Natural Environment

Natural Environment - Geographical Position

Calabria is the tip of the Italian peninsula; it borders with Basilicata and stretches between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Ionian Sea in the direction of Sicily, from which it is divided by the Strait of Messina. Geographically, Calabria has its own distinct individuality, due to its peripherical and almost isolated position, compared with the rest of Italy, its characteristic conformation and morphological structure. The population of this fairly extensive region is slightly over 2 million, with a population density which, though reasonably high, is lower than the national average.

The Natural Environment

The morphological structure of Calabria is somewhat complex. Most of the mountains are massifs and isolated groups, separated by large valleys or cols. The Pollino massif, culminating in the Serra Dolcedorme (2,267 m.), lies on the Basilicata boundary, and its crests stretch southwest as far as the Passo dello Scalone (740 m.) where the Lucanian Apennines end, and the Calabrian Apennines begin with the Catena Costiera (Castal Chain) (or Paolana), stretching to the lower reaches of the Savuto River, between the jagged Tyrrhenian coast and the deep Vallo del Crati. This last divides the Catena Costiera from the Sila, a large upland area culminating with mt. Botte Donato (1,928 m.). South of the Sila, Calabria narrows at the gulfs of Sant'Eufemia and Squillace, in a low-lying isthmus (the Marcellinara depression, 251 m.), beyond which rise the Serre, two mountains ranges stretching southwest to join directly with the Aspromonte. On the Tyrrhenian side, the granite mount Poro (710 m.) group stands isolated, between the gulfs of Sant'Eufemia and Gioia. South of this vast hollow, lies Aspromonte, whose highest peak is Montalto (1,955 m.).
As a result of the elongated shape of the peninsula and the lie of the mountains, the rivers, with the exception of the Crati and the Neto, are not particularly large. The principal lakes are the artificial Cecita, Arvo and Ampollino, in the Sila. In the coastal zones, the climate is Mediterranean, with mild rainy winters and hot dry summers; towards the interior, it becomes progressively continental, particularly on the high mountains. Precipitations are plentiful, especially at an altitude, particularly on the Tyrrhenian flanks, but are scantier on low ground and on the coastal summits.
Calabria is one of the most heavily wooded areas in Italy (28.2% of its surface). The chestnut woodlands begin at 700-800 m., stretching up to 1,200 m., where they are succeeded by beechwoods, which give way to the conifer belt, with pines and spruces. The littoral and hills belong to the Mediterranean scrub belt.
Protection of the characteristic environment of the Calabrian uplands was undertaken in 1968 with the institution of the Parco Nazionale della Calabria, covering some 17,000 hectares and including the Sila Grande, in Cosenza Province, Sila Piccola in Catanzaro Province and Aspromonte, in the Province of Reggio Calabria. Large forests mantle the mountainsides, mainly stands of Sila pines, elegant trees that give the landscape a Nordic air. These are flanked by stretches of beechwood, with, in a few undisturbed areas, the Scots pine. Of particular interest is a stand of more than fifty pines and sycamores, known as the `giants of the Sila', some forty metres high and two metres in girth, at Falliestro, near Camigliatello Silano. The most interesting species of wildlife include roe deer, wild boar, wildcat, otter, marten and southern squirrel. The birdlife includes the black woodpecker, Bonelli's eagle, goshawk, peregrine falcon and the eagle owl.
A characteristic mountain environment is that of the Pollino, whose south flank lies in Calabria. The majestic pinus leucodermis, the finest of trees and of the greatest natural and scientific interest, grows on the most rugged limestone crags, while the beech is the most common tree on the mountain slopes. Some of the most attractive and little known features of the massif are on the Calabrian side: the Caldanelle river gorges, the Bifurto abyss, 683 m. deep, and the Ninfe cave, celebrated since Roman times for its sulphurous springs. But the most splendid excursions of all are those that lead one through San Lorenzo Bellizzi, to the awe-inspiring sight of the Raganello gorges, nesting site of the last surviving birds of prey, or from Cerchiara di Calabria to the Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Armi, associated with ancient legends of the hunt.
Of exceptional value and interest for its Nature is the Neto River estuary, one of the few stretches of Ionic coast which, though exploited by shooters, has miraculously escaped ruin. These are exceptionally valuable wetlands and still partly unexplored, a haunt of wildlife and rich in plant life. The vegetation is flourishing, at times luxuriant, with thick reed beds and tamerisk, hung with flowers, poplar trees, willow and alders, in a tangle of often impenetrable growth, to which cling the Mediterranean creepers, magnificent irises with beautiful yellow flowers. The interesting birdlife includes sandpipers, redshank, the collared pratincole and other waders as well as duck.

Population and Economy

As in many other regions, in Calabria there is an increasing trend towards concentration of the population in the larger towns, particularly the coastal areas, to the detriment of the inland rural areas where depopulation is linked to poor prospects in a backward economy. Large-scale emigration abroad as well as to Northern Italy, which began to diminish only in the nineteen seventies, has had a lasting effect on the demographic situation in the region. Over the past century, nearly a million people have left Calabria, though many are now returning.
There is no single Calabrian dialect; of the three sub-dialects, each is fairly distinctive of its own province. Several linguistic enclaves include the Albanian (especialy in the provinces of Cosenza and Catanzaro), and Franco-Provencal languages still spoken in Guardia Piemontese (Cosenza) as well as Greek in the Bova area (Reggio Calabria).
The standard of living is much lower than the national average, as can be deduced from the fact that the pro capite income is the lowest of any region.
There are various reasons for this, including the morphology of the region, which has never facilitated communications, consequently increasing its isolation from the rest of Italy, to which historical factors, including the economic policy of exploitation carried out under the various rulers of Southern Italy, have also contributed.
Only the primary sector is still of considerable importance; it is, however, characterized by a number of generally small proprietors and by a clear contrast between the coastal areas (particularly the Sibari, Sant'Eufemia and Rosarno lowlands), more highly developed and assisted by State aid and irrigation systems, and the interior, where subsistence farming is still found.
Of the cereals, now declining, the main crop is wheat, while the principal crops of the now more widespread horticultural and specialized cultivations include aubergines, tomatoes, onions, water melons, beans and peppers. Sugar beet and potatoes are also important, but Calabria is famous for its olives, citrus fruit (oranges and bergamots) and wine grapes.
The industrial sector is underdeveloped and characterized by fairly small manufacturing companies. The most important are engaged in construction, foods (sugar refineries, oil mills, wine growing-making), chemicals (Crotone, Cosenza, Catanzaro, Reggio di Calabria), textiles (woollen mills at Praia a Mare, Cetraro and Tortora), construction materials (numerous cement works), metalworking (Crotone, Vibo Valentia), engineering (Reggio di Calabria, Vibo Valentia, Castrovillari), wood processing and papermaking.
Commercial activities are widespread, though often inef ficiently organized. Employment in the public sector is high and Calabria's immense tourist resources are now being exploited.
Certain craft industries (fabrics, lace, ceramics, woodworking) are still significant.
As a result of considerable effort by the State and various public authorities, the communications network is now gradually improving and the Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway has been added to the existing littoral highways. There are three airports: Reggio di Calabria, Crotone and Lamezia Terme (international).

Calabria has enormous tourist potential, and its exploitation should reasonably be expected to boost genuine improvement of the regional economy. A wealth of splendid scenery lies along the littoral which, including the Tyrrhenian and Ionian coasts, stretches for nearly 800 km. and is characterized by a tremendous variety of panoramas, ranging from delightful rocky coves (especially on the Tyrrhenian) to vast beaches fringing a clear sparkling sea. The magnificent inland area is dotted with tiny picturesque villages hugging the hills that slope down to the water, with colourful and typically Mediterranean citrus plantations and olive groves.
The many seaside resorts, some internationally renowned, include: Praia a Mare, Diamante, Cittadella del Capo, Marina di Cetraro, Marina di Paola, Amantea, Pizzo, Tropea, Gioia Tauro, and on the `Costa Viola', Palmi, Bagnara Calabra and Scilla. Melito di Porto Salvo lies on the Ionian coast, Brancaleone Marina, Bovalino Marina, Locri, Siderno, Marina di Gioiosa Ionica, Roccella Ionica, Copanello, Capo Rizzuto, Crotone, Ciro Marina, Mirto Crosia, Trebisacce and Marina di Amendolara on the `Costa dei Gelsomin'.
The mountainous areas of Calabria also have their own attractions: at Gambarie, on Aspromonte and in the Sila villages (Camigliatello Silano, Silvana Mansio, Lorica, San Giovanni in Fiore, Taverna, Villaggio Racise, Villaggio Mancuso) a peaceful summer holiday can be enjoyed, and in season, winter sports.
Many of the inland villages lie in attractive settings and have buildings or objects of artistic interest. Stilo has the famous `Cattolica', a 10th century Byzantine church; Gerace a Byzantine-Norman cathedral; Pentedattilo is a quite unique village huddled on a sandstone spur; Seminara and Polistena are noted, together with Gerace, for their splendid handmade ceramics; Squillace has a cathedral, Vibo Valentia a 17th century Duomo; silk shawls are made at Tiriolo, and Rossano has the Byzantine church of S. Marco.

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