Stignano is a medieval village in Calabria built on a hill 340 meters above sea level overlooking the Precariti river valley down to the Ionian Sea.
Its history is confused in many parts with that of Stilo, a nearby municipality to which it was administratively linked as a ‘Hamlet of Stilo’ until 1811. And for this reason Stilo is happy with the fact of being the birthplace of the famous philosopher Tommaso Campanella, author of the “City of the Sun”. His birthplace has now been declared a National Monument.
The name of Stignano could have either a Greek root from a Greek word meaning ‘narrow place’ or from a Roman villa of a certain Stenius.
Its history begins, therefore, with the destruction of the ancient Caulonia by Dionysius the Elder of Syracuse. It was city on the sea built near the iron mines with which this part of Calabria was rich and which have been a strong attraction for the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Normans, Aragonese and Bourbon.
The inhabited centre was born after the fall of the Roman Empire and the arrival of the Byzantines in the tenth century. The whole area has often been the subject of pirate raids and since the Greek period towers and fortresses have been built to guard and protect, such as Torre San Fili.
In 1605 the famous Baroque painter Francesco Cozza was born in Stignano (then Stilo), a pupil of Mattia Preti also known as the Cavalier Calabrese, who worked extensively in Rome, Valmontone, Genzano and Frascati. He was a cousin of Tommaso Campanella and a famous portrait of him can be found in the Caetani castle of Sermoneta.
Around 1710-1720, one of these guard buildings was transformed into the Castle of San Fili or Lamberti, from the name of the captain Giuseppe Lamberti and from the family that owned it and it took on more elegant characteristics. The family had long chivalrous traditions that linked it to the first crusade and then to the nobles of Stilo.
The castle is a very special building with a triangular plan that resembles that of an arrow from above and has a particular octagonal hall and access to the main floor through a masonry bridge, perhaps once a drawbridge.
But the absolute surprise of Stignano is Villa Caristo, one of the best examples of Calabrian and Italian Baroque construction that would have been built on the remains of the ancient Roman Villa Stenius from which the name of the municipality of Stignano possibly derives.
Built around 1740 by the Lamberti family, it turned out to be a large U-shaped construction with a garden full of sculptures and with the beautiful statue of Tancredi who baptizes Clorinda as told in the famous story of Jerusalem Liberated by Torquato Tasso.
Some of these sculptures were then stolen over the years, taking advantage of a possible moment of difficulty for the owners. Since 1830, the villa has belonged to the Caristo family who gave it its name. The villa was celebrated in a 1984 postage stamp in the series dedicated to the ‘Villas of Italy “.
Many buildings were damaged by the terrible earthquake of 1783 and then restructured or modified, but these buildings remained unscathed. In 1811, during the French period of King Joachim Murat who wanted to break down the feudal system of the Spaniards, Stignano became an autonomous municipality.