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Altomonte, Calabria Escorted Tours

Altomonte

Cities and Towns in Calabria

Altomonte, is a small gem of a town in the heart of Calabria's "Entroterra".  It has earned the nickname "Spoleto of the South", taking its name from the famous Umbrian town in Italy's north.  Like Spoleto, Altomonte sits high on a hill, in a patchwork quilt of green.
 
Altomonte, or "high mountain" as the town's name translates to English, stands at the centre of a spectacularly beautiful scene.  With the Appenines at its back, it faces the Ionian coast in the distance, delivering some of Calabria's most fantastic views.
 
Unlike some of the other Calabrian towns that have been left to disintegrate these fabulous panoramas are not the only thing which remain to glorify Altomonte.  Quite the contrary. 
 
When you travel to Altomonte you will find a wonderful Civic Museum, several gorgeous Gothic style churches and chic wine bars, delightful cafes and good restaurants like the Restaurant Barbieri, where you can eat as well - or better - than in most restaurants in allegedly more sophisticated towns.
 
It won't take you long to discover the pride the local people have in their history and traditions.  It manifests itself everywhere - in Altomonte's clean streets and well kept buildings, and in the good graces of the people.
 
There is always some type of festival happening in Altomonte, usually corresponding to the harvest of different types of foods.  For example, in fall you will find festivals devoted to Mushrooms (Sagri dei Funghi) and Chestnuts (Sagra dei Castagna).  There is also a relatively new wine festival in November and a peach festival during the summer.
 
They have also built a wonderful museum in the old convent adjacent to the Chiesa Santa Maria della Consolazione, where you will find a plethora of artifacts dating back to the bronze age, and numerous paintings by important artists such as Angelo Galtieri, Francesco Solimena, Giuseppe Castellano, Pietro Negroni, Paolo di Ciacio, Simone Martini and Bernardo Daddi, and others.  Keep an eye out for the "Altarolo con storie della Passione" by brothers Antonio and Onofrio Penna - a real and unexpected gem.
 
The tradition of fine art being commissioned in Altomonte began with Fillipo Sangineto, who was the great grandson of Ruggero I San Gineto. Fillipo, during his time as Count he saught the services of a the famous Tuscan artist, Simone Martini, to create three, 8 x 10 carvings in gold, of famous saints and bishops.  The wors are immaculately well-preserved and are the first to meet visitors upon entrance to the museum.
 
Some places we say, visit on your way to or from somewhere else.  Altomonte, however, is one of those places you should make a destination.  In Altomonte, the saying is, time goes according to the seasons.
 
Spend a day (or two or three) and sink into its ambience, stroll its streets, enjoy its cuisine, meet its people.  And make plans to return again - soon.
 
- by Jesse Andrews, November 2nd, 2005

 

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