If you find yourself in authentic Cosenza in southern Italy’s Calabrian region, take a scenic day trip to the charming village of 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.
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.
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.
Castro-free was then chosen due to the ‘free’ mountainous horizon and also for King Galantuomo Vittorio Emanuele II’s free institutions.
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.
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.
Castrolibero’s Centro Storico (historic centre) is where you discover the most interesting of buildings.
Making your way on Via XX Settembre’s…
…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.
Continue along Via XX Settembre until you reach the impressive stone 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A quick selfie in which I rarely indulge, then it’s back to the Fiat Cinquecento and headed for Cosenza.