Gerace is situated where the rolling hills give way to rugged terrain at the base of the Calabrian mountains, with lovely landscapes and time-worn stone towns. It has been named one of the prettiest villages in Italy, in fact, an honor bestowed on only a handful of towns around the country. It is at the gateway to the Aspromonte National Park but just a few minutes from the Ionian Sea.
The old town, known as the borgo antico, is a warren of stone buildings, former palaces, churches, and old buildings that were carved right out of the rock of the hillside. The town's name has Greek (or Greco-Calabro) origins, and was settled by Greek colonists, then the Romans. But it wasn't until the 12th century that it became the town it is, with an influx of people from Locri, fleeing the perpetual threats of pirates and raiders from the sea, they moved inland. Legend holds that they were guided to Gerace by a sparrow hawk. Wander the narrow lanes of stone and stucco buildings, look out at the beautiful vistas with olive groves and grape vines, backed by mountains, and enjoy the Old World archways, stairways and antique atmosphere of a friendly town.
The Piazza delle Tre Chiese is named for the three churches situated there. The Sacro Cuore (Sacred Heart) is a pretty stone Calabrian Baroque structure. The church of San Francesco has Arabesque elements and a Byzantine portal, along with a grand mosaic altar. San Giovanello is a rustic chapel of Orthodox origins.
The Belvedere Bombarde is a panoramic spot, named for the cannons that were once positioned here to defend from coastal invasions. Gerace is known for its wines, produced here since the Greeks planted vineyards. Olive oil, citrus fruits, and hand-made ceramics are area products to look for while you're here. Stop in Piazza del Tocco for a gelato or pastry, or a pre-dinner drink to watch the world pass by.
Gerace is a pretty place where you can get a real feel of Calabrian life, yet it is only a few minutes from the beaches and the mountains for outdoors fun. In the national park you can go rafting, canoeing or kayaking, or mountain biking. There are plenty of hiking trails, or just follow a country lane for a nice walk with great views and clean air. The buzzing regional capital of Reggio Calabria can be reached as a day trip for some city culture and the museums that it offers.
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