Explorations in Pizzo calabro
Upon first glance Pizzo Calabro resembles a tranquil fishing village with white sandy beaches and rocky coves, the perfect place for a sunny sojourn. A brief stroll into town pleasantly surprises you upon discovering unique culinary delights and charming ancient monuments.
Pizzo’s name translates to a bird’s beak or projecting point, which accurately describes the town as it is located on top of a bluff overlooking the sea. Each angle offers majestic views of the coastline perfectly named Costa degli Dei - the Coast of the Gods.
The main square in Pizzo is the Piazza della Repubblica. This is the heart of the community where you can catch glimpses of daily Calabrian life - families enjoying a pranzo (lunch) on the terrace, animated conversations at a café or watch the shuffle of people as they disappear into the narrow lanes surrounding the square. Food aficionados will enjoy tasting the local cuisine especially seafood dishes such as, spaghetti al nero di sepia or the traditionally prepared tuna cured in olive oil.
Do as the locals do, sit down, relax at a café and order the renowned dessert: tartufo di Pizzo. This gelato creation was invented in Pizzo and remains a culinary specialty with several cafés in the main piazza offering their own variation using ‘secret’ recipes. The original tartufo di Pizzo is a mix of chocolate and hazelnut gelato shaped into a ball, filled with a chocolate centre, covered in chocolate and dusted with cocoa powder. Today you can find a variety of gelato combinations and fillings to compliment each flavour. This sweet dessert was aptly named, tartufo because of its similarity in shape and colour to the highly coveted and precious tubers: truffles, known as tartufo in Italian. The popularity of tartufo has spread across the province and is often found on dessert menus around Calabria. With only the freshest ingredients used and made by hand, each bite leaves the taste buds wanting more, this is one delicacy you won’t be disappointed by.
Next to the piazza is the Castello Murat, a 15th century castle, built by Ferdinand I of Aragon, with two large cylinder towers looking out onto the sea. It is famous for the imprisonment of the deposed King of Naples, Joachim-Napoléon Murat (brother-in-law to Napolean Bonaparte) and his subsequent execution after attempting to regain control of the kingdom. Visitors can visit the castle to experience a reconstruction of Murat’s last days leading up to his execution by firing squad.
As you walk through the building, you sense the helpless feeling Murat's soldiers felt. Murat's final letter to his wife and children is a sad reminder of the loving family he left behind. The silence inside the castle matches the sombre mood, as you finish the tour in the exact place that Murat said his last words on October 13, 1815 "I have braved death too often to fear it...Soldiers! Do your duty! Straight to the heart but spare the face. Fire!"
Locals believe sometimes you can hear the faint echo of Murat's footsteps pacing in his prison cell. Dare to discover the ghost of Murat on your next visit?
A short walk along the coast leading out of town or a quick taxi ride will take you to Chiesetta di Piedigrotta, a large cavernous church carved into the rock.
The Piedigrotta was built in the 17th century by a group of sailors who vowed to erect a church where their ship wrecked as a way to pay homage for sparing their lives. The church is elaborately carved out of soft rock in the side of a bank facing the sea. Natural arches and pillars separate the statues and biblical scenes into distinct sections. Miniscule holes above the cave allow a soft glow of light to filter in and illuminate the statues from different angles. The lighting constantly changes with the movement of the sun creating a unique visit each time from sunrise to sunset.
Satisfy all the senses - sun, sand and sweets over a weekend exploring Pizzo. This little-known gem awaits your discovery.
Fill your sweet tooth sampling each flavour of tartufo at Gelateria Artigianale Bar Dante located in the main piazza. This is the original location of the creation of tartufo.
Pizzo is located 15 km south of Lamezia Terme airport approximately a 30 minute drive. Conveniently reached by a regional train running along the coast.
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By: Monique Malais