Catanzaro is known as the city of two seas and has a population of 91,000 – this city is the capital of the Calabria region of Italy and is located on the eastern side of the “dog leg” of the country. Catanzaro is known for its illustrious silk and velvet production and is also a popular destination for Italians to frequent during the summer months.
In ancient times, it is believed that Catanzaro was a Greek settlement and has had influences from the Byzantine Empire. Due to its high location, the city has been an important defensive stronghold and was always easy to defend. During the Middle Ages, Catanzaro was involved in various wars and feuds between the Kings of Sicily and Norman invaders such as the War of the Vespers. Today it remains an important place in the southern region of Italy for both the country’s economy and as a tourist destination.
For those who are looking for something different, Catanzaro offers a wide variety of attractions and sites. For those who are interested in historical structures Catanzaro has structures such as the Ponte Bisantis and the Chiese di San Giovani. Alternatively, for those who enjoy sunbathing and the beach, Catanzaro lies in close proximity to some world class lidos. Whatever your taste, this beautiful city has something to offer!
Let’s explore the best things to do in Catanzaro:
1. Parco della Biodiversita Mediterranea
Located in the centre of Catanzaro, this attraction is undoubtedly one of the most popular in the region and is dedicated to the flora and fauna of this region of Italy.
Covering approximately 700,000 m2, the park has an extensive botanical garden, a military museum, a skate park, a children’s playground and a restroom and restaurant.
Within the botanical gardens you can find over 20,000 species of plants, 2,000 trees from 200 different species, and over 100 species of aquatic plants.
There is practically something for everyone and this is the perfect place for a family outing.
2. Cascata Campanaro
Catanzaro is surrounded by some beautiful countryside and one hidden treasure is the Campanaro Waterfall.
You can find this natural phenomenon approximately one hour to the north east of the city in-between the towns of Zagarise and Cipino.
Although surrounded by forest and luscious greenery, the waterfall is easily accessible and you can find a range of different hiking trails and well maintained footpaths.
The main waterfall is approximately 22m high and cascades down into a shallow pool and stream; it is truly beautiful and the noise from the water is spectacular.
Aside from admiring the waterfall, you can also spend time trekking through the countryside and immersing yourself in this amazing part of the Catanzaro landscape.
3. Ponte Bisantis
This monumental bridge is a feat of modern engineering and also one of the icons of Catanzaro.
Built in 1959, the bridge stands at 468m long and is 112m at its highest point.
Spanning over the Fiumaerlla torrent and the valley it sits in, this bridge is an important connecting route between the centre of Catanzaro to the Strada dei Due Mari.
Made mainly of reinforced concrete, the bridge is renowned throughout Europe and was milestone of engineering for Italy.
There is a pedestrian walkway either side of the bridge and it is well worth the walk to see the fantastic scenery and admire this beautiful monument.
4. Villa Trieste
Standing as the oldest public park in Catanzaro the Villa Trieste is one of the most picturesque places in the city and sits on the eastern bank.
From here you are granted with fantastic views of the surrounding valley and countryside and down towards the river.
Created in 1881 by Enrico Andreotti the park sits at an altitude of 321m above sea level and features a plethora of beautiful exotic trees, marble statues and flower arrangements.
Within the villa itself you can find the Filippo De Nobili Municipal Library and the Villa Marghetia Provincial Museum, both of which are interesting buildings In their own right.
This is a great place to come to relax, admire the scenery and learn a little about the history of Catanzaro.
5. Scolacium Archaeological Park
This region of Italy has a great deal of ancient history and influences from other nations.
If you travel towards the coast near the town of Roccelletta you can find the magnificent Scolacium Archaeological Park.
This park showcases the remains of various ruins from eras including Byzantine, Greek and Roman.
The buildings are situated in a vast olive plantation containing over 3000 trees which sets the scene perfectly.
It is possible to see sections of Roman roads, aqueducts, spas, mausoleums and even an impressive amphitheatre.
The site really is impressive and despite their immense age, the structures are still a wonderful sight.
6. Orme nel Parco
If you love the outdoors and adventure, you are sure to love Orme nel Parco – located within the Sila National Park and surrounded by beautiful forests and natural expanses of greenery this is a true haven.
The Orme nel Parco association promotes outdoor activities and you can travel here to experience such things as outdoor camping, jeep tours, mountain biking and hiking excursions.
Furthermore, you can explore the forest in an intimate way and admire the different types of tree such as spruce, beech and oak by taking part in the high-wiring trails spread through this region – strap yourself in and climb through a series of wooden platforms in the trees, fly over zip-lines and try your hand at rock climbing.
7. Catanzaro Lido
To the southern part of Catanzaro, the city slopes down the mountains and ends in Catanzaro Lido.
This beautiful coastal resort is a fantastic place to go to relax, enjoy the sun, and the stunning landscape of the Ionian Sea.
The beach is split by a charming harbour that fishing and sailing boats frequent, and although the sand contains some pebbles, it is still inviting.
Aside from the long stretch of beach, the lungomare Stefano Pugliese promenade is lined with hotels, bars, restaurants and amenities.
To escape from the city, take a break from sight-seeing and enjoy the fine Italian weather, this beach is a prime location.
8. Piazza Matteotti
The Matteotti Square is one of the main squares in the city and has several important landmarks.
Located in the centre of Catanzaro, the piazza is not far from the Ponte Bisantis.
Notable buildings on the square include the Corte D’Appello (The Courthouse) with its yellow façade and the town hall.
Furthermore there is a pedestrianized area complete with several important monuments and beautiful water features all surrounded by luscious trees and greenery.
Aside from the buildings and features, there is also a plethora of shops, restaurants and cafes for those who wish to relax and do a little shopping.
9. Pietragrande Beach
Further down the coast from Catanzaro Lido is the quieter beach of Pietragrande.
This stretch of beach features golden sands that pass as far as the coastal town of Soverato Marina.
If you want a quieter beach experience this is the place to come – both Pietragrande and neighbouring Spiaggia Caminia are wonderful places that are often quiet.
Surrounding these beaches, the area is not as well developed but there is still a selection of beach bars and cafes for snacks and drinks.
Furthermore, the raised promenade stretching along Via Marina features a beautiful patterned surface and is a great place to walk whilst taking in the sea air.
10. Lago Arvo
Approximately 1.5 hours and 67 miles to the south of Catanzaro you can find the delightful man-made Lago Arvo.
This lake was built to serve as a hydroelectric power station and features some amazing scenery and hiking trails.
On the southern side of the lake you can find the small village of Lorica which has several restaurants and a small church.
Furthermore there is a plethora of hiking trails that find around the perimeter of the lake; these trails cross through some gorgeous woodland and also past the impressive dam at the eastern edge of the water.
This really is a pleasant place to explore with some wonderful scenery and opportunity for adventure.
11. La Chiesa di San Giovanni
Catanzaro has several prominent churches, but the most impressive is the Church of St. John the Baptist which is located in close proximity to the Piazza Matteotti.
Created in the 16th century, the church features a simple but elegant front facade in a Romanesque style.
The most notable feature of the front is the semi-circular staircase that leads up to the front doorway.
From the exterior courtyard you are granted with some of the best views of the countryside and you can see the impressive Bisantis Bridge.
Due to the churches varied history (it once served as a barracks and a prison) its grounds and exterior are a jumble of different design features thus creating a striking complex.
12. Lambretta Museum
Lambretta is an iconic brand of Italy – the Lambretta model of scooter is renowned worldwide for its beautiful and functional design and elegant body shape.
During the 70’s, this brand of scooter was hugely popular and both Lambretta and Vespa saw a revival during the mod revival period too.
For an insight into the history of Lambretta and to see some stunning examples of their scooter, you must pay a visit to the Lambretta Museum in the small town of Sellia Marina.
Within this museum you will find a plethora of historical scooters and some fantastic displays and information about the Lambretta Company.
For any scooter fan, this museum is an absolute must!
13. Basilica of the Immaculate
The second important religious building in the centre of Catanzaro is the Basilica of the Immaculate – this impressive church can be found just off of the main Corso G. Mazzini and features some stunning interior and exterior architecture.
Although this building is extremely old, it was rebuilt in the 18th century and has undergone renovations since.
Within the confines of this church the decoration and artwork is simply sublime – the main aisle is covered in opulent marble and stucco plaster work.
Furthermore, there is a series of decorative chapels featuring some amazing paintings and golden relics.
14. Enjoy a meal at the Corto Maltese restaurant
Catanzaro has some wonderful eateries and one of the most well-known establishments is the Corto Maltese restaurant that is located on the Via XX Settembre in the centre of the old town.
This establishment serves a delightful range of dishes including succulent meat, hearty burgers and an assortment of desserts.
Furthermore the side orders such as fries and potato wedges are all homemade.
The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming and the food and drink is first class.
If you want to enjoy a quality meal during your stay in Catanzaro, this is the place to try!
15. Enjoy some gelato or a drink at the Bar Centrale
Located in Catanzaro Lido, this fantastic bar offers a combination of fine drink, sumptuous desserts and mouth-watering gelato – what more could you wish for when enjoying a day at the beach? When entering this establishment, your eyes will immediately drawn to the counter that contains a myriad of brightly coloured ice-creams and desserts – choose from a range of flavours such as hazelnut and cookies.
If you are enjoying a drink, you can also expect some small nibbles to accompany such as chips and peanuts or even sandwiches.
The prices are more than reasonable, and the quality of both the ice-cream and snacks are out of this world.
When visiting the Lido at Catanzaro you have to stop by this amazing establishment!