Isola di Capo Rizzuto

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The territory of Isola di Capo Rizzuto was inhabited from pre-historical times according to the evidence from the Neolithic Period (4000 B.C.); above all the ceramics and manufactured artefacts of flint, obsidian and stone of the Stententilliano type which have been found to the north-east of the city of today, and to the south in the localities called Capo Piccolo, Pietranastase and Soverito. The Neolithic villages which arose made a living by trading with Mediterranean peoples and with those at the nearby Sila mountains. The old city did not grow up on its present site but was constructed closer to the sea. Founded by a people hailing from north Africa, from those same places where Carthage had been established, this people, the Japigi, settled between Capo Rizzuto and Capo Piccolo (1200 B.C.) They gave their own name to the headlands at the sea front which, in ancient times, were known as Promontorium Japigium, the Capo Rizzuto, Capo Cimiti and the Le Castella of today.
The Japigi were then driven out by another ancient tribe, the Coni (originally from Epiro in the Balkan peninsula), and they then crossed over to the region of Puglia. The local history has been continually intermixed with legend; the oldest would have it that the city was founded by Astiochena, Priam's sister who, fleeing from the destruction of Troy, disembarked at these sites together with her father and two sisters. The prosperous period had its origin in the Greek colonisation known as Magna Grecia which saw the old inhabitants of the island come under the auspices of the young city of Crotone (708 - 709 B.C.) which developed into one of the major cultural and economic centres of that time. Notable was its Pythagorean school and the Alcmeon medical school; also its athletes, foremost amongst all Milo, winner of many Olympic games; its women were so famous for their beauty as to be chosen as models by the most famous Greek sculptors, amongst whom were Apelle and Zeus. At this point, it is necessary to explain that though Isola di Capo Rizzuto has this name, it is not surrounded by the sea but is, on the contrary ,4 kilometres away from it. The name Isola (island) appears in some documents from around 900 A.D. when Leone VI, the philosopher (886 - 911) published the Neatattica of Diatyposi which described the regulations of the Greek Orthodox Church in Calabria and in which is quoted o ton Aesolon, today's Isola. This name derived from the existence of some islands in front of the three promontorium Japigium (Japigi headlands), two known as the Dioscuri and another as Calipso, which many recognise as the island of Ogigia where the famous sorceress of Homer's Odyssey lived.
Others think that this name came from a corruption of the Latin Asyla (a secure place) the name given to a new town when the inhabitants migrated inland from the coast, to better defend themselves against the Turkish pirates which infested the area. More prosaically, others have taken the name to apply to the Roman rural constructions which are characteristic of that countryside and which were known as 'Insule' that is, isolated buildings which served as houses and as shops for the fields' produce and which were central to the lives of the peasants. The history of the town continued with mixed fortunes in the Middle Ages, becoming an important centre for the propagation of the Catholic religion in southern Italy and an Episcopal seat, until 1818.
During this period, many churches and monasteries were constructed providing vitality to the massive defensive systems which were made up of important buildings such as the Ricca castle and the walled enclosure of the old town of Isola di Capo Rizzuto, the Aragonese castle of Le Castella and the numerous coastal lookout and defensive towers: Torre Vecchia and Torre Nuova at Capo Rizzuto, Torre Cannone between Capo Cimiti and Le Cannella, Torre Bugiafro, Torre Griscuolo at Le Castella, all with military garrisons and cannons. The Isola inhabitants were active participants in the events of the Middle Ages and suffered much loss of life and destruction not only owing to the attacks of the Turkish pirates and Saracens but also due to the Spanish and Aragonese (revolt of the Centelles - 1459) who long dominated the place and frequently punished the local population for their avowed loyalty to one or other of the warlike parties amongst the many guerrilla bands in the locality. Following the Risorgimento, many Isola inhabitants upheld the political motives leading to a unified Italy, supporting Garibaldi's campaign and eventually taking an active part in the two world wars, often suffering from aerial bombardment due to the vicinity of the local airport.
The common condition of the life of the Isola populace from the Middle Ages to the second world war was of extreme poverty, often brought about by the feudalism resulting from the ownership of farm land which, though being amongst the more productive in Calabria, like all the rest of the land of the so-called Marchesato Crotonese, it produced few riches for the Isola di Capo Rizzuto inhabitants. Only in the last period of the land reform were the economic conditions improved, with the partial break up of the large estates and the resulting distribution of the cultivatable ground to the peasants. Today, agriculture in that area is greatly developed; in particular, the climate allows the growing of early fruit and vegetables, ahead of the market throughout Italy together with the production of wheat, oranges and olive oil. Then in 1970, in conjunction with other holiday centres of national importance, it instituted a tourist development which, taking full advantage of the natural attractions of the area, has made Isola di Capo Rizzuto known throughout Italy and the world.

Capo Rizzuto
Le Castella


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