Wander through Cosenza’s historic centre in southern Italy’s Calabria region and unearth medieval secrets.
Split this section of Cosenza, Calabria: Italy’s Undiscovered City to this new post to add more photos and information.
A little history on Cosenza
The Brutti founded Cosenza – one of Calabria’s most ancient cities – around the 4th-century BC.
Following many centuries of various nations occupying Cosenza, the legacies of time still remain today. Not just in the architecture but woven into the very fabric of Cosenza, its Cosentino dialect, food, culture, and the people.
In 1222, Cosenza’s location was chosen by Emperor Frederick II for its seven hills, which he likened to the Seven Hills of Rome. Cosenza’s seven hills are situated to the left and right of the River Crati: Triglio, Mussano, Venneri, Gramazio, Guarassano, Torrevetere, and Pancrazio.
The belief is that King of the Visigoths, King Alaric I – seen by some as the symbol of Rome’s demise – died from Malaria in Cosenza.
Legend has it that he and his mountain of treasure are buried somewhere in the confluence of the two rivers. After ordering a horde of slaves to stop the flow of the rivers, once buried and rivers re-flooded, Alaric’s troops killed the slaves to ensure the treasure’s secrecy.
A modern-day statue marks the spot, although no one really knows whether this is truth or myth.
Similar to the rest of Calabria, Cosenza also endured many earthquakes over the centuries, which resulted in destroying the control of the many conquerors from 589AD to 1734AD: Lombards, Saracens, Byzantines, Normans, Suevi, Spanish, Aragonese, and Bourbons.
The Historic Centre
An absolute favourite spot in Cosenza is the Historic Centre (Centro Storico or Old Town), which is engulfed in wonderful medieval architecture and steeped in history.
You can easily spend several days exploring Cosenza’s historic centre. Why not take a half-day to do an educational Historic Walk while in Cosenza? Learn about the city’s infamous Fascist period and also its intriguing historic centre – a great area for a respite stop.
Narrow cobbled alleyways create a labyrinth of time…
…as you wander along Corso Telesio’s picturesque lanes, leading off to mysterious passageways…
…until you reach timeworn Piazza Duomo.
Oozing a surreal atmosphere, especially in the middle of the day when everything is closed, the imposing cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in Piazza Duomo was constructed following the 1184 earthquake.
Also named Piazza degli Speziali or degli Aromatari (Apothecary Square), the area was flowing with apothecaries, pharmacists, and grocers.
Behind the Duomo is the Area Archeologica di Piazzetta Toscano, which is an expansive viewing area of Roman ruins under glassed sections.
Heading deeper into the old town, you eventually stumble on the Piazza Prefettura.
Encircled by the fabulous Rendano Theatre established in 1909 and the Palazzo del Governo in Piazza Prefettura, Monumento a Telesio – Italian Philosopher – embellishes the centre of the piazza.
While in this piazza, stop in the UBI Banca where sections of the bank’s floor is glassed so you can view the Roman ruins below the historic centre – an old city built over an ancient city.
Continuing up from the piazza, why not wait-a-while by the Villa Vecchia public park, which is marked by century-old trees.
Should you wish to continue even further up the very steep hill, you eventually arrive at Pancrazio Hill. This is dominated by the restored Saracen-constructed Norman-Swabian Castle.
Many exhibitions and events are held in the exclusive Castle. And, the Festival Delle Candele is one to catch, when the castle is lit by 5,000 magical candles illuminating the castle – stunning!
An expansive panorama of Cosenza’s ancient and modern towns stretching to Rende awaits…it’s worth the steep walk for the view.
Whether you’re in the old or new areas of Cosenza, you’ll be treated to remarkable monuments and buildings with great historical significance. Sadly though, some of the historic centre seems forgotten and abandoned.
Peer in one of the shop front windows with original artisans still weaving tapestry…
…crafting violins and guitars.
Or a cobbler making shoes just as his ancestors did centuries before him.
Meander along the river bank from the Centro Storico to the new Cosenza for a diverse and contrasting experience.
Art in the historic centre
Recognised as the “city of art” in 2008 by the region of Calabria, street art pops up throughout Cosenza’s historic centre.
Unusual street art randomly graces shop front shutters…
…art is subjective, right?
Cosenza is not a city that is frequented by many travellers or foreign tourists. So, you are assured of a truly authentic southern Italian experience.
This city of around 75,000 people is reachable from Rome by train (3 hours express), bus (5 hours), and just over an hour’s flight to Lamezia Termine International Airport. From the airport, it is a drive of only an hour before you reach Cosenza.
Cosenza, what else?
Visiting the historic centre only scratches the surface of the wonderful underrated city of Cosenza.
Explore more of Cosenza and read many posts on this site, but especially Cosenza, Calabria: Italy’s Undiscovered City.
A great base to discover the gorgeous surrounding area of this city, why not venture to the south instead of the usual tourist sights? After four years in Cosenza enjoying many day trips from the city, I love to share these posts with you: Roseto Capo Spulico, Castrovilliari, Pizzo Calabro, Catanzaro, Diamante, one of my favourite places, Scilla and many more.