If you’re searching for a walking guide and a day trip from Cosenza, then Calabria’s capital Catanzaro holds a traveller captive. whilst visiting these 12 sights…
Armed with 3 varying bus timetables for IAS Autolinee from Cosenza to Catanzaro, I think I’m on to a winner – what could possible go wrong?
The 07:50am bus (€6.20 one-way) arrives and leaves on time. An easy 1.5-hours’ later and you’re in Catanzaro’s city centre.
About two kilometres out of Catanzaro, the bus stops on the side of the highway for passengers that are travelling in to the city centre to swap buses. The connecting bus pulls up at the same time. My timetable’s drop-off point differs to the actual drop-off point.
Keep an eye out for Morandi’s bridge nearing the city, more on the bridge later…
The bus drops you off at the roundabout where the statue of the Italian general and patriot Franceso Stocco stands proud on this grey and drizzly day…
First impression of the city is that it appears cleaner and more organised than Cosenza.
As with most of southern Italy Catanzaro was settled by the Greeks, although through the ages changed hands many times.
The history reveals much centuries of history dating back to the Iron Age and previous.
From the Stocco statue, head south until you arrive in picturesque Piazza Matteotti.
1. Piazza Matteotti
Piazza Matteotti’s space is a pleasant pedestrianised rest stop or to explore the plethora of shops, cafes, and restaurants.
The piazza (named after the Italian socialist politician Giacomo Matteotti) also includes important buildings such as the Corte D’Appello (Courthouse), fountains…
…and important monuments dedicated to the fallen of WWI – Monumento ai Caduti.
…against a grey backdrop.
Before stopping off for a coffee, keep heading south until you bump into another impressive monument…
2. Fountain of the Cavatore
Strolling through Piazza Matteotti, the impressive Cavatore fountain depicts the human strength and hard labour of stone workers in the Catanzaro district, but also a symbol of post-war rebuilding.
The lifelike bronze statue and granite bas-relief was built between 1951 to 1954 and designed by the famous Calabrian artist Giuseppe Rito.
Continue along Corso Giuseppe Mazzini until you reach the San Giovanni complex.
3. Complesso Monumentale del San Giovanni
At Piazza Garibaldi meander up the cobbled path to arrive at this gated splendid complex with the remains of the 11th-century Norman castle, glass art sculptures, and the Chiesa di San Giovanni to roam around, and panoramic valley vistas to absorb.
4. Castle of San Giovanni
Built in 1070 by Roberto il Guiscardo and a symbol of feudal power, not much remains of the Norman castle, which was used as a stronghold and partially destroyed in the 15th century – its materials used to build the Chiesa di San Giovanni.
5. Chiesa di San Giovanni
Built at the highest point of the city Mount Triavonà and over castle ruins, Bishop Tornefranza used the castle’s materials to adorn the Cathedral and also to build this church in 1532.
A stunning soaring painted ceiling further embellishes the interior…
Glass plates capture the weather within their frames – you can’t miss these whilst at the San Giovanni complex.
6. Aria sculptures
In just 4 days, Gonzalo Borondo created 185 glass pieces finishing the sculptures with 73 hand-drawn figures for the Altrove Festival IV Ed – Contemporary Art Center at the complex.
The changing weather and “constant movement of the wind finds the direction of a new consciousness” painting an altered real-time canvas.
Peer over the side to an expansive vista of the valley below and the majestic Morandi bridge…
7. Ponte Bisantis
Also known as the Ponte Morandi after its designer Riccardo Morandi, commissioned in 1959 the bridge was famed as the second “single-arched bridge in reinforced concrete in Europe and the world” with regards to width and lightness. At 468 metres long and 112 metres at its highest point, this is one of Catanzaro’s icons.
The ill-fated partial bridge collapse in Genoa in 2018 killing 43 people was also designed by Riccardo Morandi. Due to the bridge’s corrosion and lack of maintenance causing its collapse, the designer (no longer alive) has since been cleared for the collapse.
To the left of the bridge lies the intricate roadway…
Extensive views from the San Giovanni complex are breathtaking.
A little taste of the view…
Leaving the complex for around a 300-metre walk heading east, cross Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi and on to Via Giuseppe Poeiro. Take Via Vincenzo Ciaccio arriving at number 5: Palazzo Mancusi.
8. Palazzo Mancusi
Built between the 15th and 16th centuries by the aristocratic family Mancusi (still owners), the building has seen renovations over the centuries.
The ground floor contains a convent’s remains, which date back to the 13th century, including an ashlar stone portal arch with the Mancusi family emblem and Alfonso Frangipane’s frescoes adorning noble rooms.
Cast-iron lions adorn the front door.
Continue south on Via Giuseppe Raffaelli in the beautiful old town for around 200 metres through the Centro Storico (Old Town).
9. Centro Storico
Wander through the aged cobbled labyrinth, which weaves through time and enjoy the architecture…
…until you take a right on Piazza Basilicata dell’Immacolata.
10. Piazza Basilica dell’Immacolata
Built in 1254, the impressive internal opulence of the Basilicata outweighs its exterior.
Originally a church before its elevation to a Basilicata in 1954, this church has seen much restoration work over the centuries. One major project started in 1750 and lasted 13 years before being dedicated to the city’s patron: Immaculate Conception.
Ambling south through the old town’s ambience for around 400 metres, the Duomo is a must-see site…
11. Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta
Also known as the Duomo, the cathedral looks a little run down with green moss creeping over its facade and closed for renovations, but still makes a great playground for children kicking a football.
Not the original cathedral on this site, this cathedral was built in 1121 during the Norman period.
Damaged during the 1943 WWII bombings, the cathedral was rebuilt during works that lasted until 1956.
12. Street scenes
Stumble upon unusual street art along the way…
If this is not enough to entice you to visit Catanzaro, then the surrounding area offers a Biodiversity park, cascading waterfall, Scolacium Archaeological Park, man-made Lake Arvo for hiking trails, and of course for the beach bunnies try the Lido on the dazzling Ionian coast.
More wonderful green parks grace the city or why not take the funicular from the upper part of the city down to Piazza Roma for a different perspective of the city?
Armed with water and a few panini for the day, I still manage a couple of coffee and snack stops – any excuse.
Along via A. Turco 6, enjoy this cosy bar full of locals serves great coffee (€1+), savouries (€1+), and pastries (€1+) with good service.
Independent State of Coffee
In Piazza Matteotti, this is the most expensive tea I’ve paid for in Calabria so far at €3 for a teabag and hot water, but if you’re desperate whilst waiting for the bus then this is your place. This cafe offers modern surrounds, good music, and clean toilet.
One day in Catanzaro is not enough as there is just so much to see, not only in the city but surrounding area of Catanzaro. Intermittent rain and a gloomy day doesn’t dampen my exploring.
The return trip is not a smooth one as none of my three bus timetables exist in reality. Waiting at 3 different bus stops for the return bus, including this one near the Independent State of Coffee…
…for almost three hours, decide to walk down to the train station and catch the later Ferrovie della Calabria bus.
Such a shame I’m out of luck with buses today as time spent waiting could have been spent seeing more of this fabulous city.
Today just gets better…you’d think a bus driver would know his route wouldn’t you?
Before we leave Catanzaro, the driver asks passengers whether anyone knows the way around Cosenza city. Thinking that he’s joking, I discover he isn’t.
Once taking the Cosenza turn-off, the driver asks again whether anyone has GPS on their phone and knows how to get to the Autostazione – bus station – as it’s ten years since he’s been to Cosenza and doesn’t remember the way. So, a couple of us end up directing the driver back to the Autostazione – never a dull moment in the deep south!