Welcome to Cosenza
Jesse's Journeys in Italy
Cosenza (population 104,000), a
provincial capital in Calabria, stands
at the confluence of two rivers.
The old town, overshadowed by its
castle, descends to the River Crati,
whereas the growing modern city lies to
the north, beyond the Busento, on level
ground. The historic city centre
is crossed by the winding Corso Telesio.
call the town picturesque is to use an
inadequate word," wrote George Gissing
in his 1901 travelogue, By The Ionian
Sea. "At every step, from the
opening of the main street at the
hill-foot up to the stern medieval
castle crowning its height, one marels
and admires. So narrow are the
ways that a cart drives the pedestrian
into shop or alley; two vehicles (but
perhaps the thing never happened) would
with difficulty pass each other."
succeeds Cosentia, the capital of
the Bruttians, which came early under
the influence of the Greek settlements
of Magna Graecia. Taken by Rome in
204 BC, in imperial times it was an
important stop on the Via Popilia,
linking Rome with Reggio and Sicily.
Alaric the Visigoth died here in AD 412
(probably Malaria) on his way back to
Sicily after the sack of Rome.
Legend holds that he was buried along
with his treasurer in the bed of the
Busento River, the waters having been
diverted for the occasion and then
restored to their natural channel.
Twice destroyed by the Saracens, the
town was conquered by Robert Guiscard,
but it rebelled against the rule of his
half-brother Roger, who managed to
restore his authority only after a siege
(1087). In the 13C, 14C and 15C
the city shifted its loyalties several
times in the struggle between the
Aragonese and the Angevins, and Louis
III of Anjou died here in 1434 while
campaigning against the Aragonese.
A Brief History of the City:
centre of humanistic culture in the 16C,
Cosenza was the birth place of
philosopher Bernardino Telesio
(1509-88), whose ideas were instrumental
in freeing scientific research from
theological restrictions. The city
contributed freely to the liberal
movement in the 19C and participated in
the uprisings of 1848 and 1860. It
was damaged by earthquakes in 1783,
1854, 1870 and 1905, and frequently
bombed in 1943. Today it is an
important commercial and agricultural
centre. The University of Calabria,
Italy's newest and most modern, lies on
the outskirts to the north.
Like many towns on the Tyrrhenian Coast,
Belvedere has one eye to the future on its
waterfront which brings in revenue from tourism,
and one eye to its past, in the mountains behind,
where the real history and intrigue of Belvedere
can be found. Known as Belvedere Paese, this
part of the town is located two kilometres inland from
the Autostrada (SS18).
The highest part of the town, and that which it is
built around, is a Norman castle (constructed by
Ruggero il Normanno in the 1600's). The castle is
one of the largest footprints the Normanís have left on
Cedri Riviera. The gates around the
circumference of the castle are of particular
interest and are indicative of the detail that
went into all aspects of the construction. (Look
to the photograph to the right (upper hand) for an
The castle, at the town's highest point, gives way
to a labyrinth of streets, manifested in myriad colours,
and plentiful art. Known for modern ceramic and sculpture
works, the footways here expose those passing by
to an outdoor Mediterranean art gallery.
Some of the most detailed works are found in the most
unusual corners, and out of the way places,
which makes exploring the alleyways and
stairways of Belvedere a constant joy.
These byways are more refined
and well-tended than those in other villages along
As you walk, take notice of the ornate baroque balconies,
arches, doors and other man-made features.
And note too, the tall Palms
(like those in Beverly Hills) surround the main piazza.