The city of Reggio (also called Reggio di Calabria or Reggio Calabria) is the main city of the province of the same name. It is also the closest main city to us, 30 minutes by train or car. This is the third post of the lesser known places to visit after our post on Perugia, and last week’s post on Turin.
Unfortunately, little remains of its ancient past. This is due to numerous attacks and a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 1908 that flattened the city.
… The Lungomare
Reggio is a busy city, but it manages to maintain the feel of a smaller town. Firstly there is its stunning lungomare (promenade). This makes the area by the sea feel like a beach resort.
The lungomare is named “the most beautiful kilometre in Italy”. Due to the Mediterranean climate it is a veritable corner of paradise teeming with palm trees and exotic species. It also forms the heart of the spring and summer tourist season and is also the centre of the city’s cultural scene. You can let your feet wander, perhaps with a gelato in hand. You will be caressed by the sea breeze and enchanted by panoramic views over the straits to Sicily.
Located in the centre of the lungomare, the Monument of Athena is an icon of the city and stands proudly at the edge of a purpose built promenade.
Standing next to the statue you are given fantastic views of the straight of Messina whilst behind the statue is a fantastic public amphitheatre.
The statue itself depicts the warrior goddess Athena Promachos who is said to defend Reggio Calabria in times of need.
… Downtown and Shopping
Reggio’s downtown features the pedestrian-only Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi with its stately buildings, and a citizenry to match.
Along this stretch of prime retail space you can find a range of different shops, high-street stores, boutiques and a selection of cafes and restaurants.
At night, the street is one of the main areas for nightlife in the city. The bars and restaurants offer a fantastic opportunity for a memorable evening.
At the end of this long avenue you will encounter the magnificent garden of the Villa Comunale. Also within just a stone’s throw is the Experimental Station for Essences and Citrus Oils. This is well-known research centre for the study of jasmine and bergamot. The main area of interest is the Bergamot Museum which displays historical pieces and other information about this fragrant citrus fruit.
The rest of the city has a fairly gritty, working-class feel. Each part is worth exploring in its own right.
The Riace Bronzes
Not a lot remains of ancient Reggio. However, the city does boast southern Italy’s finest collections of archaeological treasures in the Museo Nazionale della Magna Graecia. This houses discoveries from Reggio and from other former Greek colonies.
The most famous of these exhibits are the Riace Bronzes.These are two bronze nude male warriors whose figures laid undiscovered deep in the Ionian Sea for more than 2,000 years.
Stefano Mariottini, then a chemist from Rome chanced upon the bronzes in 1972. While diving some 200 metres from the coast of Riace, at a depth of six to eight metres, Mariottini noticed the left arm of statue A emerging from the sand.
At first he thought he had found a dead human body. On touching the arm he realized it was a bronze arm. Mariottini began to push the sand away from the rest of statue A. Later, he noticed the presence of another bronze nearby and decided to call the police. One week later, on August 21, statue B was taken out of the water. Statue A was taken out two days after.
The Duomo And Other Places To Visit
The highlight of religious sites is Reggio’s Neo-Romanesque Duomo. It only a little over a hundred years old, having been rebuilt after the 1908 earthquake.
A short walk away is the Chiesa degli Ottimati (Church of the Optimates). It has a mishmash of architectural styles (Byzantine, Saracen, Norman) like many southern Italian churches. However, what sets it apart is its bright red cupola resembling a red zucchetto (skull cap or beanie). When you look at it you might see the resemblance to the one modeled by the Pope. It also has wonderful, swirly, Byzantine mosaic floors.
Another short walk away is Reggio’s Castello Aragonese. Today the castle remains in fantastic condition. It is possible to climb to the battlements and walk along the defensive towers. Also the castle is home to art exhibitions throughout the year.
The castle is one of the main icons of the city. Due to the relative low-rise buildings, it can be seen virtually anywhere in the surrounding vicinity.
There is also a planetarium in the middle of Reggio. This is just a short 10 minute walk from the museum in the direction of the university.
What To Eat?
Italy is famed for its ice-cream and Reggio Calabria has a host of fantastic gelato vendors. The best of these is Da Cesare Gelateria which is located on the Piazza Indipendenza. This is at the “lido” end of Corso Garibaldi near the Museo Nazionale della Magna Graecia.
Although only a small building, the ice-cream shop is famed throughout the city. You will always find a steady stream of locals and tourists sampling the treats for sale!
The wide range of flavours available include traditional Neapolitan and vanilla. There are also some flavours you don’t get outside Italy such as pistachio, bergamot and cottage cheese!
For something more substantial you can visit any of the restaurants or trattorias you wander past. You can fill up on a range of pasta dishes. Obviously as Reggio is by the sea, there are swordfish, tuna, prawns and calamari to taste.
Alternatively, take a seat at a bar with a drink and have an aperitivo.
Parks And Open Spaces
Reggio Calabria also has some green spots for nature lovers. These include the public gardens at La Villa Comunale. There is also the tree-filled Piazza Italia in the centre of the city.
A larger park is Parco Ecolandia, 10km north of the city. Ecolandia is an “Environmental Technological Playground”. It is spread over an area of about 100,000 square metres, on a hill from which it is possible to admire the wonderful panorama of the Straits of Messina. You can also see Mount Etna on Sicily on a clear day.
The Park has many different areas. There are 4 thematic areas (air, fire, water and earth.) These are themed around the great myths of Magna Graecia and practical ecology.
There is a continuously changing play area, attractions and installations of scientific and educational interest. These range from the most innovative technologies to practical ecology, from organic farming to bio-architecture.
Where Else To Go?
Reggio is just a short hop away from Sicily! You can catch the 30 minute ferry journey just up the road in Villa San Giovanni. During the summer months there is also a faster 20 minute service from Reggio itself.
If you have a car you are a stone’s throw from Scilla and other seaside resorts.
You can visit Pentidattilo or go further into the Aspromonte National Park. If you do, make sure that you take notice of the “no entry” signs on the road. We didn’t, and after Google navigation gave up, we ended up with a hefty car repair bill!