Sitting on top of a hill, surrounded by valleys and fields, Santa Severina is a medieval town overlooking a breathtaking panorama of Calabria. It’s history dates back to the 5th Century when the village was settled by the Greeks, only to become a prosperous and developed town in the Byzantine epoch.
Contemporary Santa Severina is divided into two areas: historic uptown with the castle and medieval churches, and the modern downtown. Locals say that the two areas have been rivals for generations with family feuds reminiscing scenes out of ‘Romeo and Juliet’!
The main attraction of Santa Severina is the 11th Century medieval castle, which stands on top of a hill where one can enjoy a beautiful view of the valley. The castle can be accessed by a connecting bridge, which was originally used to block off possible attacks from the mainland. There are underground levels with labyrinths underneath the castle, along with tombs and medieval remains. Next to the castle is a little medieval museum of torture – not for sensitive types, but an interesting place to visit nevertheless.
Santa Severina is home to the oldest monument of Byzantine culture in the whole of Italy. The 8th Century Baptistery remains its medieval exterior. However, the decorations, frescoes and paintings did not survive through the centuries. As a matter of fact, much of the medieval architecture has been preserved. Some landmarks worth checking out is the main Cathedral of Saint Anastasia (13th century) standing on the main square; it is often used as a concert hall for classic music due to its perfect acoustics. The other is the orthodox Church of Saint Philomena, which was actually built in Norman architectural style, with a Byzantine dome.
Thanks to its cultural and historic heritage, Santa Severina is a very tourist-friendly place. The main piazza has several bars, where you can sit and enjoy a drink with a view of the castle. Take your time to walk around and immerse yourself in the history. Once you step out of the main square, you’ll enter a labyrinth of tiny ancient streets with an amazing panorama from almost every spot. Stay overnight and enjoy an incredibly beautiful sunset from uphill, and experience a night in medieval town!
How to get to Santa Severina
Like in all of Calabria, the most convenient way is to drive. However, if you are departing from a big city, you can take a bus (check the schedule on www.oraribus.it), or catch a train to Crotone or Catanzaro, and from there take a local bus to Santa Severina.