Cosenza, Calabria: Italy’s Undiscovered City

Ever heard of Cosenza, Italy’s alluring and undiscovered city in Calabria?

Perhaps not. And, this is the reason that I’m sharing with you a little information on captivating Cosenza.

Tip: This article is now available as a mobile app on iTunes and GooglePlay. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

Where is Cosenza?

Cosenza, Calabria, Italy

Mention to someone that you’re in Cosenza and typically, the response is “where?”

My reply is always the same: “southern Italy, near the toe of the boot”. A glazed look creeps over and immediately I know that they’re lost…

The next question most certainly is: “why?”

Why indeed.

Cosenza – as does Italy – crawls quietly under your skin and takes over your senses…

Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Talk to any traveller about Rome, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Sicily, or a major tourist region in Italy and watch eyes light up as they long to visit these well-traversed destinations.

A dream come true for many. But, mention Cosenza and watch the reaction.

And yes, whilst I agree that many of these gorgeous Italian destinations are fabulous and a must-see, I challenge the savvy traveller to explore a little further. Why not travel the 520-kilometres south of Rome to seek out a genuine Italian adventure? Venture outside of Italy’s tourist milk-run, you may enjoy it…

A little background

Emerging 238-metres above sea level, wedged in a valley between the Catena Costiera coastal mountain range and the Sila plateau – enveloped by seven hills – Cosenza is known as the Città dei Bruzi’ (the City of the Bruttians).

Piazza dei Bruzi, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Modern Cosenza lies to the north of the Busento River whilst old Cosenza (Centro Storico) lies to the south – Cosenza lies at the confluence of the Busento and Crati Rivers.

Similar to the rest of Calabria, Cosenza endured many earthquakes over the centuries. This resulted in destroying control of the many conquerors from 589AD to 1734AD: Lombards, Saracens, Byzantines, Normans, Suevi, Spanish, Aragonese, and Bourbons.

A preamble to Cosenza by Invidiosrl.

Enjoy cold winters with hot summers in this microclimatic city, which offer everything.

What to do

Information on Cosenza in several posts: Cosenza’s fun and frivolity around the city, including a few more in this post as this city never seems to sleep. If Cosenza does sleep, then this is for a few hours during the day when many shops are closed.

Sometimes it’s hard to find out about events in Cosenza. The best way is to wander down Corso Mazzini as something is always happening.

Whether cultural, historical, just for fun, or involves a theme on food – almost always on food – typically, the event is free.

Corso Mazzini

So lucky that my apartment is only a few minutes walk from Corso Mazzini.

The open-air MAB Museum (Museo all’Aperto Bilotti) occupies almost two kilometres of the pedestrianised Corso Mazzini, with sculptures and artworks by Salvador Dalì, Giacomo Manzù, Giorgio De Chirico to name but a few. Immerse yourself in this beauty and culture whilst enjoying a Spritz or espresso.

St George Sculpture, Corso Mazzini, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Unique sculptures are added to the corso with the recent La Sfinge (The Sphinx) by Alba Gonzales – a favourite.

“The sculptures were donated to the city by the Italian-American entrepreneur and art collector, Carlo Bilotti. “

Sculpture, Corso Mazzini, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Piazza Bilotti

At the northern end of Corso Mazzini, you’ll hit Piazza Bilotti, which until recently, this expansive area was a slightly seedy car parking area. These days it’s transformation to a piazza housing more intriguing artwork creating a family public space surrounded by shops and bars.

Sculpture, Corso Mazzini, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Children love to ride bicycles and skateboards or just kick a ball around for some fun in this piazza, which also holds large concerts and events throughout the year.

Centro Storico

My absolute favourite spot in Cosenza is the Centro Storico (historic centre or old town), which is engulfed in medieval architecture and history.

Old Town, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Why not take a half-day or a day to do an educational Historic Walk whilst in Cosenza? Learn about the city’s infamous Fascist period but also its intriguing historic centre.

Ponte di Calatrava

A relatively new urban project and inaugurated in 2018, the highest cable-stayed bridge in Europe, the Calatrava bridge spans over the River Crati connecting the two parts of the city.

Calatrava Bridge, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Designed by the Spanish architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava, the bridge’s shape resembles a giant harp…‘a symbol of harmony and of the interactional nature of the city’.

Calatrava Bridge, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Museums and cultural buildings

With more than twenty cultural buildings and museums in Cosenza, many of which are centuries old, a few of the ones not to be missed include the Accademia Cosentina founded in 1501 by Aulo Giano Parrasio, the Rendano Theatre, and the National Gallery.


In 2008, the Region of Calabria recognised Cosenza as a “city of art” and with the plethora of art exhibitions and showcases each year, the city has earned this title.

Art, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Cosenza ensures that everyone can satisfy their hunger for art. Street art graces shop front shutters in the Centro Storico.

Art, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Art, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe


Each year Cosenza hosts a plethora of festivals, which depends on whether it’s a Saint’s Day, public holiday, celebrating seasonal crops – and there are many – any excuse for a party.

So many festivals, that a separate post is warranted as this city really does hold loads, but for now, these are the must-experience festivals:

  • Fiera di S.Giuseppe – March
  • Festival delle Invasioni – July
  • Festa del Cioccolato (Chocolate Festival) – end of October
  • La Sagra dell’uva e del vino (Wine Festival) in Donnici – October

Shops galore

If you’re a shopaholic – I’m not – then Cosenza is the place for you.

Corso Mazzini is the main shopping precinct and both sides of this pedestrian street are bursting with boutique galleries, luxury and everyday clothes shops, restaurants, Bars, pizza holes in the wall, and more.

I’ve already mentioned shops in Cosenza in a couple of my other posts, so only touching on a few unusual shops in this post.

Tutto per la Scarpa

On Via Molinella 5/A, exactly as the shop’s name suggests – everything for the shoe – this shop sells everything to repair shoes from leather bits, buckles, shoe polish, DIY heels and soles, and more.


Along Via Macalle’ N 20, this cosy shop sells a selection of Asian groceries at good prices as the main supermarkets are very expensive for everything Asian. You can buy Japanese, Thai, Philippines, Russian, and Polish groceries in this shop, which I’ve nicknamed the Russian shop”.

Lavanderia Sartoria

If you’re in dire need of dry-cleaning or an excellent seamstress to repair clothing, then take a stroll on via Vittorio Veneto 60 for cheap and excellent repairs.

Dolcuimi Liquori

Stumbled on this quaint shop on via Trento 51/53, which sells hard-to-find global liquor and wines, but also higher-end wines and spirits.

This shop is bursting with scrumptious local chocolates and sweets. Staff also create fancy high-end hampers for Christmas and Easter gifts.

The aroma of chocolates when entering Dolcuimi Liquori is sublime.


If you’re a foodaholic then Cosenza is for you – food is everywhere.

A blog about Italy would not be complete with at least one mention of food. Let’s face it, the passion for food in Italy is an obsession, especially in Calabria.

Have I mentioned how wonderful the food is in Cosenza?

Garlic van, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Not only is food simple, fresh, and deliciously mouth-watering throughout the region of Calabria, Cosenza boasts a plethora of restaurants, bars, pubs, a few Italian fast food spots, and sadly, a McDonald’s opened its doors last year.

Chillies, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Something is almost always open in this city. Even the local supermarket displays scrumptious delicacies such as freshly-baked crusty bread stuffed with juicy black olives.

Olives in bread, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Local delights

Cosenza’s gastronomic heritage includes dishes with sausages, Soppressata (local salami) or Capocollo (pork cold cut) starters, and deliciously baked Sila potatoes with peppers. Also, a deluge of seasonal vegetables preserved in extra virgin olive oil to dip freshly made crusty artisan bread. The type of food I was brought up on in Australia.

Tagliere, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Local home-made pasta delicacies are served with delicate sauces and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and garlic. One of the local dishes you must try is one of my favourite, Lagane e Ceci – eggless pasta and chickpeas – so delicious.

Pasta, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Local sweets and pastries include pitta ‘nchiusa (cake stuffed with raisins and walnuts), dried-fig or chestnut morsels, Scalille, and loads of divine specialty pastries.

Together with other towns in the Province, Cosenza joined the National Wine Cities Association, the agency that protects and promotes wine production and territory – yes, local wine is excellent.

Day trips

With a couple of train stations and a major bus station in the city centre, you can enjoy many day trips from Cosenza. Be warned though, you need to get timetables right, which sometimes is challenging and elusive as reading Braille.

After several years in Cosenza, I’ve published many posts on day trips that you can enjoy from Cosenza, including Roseto Capo Spulico, Castrovilliari, Pizzo Calabro, Catanzaro, Diamante, one of my favourite places Scilla, and many more.


Cosenza offers a transit hub for buses and also a couple of train stations with travel to most places in Calabria – also national and international destinations.

Lamezia Termine International Airport is only a fifty-minute (€5) bus fare away. You must time the buses as they’re not frequent and if all goes to plan, you can travel cheaply to the airport without splashing out on an exorbitant taxi fare.

Although traffic and parking are chaotic in Cosenza, this is quite typical for many Italian cities. Drive here between 12:30-16:00 Hrs and you can fire a cannon through the roads as everyone is at home enjoying a leisurely pranzo (lunch) or a sleep.

A little on Calabria

The region of Calabria is underrated and not well-known to tourists. Although locals are fully aware of what Calabria has to offer and also what Cosenza offers.

Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Balcony vista

To put it into perspective and as with many towns, cities, or countries, every place has its great and not-so-great points. Cosenza is not any different.

Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Balcony view

Although for me, the good points far outweigh the bad points and the reason why I’m still here…

The city centre – around 70,000 inhabitants – is large enough to offer everything you could possibly need and close enough to easily reach the sea or mountains.

Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Snow trekking

Although small enough so that you don’t feel stifled with suffocating crammed buildings, or oceans of people coming at you from every imaginable direction. Cosenza’s urban area is around 250,000 inhabitants.

Calabria, what else?

I’ve only scratched the surface with a little insight into the wonderful underrated city of Cosenza and the delights on offer, but what else does Calabria offer a traveller?

A quick taste of How travel’s Top 10 things to see in Calabria…

…and another by Magellan to entice you to travel to southern Italy’s region of Calabria.

So what are you waiting for?

Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts on Italy.

59 thoughts on “Cosenza, Calabria: Italy’s Undiscovered City

Add yours

    1. I spent almost 4 years there as a base and there’s a lot to write about, especially as not many people have heard of Cosenza.
      As with many places, it has its worts, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Lovely to read and look at. Yes, it’s true that Italy is full of these marvelous places that have, to my mind, so much more to offer than many of the bigger, better-known destinations. My wife and I dedicated our summers to searching them out a few years back and we discovered why this was the case. I think one problem is a lack of cooperation between neighboring towns who see themselves in competition with each other and end up wasting their resources on small, inefficient publicity campaigns instead of pooling together and creating something truly worthwhile. Look at how this is done to great effect in France and Spain, with their glossy “Visit France” and “Visit Spain” campaigns. In Italy, it always tends to be “Visit Abruzzo”; “Visit the Marches”; “Visit Campania” etc. The second problem is that, having attracted tourists, very often the regions close down for the tourist season. I remember finding a sign on the tourist office of one city in The Marches, telling us that the office would be closed for the month of August! The only bars and restaurants we could find open were Chinese. Let us hope that, in the post-covid world, as Italy struggles to rebuild her tourist industry, these lessons will be learned and people will discover the numerous attractions of places like Cosenza.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Giacomo,
      Appreciate your feedback and totally agree with your thoughts.
      Could one reason also be that Italy wasn’t unified and over the centuries, different regions still see themselves very separate?
      In Cosenza, many shops also close for the month of August with only the Chinese shops remaining open, but that was slowly changing pre-COVID.
      Let’s ope so!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It is really useful to read your honest appraisal of Cosenza. Hard to know where to start for a stay in Calabria – a town/city that has enough restaurants, museums, interesting architecture and life – whilst still retaining its individuality and character. I know you may be biased but how do you think Cosenza compares to Reggio, Catanzaro or Crotone. Also are you a fan of Tropea? Love to read your evocative stories about life in Calabria – can’t wait for when the Italians allow us Brits to visit again!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Mickey,

      Many thanks for taking the time to comment – much appreciated. How did you come across my blog? I had to salvage your comment from my Trash folder as WP decided you’re not ‘real’!

      I guess after living in Cosenza for almost 4 years, you get a sense of what the city and surrounding areas are like – good, bad, and ugly. 😉

      Cosenza does sound like what you’re after and as mentioned in my post, it’s not a tourist destination. You may know that there’s a real rivalry between Cosenza and Catanzaro.

      I visited Tropea once only during one winter with snow on the drive back to Cosenza, so didn’t explore as much as I would have liked, but it’s a stunning town. A word of warning though, Tropea is definitely on the tourist milk-run.

      I haven’t been to Crotone yet, so can’t really comment. I like to experience a destination before I write a post, as believe in giving my readers an objective view and not something that’s just researched online. Not a great fan of Ghost writing.

      Reggio Calabria is gorgeous also but only spent a full day in the city. The region is also special. I’d love to return. Reggio offers loads of wonderful history, museums, excellent food, picturesque seafront, and of course you’re just across the Messina Straits to Sicily – another fabulous destination but very busy.

      Ventured on a bus one day from Cosenza to Catanzaro, but again, I need to return to this city as one day is not enough. My walking guide takes you around the main sights, but doesn’t include everything as I was constricted by time and on foot with public transport. Although, what I did see in during my short visit in the rain was enough to make me want to return.

      Hope that I’ve helped you a little? Please feel free to ask more questions as I’m happy to help.


      Liked by 1 person

    2. Ciao Nilla. Thanks so much for making the time to reply to my musings about places to visit in Calabria. I came across your blog via some rabbit hole I disappeared down when searching for stuff on Calabria. I’m sorry I can’t be more precise than that. But I’m very glad I did land on ImageEarthTravel 🙂

      I write about wine and food and I think you have, kindly, liked a few of my pieces. My main job is in PR for media companies, but my passion is wine and food (in so specific order). I did a short stint as a commis chef at a brasseries in London, so I like to think I can rattle the pans a bit. My food heroes started with Keith Floyd and moved on to Italian chefs like Carluccio, Locatelli and, these days, Francesco Mazzei – a Calabrian chef with 3 restaurants in London. My chats with Francesco (who I’m about to write up an interview I did with pre-lockdown) and a few wine folk I know aroused my interest in S Italy – Campania, Apulia but especially Basilicata and Calabria. So, my intention in 2020 was to find a base in both Calabria and Basilicata – stay for a few weeks – and visit some of the wine growers and producers and see where that led.

      The pandemic meant putting that on hold but it is still bubbling away in my synapses… I am trying to learn a bit of Italian in the interim to augment the 100 or so words I already know, but it is a slow process. I’ve visited Italy at least 20+ times, mostly Milano and Roma on business but also Breschia, Piemonte, Liguria, Como and Veneto on wine and food trips.

      So my plan is to get over to Calabria fairly soon after quarantine is lifted and the UK has an ‘air bridge’ with Italy and airlines are flying there. Hard to gauge when this might be but looking as though summer will probably be about right timing’wise. However I know what August is like in Italy and I figure this year is going to be even worse with all the pent up domestic demand for a vacation (probably within the Italian mainland!).

      So I think I’ll continue to monitor the situation and take a view on the optimum time to visit. At that point I’m sure I’ll have a ton of questions and, if you can bear it, I’d love to get your feedback and thoughts on my itinerary/plans. Do you undertake wine and gastronomy tours in Calabria or Basilicata by any chance?

      I like the fact you only write from direct experience and have also enjoyed your photography.

      With warm regards.


      Liked by 1 person

    3. Hi Mickey,

      Thank you for the great response and letting me know how you came across my blog. I’m not sure if we have a mutual friend, Nicole from Sheffield? Nicole has a Calabrese mother living in Rogliano and this is how we met. We also did Glastonbury Festival together last year.

      Sounds like you lead an amazing life on a quest to discover food and wine. What else is there in life to make one happy? 🙂

      Your plans to put Italy travel off until at least after August is wise. I’d never travel to Italy in August – it’s bedlam. I remember spending 9 days in Sicily a couple of years’ ago in mid to late September and thinking this would be a quieter month. How wrong I was at it was very busy with foreign tourists mostly.

      Up until the pandemic, it seemed that Italy was gaining more prominence as the country to visit in Europe. I believe it’s because Italy hasn’t experienced the terrorist activities as other countries in Europe and hope that it stays that way.

      I don’t run any type of tours in Italy/Calabria at all although I do have a good (English-speaking) friend from Cosenza that does work as a guide. I’m sure he’d be happy to take you on a wine tour and I’d be happy to tag along. 😉 Let me know nearer to the date of travel and I can put you two in contact with each other. To be honest, you just need to be invited for lunch at someone’s home to enjoy a gastronomical feast, especially on a Sunday! I have a couple of favourite excellent restaurants in Cosenza that I’m sure you’ll appreciate.

      If you’re looking for an organised tour then I have 2 good friends that do run tours. Luciana from Touring Abruzzo (not just Abruzzo region) and Cherrye from My Bella Vita Travel. Although I haven’t done a tour with either, I know that they put 110% into their work and also tailor tours for small groups of a couple of people.

      Always happy to help if I can and especially with Calabria as it is a very different destination for travellers. I think basing yourself in Cosenza would be good option as it’s pretty central, although you do need a car as public transport is hit and miss. Reggio is gorgeous but it’s quite a way south from everything – I’m sure locals would disagree with me though.

      Once you get into the villages in Calabria, forget your English as not many speak it, you will need a few more Italian words. But then, there are hundreds of dialects so it’s really difficult as sometimes, even locals in small villages only know their dialect and nothing of Italian. I’ve published a post on this if you want a read. I find Italian grammar difficult and more so than French, but think my Italian is improving.

      See how you go with all this info!

      Many thanks for your comment,

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been living in Scalea for a year now and still haven’t managed to go to Cosenza. No real reason just haven’t. I will go. I have been told the bus journey from Scalea is a lovely scenic ride, so will soon. Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. An enticing post and city. 4th century AD. I am always impressed at the history. People have been living here for 2400 years. Parents of their parents of their parents….
    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year Nilla.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Remember my first U2 vinyl – War – wonderful cover. Still have my vinyls in storage in Oz, but I digress. 😉
      In southern Italy for Christmas and have a wedding on the 28th here…will be loads of fun, food, and vino – you?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Sounds like a good plan. I still have all or most of my LP’s, from the Beatles’ double White to Cream, to the Stones… And a turntable.
      We’re going to Tulum on Sunday with the the whole family. Rented a house on the beach for Xmas and New year. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow! What a beautiful place! It is most unlikely for me to visit such a remote place, so I enjoyed learning about this city. 🙂 Thanks for sharing a wonderful article with beautiful photos & videos.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I was born near Cosenza (Altilia). We would always catch the bus to go to the big town(Cosenza). I remember the old part, since I’ve been in USA since I was 3 years old and I am 68 year . Been back to Southern Italy 4 times since. Need to return again. Loved your pictures!! brings back memories. Thank -You! Buon Natale!!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hi Lina, wow such lovely feedback! Many thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts about my post.

      I’m happy that my photos brought back lovely memories for you, I love Altilia and you may want to see more pics in this post from a couple of years ago.
      We always take guests to Altilia as the vista is gorgeous and they’re never disappointed!

      Hope you have a wonderful festive season and fantastic 2020. 🙂


    1. Indeed. I find the touristy destinations are tailored to tourists so even the food tastes different. Actually for restaurants, my rule of thumb is if I see a bunch of tourists in there I walk out and find a local haunt. It doesn’t bother me that I can’t speak the language, but if the food is good enough for a local then it’s good enough for me.

      Hope you do make it here one day as I’m sure you’d enjoy this city. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    2. We always gravitate to where locals eat no matter where we are travelling. A no brainer. We are the same in that we managed to stay in places for months housesitting where English wasn’t spoken very often. The fun moments communicating were hilarious. Yes, you never know what’s around the corner regarding more travel 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    3. You say it’s a no-brainer but I’ve seen so many travellers take comfort in gravitating to where hoards of travellers are eating, so we’ll keep our little secret to ourselves.

      The housesitting gig sounds like a great experience and I’m still up for that, just need to get a few things organised first and yes, we never know what’s around the corner. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mohamaad, thank you for the great feedback and happy that I can take you on a brief tour of Cosenza.

      Not really hard as I’ve been here for the last few years and have loads to write about this great city. My father was from the mountains about an hour from here so exploring this whole region. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, what a great post. How fun that your are able to explore so much of Italy and see things like this! Love so many parts of this post, but the statue of the serpent and horse, and the night light pictures are my favorite. What a wonderful place, but then again all of Italy is incredible.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Hi David and Laura, many thanks for leaving me such a cool comment and yes, I’m lucky to be in southern Italy.
      Still too many places to visit here and I haven’t even scratched the surface of Calabria.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s hard to gauge what’s the best system as Google changes its requirements so often so it’s hard to keep abreast of the changes.
      I think if you post good content, it shouldn’t matter the length of the post but I’m thinking more of my audience and not SEO.

      Liked by 1 person

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