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Paola (CS)

The beacon of Calabrian Christianity

Paola is one of the most important cities along the Riviera dei Cedri and is renowned for its beautiful nature, the clear waters that lap its coastline and its mild climate that makes it an ideal destination all year round. It also has the added bonus of a mountainous area situated right beside the coast.
 
The historic centre is just a couple of kilometres from the promenade which boasts a long and wide expanse of beach. Well-equipped with tourist facilities, in summer the beach is transformed into a tourist hot spot.
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Paola is best known for the ancient Sanctuary of Saint Francis which has made the city the most popular religious tourism destination in Calabria.
 

The number of pilgrims visiting the Sanctuary, which can be found perching on the mountainous slopes overlooking the town, has been increasing year upon year.

 
Paola
 

Another must-see attraction in the historic centre is the Fontana dei Sette Canali (Fountain of Seven Canals). Built in the mid-seventeenth century by local craftsmen, it has a characteristic fan shape which is a clear reference to the tail of the peacock, the symbol of the city. The walls of the structure are adorned with decorative motifs including the head of a human, animals and fantasy figures. The shields at the top depict the coat of arms of the Spinelli di Fuscaldo family who ruled over the city for about three centuries, starting from 1500. The fountain is located at the foot of a long flight of steps near the church of the Rosary, whose interior is decorated in a Baroque style and which houses an imposing pipe organ.
In Piazza del Popolo you can admire a 17th century sandstone fountain and a Renaissance arch supporting an ancient clock tower whose mechanism dates back to the 17th century. The church of the Madonna di Montevergine with its baroque facade is also located on the Piazza del Popolo and houses the icon of the Madonna and Child as well as a cabinet organ from the mid-18th century, a Byzantine panel and a 16th century canvas depicting Saints Biagio and Lorenzo.  

Just outside the historic centre you can visit the Castle tower which perches on a rocky terrain overlooking the town. The underground church of Sotterra, one of the oldest churches in the region, houses some beautiful frescoes depicting biblical figures and is also well worth a visit.
The Abbey, known as the Monastery of Santa Maria di Valle Josaphat, is a monastic complex built in the 12th century which hosted the King of England Richard the Lionheart during his journey to the Third Crusade. Visitors to the town simply must take in the stunning views from the terrace. The Archaeological Museum, which is part of the complex, is another must-visit attraction housing various artefacts dating back to Roman times which were found in the surrounding areas.

Surrounded by beautiful mountain landscapes, which in autumn transform into the perfect woodland location for mushroom scavengers, Paola is also a popular destination during the summer thanks to its long pebble beach lapped by crystal clear waters which is equipped with an array of bathing establishments dotted along the coast. Boasting a wide variety of shops and clubs, the promenade is extremely popular all year round.
 
Sanctuary of Saint Francis

The Sanctuary is located in the upper, hilly part of the town nestled in the gorge of the Isca torrent in a lush valley teeming with vegetation. A popular pilgrimage destination throughout southern Italy, it houses some of the Saint's remains.
After spending a period of time at the Franciscan monastery, Saint Francis, who was born in 1416, began his religious journey. During this time, he retreated in solitude for several years and lived as a hermit in a cave, surviving only on herbs. Many people were so fascinated by this mystical figure that they became “Minims”- followers of the order founded by the saint. Saint Francis is said to have been responsible for many miracles and was therefore canonised on 4 May 1519 by Pope Leo X, just twelve years after his death.

 
Paola
 

Just in front of the Sanctuary, you will find a large square which leads to the main facade of the temple. To the right of the main entrance is an archway leading to the side section of the sanctuary. This area contains the large modern basilica and the so-called Miracle Zone where you can admire the fountain of the cucchiarella from which pilgrims often drink. Next to the fountain, visitors can marvel at an unexploded bomb that fell into the stream next to the Shrine during an Anglo-American bombardment in August 1943. As you continue along the path you will reach the Ponte del Diavolo (Devil's Bridge), on which, according to tradition, the Saint warded off Satan. You will also encounter a pathway which leads to the refuge inhabited by the Saint in his youth.
As you access the Sanctuary through the main entrance, you will see two semi-open rooms. The first room is home to several tombstones dating between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries which commemorate various festivities and events involving the Sanctuary. However, it's the second room that is the real pronaos of the ancient basilica: on the right you will find the portal for accessing the basilica whereas on the left you can take in a view of the stream and the adjacent convent. Straight ahead is the entrance to the cloister and hermitage of the Saint and the cell of Blessed Nicholas.
The ancient, Romanesque-style basilica, which dates back to the 16th century, consists of a large, rather bare main hall and a single side aisle on the right along which four small chapels are located. The aisle leads up to the decadent Baroque chapel that houses the few relics of Saint Francis that were procured by the city, including some of his clothes and bone fragments.
In the Sanctuary's cloister, which is closed off to the outside by glass windows, you will find the Saint’s flourishing rose garden whose interior walls are decorated with frescoes depicting the main episodes in the life of the Saint, many of which are tied to legends. Just opposite the garden you will find the hermitage of Saint Francis, a set of narrow underground spaces that formed the original monastic centre for the saint and his confreres. Between the cloister and the ancient basilica stands the temple's bell tower.

 
Paola
 

The Sanctuary is now the symbol of Calabrian Christianity and attracts pilgrims and visitors alike throughout the year. Many visitors come to take part in the celebrations of Saint Francis’ birth held on 27 March and those held on 2 April in commemoration of his death. Impressive festivities also take place between 1 and 4 May. For the occasion, several processions are organised on land and sea, in addition to concerts and shows.

 
Nicotera
 
The Castle of Paola

The Castle’s tower perches on a rocky slope overlooking the Tyrrhenian coast in one of the most historically rich areas of Calabria. Cylindrical in shape, it stands on a four-sided bastion and was once the main part of a collaborative system of fortifications. In fact, the coastal towers acted as the final means of defence and were supported by the garrison located further upstream which also defended the town. The garrison was also the official residence of the feudal lord.
The origins of the castle are unclear. According to vague sources gathered from local historiography it is thought to date back to the Norman age and later to the Swabian period. Military requirements led to the development and growth of its connection routes and defence systems.

 
Nicotera
 
Gastronomy

Visitors to Paola will, of course, be able to sample the area’s traditional gastronomy which includes authentic dishes prepared with local ingredients. Typical dishes include homemade pasta seasoned in a variety of appetising ways such as pasta ca' mmuddica, with breadcrumbs and anchovies, and pasta with fresh tuna and wild fennel or broccoli.
Among the main courses, freshly caught local fish such as anchovies with onion, spicy swordfish, fish soup and fish in a tomato sauce should be on every tourist’s gastronomic bucket list.
Local side dishes mainly consist of fresh seasonal vegetables and delicacies such as peperonata, potatoes with fried black olives, stuffed aubergines and cauliflower pancakes.
Cheeses such as ricotta, pecorino and scamorza, and cold cuts including soppresata and the speciality known as 'nduglia will also delight your taste buds.

 


 


Address Complesso Sant'Agostino
  Largo Mons. G.M. Perrimezzi n.6
  87027 Paola (CS
Phone number +39 0982 5800303
Website http://www.comune.paola.cs.it
 

 

Paola lies along the coast and it is one of the favorite sea resorts of the area. Moreover, it is the main railway station in Cosenza Tyrrhenian Coast. Paola is the most important town of the Riviera dei Cedri (Riviera of Cedars), a coastal stretch characterized by large beaches and crystal clear sea. The Northern Tyrrhenian coastal area also includes a portion of the mountains that stand immediately behind the coastline.

Paola is the birthplace of Saint Francis of Paola, the founder of the order of the Friars Minor and patron saint of Calabria. The local Sanctuary is dedicated to Saint Francis. Several Renaissance and Baroque buildings form the complex that was built in an isolated corner of the Isca stream gorge. The majestic complex is located a little far from the upper town. It can be easily reached by the state road n. 18, or driving along Corso Garibaldi, the main town road, that joins a road trunk characterized by thirteen mosaic niches reproducing the miracles of the Saint. The monastery of Saint Francis of Paola offers a splendid view. One of the two wings of the complex was built on the deep gorge of a river that flows from the mountain, while the other wing follows the outline of the mountain. The architectural features are remarkable: the gothic portal and cloister reproduce the severe and simple lines of Calabrian monuments. A large square overlooking the coast and the town lies in front of the solemn and elegant church. The tuff stone façade includes two overlapping orders: the arch entrance opens in the lower side, between pilasters and columns; the central balcony is located in the upper side and houses a pointed arch and two rectangular windows at each side. Inside the church, the two naves have different lengths. The main nave is separated from the smaller one by four ogival and one pointed arches. The windows have precious painted glasses reproducing the life of the Saint. Behind the main altar, a 15th-century fresco of Madonna degli Angeli stands. In the left chapel, a cabinet keeps a silver bust of the Patron saint and some relics: the mantle, cowl, socks, sandals, tooth. A 16th-century diptych by Dirck Hendricksz reproducing Saint Francis of Paola and Saint Francis of Assisi stands on the altar. Besides the Sanctuary, other important landmarks include the small Church of Addolorata, built on the site where the Saint was born. The building rises near the lovely Popolo square, just beyond the Gate of Saint Francis, that gives access to the ancient town area. The baroque Church of Madonna di Monte Vergine stands in this area. It keeps and interesting Byzantine-style panel reproducing Our Lady and Child. On the left of the square, along Corso Garibaldi, the Church of Madonna del Rosario is located. It houses the remarkable 18th-century polychrome marble main altar and some refined 17th-century paintings that include a Madonna della Purità, by Dirck Hendricksz. On top of a small rise, the Main Church of SS. Annunziata characterized by three front Romanic arcades stands. The hypogeum Church of Carmine is fascinating. The church is also called Sotterra and dates back to the 10th century. It was discovered around 1876 during the construction of a single nave small church. The underground church is remarkable for the large fresco in the apse, reproducing the Vergin Mary and the twelve Apostles, in a pure Calabrian-Byzantine style, that have some common features with those present in the Cattolica di Stilo. The fresco is supposed to be one of the most ancient paintings in Calabria.

The following landmarks deserve a visit: the ruined Castle, square Tower near the railway station, Churches of S. Francesco and Rosario, Main Church, Church of S. Franceschiello, Church of Santa Caterina and the interesting Church of Sottotera, where some of the most ancient Christian paintings in Calabria are kept.



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