Regional capital: Catanzaro
Provinces: Catanzaro, Cosenza, Reggio Calabria
Calabria (pronounced [kaˈlabrja]; in Calabrian dialect: Calabbria or Calavria, Greek: Καλαβρία), in antiquity known as Bruttium, is a region in southern Italy, south of Naples, located at the "toe" of the Italian peninsula. It is bounded to the north by the region of Basilicata, to the south-west by the region of Sicily, to the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea, and to the east by the Ionian Sea. The region covers 15,080 km² and has a population of 2 million. The regional capital is the city of Catanzaro. The other two main cities are Reggio Calabria and Cosenza. Calabria is the poorest region in Italy. The demonym of Calabria in English is Calabrian (Italian: calabrese).
Climate and Geography
Calabria is at the very south of the Italian peninsula, to which it is connected by the Monte Pollino massif, while on the east, south and west it is surrounded by the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas. The region is a long and narrow peninsula which stretches from north to south for 248 km, with a maximum width of 110 km. Some 42% of Calabria's area, corresponding to 15,081 km2, is mountainous, 49% is hilly, while plains occupy only 9% of the region's territory. It is separated from Sicily by the Strait of Messina, where the narrowest point between Capo Peloro in Sicily and Punta Pezzo in Calabria is only 3.2 km.
Although the beautiful green sea is ever present in Calabria, it is mainly a mountainous region. Three mountain ranges are present: Pollino, La Sila and Aspromonte. All three mountain ranges are unique with their own flora and fauna. The Pollino Mountains in the north of the region are rugged and form a natural barrier separating Calabria from the rest of Italy. Parts of the area are heavily wooded, while others are vast, wind-swept plateaus with little vegetation. These mountains are home to a rare Bosnian Pine variety, and are included in the Pollino National Park. La Sila is a vast mountainous plateau, about 1,200 metres above sea level, which stretches for nearly 2,000 square kilometres along the central part of Calabria. The highest point is Botte Donato, which reaches 1,928 metres. The area boasts numerous lakes and dense coniferous forests. The Aspromonte massif forms the southernmost tip of the Italian peninsula bordered by the sea on three sides. This unique mountainous structure reaches its highest point at Montalto Uffugo, at 1,995 metres, and is full of wide, man-made terraces that slope down towards the sea.
In general, most of the lower terrain in Calabria has been agricultural for centuries, and exhibits indigenous scrubland as well as introduced plants such as the prickly pear cactus. The lowest slopes are rich in vineyards and citrus fruit orchards. The Diamante citron is one of the citrus fruits. Moving upwards, olives and chestnut trees appear while in the higher regions there are often dense forests of oak, pine, beech and fir trees.
The climate is influenced by the mountainous and hilly relief of the region: cold in the area of Monte Pollino, temperate with a very limited temperature range in the area of Aspromonte, while the Sila and Serre massifs ensure greater humidity on the Tyrrhenian coast and a drier climate on the Ionian coast.
Calabria was first settled by Italic Oscan-speaking tribes. Two of these tribes included the Oenotri (roughly translated into the "vine-cultivators") and the Itali. Greek contact with the latter resulted in the entire peninsula (modern Italy) taking the name of the tribe.
Greeks settled heavily along the coast at an early date and several of their settlements, including the first Italian city called Rhegion (Reggio Calabria), and the next ones Sybaris, Kroton (Crotone), and Locri, were numbered among the leading cities of Magna Graecia during the 6th and 5th centuries BC. Conquered by the Romans in the 3rd century BC, the region never regained its former prosperity.
The Greeks were conquered by the 3rd century BC by roving Oscan tribes from the north, including a branch of the Samnites called the Lucanians and an offshoot of the Lucanians called the Bruttii. The Bruttii established the main cities of Calabria, including the modern capital, Cosenza (then called Consentia).
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the inhabitants were in large part driven inland by the spread of Malaria and, from the early Middle Ages until the XVII century, by pirate raids. Calabria was devastated during the Gothic War before it came under the rule of a local dux for the Byzantine Empire. In the 9th and 10th centuries, Calabria, which had been the rich breadbasket of Rome before Egypt was conquered, was the borderland between Byzantine rule and the Arab emirs in Sicily, subject to raids and skirmishes, depopulated and demoralized, with vibrant Greek monasteries providing fortresses of culture. Many of the Greek speaking Calabrians moved to Peloponnese.
In the 1060s the Normans, under the leadership of Robert Guiscard's brother Roger, established a presence in this borderland, and organized a government along Byzantine lines that was run by the local Greek magnates of Calabria. In 1098, Pope Urban II named Roger the equivalence of an apostolic legate later formed what became the Kingdom of Sicily. The administrative divisions created in the late medieval times were maintained right through to unification: Calabria Citeriore (or Latin Calabria) in the northern half and Calabria Ulteriore (or Greek Calabria) in the southern half.
Beginning with the subsequent Angevin rule, which ruled Calabria as part of the Kingdom of Naples, Calabria was ruled from Naples right up until unification with Italy. The kingdom came under many rulers: the Habsburg dynasties of both Spain and Austria; the Franco-Spanish Bourbon dynasty which created the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, Napoleon's brother Joseph Bonaparte, and then French Marshal Joachim Murat, who was executed in the small town of Pizzo. Calabria experienced a series of peasant revolts as part of the European Revolutions of 1848. This set the stage for the eventual unification with the rest of Italy in 1861, when the Kingdom of Naples was brought into the union by Giuseppe Garibaldi. The Aspromonte was the scene of a famous battle of the unification of Italy, in which Garibaldi was wounded.
Greeks re-entered the region in the 16th and 17th century. This happened in reaction to the conquest of the Peloponnese by the Osman Turks. Especially after the fall of Coroni (1534) large numbers of Greeks and Albanians sought, and were granted, refuge in the areas of Calabria, Salento and Sicily. The Greeks from Coroni - the so called Coronians - belonged to the nobility and brought with them substantial movable property. They were granted special privileges and given tax exemptions. Another part of the Greeks that moved to Italy came from the Mani region of the Peloponnese. The Maniots were known for their proud military traditions and for their bloody vendettas (another portion of these Greeks moved to Corsica; cf. the Corsican vendettas). These migrations strenghtened the depopulated Italian south with a culturally vibrant and militarily capable element.
The 'Ndrangheta organized crime families of Calabria began to appear in 1850.
Until the mid 20th C., Southern Italy was among the poorest regions of Europe and impoverished Calabria was a main source for the Italian diaspora of the early 1900s. Many Calabrians moved to the industrial centres of northern Italy, the rest of Europe, Australia and the Americas (especially Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and the United States). Since the 1970s there has been an increased affluence and a much improved economy based on modern agriculture, tourism, and a growing commercial base. Even though the per capita income is still well below that of northern and central Italy, it has improved to the point where it is approaching the European Union median.
The toe of the Italian boot, Calabria is an overwhelmingly mountainous region with marked variations in microclimates between the warm coastal zones of the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas and the chilly heights of the Sila and Aspromonte massifs. Two grape varieties of Greek origin dominate - Gaglioppo in red wines, Greco in whites - though the types of wine they make can vary markedly from one place to another.
Modern Oenotria's best-known wine is Ciro`, which grows in low hills along the Ionian coast between the ancient Greek cities of Sybaris and Kroton (Sibari and Crotone today). Local legend has it that Ciro` descended directly from Krimisa, the wine Calabrian athletes drank to celebrate victories in an early Olympiad.
Lately Ciro` has taken on contemporary touches as new methods of vine training and termperature-controlled wine-making have diminished the alcoholic strength (as well as the propensity to oxidise), making the wine rounder, fuller in fruit and fresher in bouquet. The classic Ciro` is the"rosso", which in the "riserva" version has the capacity to age beyond a decade from certain vintages. There is also a "rosato" to drink young and a "bianco", from Greco grapes, that can show impressively youthful freshness.
Melissa, an adjacent DOC zone, has red and white wines similar to Ciro` in content and style. But red wines from the same Gaglioppo grown at higher altitudes - Pollino, Donnici and Savuto, for example - are lighter in body and colour, sometimes with fresh scents and flavours reminiscent of Alpine reds.
Among the whites, the rare Greco di Bianco stands out as one of the nation's finest sweet wines. From a local variety of Greco grown near the Ionian coast at the town of Bianco, it has a rich, velvety texture and an intruiguing citrus-like bouquet. The nearly identical Greco di Gerace is a non-DOC wine that carries the ancient place name. From the same place comes Mantonico di Bianco, a Sherry-like amber wine with hints of almond and citrus in bouquet and flavour.
- Greco di Bianco
- Lamezia - Sottodenominazioni: Greco
- Sant'Anna di Isola di Capo Rizzuto
- San Vito di Luzzi
- Costa Viola
- Val di Neto
- Valle del Crati
Grapes and wines
Calabria has been subject to many influences over the centuries, the region’s history dating back at least three thousand years. Its first name Italia derives from the Italic tribes who were the first inhabitants of the region. It was then changed to Magna Grecia (Great Greece) by the ancient Greeks who played a big hand in cultivating the first vines there, and introducing many of the grape varieties and winemaking practices. It was the Byzantines who gave the region its current name in 7th Century A.D. The region under the Greeks was called Enotria, meaning ‘Land of Wine’ or ‘land where the vine is cultivated high above the earth’, a name that was later extended to the majority of the Italian Peninsula. It is believed that Calabria’s most famous wine Ciro, is the oldest in the world, with archeological findings suggesting that there were ancient 'vinoducts', a system of terracotta pipes that carried wine from the production area to peoples' homes, just as an aqueduct carried water. The region’s wines were famous for centuries, but unfortunately when the area was badly hit by phylloxera, it never fully recovered its status.
Calabria is situated in the far south of the country in the ‘toe of the boot’ of the Italian peninsula, where it is divided from Sicily by the Strait of Messina, a narrow stretch of water. The north of the region is bordered by Basilicata where the Apennines are found, and the rest of the area is encompassed by the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas. It is considered Italy's most rural region, although very little of the land is used for wine production (around 31,600 hectares under vine). However, the land is rich in terroir, with good soil for vine growing and a host of ideal climates. Like Basilicata, Calabria is extremely mountainous with only 9% of its area being flat. Most of the wine production is carried out in the central mountainous areas of the eastern and western coastlines, as cultivating at higher altitudes creates a more ideal environment for the vines, where rainfall is good and the cool air currents coming off the mountains moderate the intense Mediterranean climate. The best vine training systems in place are the alberello basso and cordone speronato, 80% of which are planted with red grape varieties of which Gaglioppo is the most prolific. This variety thrives in Calabria’s strong sun and poor soils (the dry soil makes the vine dig deeper, resulting in better more concentrated grapes). The rest are white, the most predominant being Greco Bianco.
Calabria boasts 12 DOCs, although only 4% of yearly production (annual output of one million hectoliters) is actually classified as DOC wine. The region has great potential to live up to its name ‘land of wine’, however, there are very few producers and co-operatives selling bottled wine, a large majority of the grapes that are grown, ending up in bulk wine. Nevertheless, this region is producing some very good wines, the Ciro DOC being the most notable, with the best international acclaim. The wine in the biggest spotlight is the Ciro Rosso which can be produced as a Superiore, Riserva and Classico. It is here in Calabria that the infamous and rare dessert wine Greco di Bianco is also made.
The remaining DOCs are Melissa and Isola di Capo Rizzuto near Ciro along the Ionian coast. The Bivongi region is located further south in the province of Reggio, and Donnici, Lamezia Terme, Pollino, San Vito di Luzzi, Savuto, Scavigna and Verbicaro are found to the west in the provinces of Catanzaro and Cosenza. All of these areas favor the red Gaglioppo and Greco Nero varieties with the addition of some white varieties, the main ones being Greco Bianco, Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia Bianca.
Bivongi is the newest DOC producing some dry whites as well as reds, comprising Greco Bianco, Guardavalle, Mantonico Bianco, Malvasia Bianca and Ansonica as well as up to 30% of other white grape varieties. Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio prevalent in many Sicilian and Sardinian wines, are used in some of the DOC red wine production in Sant'Anna di Isola di Capo Rizzuto, and on the plains and hillsides around the Gulf of Sant'Eufemia, in Lamezia Terme. Melissa reds are similar in style to Ciro, but with less international renown.
Moving towards the mountainous area of Pollino joining the Apennines, the wines are pale, cherry red in color, usually requiring 2-3 years to reach their potential, whilst Savuto, another mountainous zone stretching to the coast produces wines lower in alcohol thanks to the cooler climate. There is also the hillside Verbicaro, which includes Guarnaccia Bianca in its Verbicaro Bianco blend, and unlike the majority of the DOCs that use only indigenous grapes, Scavigna has added Chardonnay to its range.