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A journey through time

Tracing the Ionic coast, a journey through modern-day Calabria; a land which still conserves sites of great archaeological and religious importance

A journey through time

We make our first stop on this journey through Calabria at Pentadattilo. The Greek name Penta+daktilos means "five fingers", and was no doubt inspired by the five spurs of rock, now only partially visible, which rise up above the town. The inhabitants abandoned the old town in the seventies, in favour of the more accessible valley below and the remaining "ghost town" has since become a veritable tourist attraction, where to admire the Church of Sts. Pietro and Paolo, the Church of the Candelora, and the remains of the ancient castle.

Our journey proceeds along the Riviera dei Gelsomini; its beaches of fine sand alternating with the rocks from where bathers dive in to the splendid Ionic sea below. This is where to experience Brancaleone, its air laced with the scent of jasmine and bergamot. The SS106 highway continues towards Adore Marina, high above which, clinging to the mountain and enjoying superb views, one finds the medieval village of Adore Superiore; its narrow streets leading to the Piazza della Chiesa Madre' and the Castle of Gambacorta di Melicuccà.

Travelling onwards, our itinerary takes us to one of the most important sites dating back to the period of the Magna Grecia in Calabria; the ancient Locri Epizephyrii. Here, in one of the region's most magnificent archaeological sites, one can admire the remains of the Marasà Sanctuary, the Marfioti temple, and the Greek-Roman theatre of V-III B.C..

The name Gerace derives from the Greek "Jerax" meaning sparrow hawk, and, indeed, like a great bird of prey perched high on the impervious rocks, Gerace scans the whole of the Locride. The town's urban plan is of medieval origin, centered around the monumental Cathedral dell'Assunta. Dominated by the Byzantines, Arabs and Normans, Gerace is, without doubt, the most scenic of the towns on this itinerary. A triptych of architectural masterpieces from various periods in history are situated in the enchanting Piazza San Francesco: the Franciscan convent with its Gothic portal, the Byzantine Church of St.Giovannello, and the Baroque Church of Sacro Cuore del Gesù.

Famous for the Jazz Festival held here in its castle every summer, Roccella Jonica rests at the feet of the Aspromonte mountain range. Close by, lies the Sanctuary of Maria Santissima delle Grazie, built in 1545 and final destination of numerous pilgrimages.

Following the SS106 we come to Monasterace Marina, the ancient Greek Kaulon, of which the remains of a Doric temple and Necropolis can be still seen. For diving enthusiasts, there is the occasion to explore the Underwater Archaeological Park. Visitors to Monasterace Superiore cannot fail to be struck by the town's maze of narrow streets and the Castle, with its ornate oriental crenulations.

Land of monks and hermits, Calabria is scattered with the traces left by its devout former inhabitants, its hills home to almost unreachable monasteries and churches such as that of Stilo, birthplace of the philosopher Tommaso Campanella. The Greek cross plan and the precious frescoes depicting Christ Pantocrate indicate the certain Byzantine origin of the church.

Tracing the path of the river Stilaro one comes to Bivongi, town where to learn of the history of the industrial development of Southern Italy. Integral part of the Museum of the Railways and Foundries of Calabria, is the Mine of Noceto, dating back to the 18th century.

The river Stilaro accompanies us further still, to Bagni di Giuda, known for its alkaline sulphurous waters and, in the immediate vicinity, the spectacular, 120 meter high, Marmarico waterfalls. A brief detour leads us to the final stop on our tour of Calabria; the Charterhouse of Serra San Bruno, a stunning Carthusian monastery which has only recently opened its doors to women.

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