There are so many wonderful sites in this region that the typical tourist never sees. Below you will find just a few of the most unusual. These, of course, are in addition to the most beautiful beaches on the coast of Calabria, and perhaps of all Italy.
According to entomologists, the word Spilinga derives from the Greek "Spelunga" meaning grotto, or "Spelaionghe" meaning land rich with grottos, and also from " Spelinka" or cavern. We find, even today, grottos in which the inhabitants took refuge. Spilinga is found on the plateau of Monte Poro.
Monte Poro is a vast plateau,west of the provincial capital of Vibo Valentia. To get there, take SS N.18 to the junction leading to Tropea. On the road just past the village of Mesiano, you become immersed in this magical land of open spaces and high hills. Monte Poro is the highest peak at 710 meters high. It is known for its Pecorino di Monte Poro, a sumptuous cheese made from sheep's milk.
Arriving in Spilinga by car is not difficult. Take the Autostrada A3 from Salerno to Reggio Calabria, going south. Exit at S.Onofrio and continue on SS N.18 until you reach the fork for the airport, Lamezia Terme. Follow the signs for Tropea, and at the fork for Zungri, bear left. Continue until you see the signs for Spilinga.
There are two train stations in close proximity to Spilinga - Ricadi and Tropea, and you can also take the bus from Vibo Valentia, Ricadi or Tropea.
By plane, you would arrive at Lamezia Terme, the closest airport which is about 50 miles from Spilinga. After deplaning, if you are traveling by car, exit the airport and take A3 in the direction of Reggio Calabria. Follow the above directions to Spilinga.
The history of Spilinga is linked to the historic developments in Tropea, since it was governed by Tropea until 1807. In fact the, Byzantines, the Arabs and the Normans have left indelible traces of their presence in the language, the customs and the costumes of this region. The grottos around Spilinga provided shelter for the inhabitants who hid themselves from the pursuit of the Saracen pirates.
Probably the most important of these grottos is the Madonna delle Fonti, surrounded by springs of water and now a sanctuary, hosting mass, weddings, and pilgrimages especially in May, the month the feast day is celebrated.
Places to Visit
The grotto of the Madonna delle Fonti was originally thought to house a hermit colony. Present in all the other grottos (almost all of which are natural caves) there are still signs of the hermits who chose them as a place of refuge and prayer,while in other grottos, we have found objects from the Neolithic era.
Don't miss the Church of
Saint John the Baptist (below left)
built in 1645, and later restored
after the ruinous earthquake of 1783.
The other area church (pictured in the middle), is located in Carciadi, and is dedicated to the Madonna of Mercy. It was consecrated in 1932. It is worth a visit.
About a mile and a half from Spilinga, on the road to Vibo Valentia in the areaof the sanctuary of the Madonna della Grazie, there is an ancient Aqueduct ( above right) with arches in stone cut in the method used by the ancient Romans. Along the stream Vattenderi, near the same aqueduct, Roman tombs have been found; and in the areas called "Aramoni, Torre Gallo and Galluppi", there are Necropoli. Visit the grotto of Saint Leo nearby, with its Byzantine frescoes.
N'duja di Spilinga is the original, spicy sausage of Spilinga. The origin remains uncertain, but according to some it was introduced by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century along with the chili, but as the term suggests it is reminiscent of a French sausage that may have been imported in the Napoleonic period
(1806-1815.It seems that Joachim Murat, Viceroy of Naples and Napoleon's brother, ordered the free distribution of a sausage-like N'duja to ingratiate himself with the state Lazzari of Naples.
On August 8, the Festival of N'duja or "Sagra di N'duja" (Folkoristic-gastronomic event, in the square), is celebrated in Spilinga where it initiated more than 30 years ago.It was the first festival held in the district of Vibo Valentia.
The town faces the island of Stromboli, on the cape of the gulf of Sant'Eufemia with a wonderful panoramic view.
It was founded in the 12th century BC and later destroyed by the Saracens. The Roman emperor Cicero and Saint Peter himself were guests in Pizzo. It's present day name was derived from Lu Pizzu which in the dialect means promontory because of its position on the cape. Initially Pizzo was a Norman possession, and the Normans built an important palazzo there. Later it fell to the Swabians (1194-1266) and to the Angioinians from 1266-1442. The Basilian Monks built an important monastery there in 1363. In 1442 the Aragonese built a beautiful castle which later became a protagonist in the clash between the French and Bourbon troops from the reign of Naples. Gioacchino Murat was imprisoned and executed there. In the 15th century, Pizzo was ruled by the Sanseverino family, confiscated in 1504 for a felony and conceded to Don Diego Mendoza. The fief went to the Silva family who ruled until the end of feudalism in 1806.
Travel to Pizzo Calabro
If you want to reach it by car from the North of Italy you have to take the A1 Milano-Napoli highway, then drive on along the A3 Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway, as far as the junction to Pizzo. Then follow the signs. It takes about six hours to drive from Rome.
If you prefer to travel by train, there are two stations that allow you to arrive in Pizzo: Lamezia Terme Station and Vibo Valentia-Pizzo Station.
The nearest airport is Lamezia Terme, which is about 10 km from the center.
Places to Visit
The Church of Piedigrotta (also called "Madonneja") is located about a mile and a half from the historical center of Pizzo.
It is one of the most visited sites in Calabria. According to legend, in 1670, a ship was sailing in the gulf about a mile north of Pizzo when it suddenly sank in a storm. The captain, anticipating imminent death, gathered his men in front of an image of the Madonna of Piedgrotta, and began to preach. As a last act of faith, he vowed that if they were saved, he would build a little church on the coast. The sailors managed to reach the beach alive, and saw the picture of the Madonna there where the church now stands. They considered it a miracle. They picked up the Madonna's image and before leaving they built a votive church and placed the picture over the altar.
At the end of the 18th century, local artists Angelo Barone and his son Alfonso, enlarged the cave with a pick and hammer. Using the tuffaceous rock, they carved several tuff statues and groups of figures recreating scenes from scriptures. The church is a rectangular plan and has several tuff sculptures in individual caves.
Interior of the Church of Piedigrotta
Pizzo has a magnificent panorama as well as unforgettable beaches. There are some noteworthy religious buildings including the San Giorgio Collegiate (1632) persevering some important 16th century sculptures; San Sabastiano located nearby; the Church of Purgatory and the Grazie Church.
Moreover, we advise you to visit the Pizzo Castle, that was commissioned by Ferdinand I of Aragon in 1486 and became famous because Gioacchino Murat was imprisoned here.
One cannot miss the experience of tasting the famous Pizzo
truffle: hazelnut and chocolate ice cream dusted with cocoa.
The Official Calabria Region Site
The Official Tropea web site