Cosenza Day Trip: Castrolibero, Calabria

If you find yourself in authentic Cosenza in southern Italy’s Calabrian region, take a scenic day trip to the charming village of Castrolibero.

Why Castrolibero?

Not ever hearing of Castrolibero before, which is definitely off the tourist radar, I’m invited to this sleepy village to take photographs.

A lovely Calabrese friend Erika from Pro Loco Castrolibero and Piano B – Project Management, hails from Castrolibero. Erika’s goal is to showcase her village. Enhance and promote its historic centre, and to hold ‘I Tesori Nascosti‘ (Hidden Treasures) exhibition with my Castrolibero images. Postcards of the exhibition’s images will also be circulated amongst guests on the evening, to gain more exposure for Castrolibero.

Together, we hatch a plan. Well actually, I have to admit that Erika previously hatched the plan and knows exactly, what she wants.

I tesori nascoti, Castrolibero, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Exhibition poster credit: Pro Loco Castrolibero

A night with music, demonstrations of delicious traditional food and of course, my photographic exhibition. Art is always high on the list during Italian functions and festivals.

Can’t find information on Castrolibero?

Don’t worry, neither can I and this is one of the reasons for publishing this post.

Do an online search on Castrolibero and you soon discover that there isn’t much information available for this nostalgic village.

It’s quite surprising for a village of around 9,000 people. Perhaps Castrolibero doesn’t want to be found? Or, overwhelmed by tourists? The lack of information draws me in deeper.

Castrolibero, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Relic of time

I love to visit villages or anywhere in Italy during siesta time. Typically, this can be between 12pm to 4pm. During this time, the lack of heads in my images is undeniably noticeable.

What’s in a name?

At first, the name Castrolibero is a little difficult to pronounce, let alone spell, at least for an outsider. Get the hang of it and the name rolls effortlessly off your tongue. Don’t forget to also roll your Rs.

Worth noting is how the name Castrolibero transpired.

Named Castelfranco until 1863 after the army of Franks that arrived in Calabria (9th-century AD) to fight the Saracens of Amantea, the name changed to Castelvenere. And, named after a nearby ancient pagan temple.

Castrolibero, Calabria, Italy Europe
Citizens of Castelfranco

Castro-free was then chosen due to the ‘free’ mountainous horizon and also for King Galantuomo Vittorio Emanuele II’s free institutions.

Castrolibero, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Endless panorama

The king recognised the name change from Castelfranco to Castrolibero in 1863.

A little on Castrolibero’s history

At a height of 580-metres above sea level, the icy wind certainly whips through Castrolibero’s timeworn stone medieval buildings, declaring its presence on our arrival. We’re on the cusp of winter’s end.

Rumoured to be the site where Pandosia’s mighty fortress once rose and the location of Enotri the mythical city, it’s also believed that Mercury’s son Pan (half-goat, half-man God), watched over the city.

In 1994, archaeological investigations in Castrolibero’s Palazzotto district revealed a largely destroyed element of a tower, which formed part of a fortified wall.

Although Castelfranco dates back to 1248, during the 15th-century, the village was known for its numerous brick furnaces. Due to its mulberry cultivation, Castelfranco was also valued for its excellent silk production.

Ancient house Corso Umberto I, Castrolibero, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Stone fragments of a house on Corso Umberto I

Following the First and Second World Wars, Castrolibero was famed for its footwear craft and renown as the “scarpari” – town of shoemakers. Evidence of the celebrated craftsmanship seems to have evaporated with time.

What to see?

There certainly is a lot to explore in this small medieval village. Especially wandering around the Centro Storico’s beautiful and unique architecture.

Centro Storico

Castrolibero’s Centro Storico (historic centre) is where you discover the most interesting of buildings.

Making your way on Via XX Settembre’s…

Via XX Settembre, Castrolibero, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Via XX Settembre

…gentle cobbled-stone ascending slope, rest a little along the way. Take time to absorb the intricate weathered entrances to secluded homes.

Via XX Settembre also holds many unique stone houses built by a Neapolitan charity committee, following the aftermath of the 1905 earthquake.

Neapolitan Charity Committee, Castrolibero, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Neapolitan Charity Housing

Continue along Via XX Settembre until you reach the impressive stone clock tower.

Clock Tower

Built by Francesco Pescatore in 1905, the clock tower stands as a monument at the end and top of Via XX Settembre.

Clock tower, Castrolibero, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Splendid monument

Clock dials adorn each side of the tower’s diverse stone and brickwork, which reaches to its castle-like crowning glory – topped with an iron baroque-styled bell-frame.


Dispersed through Castrolibero, you inevitably stumble upon several churches.

Parrocchia di SS. Salvatore

Built between 1972-1974, this contemporary church seems a little unusual in this age-old village.

The church houses a sculpture of the acclaimed Calabrian artist, Dominio Oranges.

Chiesa di San Giovanni

Following the destruction from many earthquakes, then its closure, the Chiesa di San Giovanni was finally renovated during 2003-2004. The church holds an infamous history, which is worth noting.

The greedy feudal lord – Baron Valerio Telesio – acquired Castelfranco via the “Barons’ Conspiracy” method, and also oppressed its people.

During an uprising in 1579, Telesio finally met his fate – he was murdered inside the church. Enough of Telesio’s mortal remains were “returned to the family for a human burial”. Four years’ later, Telesio’s son sold the fiefdom Castelfranco and Cerisano – complete with men and vassals (serfs) – to yet another family of feudal lords, the Sersale family.

Chiesa Santa Maria della Stella

Making your way through the Centro Storico, you come across an impressive Gothic stone veneer.

This fragment of a past era belongs to the Santa Maria della Stella and dates back to 1546.

Although the church succumbed to several earthquakes, the one in 1905 truly destroyed the building. Only the imposing facade remained.

The fine rose-light stone-veneer graces the facade. Perfectly framing an intensely-azure sky, typically, this delicate emblem is dedicated to the mother of Jesus.

Chiesa Santa Maria della Stella, Castrolibero, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Centuries’ old yet still majestic

This fabulous historic venue is the site for my I Tesori Nascosti exhibition in 2019.

Sadly, on the day of the exhibition, the heavens pour open and wash over the church’s walls.

The exhibition and festivities are cancelled. Guess it’s just not meant to be this time.

Monumento ai Caduti

Next to the Chiesa San Salvatore and where you also park your car, stop by the modern bronze and stone monument.

A tribute to the Fallen, the modern monument overlooks the mountainous panorama below.

Monumento ai Caduti, Castrolibero, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Monument to Castrolibero’s sons Fallen in past wars

Street scenes

Enveloped in stunning natural vistas on your stroll through Castrolibero, ensures you’ll want to linger longer…

Feel like exploring Castrolibero yet?

Hope that I introduced you to another unknown but delightful borgo (village) of southern Italy’s Calabria region.

For more posts with free tips and suggestions, check out my Image Earth Travel’s Italy portfolio.

Getting there

Castrolibero, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy Europe

From southern Italy’s Cosenza in Calabria, it’s only a short 12-kilometre drive until you reach the quaint and very snug village of Castrolibero.

The journey snakes through the ancient Calabrian countryside, at the eastern slope of the Catena Costiera mountains. Dotted with backyard olive and fruit trees, you steadily climb the 500-plus-metres to the top of the hill. Castrolibero has existed here for centuries.

Leaving Castrolibero

The photo-shoot sees a second visit to Castrolibero.

Luckily, we hire a car on the first visit as public buses are hit and miss on this route. Trains to Castrolibero are non-existent.

On the second visit, Erika treats us with a drive, in a flashy and very Italian Fiat 500.

Castrolibero, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Selfie with a Castrolibero local (Photo credit: Erika Liuzzi)

A quick selfie in which I rarely indulge, then it’s back to the Fiat Cinquecento and headed for Cosenza.

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

Castrolibero, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Sweeping Vistas

28 responses to “Cosenza Day Trip: Castrolibero, Calabria”

  1. Liz Avatar

    I recently learned that my Grandmother was born in Castrolibero, in 1893, so I’m anxious to learn all that I can!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Fantastic! Learning about our heritage is so fascinating and the stories so interesting.
      It’s such a small village and think that everyone knows everyone.
      I can ask a friend from Castrolibero if she can point you in the right direction if you like?

    2. Liz Avatar

      Thank you so much for following up with the mention of your local friend from Castrolibero! It will probably be many months before we’ll be travelling outside the U.S., but I will someday walk where my family walked. Would your friend know if there may be birth records or baptismal records available from the late 1800’s there? I did read in your narrative that there were several earthquakes over the years, so I imagine that documents may have been lost. I’m fascinated by your travels and fabulous photography. So happy that I found you! Thank you!

      1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Hi Liz,
        I’ve messaged my friend, so will let you know when I hear back.
        The whole region and most of Italy suffers from earthquakes. I believe that Sardinia is the only area that isn’t affected.
        Thank you for your kind feedback and not sure if you’ve ventured to my Nilla’s Photography site to check out my portfolio.
        Have a great weekend!

  2. equinoxio21 Avatar

    So many gems in Italy, right? Grazie mille.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Absolutely and still haven’t seen a fraction of what Italy has to offer.
      I do love exploring the smaller villages that no one goes to… 😉

      1. equinoxio21 Avatar

        keeps you away from the – former – crowds.

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Indeed it does Brian and is a richer experience… 😉

  3. LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia Avatar

    I spent a lovely morning in Castrolibero exploring the town with some tourists and the people were so friendly. I had heard of it but never been there, it was a pleasant experience!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi, yes, it is a lovely village. When were you at Castrolibero?

  4. gillmorris Avatar

    What a lovely little place. Love the alleys in the historic centre x

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Yes it is Gill and so untouched by tourism. I love all these lovely villages I’m discovering. xx

  5. the eternal traveller Avatar

    Thanks for sharing another pretty place to spend the day wandering around.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      No problem Carol and happy that you enjoyed this post!

  6. Giovanni Augello Avatar

    Interesting post and beautiful images… as always!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Giovanni! Have you visited Castrolibero?

      1. Giovanni Augello Avatar

        Not yet! After reading your post, I have intention to do it… 🙂

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Excellent! I’m happy to hear that my post has made you want to visit this village. 🙂

  7. Ivana Davies Avatar

    Love the post and, oh my, these photos are just stunning! Visiting Italy is definitely on my bucket list ❤️

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Ivana for the great feedback.
      I’m happy that you enjoyed this post and photos. You do need to visit Italy, but i’d stick to the south more as there isn’t an influx of foreign tourists yet… 😉

  8. Emmeline Avatar

    Your photography is stunning! What a gorgeous setting. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for the great feedback Emmeline – much appreciated!

  9. Italophilia Avatar

    What a great post!! I loved Castrolibero doesn’t want to be found 😉

    Where are you in the selfie Nilla?? xx

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Ishita,
      Ha, ha, indeed, well we never really know do we? 😉
      I’m in the middle wearing the hat. xx

  10. karenincalabria Avatar

    Haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit Castrolibero. Thanks for the tour with beautiful photos!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      My pleasure Karen and happy that you enjoyed this tour.
      Just remember to hire a car if you’re wandering over to Castrolibero. 😉

  11. Amy Aajee Avatar
    Amy Aajee

    What a beautiful place!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Amy, Castrolibero is a beautiful and untouched village. Hope you visit one day…
      Many thanks for your comment.

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