Cosenza’s Historic Centre, Calabria

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.

Old Town, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

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.

Old Town, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe
One of my favourite vistas

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.

King Alaric I, Old Town, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe
King Alaric I tribute

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.

Old Town, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Picturesque historic centre

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.

Old Town, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Another view

Weathered designs…

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.

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.

Duomo, Old Town, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Also named Piazza degli Speziali or degli Aromatari (Apothecary Square), the area was flowing with apothecaries, pharmacists, and grocers.

cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, Centro Storico, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

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.

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.

Old Town, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Rendano Theatre

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.

Villa Vecchia, Centro Storico, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Ancient rest stop

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.

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!

Norman-Svevo Castle, Old Town, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy
Entrance to the Norman-Swabian Castle

An expansive panorama of Cosenza’s ancient and modern towns stretching to Rende awaits…it’s worth the steep walk for the view.

Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Clear panorama

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.

Old Town, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Street scenes

Peer in one of the shop front windows with original artisans still weaving tapestry…

Textile shop, Old Town, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Bursting with intricate tapestries

…crafting violins and guitars.

Violin maker, Old Town, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Artisan’s craft

Or a cobbler making shoes just as his ancestors did centuries before him.

Cobbler, Old Town, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Meander along the river bank from the Centro Storico to the new Cosenza for a diverse and contrasting experience.

Old Town, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

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.

Art, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Unusual street art randomly graces shop front shutters…

Art, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

…art is subjective, right?

street art, Old Town, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Roxy in the Box also visited Cosenza as part of BoCs Art during a cultural drive in 2015 and used the aged walls of Centro Storico as her canvas.

Roxy in the Box, Art, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Finding Cosenza

Cosenza, Calabria, Italy

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.

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

23 responses to “Cosenza’s Historic Centre, Calabria”

  1. thetravelvine Avatar

    I really enjoyed reading this post. Though I’m biased because I just adore Italy 🙂 Although I’ve heard of Cosenza, I don’t really know to much about it, but it was great to explore the city with your beautiful photos and great tips. The historical quarter is so beautiful. I would love to have a wonder through those streets. Thanks so much for sharing your lovely experience. This is definitely going on my bucket list for when I return to Italy.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Lindsay
      Thanks for leaving me such great feedback – much appreciated.
      I’m also biased as lived in Italy for 4 years and published over 70 articles on Italy with free travel tips. 😉
      Sadly, travellers bypass Calabria because of the stigma attached but this is also a positive as it’s not tramped by tourists like in the north. The produce, wine, and locals are amazing and you’re close to the sea or mountains – take your pick. Everyone does the milk-run in the north or rushes down to over-visited Sicily. You might like to read this article on Cosenza.

      1. thetravelvine Avatar

        I’ll check it out, thanks for sharing. Yes I’m afraid I still haven’t visited southern Italy yet, but I definitely will, as I’d love to see more of the lesser known spots.

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        There are so many gorgeous spots and ones that I haven’t see yet, but hope to return in the near future. 😉

      3. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        You’ll love it when you get there! 😉

  2. Kyle Cash Avatar

    Awesome photos and article.

    Those medieval staircases and alleyways always catch my eye. It’s one of my architecture-related styles.

    I noticed you said that no one knows if it is a myth if King Alaric’s treasure is buried in that spot. Any thoughts on the matter?

    Enjoyed the background you gave on the city as well. Adding this one to my list of places to go.

    Great work!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Kyle

      Glad you enjoyed this article and photos.

      The stairs are fascinating and love wandering up them to discover new canvases of the historic town.
      I’ve always thought it was a myth but just looked online and found this article, which goes into detail – Lost Treasure: Alaric’s Looted Treasures of Rome – interesting read.

      Thank you for your feedback – much appreciated.


  3. Len Kagami Avatar

    Thanks for letting me know about this beautiful town. The view of the old town is simply beautiful! For some reasons it reminds me of Salzburg, with the cupola, the hills and the river running through the town 🙂

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Len
      Thank you for the great feedback and happy I could introduce you to Cosenza’s historic town. I haven’t been to salburg so will take your word for it…one day. 🙂
      You may wish to read more on Cosenza as it has a lot to offer a traveller.
      Appreciate your comment.

  4. aliterarybent Avatar

    Lovely photos as usual. Historic places always attract me. I particularly liked the photos of the artists and crafts people in their shops. I’ve never been that far south in Italy. I’ll add it to the long, and growing longer, wish list of places to visit. Thank you for the pictorial tour.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for the great feedback and happy that you enjoyed this pictorial tour!

      I find the photos of the artisans in their shops fascinating. I like to take candid photos as this preserves the integrity of the moment.
      You’ll have to venture to the south, it’s an untouched part of Italy – I love it. 🙂

  5. karenincalabria Avatar

    Such a lovely, historic old town – great photos!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      HI Karen,
      Thank you and yes, it is a lovely part of Cosenza.
      Hope that the mayor helps to restore some of the buildings in the future as they’re in dire need of fixing.
      All ok with you?

      1. karenincalabria Avatar

        Hanging in there.

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Good to hear – take care of yourself.

  6. wetanddustyroads Avatar

    Ah, I’ve enjoyed my stroll with you in the beautiful ancient city of Cosenza. The historic centre with its secret alleyways and staircases are just waiting for one to explore further! And to see the cobbler making shoes the same way as his ancestors – that’s just warming my heart 😊.
    Lovely post once again!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you! It’s so unusual but wonderful to still see a cobbler at work, a craftsman making violins and guitars, and someone weaving tapestries – such an interesting old town. You’d love it! 🙂

  7. the eternal traveller Avatar

    Very pretty city!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It’s a lovely area of Cosenza and wish the council would restored the buildings.
      I believe that owners have abandoned the buildings and no longer paying rates or can’t afford restoration costs so the Mayor wants to reclaim the houses. We’ll see what happens but the Centro Storico is in dire need restoring and protecting its history for future generations.

  8. Valerie Cullers Avatar

    So love the post!!!! I believe Alaric had Galla Placidia with him at the time of his death…..he had absconded with her in Rome!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you! I vaguely remember reading about Galla a few years ago then forgot – thanks for reminding me.
      Hope you’re well… 🙂

  9. Yeah, Another Blogger Avatar

    My kind of place. Ancient, old and new. What years did you live there?

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Four years up until January 2020. Flew to Australia for 6 weeks and got marooned so had to re-assess my life. 😉

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