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Massi erratici Pollino
Laino castle

Starting from the Paleolithic era, throughout the centuries, many have been the people that have lived in this territory, which has gifted it with the peculiar mix of cultures and traditions that it’s known for today. Following one another, Greeks and Romans have crossed the area, followed by Lombards, Saracens, Byzantines, Normans and Spanish. After Italian Unification, the area has been characterized, same as the rest of the South, by a heavy migration to America.

The origins

One of the most ancient and most important prehistoric sites in Europe is Grotta del Romito, in Papasidero. On the outside, relics that date back to the Upper Paleolithic have been discovered: on the walls is carved the Bos primigenius, “the most beautiful and enchanting example of Paleolithic realism in the Mediterranean area” (P. Graziosi). Beside the carving, archeologists discovered skeletal remnants of a short person.
Other particularly important archeological sites are the ones located in Timpone della Motta and Macchiabbate, Francavilla Marittima. In the first one have been found traces of an indigenous community that lived there before Greeks founded Sibari in 720 a.C., whereas in the latter one was found a necropolis with many grave goods.
In San Donato di Ninea, in St. Angel’s cave there’s a Hypogeal church that dates back to 6th or 5th century a.C. Here there are several frescos, altars and architectonic works that seem to have resisted consumption quite well. Nearby San Sosti a votive axe dedicated to Hera was found, which is now conserved at the British Museum in London. Around Varsinni and Cersosimo there are walls that date back to 4th a.C. Chiaromonte, too, has its fair share of relics, mostly grave goods.

Modern history

St. Mary of Constantinople. Around Pollino National Park there are many ancient sacred buildings, such as churches, sanctuaries and monasteries. Some are located in charmingly picturesque scenarios: that’s the case of the sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Armi, in Cerchiara di Calabria, which was built out of a rock wall in 1440 and still preserves precious frescos as well as the case in which is kept the acheiropoieton image of the Madonna delle Armi. Particularly interesting is also the Church of St. Mary of Constantinople in Papasidero, which dates back to Middle Age and faces the cliff above river Lao; another sanctuary that is worth visiting is the one of the Madonna del Pettoruto in San Sosti, on the Orsomarso mountains: it was built in 1274 by the monks of Acquaterrosa Abbey, and rebuilt in 1783 after the earthquake. Particularly unique is the Sanctuary of the Chapels in Laino Borgo, whose name comes from the fifteen chapels that compose it; said chapels are important mostly because of the frescos representing Christ’s life. Right outside Chiaromonte one may admire the remnants of the Abbazia del Sagittario (8th century a.C.) and of the Monastero del Ventrile (14th century). Along the road that crosses the Park it’s possible to admire the ruins of Colloreto’s convent, in Morano Calabro, which was built in 1545, to become home for beautiful arts and unforgettable stories. It was, however, abandoned three centuries later, which gave bandits the chance to make of it their lair.
The churches that, due to their role in history and arts, most deserve recognition in Morano Calabro are: St. Bernard’s Church. It dates back to 14th century, its main features are the paneled wooden ceiling and the Gothic portal; SS. Peter and Paul’s Church. It contains two statues by Pietro Bernini, which came from Colloreto’s convent; Collegiata di Maddalena. It was rebuilt with a Baroque style in the 16th century; on the inside, one can admire Gagini’s Madonna degli Angioli, and a polyptych by Vivarini that dates back to 1477.
Other religious buildings whose sight one may enjoy around Pollino National Park are: Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Consolazione in Rotonda;
• Santa Maria Odigitria Abbey in S. Basile, which is home for a 14th century painting of the Madonna Coronata; Santa Maria del Monte monastery in Acquaformosa; Saint Sophia’s church in Papasidero, which was built in a byzantine style and contains two frescos representing St. Sophia and St. Giles; SS. Peter and Paul’s church in Frascineto; St. Nicholas of Mira’s Cathedral in Lungro. Here we can admire a beautiful iconostasis; Chiesa della Visitazione in Aieta. The main feature here is a beautiful portal that dates back to the 18th century.
Chiaromonte (Potenza), Palazzo Giura.

Pollino National Park isn’t only about religious buildings, though, there are also ancient fortresses and palaces: they can be found in Chiaromonte, Senise, Morano Calabro, Grisolia, Mormanno, and Castrovillari. The latter one is particularly interesting, with the remnants of the 1490 Aragonese castle. In Valsinni there’s Isabella Morra’s castle, the poetess that became famous thanks to Benedetto Croce. A ‘literary park’ was founded in honor of her works. Particularly charming is also Laino Castello, a small burg that was once a lively center, thanks to its strategic position, but it was later on abandoned after the earthquakes in the ‘80s. And then there are Orsomarso, with its clock tower, which was built on the rocks; Papasidero; Civita, with its peculiar chimneys; Viggianello; Rotonda with its portals and the prestigious medals that local chiselers carved out. The area of the Park was also famous for beautiful watermills, some of whom have well resisted against time, like the “Ricchie Muzze”, in Francavilla sul Sinni; other interesting watermills, which date back to 14th and 17th century, are nearby S. Severino, in Mezzana: it’s still possible admire their beautiful millstones.


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