ISBN (identifier) Enlarge Special:BookSources/0300051328
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Calàbbria  (Neapolitan)
Calàvria  (Sicilian)
Calavría / Καλαβρία  (Greek)
Kalavrì  (Arbëreshë Albanian)

Coat of arms of Calabria
Coat of arms
Anthem: Calabrisella[1]
Calabria in Italy.svg
Largest cityReggio Calabria
 • PresidentJole Santelli (FI)
 • Total15,080 km2 (5,820 sq mi)
 • Total1,980,533
 • Density130/km2 (340/sq mi)
Demonym(s)English: Calabrian
Italian: Calabrese
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
ISO 3166 codeIT-78
GDP (nominal)€33.3 billion (2018)[2]
GDP per capita€17,000 (2018)[3]
HDI (2018)0.842[4]
very high · 20th of 21

Calabria (UK: /kəˈlæbriə/,[5] US: /-ˈlb-, -ˈlɑːb-/,[6][7] Italian: [kaˈlaːbrja]; Calabrian: Calàbbria; Calabrian Greek: Calavría; Greek: Καλαβρία; Arbëreshë Albanian: Kalavrì), known in antiquity as Bruttium (US: /ˈbrʊtiəm, ˈbrʌt-/),[7][8] is a region in Southern Italy.

The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro. The Regional Council of Calabria is based at the Palazzo Campanella in the city of Reggio Calabria. The region is bordered to the north by the Basilicata Region, to the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea, and to the east by the Ionian Sea. The Strait of Messina separates it from the island of Sicily. The region covers 15,080 km2 (5,822 sq mi) and has a population of just under 2 million. The demonym of Calabria is calabrese in Italian and Calabrian in English.

In antiquity the name Calabria referred, not as in modern times to the toe, but to the heel tip of Italy, from Tarentum southwards,[9] a region nowadays known as Salento.


Starting in the third century BC, the name Calabria was originally given to the Adriatic coast of the Salento peninsula in modern Apulia.[10] In the late first century BC this name came to extend to the entirety of the Salento, when the Roman emperor Augustus divided Italy into regions. The whole region of Apulia received the name Regio II Apulia et Calabria. By this time modern Calabria was still known as Bruttium, after the Bruttians who inhabited the region. Later in the seventh century AD, the Byzantine Empire created the Duchy of Calabria from the Salento and the Ionian part of Bruttium. Even though the Calabrian part of the duchy was conquered by the Longobards during the eighth and ninth centuries AD, the Byzantines continued to use the name Calabria for their remaining territory in Bruttium.[11]

The modern name Italy derives from Italia, which was first used as a name for the southern part of modern Calabria.[12][13] Over time the Greeks started to use it for the rest of the southern Italian peninsula as well. After the Roman conquest of the region, the name was used for the entire Italian peninsula and eventually the Alpine region too.[14]


Cliff at Tropea
La Sila National Park
Calabria in a photo from the ISS[15]

The region is generally known as the “toe” of the “boot” of Italy and is a long and narrow peninsula which stretches from north to south for 248 km (154 mi), with a maximum width of 110 km (68 mi). Some 42% of Calabria's area, corresponding to 15,080 km2, is mountainous, 49% is hilly, while plains occupy only 9% of the region's territory. It is surrounded by the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas. 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 (2 mi).

Three mountain ranges are present: Pollino, La Sila and Aspromonte, each with its 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, which is the largest national park in Italy, covering 1,925.65 square kilometres.

La Sila, which has been referred to as the "Great Wood of Italy",[16][17][18] is a vast mountainous plateau about 1,200 metres (3,900 feet) above sea level and stretches for nearly 2,000 square kilometres (770 square miles) along the central part of Calabria. The highest point is Botte Donato, which reaches 1,928 metres (6,325 feet). The area boasts numerous lakes and dense coniferous forests. La Sila also has some of the tallest trees in Italy which are called the "Giants of the Sila" and can reach up to 40 metres (130 feet) in height.[19][20][21] The Sila National Park is also known to have the purest air in Europe.[22]

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, at 1,995 metres (6,545 feet), and is full of wide, man-made terraces that slope down towards the sea.

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 orchards of citrus fruit, including the Diamante citron. Further up, olives and chestnut trees appear while in the higher regions there are often dense forests of oak, pine, beech and fir trees.


Calabria's climate is influenced by the sea and mountains. The Mediterranean climate is typical of the coastal areas with considerable differences in temperature and rainfall between the seasons, with an average low of 8 °C (46 °F) during the winter months and an average high of 30 °C (86 °F) during the summer months. Mountain areas have a typical mountainous climate with frequent snow during winter. The erratic behavior of the Tyrrhenian Sea can bring heavy rainfall on the western slopes of the region, while hot air from Africa makes the east coast of Calabria dry and warm. The mountains that run along the region also influence the climate and temperature of the region. The east coast is much warmer and has wider temperature ranges than the west coast. The geography of the region causes more rain to fall along the west coast than that of the east coast, which occurs mainly during winter and autumn and less during the summer months.[23]

Below are the two extremes of climate in Calabria, the warm mediterranean subtype on the coastline and the highland climate of Monte Scuro.


Geotectonic map of the Central Mediterranean Area and the Calabrian Arc. The blue area is the geotectonic cross section depicted below. From van Dijk (1992)[26]
Geotectonic Cross Section of the Calabrian Arc. Left: NW; Right: SE. From van Dijk (1992)[26]

Calabria is commonly considered part of the "Calabrian Arc", an arc-shaped geographic domain extending from the southern part of the Basilicata Region to the northeast of Sicily, and including the Peloritano Mountains (although some authors extend this domain from Naples in the north to Palermo in the southwest). The Calabrian area shows basement (crystalline and metamorphic rocks) of Paleozoic and younger ages, covered by (mostly Upper) Neogene sediments. Studies have revealed that these rocks comprise the upper part of a pile of thrust sheets which dominate the Apennines and the Sicilian Maghrebides.[26]

The Neogene evolution of the Central Mediterranean system is dominated by the migration of the Calabrian Arc to the southeast, overriding the African Plate and its promontories (Argand, 1922;[27] Boccaletti and Guazzone, 1972[28]). The main tectonic elements of the Calabrian Arc are the Southern Apennines fold-and-thrust belt, the "Calabria-Peloritani", or simply Calabrian block and the Sicilian Maghrebides fold-and-thrust belt. The foreland area is formed by the Apulia Platform, which is part of the Adriatic Plate, and the Ragusa or Iblean Platform, which is an extension of the African Plate. These platforms are separated by the Ionian Basin. The Tyrrhenian oceanized basin is regarded as the back-arc basin. This subduction system therefore shows the southern plates of African affinity subducting below the northern plates of European affinity.[26]

The geology of Calabria has been studied for more than a century. For details concerning the older literature, i.e. from before 1973, the reader is referred to the review of Ogniben (1973).[29] Ippolito (1959)[30] presented a complete bibliography of the literature on the Calabrian geology as published up until that moment. Books, reviews and important "mile¬stones" concerning the geology of the Calabrian Arc are the following: Cortese (1895),[31] Limanowski (1913),[32] Quitzow (1935),[33] Caire et al. (1960),[34] Caire (1961),[35] Grandjacquet et al. (1961),[36] Ogniben (1969,[37] 1973[29] ), Caire (1970,[38] 1975,[39] 1978[40] ), Burton (1971),[41] Amodio-Morelli et al. (1976),[42] Dubois (1976),[43] Grandjacquet and Mascle (1978),[44] Moussat (1983),[45] van Dijk (1992),[46] and van Dijk et al. (2000).[26] The earlier works were mainly dedicated to the evolution of the basement rocks of the area. The Neogene sedimentary successions were merely regarded as "post-orogenic" infill of "neo-tectonic" tensional features. In the course of time, however, a shift can be observed in the temporal significance of these terms, from post-Eocene to post-Early Miocene to post-middle Pleistocene.[26]

The region is seismically active and is generally ascribed to the re-establishment of an equilibrium after the latest (mid-Pleistocene) deformation phase. Some authors believe that the subduction process is still ongoing, which is a matter of debate (van Dijk & Scheepers, 1995).[47]


Magna Grecia around 280 BC

Calabria has one of the oldest records of human presence in Italy, which date back to around 700,000 BC when a type of Homo erectus evolved leaving traces around coastal areas.[48][49][50] During the Paleolithic period Stone Age humans created the "Bos Primigenius", a figure of a bull on a cliff which dates back around 12,000 years in the Romito Cave in the town of Papasidero.[51][52] When the Neolithic period came the first villages were founded around 3,500 BC.[53][54]


Around 1500 BC a tribe called the Oenotri ("vine-cultivators"), settled in the region. According to Greek mythology they were Greeks who were led to the region by their king, Oenotrus. The Greeks used the term 'italoi', which according to some ancient Greek writers was derived from a legendary king of the Oenotri, Italus and according to others from the bull. Originally the Greeks used 'italoi' to indicate Calabrians and later it became synonymous with the rest of the peninsula. Calabria therefore was the first region to be called Italia (Italy).[55][56][57][58][59]

During the eighth and seventh centuries BC, Greek settlers founded many colonies (settlements) on the coast of southern Italy (Magna Grecia). In Calabria they founded Chone (Pallagorio), Cosentia (Cosenza), Clampetia (Amantea), Scyllaeum (Scilla), Sybaris (Sibari), Hipponion (Vibo Valentia), Locri Epizefiri (Locri), Kaulon (Monasterace), Krimisa (Cirò Marina), Kroton (Crotone), Laüs (comune of Santa Maria del Cedro), Medma (Rosarno), Metauros (Gioia Tauro), Petelia (Strongoli), Rhégion (Reggio Calabria), Scylletium (Borgia), Temesa (Campora San Giovanni), Terina (Nocera Terinese), Pandosia (Acri) and Thurii, (Thurio, comune of Corigliano Calabro).

Rhegion was the birthplace of one of the famed nine lyric poets, Ibycus. Metauros was the birthplace of another of the nine lyric poets, Stesichorus, who was the first lyric poet of the western world. Kroton spawned many victors during the ancient Olympics and other Panhellenic Games. Amongst the most famous were Milo of Croton, who won six wrestling events in six Olympics in a row, along with seven events in the Pythian Games, nine events in the Nemean Games and ten events in the Isthmian Games and also Astylos of Croton, who won six running events in three Olympics in a row.[60] Through Alcmaeon of Croton (a philosopher and medical theorist) and Pythagoras (a mathematician and philosopher), who moved to Kroton in 530 BC, the city became a renowned center of philosophy, science and medicine. The Greeks of Sybaris created "Intellectual Property." [61] Sybaris benefited from "vinoducts" which were a series of pipes that carried wine to the homes of its citizens.[62][63] The Sybarite founded at least 20 other colonies, including Poseidonia (Paestum in Latin, on the Tyrrhenian coast of Lucania), Laüs (on the border with Lucania) and Scidrus (on the Lucanian coast in the Gulf of Taranto).[64] Locri was renowned for being the town where Zaleucus created the first Western Greek law, the "Locrian Code" [65][66] and the birthplace of ancient epigrammist and poet Nossis.

The Itali were the first established people of Calabria. Later came the Bruttii from Lucania. These occupied Calabria and called it Bruttium. The Bruttii were very advanced culturally. The Greek cities of Calabria came under the pressure from these Lucanians, an Oscan people who lived in the present day region of Basilicata. They conquered the north of Calabria and pushed further south, taking over part of the interior, probably after they defeated the Thurians near Laus in 390 BC. A few decades later Calabria came under pressure from the Bruttii. They were Lucanian slaves and other fugitives who were seeking refuge on the steep mountains of Calabria. Their name was Lucanian and meant rebels. They took advantage of the weakening of the Greek cites caused by wars between them. They took over Hipponium, Terina and Thurii. They helped the Lucanians to fight Alexander of Epirus (334–32 BC), who had come to the aid of Tarentum (in Apulia), which was also pressured by the Lucanians. After this, Agathocles of Syracuse ravaged the coast of Calabria with his fleet, took Hipponium and forced the Bruttii into unfavourable peace terms. However, they soon seized Hipponium again. After Agathloces' death in 289 BC the Lucanians and Bruttii pushed into the territory of Thurii and ravaged it. The city sent envoys to Rome to ask for help in 285 BC and 282 BC. On the second occasion, the Romans sent forces to garrison the city. This was part of the episode which sparked the Pyrrhic war.

During the Pyrrhic War (280–275 BC) the Lucanians and Bruttii sided with Pyrrhus and provided contingents which fought with his army. When Pyrrhus landed in Italy the people of Rhegion were worried about their safety and asked Rome for protection. The Romans sent soldiers from Campania to garrison the city. Coveting the wealth of the city, the soldiers killed its prominent men, sent away the rest and seized their property. The Romans could not do much about it because they were engaged in the war. A few years after the end of the war, in 271 BC, the Romans retook the city, arrested the soldiers and took them to Rome, where they were executed.[67] After Pyrrhus was defeated, to avoid Roman revenge, the Bruttii submitted willingly and gave up half of the Sila, a mountainous plateau which was valuable for its pitch and timber. The timber here was sold all over Italy and the resin of the area was of the highest quality.[68]

During the Second Punic War (218–201 BC) the Bruttii allied with Hannibal, who sent Hanno, one of his commanders, to Calabria. Hanno marched towards Capua (in Campania) with Bruttian soldiers to take them to Hannibal's headquarters there twice, but he was defeated on both occasions. When his campaign in Italy came to a dead end, Hannibal took refuge in Calabria, whose steep mountains provided protection against the Roman legions. He set up his headquarters in Kroton and stayed there for four years until he was recalled to Carthage. The Romans fought a battle with him near Kroton, but its details are unknown. Many Calabrian cities surrendered.[69] Calabria was put under a military commander. Nearly a decade after the war, the Romans set up colonies in Calabria: at Tempsa and Kroton (Croto in Latin) in 194 BC, Copiae in the territory of Thurii (Thurium in Latin) in 193 BC, and Vibo Valentia in the territory of Hipponion in 192 BC.[70] The Romans called Calabria Bruttium. Later, during the reign of Augustus it became part of the third region of Italy, the 'Regio III Lucania et Brettium.[71]

Middle Ages

After sacking Rome in 410, Alaric I (King of the Visigoths) went to Calabria with the intention of sailing to Africa. He contracted malaria and died in Cosentia (Cosenza), probably of fever. Legend has it that he along with the treasure of Rome were buried under the bed of the River Busento.[72] With the fall of the western part of the Roman Empire in 476, Italy was taken over by the Germanic chieftain Odoacer and later became part of the Ostrogothic Kingdom in 489. The Ostrogothic kings ruled officially as Magistri Militum of the Byzantine Emperors and all government and administrative positions were held by the Romans while all primary laws were legislated by the Byzantine Emperor. Therefore, during the sixth century, under the Ostrogoths' rule, Romans could still be at the center of government and cultural life, such as the Roman Cassiodorus who, like Boethius and Symmachus, emerged as one of the most prominent men of his time. He was an administrator, politician, scholar and historian who was born in Scylletium (near Catanzaro). He spent most of his career trying to bridge the divides of East and West, Greek and Latin cultures, Romans and Goths, and official Christianity and Arian Christianity, which was the form of Christianity of the Ostrogoths and which had earlier been banned. He set up his Vivarium (monastery) in Scylletium. He oversaw the collation of three editions of the Bible in Latin. Seeing the practicality of uniting all the books of the Bible in one volume, he was the first who produced Latin Bibles in single volumes.[73] The most well-known of them was the Codex Grandior which was the ancestor of all modern western Bibles.[74][75][76][76]

Cassiodorus was at the heart of the administration of the Ostrogothic kingdom. Theodoric made him quaestor sacri palatii (quaestor of the sacred palace, the senior legal authority) in 507, governor of Lucania and Bruttium, consul in 514 and magister officiorum (master of offices, one of the most senior administrative officials) in 523. He was praetorian prefect (chief minister) under the successors of Theodoric: under Athalaric (Theodoric's grandson, reigned 526–34) in 533 and, between 535 and 537, under Theodahad (Theodoric's nephew, reigned 534–36) and Witiges (Theodoric's grandson-in-law, reigned, 536–40).[77] The major works of Cassiodorus, besides the mentioned bibles, were the Historia Gothorum, a history of the Goths, the Variae and account of his administrative career and the Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum, an introduction to the study of the sacred scriptures and the liberal arts which was very influential in the Middle Ages.

Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Emperor Justinian I, retook Italy from the Ostrogoths between 535 and 556. They soon lost much of Italy to the Lombards between 568 and 590, but retained the south for around 500 years until 1059–1071, where they thrived and where the Greek language was the official and vernacular language. In Calabria and towns such as Stilo and Rossano achieved great religious status. From the 7th Century many monasteries were built in the Amendolea and Stilaro Valleys and Stilo was the destination of hermits and Basilian monks. Many Byzantine churches are still seen in the region. The 10th-century church in Rossano is considered one of the best preserved Byzantine churches in Italy. It was built by St. Nilus the Younger as a retreat for the monks who lived in the tufa grottos underneath. The present name of Calabria comes from the duchy of Calabria.

Around the year 800, Saracens began invading the shores of Calabria, attempting to wrest control of the area from the Byzantines. This group of Arabs had already been successful in Sicily and knew that Calabria was another key spot. The people of Calabria retreated into the mountains for safety. Although the Arabs never really got a stronghold on the whole of Calabria, they did control some villages while enhancing trade relations with the eastern world.[78] In 918, Saracens captured Reggio (which was renamed Rivà) and sold the majority of its population in the slave markets of Sicily and North Africa.[79] It is during this time of Arab invasions that many staples of today's Calabrian cuisine came into fashion: citrus fruits and eggplants for example. Exotic spices such as cloves and nutmeg were also introduced.[54]

In the 1060s the Normans from their duchy in France, under the leadership of Robert Guiscard's brother, Roger I of Sicily, established a presence in this borderland, and organized a government modeled on the Eastern Roman Empire and was run by the local magnates of Calabria. Of note is that the Normans established their presence here, in southern Italy (namely Calabria), 6 years prior to their conquest of England, (see The Battle of Hastings). The purpose of this strategic presence in Calabria was to lay the foundations for the Crusades 30 years later, and for the creation of two Kingdoms: the Kingship of Jerusalem, and the Kingdom of Sicily. Ships would sail from Calabria to the Holy Land. This made Calabria one of the richest regions in Europe as princes from the noble families of England, France and other regions, constructed secondary residences and palaces here, on their way to the Holy Land. Guiscard's son Bohemond, who was born in San Marco Argentano, would be one of the leaders in the first crusade. Of particular note is the Via Francigena, an ancient pilgrim route that goes from Canterbury to Rome and southern Italy, reaching Calabria, Basilicata and Apulia, where the crusaders lived, prayed and trained, respectively.

At the beginning of the tenth century (circa 903),[80] Calabria was occupied by the Muslim Saracens, who founded an emirate and took the Arab name of قطنصار – QaTanSáar. An Arab presence is evidenced by findings at an eighth-century necropolis which had items with Arabic inscriptions.

In 1098, Roger I of Sicily was named the equivalent of an apostolic legate by Pope Urban II and later his son Roger II of Sicily became the first King of Sicily and formed what would become the Kingdom of Sicily which lasted nearly 700 years. Under the Normans Southern Italy was united as one region and started a feudal system of land ownership in which the Normans were made lords of the land while peasants performed all the work on the land.

In 1194 the Swabians took control under Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor. He created a kingdom that blended cultures, philosophy and customs and would build several castles while fortifying existing ones which the Normans previously constructed. After the death of Frederick II in 1250, Calabria was controlled by the French once more, the Angevins, under the rule of Charles d’Anjou after being granted the crown by Pope Clement IV. Under Charles d’Anjou the Kingdom of Sicily was changed to the Kingdom of Naples in 1282 after he lost Sicily due to the rebellion of the Sicilian Vespers.[54] During the 14th century, would emerge Barlaam of Seminara who would be Petrarch's Greek teacher and his disciple Leonzio Pilato, who would translate Homer's works for Giovanni Boccaccio.

Early modern period

In 1442 the Aragonese took control under Alfonso V of Aragon who became ruler under the Crown of Aragon. In 1501 Calabria came under the control of Ferdinand II of Aragon who is famed for sponsoring the first voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Calabria suffered greatly under Aragonese rule with heavy taxes, feuding landlords, starvation and sickness. After a brief period in the early 1700s under the Austrian Habsburgs, Calabria came into the control of the Spanish Bourbons in 1735.[54] It was during the 16th century that Calabria would contribute to modern world history with the creation of the Gregorian calendar by the Calabrian doctor and astronomer Luigi Lilio.[81][82][83]

In 1563 philosopher and natural scientist Bernardino Telesio wrote "On the Nature of Things according to their Own Principles" and pioneered early modern empiricism. He would also influence the works of Francis Bacon, René Descartes, Giordano Bruno, Tommaso Campanella and Thomas Hobbes.[84][85][86] In 1602 philosopher and poet Tommaso Campanella wrote his most famous work, "The City of the Sun" and would later defend Galileo Galilei during his first trial with his work "A Defense of Galileo", which was written in 1616 and published in 1622.[87] In 1613 philosopher and economist Antonio Serra wrote "A Short Treatise on the Wealth and Poverty of Nations" and was a pioneer in the Mercantilist tradition.[88]

Costumes in Calabria about 1800

At the end of the 18th century the French took control and in 1808 Napoleon Bonaparte gave the Kingdom of Naples to his brother-in-law Joachim Murat. Murat controlled the kingdom until the return of the Bourbons in 1815. The population of Calabria in 1844 was 1,074,558.[89]

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 unification was orchestrated by Great Britain in an attempt to nationalize the production of sulfur from the two volcanoes located in Naples and Sicily respectively. The Aspromonte was the scene of a famous battle of the unification of Italy. During the late 19th or early 20th century, pianist and composer Alfonso Rendano invented the "Third Pedal",[90] which augmented the interpretative resources of the piano.

The ancient Greek colonies from Naples and to the south, had been completely Latinized, but from the fifth century AD onward Greeks had once again emigrated there when pressed out of their homeland by invasions. This Greek Diaspora allowed the ancient Greek dialects to continue in Southern Italy, much in the same way that the Italian Diaspora allowed long-lost dialects from Italy to thrive in countries where Italians emigrated to. Greek texts were also valued in monasteries and places of learning. However it was Charlemagne in the 8th century, who made Latin the 'official' language of study and communication for Europe. For the sake of uniformity, he supplanted much of the Greek spoken, read or taught in Europe. It was through language (Latin) and education (Latin texts) that Charlemagne united Europe.

During the 13th century a French chronicler who traveled through Calabria stated that "the peasants of Calabria spoke nothing but Greek" given he had traveled to areas where Greek was still available. But the educated classes spoke Italian. Indeed, formal Italian has been taught in schools throughout Italy for nearly two centuries, causing the ancient languages and dialects to continually disappear, much to the chagrin of the cultural community. These lost dialects continue to thrive to this day in North America and Australia, places where Italians emigrated to, on account of the Diaspora.

Modern era

On 19 August 1860, Calabria was invaded from Sicily by Giuseppe Garibaldi and his Redshirts as part of the Expedition of the Thousand.[91] Through King Francesco II of Naples had dispatched 16,000 soldiers to stop the Redshirts, who numbered about 3,500, after a token battle at Reggio Calabria won by the Redshirts, all resistance ceased and Garibaldi was welcomed as a liberator from the oppressive rule of the Bourbons whatever he went in Calabria.[92] Calabria together with the rest of the Kingdom of Naples was incorporated in 1861 into the Kingdom of Italy. Garibaldi planned to complete the Risorgimento by invading Rome, still ruled by the Pope protected by a French garrison, and began with semi-official encouragement to raise an army.[93] Subsequently, King Victor Emmanuel II decided the possibility of war with France was too dangerous, and on 29 August 1862 Garibaldi's base in the Calabrian town of Aspromonte was attacked by the Regio Esercito.[94] The Battle of Aspromonte ended with the Redshirts defeated with several being executed after surrendering while Garibaldi was badly wounded.[95]  

In the newly unified Kingdom of Italy, there were significant differences in level of economic development between the Nord (north) of Italy and the Mezzogiorno (the south of Italy). Many Italian academics from the north, such as the Piedmontese anthropologist Cesare Lombroso, explained this difference in racial terms. In his 1876 book L'uomo delinquente ("The criminal man"), Lombroso argued that the people from the north were part of the "Nordic" race while people from Mezzogiorno were descended from the "African" and "Semitic" races, citing the high murder rates in Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia as evidence that the people from the south were descended from "inferior" races.[96] In 1884, Lombroso appeared as an expert witness at the court-martial of a soldier from Calabria who had gone on a rampage and killed eight of his fellow soldiers. Lombroso testified that the rampage was due to the fact that Calabrians were innately violent and criminal due to racial reasons, a point elaborated upon in his 1898 essay In Calabria, where he argued that it was the "Semitic" racial character of Calabrians that determined their behavior.[96]

Calabria together with the rest of the Mezzogiorno was neglected under the Kingdom of Italy with the general feeling in Rome being that the region was hopelessly backward and poor. In the late 19th century about 70% of the population of the Mezzogiorno were illiterate as the government never seemed to have the money to build schools or hire teachers for the south.[97] Owning to the Roman Question, until 1903 the Roman Catholic Church had prohibited on the pain of excommunication Catholic men from voting in Italian elections (Italian women were not granted the right to vote until 1946).[98] As the devoutly Catholic population of Calabria tended to boycott elections, the deputies who were elected from the region were the products of the clientistic system, representing the interests of the land-owning aristocracy. In common with the deputies from other regions of the Mezzogiorno, they voted against more money for education under the grounds that an educated population would demand changes that would threaten the power of the traditional elite.[99] Owning to a weak state, society in Calabria came to be dominated in the late 19th century by an organised crime group known as 'Ndrangheta which like the Mafia in Sicily and the Camorra in Campania formed a "parallel state" that co-existed alongside the Italian state.[100] Between 1901-1914, an exodus of people left Calabria, mostly for North America and South America, with the peak year of migration being 1905 with 62,690 Calabrians departing that year.[101] 

On 28 December 1908, Calabria together with Sicily was devastated by an earthquake and then by a tsunami caused by the earthquake, causing about 80, 000 deaths.[102] Within hours of the disaster, ships of the British and Russian navies had arrived on the coast to assist the survivors, but it took the Regia Marina two days to send a relief expedition from Naples.[103] The bumbling and ineffectual response of the Italian authorities to the disaster caused by feuding officials who did not wish to co-operate with each other contributed to the high death toll as it took weeks for aid to reach some villages and caused much resentment in Calabria.[104] To offset widespread criticism that the northern-dominated government in Rome did not care about the people of Calabria, King Victor Emmanuel III personally took over the relief operation and toured the destroyed villages of Calabria, which won the House of Savoy a measure of popularity in the region.[105] Most notably, after the king took charge of the relief efforts, the feuding between officials ceased and relief aid was delivered with considerably more efficiency, winning Victor Emmanuel the gratitude of the Calabrians.[106]  

Fascism was not popular in Calabria. In December 1924 when a false rumor spread in Reggio Calabria that Benito Mussolini had resigned as Prime Minister because of the Matteotti affair, joyous celebrations took place in the city that lasted all night.[107] In the morning, the people of Reggio Calabria learned that Mussolini was still prime minister, but several Fascist officials were dismissed for not suppressing the celebrations. The landed aristocracy and gentry of Calabria, through generally not ideologically committed to Fascism, saw the Fascist regime as a force for order and social stability, and supported the dictatorship.[108] Likewise, the prefects and the policemen of Calabria were conservatives who saw themselves as serving King Victor Emmanuel III first and Mussolini second, but supported Fascism as preferable to Socialism and Communism and persecuted anti-Fascists.[109] Traditional elites in Calabria joined the Fascist Party to pursue their own interests, and local branches of Fascist Party were characterized by much jostling for power and influence between elite families.[110] Under the Fascist regime, several concentration camps were built in Calabria and used to imprison foreigners whose presence in Italy was considered undesirable, such as Chinese immigrants and foreign Jews (though not Italian Jews) together with members of the Roma (Gypsy) minority, whose nomadic lifestyle was viewed as anti-social.[111] The camps which operated from 1938 to 1943 were not death camps, and the majority of those imprisoned survived, but conditions were harsh for the imprisoned.[112]

On 3 September 1943, British and Canadian troops of the British 8th Army landed in Calabria in Operation Baytown, marking the first time that the Allies landed on the mainland of Italy.[113] However, the landings in Calabria were a feint and the main Allied blow came on 8 September 1943 with the landing of the American 5th Army at Salerno in Campania that was intended to cut off Axis forces in the Mezzogiorno.[114] The Germans anticipated that the Allies would land at Salerno, and as a consequence, there was relatively little fighting in Calabria.[115] The Italian troops in Calabria mostly surrendered to the advancing 5th British Division and the 1st Canadian Division while there were relatively few German forces in the region to oppose their advance.[116] The main obstacle to the advancing Anglo-Canadian troops turned out to be the trail of destruction left by German combat engineers who systematically blew up bridges and destroyed roads and railroads as the Wehrmacht retreated north.[117] On the same day the Americans landed at Salerno, General Dwight Eisenhower announced on the radio the Armistice of Cassibile that had been signed on 3 September, and with the announcement of the armistice all Italian resistance ceased.[118] The Germans committed most of their forces in the Mezzogiorno to the Battle of Salerno with the aim of driving the Allies back into the sea and pulled their remaining forces out of Calabria to send them to Salerno.[119] Under the Allied occupation, some Fascists in Calabria waged a terrorist struggle on behalf of the Salo republic, through significantly many of the Fascists tended to be from well-off families concerned about the possibility of social reforms that might weaken their power and only a minority such as Prince Valerio Pignatelli were ideological Fascists.[120] In June 1944, celebrations in Reggio Calabria over the news of the liberation of Rome were disturbed by local Fascists.[121]  

The British historian Jonathan Dunnage wrote that there was an "institutional continuity" between the civil servants of the Liberal, Fascist and post-Fascist eras in Calabria as each change of regime saw the bureaucrats of the region adjust to whatever regime was in power in Rome and there was no purge of civil servants either after 1922 or 1943.[122] The "institutional continuity" of the bureaucracy of Calabria were committed to preserving the social structure.[123] In 2 June 1946 referendum, Calabria like the rest of the Mezzogiorno voted solidly to retain the monarchy. The clientistic political system in Calabria under which elite families handed out patronage to their supporters and used violence against their opponents, which was the prevailing norm in the Liberal and Fascist eras continued after 1945.[124] During the Second World War, the already low living standards of Calabria declined further and the region was notorious as one of the most violent and lawless areas of Italy.[125] Attempts by the peasants of Calabria to take over the land owned by the elite were usually resisted by the authorities. On 28 October 1949 in Melissa the police opened fire on peasants who had seized the land of a local baron, killing three men who were shot in the back as they attempted to flee.[126] Between 1949-1966 another wave of migration took place with the peak year of migration being 1957 with some 38, 090 Calabrians leaving that year.[127]    

Under the First Republic, starting in the 1960s, investment plans were launched under which Italian state sponsored industrialisation and attempted to improve the infrastructure of Calabria by building modern roads, railroads, ports, etc.[128] The plan was a notable failure with the infrastructure projects going wildly over-budget and taking far longer to complete then scheduled; for an example, construction started on the A3 highway in 1964 intended to link Reggio Calabria to Salerno, which was as of 2016 still unfinished.[129] The failure to complete the A3 highway after 52 years of effort is regarded as a scandal in Italy, and many parts of Calabria were described as an "industrial graveyard" full of the closed down steel mills and chemical plants that all went bankrupt.[130] From July 1970 to February 1971 the Reggio revolt took place as the decision to make Catanzaro instead of Reggio the regional capital prompted massive protests.[131] The compromise decision to make Catanzaro the executive capital and Reggio the administrative capital has led to a bloated and inefficient administration.[132] The high unemployment rate in Calabria has led to extensive migration and Calabria's biggest export has been its own people as Calabrians have moved to either other parts of Italy and abroad, especially to the United States, Canada and Argentina, to seek a better life.[133] In 2016, it was estimated that 18% of the people born in Calabria were living abroad.[134]  


Calabria enjoys a diversified economy comparable to western nations in various categories, as shown in these statistics: the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Calabria is subdivided as follows: service industry (28.94%), financial activities and real estate (21.09%), trade, tourism, transportation and communication (19.39%), taxation (11.49%), manufacturing (8.77%), construction (6.19%) and agriculture (4.13%). It is one of the least (resort) developed regions in Italy. Its economy is hampered by corruption, tax evasion and organized crime which is mainly run by the 'Ndrangheta (the local Mafia syndicate); the latter has deep connections with some of the local authorities.[135]


Food and textile industries are the most developed and vibrant. Within the industrial sector, manufacturing contributes to a gross value added of 7.2%. In the manufacturing sector the main branches are foodstuff, beverage and tobacco with a contribution to the sector very close to the national average.[136] Over the recent decades some petrochemical, engineering and chemical industries have emerged, within the areas of Crotone, Vibo Valentia and Reggio Calabria.


Ski trails near Gambarie overlooking the Strait of Messina

Calabria attracts year-round tourism, offering both summer and winter activities, in addition to its cultural, historical, artistic heritage, it has an abundance of protected natural habitats and 'green' zones. The 485 miles (781 kilometres) of its coast make Calabria a tourist destination during the summer. The low industrial development and the lack of major cities in much of its territory have allowed the maintenance of indigenous marine life.

The most sought-after seaside destinations are: Tropea, Pizzo Calabro, Capo Vaticano, Reggio Calabria, Soverato, Scilla, Scalea, Sellia Marina, Montepaone, Montauro, Copanello (comune of Staletti), Tonnara di Palmi, Diamante, Paola, Fiumefreddo Bruzio, Amantea, Praia a Mare, Belvedere Marittimo, Roseto Capo Spulico, Corigliano Calabro, Cirò Marina, Amendolara, Roccella Ionica, Bagnara Calabra, Nicotera, Cariati, Zambrone, Isola di Capo Rizzuto, Caminia (comune of Staletti), Siderno, Parghelia, Ricadi and San Nicola Arcella.

In addition to the coastal tourist destinations, the interior of Calabria is rich in history, traditions, art and culture. Cosenza is among the most important cultural cities of Calabria, with a rich historical and artistic patrimony. Medieval castles, towers, churches, monasteries and other French castles and structures from the Norman to the Aragonese periods are common elements in both the interior and coastline of Calabria.

The mountains offer skiing and other winter activities: Sila, Pollino and Aspromonte are three national parks that offer facilities for winter sports, especially in the towns of Camigliatello (comune of Spezzano della Sila), Lorica (comune of San Giovanni in Fiore), Gambarie and Monte Sant'Elia (comune of Palmi).


Calabrian olive tree plantations

Calabria is agriculturally rich, with the Italy's second highest number of organic farmers after Sicily.[137]

The red onion of Tropea is cultivated during the summer period in the Tyrrhenian coast of central Calabria.[138]

The olive tree represents 29.6% of UAA and approximately 70% of tree crops.[136] The region is the second-highest for olive oil production [139] with Carolea, Ogliarola, and Saracena olives as the main regional varieties.[140]

The Bergamot orange has been intensively cultivated since the 18th century,[141] but only in the coastal area nearby to Reggio, where geological and weather conditions are optimal. Calabria is also the largest producer of Porcini Mushrooms in Italy.[142][143]

Unemployment rate

The unemployment rate stood at 21.6% in 2017 and was the highest in Italy and one of the highest inside the European Union.[144]

Year 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
unemployment rate
(in %)
12.8% 11.1% 12.0% 11.3% 11.9% 12.6% 19.4% 22.3% 23.4% 22.9% 23.2% 21.6%

Infrastructure and transport

The seaport of Gioia Tauro

The main Calabrian ports are in Reggio and in Gioia Tauro. The Reggio port is equipped with five loading docks of a length of 1,530 metres (5,020 feet). The Gioia Tauro port has seven loading docks with an extension of 4,646 metres (15,243 feet); it is the largest in Italy and the seventh largest container port in Europe,[145] with a 2007 throughput of 3.7 million TEUs[146] from more than 3,000 ships.

The region is served by three heavily used roads: two national highways along the coasts (SS18 Napoli-Reggio and SS106 Reggio-Taranto) and the A2 motorway, which links Salerno and Reggio, passing by Cosenza along the old inland route.

In Calabria there are two main airports: one is situated in Reggio, a few kilometres from city centre, built in 1939 is chronologically the first airport in Calabria; another is located in Lamezia Terme municipality area, currently being the first airport in Calabria concerning the number of passengers per year.


The following is a list of Calabrian municipalities with a population of over 20,000:[147]

  1. Reggio Calabria – 186,013
  2. Catanzaro – 93,265
  3. Corigliano-Rossano – 77,220
  4. Lamezia Terme – 71,123
  5. Cosenza – 69,827
  6. Crotone – 61,529
  7. Rende – 35,352
  8. Vibo Valentia – 33,857
  9. Castrovillari – 22,518
  10. Acri – 21,263
  11. Montalto Uffugo – 20,553

Government and politics

Sister jurisdictions

Administrative divisions

Provinces of Calabria

Calabria is divided into five provinces:

Province Population
Province of Cosenza 734,260
Province of Reggio Calabria 565,813
Province of Catanzaro 368,318
Province of Crotone 174,076
Province of Vibo Valentia 166,760


The Riace bronzes, Greek bronzes, about 460–430 BC
The Byzantine church known as the Cattolica

Tourism in Calabria has increased over the years. The main tourist attractions are the coastline and the mountains. The coastline alternates between rugged cliffs and sandy beaches, and is sparsely interrupted by development when compared to other European seaside destinations. The sea around Calabria is clear, and there is a good level of tourist accommodation. The poet Gabriele D'Annunzio called the coast facing Sicily near Reggio Calabria "... the most beautiful kilometer in Italy" (il più bel chilometro d'Italia).[150][151] The primary mountain tourist draws are Aspromonte and La Sila, with its national park and lakes. Some other prominent destinations include:



Although the official national language of Calabria has been Standard Italian since before unification in 1861, as a consequence of its deep and colourful history Calabria has dialects that have been spoken in the region for centuries. The Calabrian language is a direct derivative of Latin, and is closer to the words spoken in Latin than standard Italian is. Most linguists divide the various dialects into two different language groups.In the northern fringes of the region [154] the Calabrian dialects are considered part of the Neapolitan language and are grouped as Northern Calabrian . In the rest of the region, the Calabrian dialects are often grouped as Central and Southern Calabrian and are considered part of the Sicilian language. In the map is showed the dialect shift happening in Cosenza's province.In dark purple Sicilian , in rosa neapolitan (northern fringes of the Province of Cosenza). However, in isolated pockets, as well as some quarters of Reggio Calabria a variety of Occitan can also be found in certain communities and French has had an influence on many Calabrian words and phrases. In addition, since Calabria was once ruled by the Spanish, some Calabrian dialects exhibit Spanish derivatives. Another important linguistic minority, in the nine towns of Bovesìa in the province of Reggio Calabria, speaks a derivative of ancient Greek with influences of the Calabrian dialect, a remnant of ancient Byzantine rule.[155]


The majority of Calabrians are Roman Catholic. There are also communities of Evangelicals in the region.[156] Calabria has also been called "The Land of Saints" as the region was the birthplace of many saints spanning nearly 2,000 years.[157][158][159][160] The most famous saint in Calabria and also the patron saint of the region is St. Francis of Paola. Calabria also has another patron saint called Saint Bruno of Cologne who was the founder of the Carthusian Order. Saint Bruno would build the charterhouse of Serra San Bruno, a town which bears his name, in 1095 and later die there in 1101.

Even though it is currently a very small community, there has been a long history of the presence of Jews in Calabria. The Jews have had a presence in the region for at least 1600 years and possibly as much as 2300 years. Calabrian Jews have had notably influence on many areas of Jewish life and culture. Although virtually identical to the Jews of Sicily, the Jews of Calabria are considered a distinct Jewish population due to historical and geographic considerations. There is a small community of Italian Anusim who have resumed the Jewish faith.[161]

It is important to highlight the presence of Calabrians in Renaissance humanism and in the Renaissance. Indeed, the Hellenistics in this period frequently came from Calabria maybe because of the Greek influence. The rediscovery of Ancient Greek was very difficult because this language had been almost forgotten. In this period the presence of Calabrian humanists or refugees from Constantinople was fundamental. The study of Ancient Greek, in this period, was mainly a work of two monks of the monastery of Seminara: Barlaam, bishop of Gerace, and his disciple, Leonzio Pilato. Leonzio Pilato, in particular, was a Calabrian born near Reggio Calabria. He was an important teacher of Ancient Greek and translator, and he helped Giovanni Boccaccio in the translations of Homer's works.


The cuisine is a typical southern Italian Mediterranean cuisine with a balance between meat-based dishes (pork, lamb, goat), vegetables (especially eggplant), and fish. Pasta (as in Central Italy and the rest of Southern Italy) is also very important in Calabria. In contrast to most other Italian regions, Calabrians have traditionally placed an emphasis on the preservation of their food and packing vegetables and meats in olive oil. Also making sausages and cold cuts (Sopressata, 'Nduja, Capocollo), along the coast curing fish – especially swordfish, sardines (sardelle rosamarina) and cod (Baccalà). Local desserts are typically fried, honey-sweetened pastries Cudduraci, Nacatole, Scalille or scalidde or baked biscotti-type treats (such as nzudda).

Some local specialties include Caciocavallo Cheese, Cipolla rossa di Tropea (red onion), Frìttuli and Curcùci (fried pork), Liquorice (liquirizia), Lagane e Cicciari (a pasta dish with chickpeas), Pecorino Crotonese (Cheese of Sheep), and Pignolata.

In ancient times Calabria was referred to as Enotria (from Ancient Greek Οἰνωτρία, Oenotria, "land of wine"). According to ancient Greek tradition, Οἴνωτρος (Oenotrus), the youngest of the sons of Lycaon, was the eponym of Oenotria.[162] Some vineyards have origins dating back to the ancient Greek colonists. The best known DOC wines are Cirò (Province of Crotone) and Donnici (Province of Cosenza). 3% of the total annual production qualifies as DOC. Important grape varieties are the red Gaglioppo and white Greco. Many producers are resurrecting local, ancient grape varieties which have been around for as long as 3000 years.[163]





Calabria has the two highest bridges in Italy


There are 3 public universities in the region of Calabria

There is also the private University for Foreigners "Dante Alighieri" in Reggio Calabria.

Notable people

See also


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