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Stilo is a village in the Locride region of Calabria located on a plateau at about 400 meters above sea level at the foot of Mount Consolino not far from the coast of the Ionian Sea.

The Stilaro river connects it perfectly to the sea along olive groves while the mountain territory is immersed in rich and flourishing nature with the nearby Ferdinandea (in honour of Federico II di Borbone), a beech and fir forest of about 3600 hectares, that combined with that of Stilo, creates a perfect natural environment for trekking and walking.

The birth of Stilo is lost in the mists of time and its history is connected to a territory rich in mines colonized initially by the Greeks who had built settlements in the lower part of the coast.

In fact, its history is linked to that of Ancient Caulonia destroyed by Dionysus the Elder of Syracuse as early as 389 BC. Perhaps the name Stilo comes from Punta Stilo where once there was the first centre, or from its shape that makes it appear like a column.

Then came the Romans always attracted by the wealth of mines and with that their control of the territory. Of them only the ruins of a villa in Maddaloni remain. 

The fall of the Roman Empire led to social disintegration and the arrival of the Byzantium Empire. In 982, was the battle of Capo Colonna (Stilo) between Otto II of Saxony for the Holy Roman Empire and the Arab-Byzantines. The Byzantines won but violence pushed the population definitively to move to the mountains into fortified places.

The Byzantine period is what will give the imprint to the village of Stilo and which led to the construction of the famous Cattolica, a square-plan church divided in turn into 9 parts with 5 domes. A legend says that its columns came from a Roman building and that they were carried as if by a miracle on their shoulders by young people who advanced singing.

The feeling of community was then supported by the Basilian monks who had come from Byzantium bringing with them their rites of the Orthodox church and the Greek language, around the ninth century. The monks lived in caves in the mountains, and some can still be found frescoed. With the arrival of the Normans always attracted by mineral wealth, Stilo had a certain autonomy and depended directly on the king who wanted control of raw materials and above all of iron. And this situation of independence continued with the Angevin and Aragonese conquests until the Bourbons who gave it as a fiefdom.

This independence led to a distributed wealth that can be found in the splendid palaces and buildings of the ancient village.

The ruins of the castle built by Roger II the Norman are still visible and there are towers and walls perched on the rock that dominate a vast territory. This is a large castle built far from the town and partly overlooking the valley and which today is located in two municipalities. Its elongated shape makes it look like an arrow from above.

In the fourteenth century the Spaniards arrived with Charles V who cancelled all the privileges of Stilo and in 1523 granted the fiefdom and ironworks to Cesare Fieramosca, brother of the famous Hector of the Battle of Barletta and then sold it to the Arena Concublets.

In 1568 the famous philosopher Tommaso Campanella was born in Stilo, who grew up in the local Dominican convent, and who also organized a rebellion against the Spaniards of Philip III. Author of the famous ‘City of the Sun’ he was one of the most modern thinkers and perhaps also for this reason he had to undergo five trials. With the mines also came metal working and in 1658 Stilo was once again declared a free municipality and became one of the industrial centres of excellence until the unification of Italy, through several generations of factories that were more modern each time. Here were produced all the pipes for the Caserta aqueduct and for the palace and then in 1770 the factory moved to Mongiana. 

Some records and stories from the industrial period of Stilo can be found in the Museum of the Territory and Industrial Archeology.

The terrible earthquake of 1783 seriously damaged the village of Stilo and also the famous Cattolica. With the arrival of the French, in 1806 the village was sacked and with the unification of Italy the decline of what had been one of the world’s industrial capitals continued.

Among the events not to be missed, a place of honour should be given to the ‘Palio della Ribusa’ and the costume parade, with street artists in historical costumes, that takes place the first week of August.

The patron is Saint George and is linked to a legend born during one of the assaults of the Turks who had besieged the village trying to starve the population. The saint, in the guise of a young man, was said to have thrown meatballs made with breast milk to the Turks who, thinking of the abundance that the city must still have had and suffering from fatigue of the siege, abandoned the siege leaving Stilo free.

Among the villages of Stilo are Bordingiano, Caldarella, Maleni, Napi and Malafranò. 


Traveller's Guide to Italy