A little history
In ancient times, Calabria was the centre of a flourishing civilisation, a land of Greek immigration to such an extent as to be called Magna Grecia.
It was a land which defended its own independence against Roman domination: sufficient to record that it sided with Hannibal who lived there for some time.
Destroyed during a major crisis towards teh end of the Toman Empire, the region was partly restored by Theodoric (494-526) and Cassiodorus who created the large monastic and cultural centre at Vivarium (Squillace). It passed then to the Byzantines. The Lombard invasion broke the unity, removing the Cosentino area, annexing it to the dukedom of Benevento and then to the principality of Salerno (847). The reunification under the Byzantines during the first years of the X century opened up a phase of radical Hellenisation in Calabria, facilitated by the spread of basilican monasteries.
Continually subject to Saracen attacks, in 982 target of an unfortunate expedition by Otto II, Calabria fell under Norman domination (1059-1198). With this there was firmer government, new and more stable social arrangements (feudalism) and a return to the traditional Latin religious life which boasted in Calabria the personality of Gioacchino da Fiore. Analogous to this were the politics of the Swabians (1214-1266), who were attached to the Calabrians and who sided with them during their struggle against the Angevins. The period between the peace of Caltabellotta (1320) and the collapse of the Neapolitan Reign (1502) was one of decadence; the Angevins and the Aragons subjected the countryside to punitive taxes; the feudal aristocrats imposed tributes on their subjects; only Cosenza, in the XIV century, had a certain development in its municipal life. After the extremely violent, vain peasant revolt (1458-59) led by the feudatory rebel Certelles, Calabria took part feebly in the Franco-Spanish wars, in the attempted insurrection at Campanella (1600), and at Masaniello’s revolution (1647-48); while having a lively cultural life with the Accademia Cosentina, Telesio, Campanella, Serra etc. To counter the baronial oppression, the Calabrians recognised the king as their guardian: this accounts for their loyalty in the struggle against the French (support for the cardinal Ruffo, 1799; Gioacchino Murat’s ill fortune, who disembarked at Pizzo in 1815).
The Risorgimento in Calabria opened up a large expansion of the Carboneria (secret society) and, to a much lesser extent, of Mazzini’s influence. In 1848, a farmers’ revolt broke out which did not, however, succeed in shaking off the Bourbon domination which was afterwards demolished by
Garibaldi in 1860. But very soon there was a brigand rising, continuing to support the Bourbons, against which a savage war was waged (approx. 1861-66); in this rising, those defending in good faith the old dynasty and those who interpreted the widespread and legitimate social delusions of the rural population were joined by a large number of outlaws without scruples. In reality, the Bourbons had left the countryside in a miserable state both economically and morally.
Since this region became part of the Italian State, redevelopment has been slow, a development which is based more on tourism, where the geographical conditions permit it, than on industrialisation.
This region, in fact, has been discovered by tourism over the past few decades, so much so that, every summer, its 700 kilometres of coastline are visited by hundreds of thousands of holiday makers who are able to enjoy a relatively unspoilt sea, soft beaches which are wide and hospitable, a climate which is «without risks», the option of inland excursions to a magnificent countryside: amazing mountains in the Sila region, stark majesty in the Pollino massif, proud and wild in the area of the Aspromonte, softer in the Serre.
The complex historical events of this land have forced a large part of the population into a miserable existence for many centuries, and the lack of an opulent life style has resulted in a cuisine which has always been of a simple type, relying on local produce. The economic development of the upper classes limited itself to the evolution of the existing gastronomy without opening up to the French refinements which, during the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, became established in other Italian regions.