How to… turn back time in Calabria

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Calabria Official Tourism

In Italy’s seductive south, Calabria is flanked by two seas – the Ionian and Tyrrhenian. Luckily for all you Time Team fans out there, a wealth of archaeological wonders can be discovered in the unspoilt heartland between. We head to the seven designated parks offering the best blasts from the past…

Each park has a dedicated museum that houses remarkable artefacts and artworks from the excavation sites, so, come rain or shine, you can soak up history from the comfort of indoors.

Parco archeologico di Sibari

Sibari Archaeological Park

Sibari Archaeological Park
Near the mountainous commune of Cassano all’Ionio, the ruins of Sybaris, founded in the eighth century BC, await. This ancient city’s thriving citizens once revelled in frequent public wine-fuelled banquets (hence the word ‘sybarite’). This particular park will bring you up, close and personal with Thurii, planned as a model of community to replace Sybaris after it fell to the Crotoniates, and Copiae, mentioned in Homer’s epic poem, the Iliad, where Roman ruins still loom large in the town square.  

Teatro romano di Scolacium

Amphitheatre at Scolacium National Archaeological Park

Scolacium National Archaeological Park
Legend has it that, during the Trojan War, Odysseus discovered the seaside city of Scolacium (in the present town of Borgia) while shipwrecked. The illustrious Greek hero is said to have set up a colony here in the seventh/eighth century BC and, shipwreck or no shipwreck, we’d want to stick around here, too. Come for the sun-bathed olive groves and the iridescent Ionian Sea and stay for the mighty ruins of a 3,500-seat theatre, a recently discovered amphitheatre and three thermal baths.

Colonna supersti- te del Tempio di Hera Lacinia

Doric column of the ancient Temple of Hera Lacinia

Capo Colonna National Archaeological Park
Its name means ‘cape of the column’, apt for a park perched on a promontory on Calabria’s east coast, and that features the only surviving Doric column – towering more than 8m high – of the ancient Temple of Hera Lacinia (goddess of women). The column, overlooking the waves beyond, is a relic of one the region’s most important ancient temples, and is well worth a drive to see. In the port city of Crotone – also called the City of Pythagoras after the philosopher who moved here in 513 BC – Capo Colonna has 30 acres of exacting excavation – including its so called ‘H’ building, said to have been used for ‘distinguished guests’ – to explore.

Mosaico che riproduce un Drago

Mosaic of the Dragon at Ancient Kaulon Archaeological Park

Ancient Kaulon Archaeological Park
On Calabria’s picturesque Jasmine Coast, in the hillside town of Monasterace, the ancient city of Kaulon can be explored partly on land – and partly underwater. With a short dive, adventurous antiquarians can see the remains of a majestic Doric temple, including its fluted columns from the sixth century BC. Archaeologists have recently uncovered astonishing floor mosaics, too, such as the famous Mosaic of the Dragon and the Dolphins, the largest Hellenic mosaic of Magna Graecia.

Reperti archeologici

Amphorae and other finds at Locri Epizephyrii National Archaeological Park

Locri Epizephyrii National Archaeological Park
Another must-tick stop on the Jasmine Coast is the slope-strewn town of Locri and its bygone city of the same name, which was founded around the eighth century BC. One of the greatest Magna Graecia powers of its time, Locri lays claim to one of the most celebrated sites in southern Italy: the Sanctuary of Persephone (Demeter and Zeus’ daughter, who was abducted by Hades to be his wife). Also be sure to visit the House of the Lions, with a shrine dedicated to Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty.

Villa Romana di Casignana

Preserved mosaic floors at the Roman Villa of Casignana

Roman Villa of Casignana
Strolling along the ancient route that connected Rhegion to Locri Epizephyrii, overlooking the blue sea of the Jasmine Coast, admire the magnificent ruins of the Roman Villa of Casignana, which represents one of the most important archaeological complexes from the Roman era in southern Italy. Built in the 1st century AD and modified up to the 4th century - when it reached its grandiose peak - the villa has the largest collection of mosaics known to date in Roman Calabria, all characterised by their variety, quantity and elegant workmanship.

Bronzi di Riace

The Riace Bronzes at the National Archaeological Museum in Reggio Calabria

National Archaeological Museum in Reggio Calabria
As well as the sublime views offered by its ‘Italo Falcomatà’ promenade, which D’Annunzio called “the most beautiful kilometre in Italy”, the city of Reggio Calabria is home to the National Archaeological Museum, which houses the Riace Bronzes and is one of the most visited museums in Italy. In addition to the two Greek warriors – perhaps the two most famous finds of Magna Graecia – the museum offers the opportunity to see other important artworks, such as the Head of a Philosopher and some valuable collections of Roman and Greek coins.

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