Cosenza is in inland Calabria, tucked into the Crati valley surrounded by 7 mountains at the confluence of two rivers. It is elegant and referred to as the Athens of Italy. There is street art, literary quotes, and glimpses of craftsmanship everywhere. The city felt so different to the rest of Calabria that I felt like I was in the north of Italy except for the heat, and the Calabrese food, and the distinct Southern Italian history.
Cosenza has a rich history with plenty of museums to tell the tales. There is the ancient Oscan speaking, Italic tribe of the Brutti who vanish from the records not long after 200 BC.
Before them, the Greek Oenotrians have left a rich legacy and both are captured in the Brutti museum dating back to 600 BC. I spent an absorbing few hours in the museo dei brettii degli enotri studying the remnants of these peoples and bringing home several hundred photos that I have yet to study! http://www.museodeibrettiiedeglienotri.it/
The history of this city doesn’t stop with the ancients. Under Emperor Augustus the city was included as a staging post on one of the main drags to Sicily.
Later, Cosenza’s most infamous visitor was the Visigoth King, Alaric who came here after having sacked the city of Rome in 410 AD. He brought his booty to Cosenza and unexpectedly died here. It is rumored that where the two rivers of the city join, the water was diverted so that a tomb could be dug for him, his horse and all his treasure. Afterwards the river was reinstated. The slaves that participated in this feat of engineering were all killed so the secret of the precise location would remain safe.
It was 37 degrees centigrade in early June. The high temperatures made it comfortable for outings only in the morning and evening. If I ventured out in the middle of the day I found I needed to walk in the shade and I regularly ducked into air con and of course, moved very slowly.
The new town has a vibrant shopping strip with plenty of fabulous art including Modigliani.
The old town has everything you hope to see in Italy, ancient architecture, winding cobbled streets, and romantic vistas.
It is topped by the Svevo Castle which was built in 1000AD by Saracens. Yes, that is Muslim rule of parts of Sicily and Southern Italy beginning in about 800AD until around the early 1000ADs, (look it up, :)). Of course since then, as is the case with the south, successive groups including the Normans, Bourbons, Angevins and Aragons have made their marks here. I didn’t make it to the top for the view due to the 37 degrees temperature but sat in a shady spot by a fountain outside the Convent of the Virgins below.
I came into Cosenza from the east on the train, (Crotone via Sibari), and be warned, the train station is a good 40 minute walk to the city center. I should’ve taken a taxi in but in my economical, bloody mindedness I made myself ill with a heat induced migraine my first day by hiking it.
To leave, I went by bus (train track repairs were underway when I was there) to Paola on the west coast which is the main trunk line between Naples/Rome/North and Reggio Calabria in the south so trains are plentiful. The bus left from the main train station again, so I had learnt by then and cough up the 15 euro for a taxi.