At the boot’s tip, there is a small peninsula located in the south of Italy: Calabria. Rough and welcoming land as its inhabitants, it is surrounded by the sea for over seven hundred kilometers. The “two seas” seem to squeeze the land which climbs up highlands and mountains; from the beach, in less than an hour, you can reach 1000 meters high and look at the sea from both sides. The villages, often inland and lifted by the sea for defense, are simple and unpretentious and still smell of hot bread and wine.
This is the calling card of this region, which is offered to those lovers who are looking for places out of time, full of ancient traditions, superstitions and contamination between sacred and profane.
Incomparable Landscapes Between Sea and Mountains
Sea Mood: Salt, Oranges and Genisteae
The favorite setting for weddings in Calabria in all seasons is the clear sea and the views of the long breathtaking coastlines. The sweet and fragrant climate is mild until late autumn and also in winter it rarely drops below 10°, even if the favorite season of the locals remains summer despite the heat being really muggy.
The suggestions that Calabria offers to those who decide to get married are really many and heterogeneous, from the private ceremony on the beach to the crowded wedding reception on the cliff enjoying unforgettable natural panoramas. Do you know that if the day is very clear, from different points of the Tyrrhenian coast it is possible to see on the horizon the profile of the Aeolian Islands drawn by the sun as it sets in the sea? It is an incomparable landscape absolutely to be shared and remembered. You can already imagine walking in an ancient village perched on the sea and maybe offering your guests an apéritif in the alleys between rooms full of chillies and tomatoes hung up to dry in the sun, with aromas to be imprinted in the memory.
The Costa degli Dei, between Pizzo Calabro and Nicotera, alternates long beaches with steep rocks; Tropea is the perfect synthesis of these scenarios, with its old houses built on a steep cliff overlooking the sea and at its feet an uncontaminated white beach with thin sand.
Going further south between prickly pears and gorse, you get to the Strait of Messina, where Sicily and Calabria touch each other failing for a handful of kilometers and where, according to ancient legends, the monsters of Scylla and Charybdis watched over the sea by threatening the sailors.
A wedding reception with the Strait’s view, where in the spring and autumn the air is full of scents and suggestions, it is ideal for those who want to immerse themselves in the magical atmosphere of the evening and remember forever the wavy reflection of the city lights of Messina right on the other sea side.
In the town of Scilla, dominated by the Ruffo di Calabria Prince’s Castle, from which you can admire a magnificent view, there is the ancient village of Chianalea. Its fishermen’s houses that rise on the rocks with the boathouse instead of the garage, certainly make it unique in its kind, consecrating it as one of the most suggestive contexts of the Calabrian landscape, a place not to be missed even for a boat trip. This very romantic location is perfect for an unforgettable experience as an engagement session.
On the opposite side further east on the Ionian coast, there are mighty castles that were built or strengthened starting from the Middle Ages to protect the coasts by the invasions from the sea. Santa Severina, Rocca Imperiale and Roseto Capo Spulico are all worth visiting but, perhaps, the most suggestive of all is the Aragonese Castle of Le Castella, built on an islet connected to the mainland by a strip of beach; here, in 1966, the Italian director Mario Monicelli shot some scenes of his famous film “The Armata Brancaleone”. There is no shortage of churches and cathedrals, there is really an embarrassment choice between Normans and Byzantines, small and hidden or majestic and solemn such as the magnificent cathedral of Gerace and the little jewel of the Cattolica di Stilo, an ancient Byzantine church dating back to X century, all places are open to those who want to celebrate their unrepeatable moment in Calabria.
Highland Mood: Pines, Mushrooms and Chestnuts
Calabria is not only a lot of sea but with the Aspromonte, Sila and Pollino, which rise up to two thousand meters, it can offer enchanting scenarios even to those who want to enjoy their wedding in the woods. For those who love clean and fresh air with a touch of unusual and fairy tale, you can imagine the ceremony or the banquet under ancient pine trees, surrounded by ancient and wise plants and damp ground with a musky scent. Highlands and Mountains are just waiting to be explored. A dense network of paths that unfold within the woods could guide you through authentic and unspoiled nature to discover streams of clear water between ferns, blackberries and wild strawberries. Often, near the lakes, opens large expanses of green meadows where cows and sheep graze freely, with a truly remarkable glance.
In all seasons you can venture into exploratory walks, where the camera is a must or make a journey through the time on a train of the early twentieth century moved by a beautiful steam locomotive or practice skiing and snowshoeing during the winter, where, almost always, snow whitens the ski lifts in Sila, in Camigliatello and Lorica, or Gambarie in Aspromonte.
Customs Between Tradition and Superstition
This is an ancient land strongly linked to its traditions, which resist despite the passing of the years; a source of joy and torment of every Calabrian bride who still has to deal with choices often in contrast with the ancient and obstinate ones of the origin’s family. Despite everything, it is always possible to find a compromise and so, many local traditions, related to the marriage, have been handed down to date.
Everywhere, for example, the custom of preparing the wedding bed on which the future couple will spend their first wedding night. It is a well-wishing tradition and it is put up by the mothers and women, preferably illibated, of the two families, even though, over time, the families have become more flexible on the requirements necessary to prepare the bed. The group decorates the bed with abundant sweets and confetti (sugared almond candies) and sometimes coins, of course, everything is hidden from the spouses until they return to home after the wedding.
Another very suggestive tradition, that is becoming increasingly rare, is the display of damask silk blankets or even colored tapestries on the path that the bride takes from her home to get to church. The small community that surrounds the departure bride’s house brings her tributes and greetings competing with those who can show off the most beautiful and sumptuous outfits.
At the turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a large number of people from Albania, often occupied by Turkish-Ottoman invaders, settled in Calabria. Following the death of the national hero and military leader Giorgio Castriota Skanderbeg, many Albanians decided to abandon their land frightened by the persecutions to which they would be subjected by the Turks and decided to settle in some territories of Southern Italy, including Calabria. Today these populations reside in Calabria, constituting a large ethno-linguistic minority known with the name of Arbëreshë which preserves its traditions and above all its own language.
The arbëreshë wedding is very fascinating because it follows the Byzantine rite: the Zoti (priest) awaits, together with all the guests, the newlyweds at the church’s entrance to bless and deliver to them two candles that will be held in the hand for most of the ceremony. Two distinct ceremonies take place: the exchange of wedding rings or engagement and the coronation of the spouses. It is Zoti himself who inserts the wedding rings on the right finger of both spouses, exchanging them three times to represent the enrichment that married life will hold for them; the head of the spouses is then crowned and, once again, the crowns are exchanged three times, first by the same Zoti and then by the witnesses.
A very amusing and choral moment of the arbëreshë wedding takes place during the banquet, usually, immediately after the cake cutting: the breaking of the mostacciolo or mustazzuolo. The spouses grab this typical dessert with both hands, rigorously prepared by the family’s women and composed mainly of honey and flour, each one holds a side and they begin to pull accompanied by the cheering of their loved ones. According to tradition, the one who will get the biggest piece will be the one who will dominate in married life and, it is needless to say, that in general, it is the bride who has the better!
Discovering The Memory Of The Past
Calabria is a land full of history for those who want to discover and explore a truly distant past. Those who come here, perhaps for a destination wedding, can take the opportunity to discover the memory of this land.
A Bit Of History
In ancient times Calabria was presided by proud local populations such as the Bretti (or Bruzi), then it was inhabited by the Greeks who founded here several colonies of Magna Grecia, including Crotone, which hosted the famous philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras who founded his school here, and the flourishing Sibari. What has come to the present day certainly worth a visit, such as the Doric column on the promontory of Capo Colonna, the only survivor of the temple dedicated to the worship of Hera Lacinia (6th century BC), or the archaeological excavations that brought to light the Magno-Greek city of Sibari (720 BC).
It is said that Sibari was defeated and destroyed by the war with the nearby Crotone, during which to complete the destruction of the inhabited area, the crotoniati diverted the course of the nearby river Crati. Many finds have been saved and preserved in the Sibari’s Archaeological Museum. A few kilometers from Sibari’s site there are two rather interesting destinations for history and archeology enthusiasts. In the historic center of Rossano it is possible to see the famous Codex Purpureus, an original illuminated manuscript dating back to the sixth century and which owes its name to the reddish color of the pages, while, a few kilometers further, in Castiglione di Paludi, there is a beautiful archaeological park where you can visit one of the oldest and best preserved pre-Roman Brettian settlement (4th century BC). The Paludi’s park is not well known, so visitors can really breathe the Mediterranean spirit that still lingers among the imposing city walls which look towards the nearby sea.
In the Middle Ages, Federico II of Swabia, also known as Stupor Mundi, crossed Calabria in 1220 to be crowned emperor in Rome by Pope Honorius III and stopping in Cosenza inaugurated the Romanesque Cathedral (at the current day very popular for celebrating weddings) in the historical heart of the city center. On this occasion, the king gave the city the splendid Stauroteca, a jewel containing a relic of the true Christ’s Cross that is possible to be admired in the Diocesan Museum. Behind the Cathedral there is another little known pearl to be discovered: the Piazzetta Toscano’s archaeological area, where it is possible to see, through various stratifications, the remains of houses from the Brettian era, a Roman Domus and, even, a small part of the ancient city wall in opus reticolatum dating back to Roman times. (4th century BC).
An almost complete Roman Domus (1st century AD) can be visited in Casignana in the province of Reggio Calabria. It is a sumptuous and well-preserved patrician villa, which is called “Piazza Armerina of Calabria” for its beautiful mosaics, including those of the Sala delle Nereidi and Sala di Bacco.
Federico II also was the customer of the Norman-Swabian Castle construction in Cosenza, an imposing military architecture which dominates the city from the Pancrazio hill, recently renovated and also used for private receptions.