Medieval town of Stilo
One of the most interesting tours of Calabria is the medieval town of Stilo. Famous above all for its little byzantine church “Cattolica”, it preserves one of the most beautiful historic center of the South of Italy and is characterized by breathtaking panoramic view on the Ionian coastline.
Stilo is situated on the eastern slope of Mount Consolino plateau, around 400 m above sea level, in the Stilaro Valley, a few kilometers from the Ionia sea. The town was probably founded during the VII-VIII century AD, when the coastal inhabitants were forced to retreat above Stilo Cape and later at the foot of Mount Consolino, the only place that offered safe refuge against the Saracens pillages.
During the Norman domination, the town acquired territorial, administrative and economic autonomy, and the count Ruggero the Norman built the imposing castle on the summit of Mount Consolino, where it dominated the town and the valley as far as the Ionian sea. The Norman castle, completely impregnable, had great strategic importance and was closely linked with the development of Stilo, which was also surrounded by boundary walls, towers and others defensive fortifications, some of which still exist today.
The lower surrounding wall of the fortifications began just above the “Cattolica”, a small Greek-byzantine church whose construction dates back to the tenth century AD. Although it is more than one thousand years old, the “Cattolica” is extraordinarily well preserved, with its façade made by layers of red clay bricks, with its five domes and with its frescoes inside. Over the centuries, five layers of frescoes have been superimposed on the walls of the church, all of exceptional value and artistic interest.
This small jewel of byzantine art was built thanks to the presence, in the entire Stilaro Valley, of the Basilian monks of Greek rite, who, after their arrival from East, chose the impervious natural caves of Mount Consolino for their hermit life and their prayers. During our tour, we shall visit some of these caves, like that called “della Pastorella” (i.e. “of the little she-shepherd”).
Our excursion will be divided into two parts: the first half of “urban hiking”, along the intricate alleys of the village, amongst noble palaces, churches and balconies open on the valley, until reaching and stopping at the “Cattolica”; the second part of our excursion follows a path that begins close to “Cattolica” and, with a fairly steep ascent, will lead us to the summit of Mount Consolino, where there are the ruins of the Norman castle and the possibility to enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view.
|Starting location||Stilo, little church of St Nicola da Tolentino|
|Arrival location||Stilo, Norman castle|
|Difference in altitude||301 m|
|Minimum altitude||400 m above sea level|
|Maximum altitude||701 m s.l.m. (castello sul Monte Consolino)|
|Time||4 hours, with stop for visiting “Cattolica”|
|Periods of accessibility||Always|