Corigliano Calabro is one of the most beautiful towns in Italy with its historic centre on a hill, a part of the territory that is part of the Sila National Park, and reaches up to an altitude of 1723 meters above sea level, a coastal part with 13 km of splendid beaches and a port on the Ionian Sea in Calabria.
From its castle it dominates the plain of Sibari, rich in citrus groves and above all the famous Clementines. Today Corigliano has joined with Rossano and they have become one of the largest centres in Calabria.
Its history goes back very far and traces are found everywhere, from the Neolithic remains to the Byzantine references in the hamlet of Cantinella where a historic Albanian minority keeps the Orthodox rites and language alive. The name of the city itself could derive from the Greek ‘oil garden’ or from the Greek-Byzantine ‘chorion’, possibly meaning ‘town’.
The Calabrian territory has experienced a long history of conquerors, and the first inhabitants were the Italic populations who founded Ausonia. Then came the Greek settlements along the coast.
In fact, then Calabria was rich in iron mines and represented a strategic territory to increase the power of those who controlled them. The Greeks arrived in the fertile plain of Sibari as early as the 8th century BC and built a big city bringing their art.
The arrival of the Romans led by Coriolano brought about great changes: a part of the citizens welcomed the Romans and moved to the hills after the destruction of the Greek city. For their loyalty the name of the city became Ausonia civitas Coriolanesium and for centuries life took place according to the Roman organization.
With the fall of the empire, this part of Calabria passed under the control of the Eastern Roman Empire of Byzantium which brought its new traditions and language. Then, new peoples began to arrive by land, the church began an evangelization with the construction of small monasteries that continued to maintain local agricultural traditions and, from the tenth century, attacks by the Saracens from the sea also began.
The first real conquest came with the Normans of Roberto il Guiscardo who, in 1064, began the construction of the current magnificent castle for defensive purposes and to control the territory. This initial nucleus is still testified by the keep tower. The Normans opposed the Byzantines and had the support of the church of Rome which wanted to replace the Orthodox rite with the Catholic one.
With the French of the Angevins, the castle also began to be inhabited but, the first true administrative organization, was given by the Swabians of Frederick II. These initiated control of the territory through their lords, the feudal lords, and a real urban nucleus was formed with the opening of markets and fairs and the arrival of the first Jews.
In 1299, Ruggero Sangineto was appointed first count of Corigliano and his family ruled the city for a long time. According to an ancient legend, in 1354 in the castle Charles of Anjou, the future Charles III king of Naples, was born.
In the 15th century the Aragonese of Spain arrived and with them the Sanseverino family, who were also named “Princes of Bisignano”, and who remained until the extinction of the family in the early seventeenth century.
In 1487, a member of the Sanseverino family was accused of treason and the castle passed for 8 years under the direct control of the king who had it restored and reinforced.
Meanwhile, in 1475, San Francesco da Paola, founder of the Minini order, passed by Corigliano, and it was he who had a Roman-style convent and aqueduct built, which is still visible. The reinforcement works on the castle continued over the years and made the fortune of Corigliano.
In the sixteenth century the attacks by the Turks intensified on this part of Calabria and Corigliano was able to resist the great incursion by the Saracen pirate Barbarossa (Kahyr er-D’in) in 1538.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Sanseverino family died out and the castle returned to the crown that administered it through the Regia Camera Sommaria and in 1647, Corigliano with its castle resisted with honour the attack of the republican armies of the Duke of Guise.
For this reason, in 1649, Philip IV assigned the fiefdom of Corigliano to Giacomo Salluzzo of Genoa, who had been the president of the Regia Camera Sommaria, and invested the family with the title of Duke of Corigliano. With them, the castle began to assume more and more the appearance of a noble palace, losing part of its original defensive purpose.
In 1659, the population was decimated by the black plague and part of the Sibari plain became marshy, forcing a rethinking of the local economy. The Salluzzo family had to undertake a major remediation and construction of a network of roads and also repair of the structure of the port and the nearby fairgrounds.
Thanks to the prestige of the castle, in 1735 King Charles III of Bourbon stopped in Corigliano.
The only ones who ever managed to pillage and set fire to the city were those of Napoleon’s army, which led to great destruction and the temporary abolition of feudalism.
The last family of feudal lords were the Compagna who arrived in 1828 and who embellished the castle with frescoes and with the transformation of the moat into a botanical garden.
From the 1800s onwards, the whole area of the Sibari plain has become increasingly famous for citrus groves and licorice.
After the unification of Italy, King Vittorio Emanuele III of Savoy also stayed in the castle of Corigliano and Umberto di Savoia and Maria Josè passed through. Today the castle is owned by the municipality.
Since 1863 the word Calabro has been added to distinguish it from a town in Puglia. With the railway of 1871 the distribution of citrus fruits began and the area has become the important and well known agricultural and tourist centre.
In Corigliano Calabro was born the footballer Gennaro Gattuso, called Ringhio, who was part of the world champion Italian national team in 2006 and who is one of the proudest promoters of Corigliano and Calabria.