reach Gerace, one of The Most Beautiful Villages in Italy, driving along the Ionic State Road along the Costa dei Gelsomini and up the hill towards the panoramic summit on which the village stands, a veritable terrace overlooking the sea.

As in any self-respecting medieval village, access is through an ancient gate in the city walls: Porta della Varvara, which immediately introduces us to the Potters' Workshops quarter. From here, we walk in amazement through the alleys of the citadel to the upper quarter, partially founded on the rock.

Regione Calabria

Arriving in Piazza della Repubblica, we admire the beautiful Church of Santa Maria del Mastro, in the immediate vicinity of Palazzo del Balzo, which overlooks the Piana.

The latter, reached by taking the road past the 18th-century Church of San Giorgio, houses the Convent of the Capuchins (1534) and the Convent of the Minor Observants (1612), a few steps away from the charming Church of Santa Maria di Monserrato, also of Byzantine origin.

Leaving the Borgo Maggiore, you reach the Borghetto, whose city gate gives access to the Church of San Martino, one of the oldest, although it was rebuilt after the earthquake of 1783. From here, along Via Roma, you reach the Belvedere Bombarde, a panoramic viewpoint whose name is linked to the ancient defensive artillery.

The beating heart of the village passes through the 16th-century Porta del Sole, through which one reaches Piazza del Tocco and, finally, surrounded by noble palaces and sumptuous sculpted portals, one arrives at Piazza Tribuna, dominated by the monumental Cathedral of Gerace.

Consecrated in 1045, in perfect Romanesque-Norman style, this church is the architectural symbol of the village and it stands partly on bare rock and partly on an 8th-century Greek cross Crypt.

Gerace Cattedrale
Regione Calabria

From the Cathedral, walking along Via Caduti sul Lavoro, we come across other wonderful churches and convents (Sacro Cuore, Convento di San Francesco d'Assisi, with its Gothic lines, and San Giovannello, a Greek Orthodox church).

Going up through the town, you reach the remains of the ancient Castle of Gerace (11th century) and the wide open space of the Baglio, where in ancient times the population gathered in case of danger.

Gerace Castello
Elisabetta Cirianni

The walk through the village is completed by pointing your nose upwards, as you descend back down into the valley, to admire the typical medieval mullioned windows with two lights that adorn the façades of several palaces and private homes.

Events and traditions

All the charm and folklore of medieval nights are revived in Gerace in summer, in the last week of July, when the historic centre is transformed into a true "Enchanted Village", as the name of the long-awaited International Festival of Street Performers suggests.

Gerace's international street art festival is a magical event for young and old alike, staging a series of truly unique exhibitions and performances every year.

A three-day event marked by stilt-walkers, fire-eaters, jugglers, circus performers, mimes and musicians ready to amaze passers-by with their old-fashioned tricks, in a fairy-tale atmosphere that enhances the architectural beauty of the village and its traditions, starting with the gastronomic ones.

There are many tastings of typical local products, which can also be sampled in the private homes that the people of Gerace make available to visitors in the name of their proverbial hospitality.

All we have to do is take a seat on one of the sea or hill-view terraces and enjoy the show.

Ultimo aggiornamento: Feb 15, 2024 4:05 PM