"It sits on the shore where the Ionian quivers" and tells centuries of history, worship and beauty
What it is and where it is
Small, but full of charm, Stilo is one of Italy's Most Beautiful Villages. Perched on the slopes of Mount Consolino, it seems at one with the tuffaceous rock from which it rises. The naturally colored houses are small, leaning against each other, overlooking narrow streets. Its most precious jewel is surely the Cattolica, an ancient and mysterious Byzantine church just outside the town, but other treasures await you among the streets of Stilo: the austere Duomo, or "matrix church," from the 1400s; the monumental wooden altar in the church of San Francesco; the abbey of San Giovanni Theresti... Not forgetting the evidence of its wartime vicissitudes: the ancient Porta Stefanina, the only one left of the 5 access gates of the city walls, and, going up Mount Consolino, the majestic Norman Castle, a defensive stronghold against the threats coming from the sea.
Why it is special
Stilo is an intimate and cozy village, strongly characterized by a spirituality nourished by both Roman Catholic and Byzantine worship. But its thousand-year history, rooted in legend, interweaves the religious dimension with the events and cultures of the peoples who settled there over the centuries, leaving precious traces in its architecture, traditions, arts and sciences. It is perhaps this perfect combination that is the secret of its wonder.
Not to be missed
On the first Sunday in August, the village is the scene of the ancient Palio di Ribusa, one of the most important historical re-enactments in all of Calabria. During the two days of the Palio, the village and its inhabitants dress up, the air resounds with the notes of ancient instruments reconstructed based on depictions of the time. Ancient arts and crafts come back to life, and nobles, ladies and men-at-arms on horseback roam the streets. The highlights are the historical procession, a symbol of nobility, and the horse race, re-enacting the 5 households into which the people were divided.
A bit of history
Stilo's history is ancient and mysterious. Like its architecture, it mixes spirituality and conquest. According to some reports, in fact, the foundation of Stilo is linked to the arrival on Mount Consolino of Eastern monks, who lived in natural caves called "laure," decorated with frescoes still visible today. According to others, however, it was the inhabitants of ancient Greek colonies who founded the first settlement in a place more defensible from attacks by Turks and Saracens. Protected by the mountain and not too far from the sea, because of its strategic importance Stilo was much disputed and underwent several dominations: the Byzantine one was followed by the Norman one and then by the Swabians, Angevins, Aragonese, Spanish and Bourbons, who enriched it with monuments and noble palaces, and who contributed to its cultural liveliness. In this regard, one cannot talk about Stilo without mentioning that it is the proud birthplace of Tommaso Campanella, philosopher, theologian and poet.
Stilo is fertile territory for legends that hover over the remains of the Norman Castle. One of these tells of an attack by the Arabs on the village. The population took refuge in the castle, and thus began the siege. Food and water supplies were now scarce. One morning, a young soldier suggested collecting milk from all the mothers to produce small cottage cheese...to be thrown on the enemy army! At the sight of the food being used in place of bullets, the besiegers thought there must be so much of it, too much for the siege to succeed. So they left. A long search was made for the young man who had saved Stilo with his plan, but he could not be found, as if he had never existed. It was then realized that it was St. George who had rushed to their aid, and from that moment he became the patron saint of the village.
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