According to the legend, around the VII century B.C. Enotro, son of Lycaon, king of Arcadia, landed on these lands in the area now known as "Guardiula", founding the ancient Acheruntia, later called Arintha in memory of his sister. Beyond the legend, there is no doubt about the Oenotrian origins of the primitive Acheruntia, which later became Pandosia. The fate of the town followed in time that of nearby Cosentia. Today, Rende’s old town centre is rightly called "Borgo dei Musei" due to the presence of prestigious art galleries.
Rende's first stage of development began around the 1950s and ended in 1970, in order to provide the town with all the necessary infrastructure works (or “civilisation works”) insofar as aimed at raising citizens’ quality of life level.
At the end of the development, Rende appeared as a very large and urbanised area where the layout of the future town had been established and where the existence of two parts of Rende, quite distinct, became apparent: the old Rende, formed by numerous villages and districts and the new Rende, which emerged between Campagnano and Quattromiglia.
In the 1980s and 1990s, municipal administrations remodelled the lower urban area by building squares, parks, museums and churches, changing it into a modern town. The further development of the area, carried out in 2003 by the municipal offices, aimed at improving the quality of the town by ecologically balancing the different built-up areas. The area that includes the Cathedral of San Carlo Borromeo was built, together with the Museum of the Present housing the hall dedicated to Arts and Sciences, the escalators that lead to the ancient town, the new Technical and Commercial School, the Parish Complex of Linze.
The main waterways were recovered and river parks were created inside the town. Many remarkable historic churches were restored and districts including Roges Vecchia and Quattromiglia were renovated.
The University of Calabria is now one of the main cultural centres in Rende and Cosenza urban area. It is the main University in Calabria and one of the best Italian big universities, and it has the largest University campus in Italy, adjacent to the university building. In 2016 it won third place in the Censis ranking and it was rated 212th in the international rankings drawn up by the University of Leiden. The university has about 40,000 students that come from Calabria and other Southern Italian regions, and to a lesser extent, from foreign countries. The university has 6 Faculties: Economics, Pharmacy, Engineering, Humanities and Philosophy, Mathematical, Physical and Natural Sciences and Political Sciences.
Rende's old town centre unfolds on a hill and retains its medieval town layout mostly unchanged, preserving in the memory of the ancient toponymy alternative names of streets and squares, such as the central Piazza degli Eroi, better known as "u sieggiu"; the configuration of the route which opened up onto the "Porta di Cosenza”, connecting Rende and the capital, or in the layout of the old district of the Giudecca, which can still be recognised due to its very narrow alleys and arcades. Rende also has a large number of churches and elegant buildings which preserve intact many sculptured portals and balconies in wrought iron.
The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore (Chiesa Matrice or main church) is located at the end of the road that linked it to the Castle. Built in the XII century, the church has a Latin cross floor-plan with three naves and a rose window located on the main portal dating back to the same period. The damage caused by several earthquakes required heavy restoration works, during which it was decided to cover the ancient columns with rectangular safety pillars. At the entrance, it is possible to admire two friezes carved in stone: an open book, on right and two crossed keys on the left. The interior of the church preserves many works of art, among which the canvases of Cristoforo Santanna, Giuseppe Pascaletti and Giuseppe Grana, in addition to numerous sculptures in wood and marble
Built in 1679 by the brothers Raffaele and Giuseppe De Bortolo in the Baroque and Rococo style, it boasts a tripartite façade in sandstone from Mendicino. The portal, with a round segmental arch and vegetable motif, is surmounted by a large richly decorated window. The four sides of the façade are instead delimited by niches with a shell border completed by capitals. The interior has a single nave, walls decorated with Corinthian semi-pillars within which are the altars: the one on the right displays a Madonna and Child with a seventeenth century damask garment; the central altar is in marble and inlaid wood with oil-painted images of the Mysteries of the Rosary. Replacing the stolen eighteenth-century canvas by De Mura, depicting the Madonna del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary), is a contemporary work by Diego Minuti. The church also preserves five paintings by unknown artists from the south. Also worthy of note is the beautiful crib, which was a donation, with Neapolitan statues of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The church also boasts a valuable organ from the 1800s.
The Castle, or "Gigante di Pietra” (Stone giant), was built in 1095 on a hill as the specific morphology ensured a natural defence; for this reason, the building was only equipped with slits for bows, crossbows, an enormous cistern to collect rain water and walls more than two metres thick. The only defensive structures, in addition to the central tower, are the two lateral towers, which together represented the town's coat of arms already in 1222. In the castle’s atrium it is possible to admire two coats of arms of families that resided in the property: the Magdalone and Alarçon de Mendoza. The Castle, owned by the town since 1922, was the headquarters of the Town Hall until 2011 and is currently the headquarters of the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Bilotti. (Bilotti Museum of Contemporary Art).
The museum displays a significant variety of works of contemporary art, from paintings to sculptures, from photography to installations and digital art. The permanent exhibition includes works by Andy Warhol, Claudio Abate, Mario Ceroli, Luigi Ontani, Bruno Ceccobelli and others, but also works of younger artists such as Chiara Dynys, Omar Galliani, Guentalina Salini, Maurizio Savini and Pietro Ruffo, whose great German tank of the Second World War is displayed; it was made of wood and covered by the pages of a book of Jewish prayers carved in the form of beetles. Next to the permanent collection there are regular temporary exhibitions, among which "Scatole d'Artista” (Art Boxes) is worthy of mention, in the context of a museum that is also culture laboratory and meeting place for events, conferences, seminars and workshops.
The museum is housed in the seventeenth-century Palazzo Zagarese, located in the town's old centre. In its interior it contains about 3,000 items tied to the civil history of central– northern Calabria. The museum is divided into three sections divided into nine rooms representing the concept of folklore, popular architecture, interiors, popular costumes, housework, agricultural techniques, religious and social life, instruments of folk music, handicrafts and emigration.
The first section deals with historical research, the second collects the ethnographic documentation, the third is the Pinacoteca (Gallery). The display of paintings includes works from the sixteenth century to present day and includes works by Hendricksz, Preti, Solimena, Carrà Balla, De Chirico, Levi, Guttuso, Greco, Sironi, Viani, Santanna and Capizzano.
MAON, located in the Palazzo Vitari, is dedicated to modern art. The establishment of a permanent museum of the nineteenth and twentieth century, with particular regard to the Calabrian area and south is the consequence of the interests and activities of the Centro “A. Capizzano”. The creation of a documentary archive (in addition to works of art, with catalogues, posters of exhibitions, photos, video, etc.) on many authors and on the events that have marked the history of art from the romantic period to the present day, fills a cultural space left vacant by institutions and fills a gap in relation to modern and contemporary art.
The Museo del Presente (Museum of the Present) located in Roges, near the Centro Commerciale Metropolis, was inaugurated in June of 2004. The building occupies approximately 3,500 square metres and is divided into a large number of rooms.
The Museo del Presente, in addition to displaying temporary works of modern and contemporary art, was conceived as a point of excellence for photographic exhibitions, film-forum, performances, conferences and presentations of books. Artists who have exhibited their work include Ivana Russo, Anna Romanello, Domenico Lo Russo and "Le macchine del tempo” (models of working machines reproduced from drawings of Leonardo Da Vinci). The building which houses the museum is one of the most modern complexes in the area, and is composed of eight exhibition halls on two floors: on the ground floor, we find the "Sala Tokyo" and the internet café; on the upper floor, the “Laboratorio dei pensieri” (Laboratory of thoughts) and the "Belvedere delle arti e delle scienze” (Hall of the arts and sciences).
UniCal, the largest State University of Calabria, is the first university campus in Italy. The campus comprises, in addition to the buildings of the various departments, four libraries, a natural history museum, a botanical garden and three active theatres.
The campus is divided into 10 districts, each of which is equipped with all the comforts of a common space where various activities or events are organised and are served by canteens. Piazza Vermicelli boasts a large outdoor amphitheatre and houses the TAU; a theatre with 600 seats with a programme dedicated to the great contemporary Italian theatre.