Castrovillari is situated to the north of the Calabria region (the 'toe' of Italy), to the west of Sybaris. The town has a remarkable artistic heritage, as highlighted by the imposing Aragonese Castle, located in the city centre.
In the so-called "Civita", the ancient old town, and situated on a hill dominating the village, you can see the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Castello, founded by the Norman Roger in 1090 and rebuilt in the Baroque period.
The sanctuary church, of Basilica type with three naves, has a façade with a large Loggia of arches and pillars resting on medieval structures, while the façade is embellished with two romanesque portals. On the right side of the church is another entry with a portal surmounted by a marble bas-relief by Tino Da Camaino (1285-1336, started by his father, who was an architect and part of the “bottega” of Giovanni Pisano).
The church interior falls into three parts, with chapels on the sides of the aisles containing paintings from the 16th-18th centuries, and was re-made and decorated in the baroque style in 1769. You can see some paintings by Pietro Negroni (1505-1567, a follower of Caravaggio) dating from the 16th century, and some valuable Romanesque works of the 14th century.
The castle was built in 1490 and has a square plan with large angular cylindrical towers - the one to the right of the entrance retains its original appearance.
Originally surrounded by a deep moat crossed by a drawbridge, the castle entrance still retains a door with a high relief depicting the weapons of the House of Aragon.
You can also see a Latin inscription that refers to the date of construction and the dynasty of the founder.
The ancient Franciscan monastery of Castrovillari,on the “Colle del Lauro”, was founded in 1220 by Pietro Cathin, a disciple of Saint Francis of Assisi. The monastery has undergone several transformations andwas abolished in 1809.
It contains a valuable marble portal from the 18th century and, in its oldest part, has two porches surrounding three courtyards.
The Church of San Giuliano in Castrovillari dates originally from 1090. It was enlarged in the 16th century then destroyed by fire in 1789. Later rebuilt, the Church has a stately 16th century portal flanked by columns and made from local stone, and a contemporary wooden door.
Inside the church are important artistic works such a remarkable 16th century baptismal font, two finely carved altars and a "Christ on the cross", also 16th century.
We suggest you also visit the Castrovillari Municipal Museum, which exhibits finds from the Palaeolithic and the Middle Ages from the town and its surroundings.
Among the artefacts of particular interest are some votive statues of the 5th century BC, found on the “Colle della Madonna del Castello”, pottery from the Necropolis of “Bello Luce” (8th-7th century BC), and Ferrocinte (4th century BC), and the Roman villa of “Camerelle” (2nd century BC - 2nd century AD) and some rare finds from the Lombard necropolis of Celimarro (7th century AD).
In Castrovillari there are many traditional local activities, including the processing of gold, woodworking, carpenters, shoemakers and creators of objects in wrought iron, with many examples of these now available.
No less interesting are the typical dishes of the area, based mainly on simple products of the Earth. Thanks to the good oil produced in the region many delicacies are preserved in oil such as the 'scamicia' (eggplants), the 'avulive scazzate', the 'pummadore siccate' (seasoned with capers) and 'fungij' (mushrooms).
Other typical dishes include the 'sardicedde' and 'cancariddi cruski' (fresh chillies, emptied of seeds, are put in hot oil for about 20 seconds). Also excellent are the cheeses, including the "picurinu", and the sausages (the "savusizza suprissata" , "prusuttu" and "capicuddu").
See also history of Castrovillari