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what to see in calabria: the city of Vibo Valentia


Vibo Valentia is the capital of the province of the same name located on the Tyrrhenian coast. With around 34,000 inhabitants, it is by far the smallest of the five main cities in Calabria, but it is also one of the liveliest. Its Corso Vittorio Emanuele III, recently repaved with Etna's splendid lava stone, is full of shops and boutiques and always buzzing.


A lion on three hills depicted in the city's coat of arms recalls the Norman period, when the village - then called Monteleone - became a military centre of great importance for the control of the hinterland and the main coastal traffic routes. But the current toponym, recovered in 1928, is linked to more ancient history: Veip, from which Vibo, was the name with which the Bruzie populations designated the pre-Hellenic settlement that arose in this area.


Valentia, on the other hand, was the name given to the Roman colony that arose in 144 B.C. with the conquest of the Greek Hippónion. Thus, a continuity of settlement can be found in the origins of the city, despite the variation of peoples and names, which confirms the strategic importance of the location and its natural reference to the sea.



Vibo Marina, on the coast, was originally called Porto Santa Venere and legend has it that the name was given to it by a local fisherman who discovered on the beach a statue of a woman lying down and identified with Santa Venere. The statue, actually a Roman copy of a sleeping Ariadne, stands on a plinth at the junction of the Lungomare Cristoforo Colombo and Corso Michele Bianchi.


It is popular as a departure point for ferries and mini-cruises to the Aeolian Islands. In summer, tourists flock to its shores, especially during festivities such as the Sagra della Fileja, in honour of a type of homemade pasta, on 26 July.


Speaking of food, tuna from Vibo is known under the well-known brand name of TONNO CALLIPO 



Today's Vibo Valentia originated as Hipponion, which was conquered by the Romans and became Hipponium and then Vibo Valentia.

 The city prospered when it became a stop on the Via Popilia, an ancient Roman road that ran from Capua in Campania to Regium (present-day Reggio Calabria). Indeed, throughout history, Vibo was an important place, especially for its strategic position controlling the Gulf of Sant'Eufemia and the plains of Monte Poro. The name of the city changed to 'Monteleone' under Frederick II in 1200, finally reverting to 'Vibo Valentia' in 1928.

Excavations in and around Vibo have uncovered interesting 5th century statue heads with different hairstyles and earrings, linked to a sanctuary dedicated to Persephone and Demeter (goddesses of the underworld).

 Other discoveries include some ancient walls of Hipponion and many gold leaves, indicating the production of jewellery. These treasures can be found in the Vito Capialbi State Archaeological Museum, located at the top of the town in a Norman-Swabian castle.

The museum's most valuable possession is the Laminetta Aurea, a thin gold-leaf tablet found buried on the chest of a 4th-5th century woman on which is inscribed the oldest Orphic text, a prayer, found in Italy or Greece.


Located in the Hipponion Archaeological Park in the Roman villa in the S. Alore quarter is the magnificent mosaic of the four seasons.


 In the neighbourhood of St. Aloe, a series of domus (of one the peristyle) have been found, almost all of them paved with polychrome mosaics. There is also a thermal complex, consisting of a frigidarium, calidarium and gymnasium, possibly connected to a public dwelling. The finds date from between the 2nd century BC. C. and the 5th century A.D., while an early medieval phase has also been identified in one sector. The most representative period of the Roman quarter seems to be between the 2nd and 3rd century A.D., a period to which two of the floor mosaics found and the remains of the bath building also date. The oldest mosaic, which dates back to the 2nd century A.D., is decorated with a central figured emblem of a naked Nereid being carried by a hippocampus into a sea full of stylised dolphins; an open shell-like veil frames the figures at the top.


Three concentric bands run from the centre outwards, decorated, the first with ducks and waders in a lake setting, the next with geometric motifs in black and white, and the last with plant and bird shoots emanating from central kantharoi. The most recent mosaic relates to an atrium of the bath complex and is decorated with fish, peacocks and the four seasons, framed in a festoon that emerges from angular kantharoi and is arranged in an octagon around the figures. From a settlement point of view, the domus of S. Aloe bear witness to a long continuity of habitation in this area. (Mibact)


The Norman-Swabian castle stands where the Acropolis of Hipponion was probably located, which also partly extended over the neighbouring hill. Although the first phase of construction of the structure comes from the Norman period, it actually dates back to the Swabian period, the castle was enlarged by Charles of Anjou in 1289 when it took on more or less a similar appearance to the one it has today. It was strengthened by the Aragonese in the 15th century and finally remodelled by the Pignatelli family between the 16th and 17th centuries, almost completely losing its military function and assuming instead that of a noble residence.Today, the castle has cylindrical towers, a spur tower and a single-arched door from the Angevin period. It now houses the State Archaeological Museum.


The museum was built inside the castle and contains Greek and Roman artefacts such as the pinakes (terracotta plaques) offered to Persephone or Demeter and other objects found in the sacred areas of Vibo and within the old city walls.





 Vibo Valentia has a good selection of religious sites and buildings worth visiting. that are worth a visit. Construction of the cathedral, in Piazza San Leoluca, began in the late 1600s on the remains of a 9th century Byzantine basilica. and was later restored after the 1783 earthquake. The marble altar containing Antonello Gagini's statue of the Madonna of the Snow is its crowning glory.

Other churches include:


the city's original cathedral, the Church of the Spirito Santo, on Via Caterina Gagliardi;


the nearby Church of Santa Maria La Nova, which features another marble sculpture by Gagini;


the Church of San Michele in Via San Michele,San Michele, known for its carvings around the door and its distinctive square-based bell; and the Madonnella, a small chapel built on the site of an old Capuchin convent, inside which is a 17th-century fresco by the Neapolitan artist Luca Giordano.


About 2 km from the town, along the state road leading to Soriano Calabro, the small church (now the parish church of Saints Philip and James) probably dates back to the 12th century. Of the building, which once belonged to a Carmelite convent, the apse and the small brick dome are of particular interest; Baroque decorations were added to the exterior and interior in the 17th-18th centuries.


Pastel-painted palaces line many of Vibo's streets, although many of the most important ones were built between the 17th and 18th century and have been left in their original splendour, including Palazzo Capialbi and the splendid Santa Chiara Library. (library near the castle), Palazzo Marzano (near San Michele) and Palazzo Cordopatri (in the street of the same name).

Also on Via F. Cordopatri is Palazzo Romei, dating back to the end of the 15th century and characterised by its wrought-iron architecture arching like bellies, called 'a pancia' in Italian, meaning stomach.


For nature lovers, Vibo offers several parks, including the Botanical Park (Palazzo Di Francia), the Urban Park (Via Moderata Durant), Remembrance Park (Piazza D'Armi), the Villa Comunale (Corso Umberto I) and Villa Gagliardi. Umberto I) and Villa Gagliardi (Via G. Battista Romei).


Palazzo dI Francia stands on the highest part of Via Gioacchino Murat, a street that took this name due to Murat's presence in the Marquis' house during his brief reign. The 1800 m² building is vaguely reminiscent of some eighteenth-century Vesuvian villas, such as Villa Campolieto and Villa De Gregorio in Rome, due to certain cues on the façade and the design of the atrium opposite the entrance to the park. Vanvitellian elements combine to give it a clearly classical taste. The palace has been listed for a little over a decade, together with the park.

The Grotta di Malacuruna or Grotta di San Leoluca in Vena Superiore, a district of Vibo Valentia, is worth a visit. It is called Malacuruna because of the district in which it is located and San Leoluca because it is said that the patron saint of Vibo spent the last years of his life in it. Saint Leoluca was born in Sicily, in Corleone around 815-818 and died in Vibo Valentia on 1 March 915. When he arrived in Calabria, he asked to be received in the Basilian monastery of S. Maria di Vena Inferiore. Today, one wall and a fountain remain of this monastery.

A seaside resort of Vibo Valentia, with sandy, well-equipped beaches, it has developed close to the industrial, commercial and tourist port, where there is still a significant presence of fishing boats supplying fish markets and numerous fish processing and preservation industries. Establishments, factories and warehouses cluster around Bivona, a little further west, whose name recalls the Roman Vibonia, which had its port here, active until the mid-16th century and now buried. In the small settlement are the ruins of a castle, of uncertain date (perhaps 15th century) and remodelled several times, and a tuna fishery, built in 1885 and still active in 1950, in which up to ninety fishermen worked. Indicated as the future site of a Maritime Museum, which has been planned for some time, the Bivona tuna fishery consists of several buildings: a two-storey building with the dwelling of the raìs - the absolute head of the tuna fishery - and a small chapel dedicated to Saints Anthony and Francis of Paola, the warehouses and a large loggia with an oak trussed ceiling, which housed the barges used for the mattanza (slaughter). Despite the presence of the port and industrial facilities, the sea at Vibo Marina offers clear waters and white sandy beaches, which extend from the town to the tip of Safò; the remains of a Roman villa have come to light near Trainiti beach.

Typical culinary products from the Vibonese area include:


La Fileja: A typical Calabrian pasta, a product of the gastronomic tradition of the Vibonese area, fileja are prepared with water and durum wheat semolina. In ancient times, the pastry obtained from the dough was rolled around a dinaculo, an esparto stick, which gives it its characteristic curved shape. Calabrian fileja, also known as maccheroni calabresi, fileda, maccarruna i casa, Fileja di Tropea and strangugghi are served with very tasty sauces of goat or pork meat, fresh tomato sauce and a little cheese, grated local pecorino ('Pecorino' cheese typical of Monte Poro ).



Among the desserts, on the other hand, we cannot fail to mention Ciciriati biscuits filled with a mixture of coffee, chickpeas, cocoa and walnuts; pittapie, biscuits filled with a mixture of sultanas, walnuts, pine nuts and chocolate; and sanguinaccio, pig's blood boiled with sugar, walnuts, dark chocolate and pine nuts; and pitte di San Martino (biscuits filled with a mixture of sultanas, pine nuts, walnuts, chocolate and vino cotto), and the crocetti di fichi secchi (dried baked figs filled with walnuts, almonds and orange peel, covered with powdered sugar or dark chocolate).

chi secchi (fichi secchi infornati ripieni di noci, mandorle e scorza d'arancio, ricoperte di zuchero in polvere o cioccolato fondente).


discover the province of vibo and the coast of the gods.