The inhabited town centre is very picturesque, with a maze of narrow streets and a myriad of stairways and steps which serve to reach the houses placed one above the other, creating a patchwork of walls and arches.
In the past, Bivongi was among the most well-known locations for many of its thriving activities: ranging from the production of silk to machining of metals and stone-work, to generating electricity, extracting molybdenum from local mines and for being the preferred location (still prior to the tenth century), of monks from the East that escaped, together with their icons, from the iconoclast laws enacted by the Emperor Leo the Isaurian.
Today it is known for the abbey's traditional feast, which takes place every 17 and 18 August and for the Festa di Maria SS Mamma Nostra, celebrated twice a year: on the second Sunday of September and on 5 February.
The Ecomuseum of Calabria's ironworks and foundries was established in 1982, having as its purpose the research, study, preservation and cultural promotion of Calabria’s industrial archaeology and of the huge heritage still existing in the Stilaro Valley, the so-called "cradle of early southern industrialisation".
The Ecomuseum appreciates all the area's resources, from forestry to mining, landscapes and monuments, to rediscover and reclaim the historical and cultural roots of the people of the area. It includes five different areas (thermal springs and metallurgy itinerary, mines itinerary, mills itinerary, religious itinerary), and is one among the 35 main archeo-industrial sites distributed all over Italy.
The “Cascate del Marmarico”, with its drop of 114 metres, is the highest of Calabria and the Southern Apennines. It is nestled between the Sila National Park and that of the Aspromonte, the cascade falls in the Parco Naturale Regionale delle Serre (Natural Regional Park of the Serre) and to reach it, visitors must make travel down the gravel path that winds all the along the mountain-side. The cascade appears suddenly, in all its beauty, before its dramatic drop and then ends up in a lake to continue its journey toward the valley.
A short distance from Bivongi's town centre are sources of sulphurous alkaline water in a town called "Bagni di Guide" or “Acque Sante” (holy waters, with reference to their therapeutic properties). Analyses have classified Bivongi's thermal springs as mineral water rich in sulphur and fluoride; therefore suitable for the treatment of various diseases. Tradition tells us that the discovery of the healing properties of its mineral water was entirely by chance, when a shepherd noticed that his goats were benefiting by jumping into some puddles. The rumour spread and a growing number of people went there to cure their ills. Around 1850 a small spa was built. It was one of Calabria’s most advanced spas and it remained active until the end of the forties/early fifties of the twentieth century. Nearby a “Casa Albergo” (guest-house), was established from a building that was fully renovated to be used as a spa and accommodation.
The church, a parish church dedicated to San Giovanni Decollato (St Saint John the Beheaded) is also known as the “santuario della Mamma Nostra” (shrine of Our Lady).
The Church, with a Latin cross floor-plan and predominant baroque style on the front façade, preserves an important painting by Tommaso Martini from Bivongi and a group of sculptures in wood (anonymous of the eighteenth century), in addition to the wooden statue of the Immaculate by an unknown Neapolitan of eighteenth century, the contemporary busts in wood of San Felice (St Felix) and Santa Giustina (St Justine) as well as silverware.
Bivongi is called the Borgo della Longevità (Village of Longevity) its inhabitants include a large number of century-old trees and citizens who live well past their nineties. To understand the reasons for this trend, studies were carried of Bivongi and on neighbouring towns that had a particularly long-living population.
Eating habits, friendly rendez-vous in the piazza, days of ordinary routine that flow between daily chores and moments relaxing on the sofa, which never change and are always perfect in terms of the customs of its inhabitants, are part of Bivongi’s experience and culture and allow to live longer in synergy than in other places.
The idea of Bivongi's “Albergo Diffuso” (scattered hotel) was conceived from these concepts and has transformed some of the town’s abandoned buildings into some thirty accommodation options scattered around the village, that offer those seeking a different alternative from the usual tourist itineraries, a special and unforgettable experience. The Borgo della Longevità (Village of longevity) is now a human destination. Its specific character and type of experience make it truly unique.
Natural beauty, widespread hospitality, simple habits, spirituality, food and good wine constitute Bivongi’s real secret.
There are many traditional specialities, including all home-made pasta (rolling it around a blade of grass) and dressed with a goat or pork-based sauce, with marinated meat, or simply with fresh tomatoes and herbs.
Meat lovers must try a roast of only goat or mixed with pork and for those who like fish, we recommend stockfish/dried cod with potatoes and olives. Tasty and simple treats include tomatoes with green olives and chilli pepper or squash flowers and vegetarian “frittini” (fried appetizers) with batter.
Wine deserves a separate chapter as the area produces the Bivongi D.o.c. (“Denominazione di Origine Controllata” or Denomination of Controlled Origin) in white, red and rosé varieties. These wines must be enjoyed at different temperatures, in goblets of various shapes, when paired with tasty dishes and typical local cuisine products.