Just under an hour’s drive from the city of Cosenza in southern Italy’s Calabria region, holds the captivating and relatively unknown (to foreigners) archaeological park and its museum in the small town of Sibari.
But why not stop at this section of the deserted Ionian Sea first for a quick look?
A little background on Sibari
This area of Calabria’s flat plains is known as Sybaritides and is a short distance from the mouth of the River Crati, which is Calabria’s largest river and Italy’s third-largest. This 91-kilometre river also flows north through Cosenza.
Starting its life in 720 BC, the ancient and original Greek city of Sybaris developed, expanded, and was then destroyed by Crotone and other Greeks, before another colony emerged during 446/445 BC. And of course, soon after, fighting between colonists and Sybarites began with the Sybarites even sacrificing their wives to Gods, to then take the land.
Sybaris’ deep layers of history make this one of the “largest and most important sites in the Mediterranean of the archaic and classical ages”.
Museo Nazionale Archeologico Sibaritide
Crossing over from Cosenza on the Tyrrenhein coast and heading northeast to the Ionian coast, the first stop-off point on this cruisy day trip is to the Museo Nazionale Archeologico Sibaritide.
The €5 entry fee (2022) is for both the museum and expansive excavation site only a couple of kilometres away.
This area is not on a foreign tourist’s radar and is mostly frequented by locals or nationals. To be honest, I had never heard of this site before living in Cosenza for a while and visiting back in 2019, when the entry fee was only €3.
It’s easy to forget time while leisurely wandering for a couple of hours through the almost empty three levels of rooms filled with thousands of humidified intriguing glassed exhibits, some of which signs are in English.
Leave a good several hours or more to appreciate the volume of exhibits in the museum before making your way to the excavation site only a couple of kilometres away.
A fantastic well-structured museum with really helpful staff and definitely worth a visit.
After spending quite some time in the museum, reading up on the fascinating but checkered history of Sibari, wander back out to the carpark to continue to the archaeological park and thought-provoking history lesson.
Parco Archeologico di Sibari
A short two-kilometre drive (or walk) to the Parco Archeologico di Sibari is your next stop, on this historical day trip from Cosenza.
An aerial view of the archaeological park for you, as from the ground, it really is difficult to get a feel of the area’s size of the excavated ruins.
At the time of visiting, the modern entrance building seemed empty although the public toilet was open. The park’s attendant collects the ticket that you previously purchased at the museum, before allowing you to venture to the site.
As the previous day’s rain rendered the area sodden, we only stroll around the top of the excavated site as water fills some of the deep chambers of the “Housing Construction” as detailed in the sign – from the hemicycle to the theatre building.
All signage is in Italian, so a little difficult for foreigners but even if you don’t read Italian, you can still get the gist of the ruins through the numerous pictures. The sign below explains the building monuments in this section of the park.
The republican age copy below explains the first phases of life in the city as it was, millennia ago…
Lovely picturesque and peaceful grounds devoid of tourists surround this amazing archaeological site, and grateful to have this site all to ourselves today.
This video from the Ministero della Cultura provides a quick overview of the archaeological park.
From Calabria’s bustling city of Cosenza, drive north on the E45 highway until turning right to head east on SS534.
Follow the signs to the Museo Nazionale Archeologico Sibari along the flat lush Calabrian countryside, surrounded by sweeping mountains.
Signs to the Parco Archeologico di Sibari are also displayed along this pleasant drive that takes just under an hour.
After absorbing a history lesson while visiting the archaeological park and its wonderful museum, sadly, there isn’t much else to see in Sibari, so we decide to continue the day trip a little further.
Heading south along the coast on a short drive of another eighteen kilometres or so Corigliano Scalo comes into view, which is the outskirts of gorgeous Corigliano Calabro – a new town to explore.