Once again Calabria has been conferred important recognition. After Tropea, named "Village of Villages 2021", it is now Vibo Valentia's turn, proclaimed "Italian Book Capital 2021".

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Sometimes I think heaven must be one continuous unexhausted reading

Virginia Woolf

Vibo Valentia, Italian Book Capital 2021

Yet another record for Calabria. Following Tropea, proclaimed "Borgo dei Borghi 2021", it is now the turn of Vibo Valentia, which has been awarded the title of "Italian Book Capital 2021".

Established in 2020 at the behest of the Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini, by law n. 15 of 13 February 2020, this award sees the title "Italian Book Capital" assigned to an Italian city every year. This initiative is aimed at promoting projects and activities to encourage reading through selection according to specific procedures. As was the case for the Italian Capital of Culture, which is clearly inspired by the title European Capital of Culture, the recognition of the World Book Capital awarded annually by UNESCO has given the rise in our country to this fundamental need to spread books and reading.

The city awarded the title receives grants to finance the projects presented up to an amount of 500,000 euros, which is a substantial amount for projects aimed at promoting the circulation of reading. In 2020, as there was no time to follow the whole procedure, the title was awarded to the city of Chiari, in the province of Brescia. For the second edition, the proclamation took place in a live press conference from the Ministry's website during which Minister Franceschini announced the victory of the Calabrian city. The shortlist of finalists (also including Ariano Irpino, Caltanissetta, Campobasso, and Pontremoli) is the result of a selection of 23 participant cities.

The motivation is the following: "The selected city has stood out for the quality of the proposed initiatives, spelled out with a clarity combining rigor and enthusiasm: 'the basic idea', written in the introduction to the winning project, 'is to bring books into people's lives in an overbearing manner'". This is an important recognition for Vibo Valentia, whose municipal administration is working hard to promote culture for a complete rebirth of the city. 

Origins and historical evolution

In addition to being a provincial capital comprising 50 municipalities, Vibo Valentia is a town in Calabria located on a hill 476 meters above sea level. It is part of the southern Tyrrhenian coastline known as  "Costa degli Dei" (coast of gods) or the "Costa Bella" (beautiful coast) as it offers spectacular views of the nearby Aeolian Islands in Sicily.

It is a city of ancient origins with a history dating back thousands of years, the first traces of which date back to the Neolithic period. Initially named Veip, it was one of the Magna Graecia colonies founded on the Tyrrhenian side of Calabria during the first phase of Greek colonization of southern Italy (around 7th century BC). It would seem that the Greeks attributed a mythical founder to the city, Hippo a hero who, following the fall of Troy, landed on the Calabrian coast, founding the colony that took the name Hipponion. There is much evidence of this period of flourishing development, including the remains of the Greek walls, the defensive walls of the ancient city of Hipponion. Later, according to the Greek historian Strabo, the Romans conquered the town around the 3rd century BC. Thus Hipponion was renamed with the Latin name of Valentia and also Latinising the ancient name Veip, transforming it into Vibo. The Roman colony of Vibo Valentia had a fundamental role of control over the coast, acquiring more and more wealth and importance. Its port became a flourishing junction, the only port of call between Sicily and Naples, and from which numerous trades, which today we would call import-export, were handled. Following the decline and subsequent fall of the Roman Empire, the name Vibo Valentia was replaced by Vibona, as evidenced by Church records dating back to 451 that prove the existence of a bishopric. From the 5th-6th century, Vibona was invaded and destroyed by the barbarians: first by the Goths, followed by the Ostrogoths, Vandals and finally the Lombards. In 536 it came under the Byzantine rule of General Belisarius. It was sacked many times by the Saracens, one of which in 983 led to its total and complete devastation. During the Norman-Swabian rule, Vibona saw some signs of rebirth and took the name of Monteleone. Towards the middle of the 11th century, the Norman leader Ruggero il Guiscardo, given its crucial strategic position, had the fortress built, contributing to the flourishing of the town with a notable demographic and economic increase. During the Angevin domination, the city developed and expanded, and this continued under the Aragonese, a flourishing period that led to the emergence of many important craft and commercial activities. Thanks to the arrival of a number of religious orders, there was a moment of great ferment from a purely cultural point of view. The city was also under the domination of Napoleon in the last years of the 18th century when it became part of the Neapolitan Republic. Later, Ferdinand IV of Bourbon assumed the title of Ferdinand I King of the Two Sicilies and a period of restoration began for Monteleone. In 1860, the arrival of Garibaldi opened the phase that led to the Unification of Italy. It was only in 1928, during the Fascist era, that the city once again assumed its definitive name of Vibo Valentia in homage to the regime's policy of Romanisation.

Vibo Valentia, a treasure trove of wonders and flavours

After this brief but dense historical excursus, full of the influence of numerous cultures over the centuries, we certainly state that Vibo Valentia is a cradle of history and traditions thousands of years old,  an inestimable heritage.  

Undoubtedly one of the most important structures, the Norman-Swabian Castle from medieval times still dominates the city and is home to the Archaeological Museum, which houses numerous ancient finds. Its construction dates back to Norman times, but it was enlarged by Charles of Anjou in 1289, taking on more or less its current appearance. In the 15th century, it was strengthened by the Aragoneses, and between the 16th and 17th centuries, the Pignatelli family gave it the function of a noble residence, making it completely lose its role as a military fortress.

Another example of military architecture or fortress is the Castle of Bivona, which stands in the village of the same name. It was built in 1304 on the ruins of a Roman villa, its structure has a quadrangular plan with perimeter walls at the corners of which are circular crenelated towers. From the point where it stands, near a natural inlet in Marina di Vibo, it is easy to guess that it was used to control the port. In 1500 it became the seat of the sugar factory and an upper level had to be built. From 1700 onwards, the castle was left to neglect and abandonment. Today, the walls are well preserved, unlike the towers, while the upper level has collapsed, as can be seen directly from the street.

Other interesting elements,  Porta and Torre del Conte d'Apice and the Arco Marzano, two gates of the ancient medieval walls.

There are numerous religious buildings, including the Duomo, also known as the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore and San Leoluca. Built-in the 17th century on the remains of a Byzantine basilica, it was restored following the 1783 earthquake. It has a Latin cross plan with a single nave. It is surmounted by a barrel vault decorated with frescoes by Emanuele Paparo, a painter and architect from Vibo Valentia, and 18th and 19th-century stucco work. The granite portal, meticulously decorated by sculptor Giuseppe Niglia, narrates the historical events of Vibo Valentia. Notable works of art are kept inside the cathedral, including the 18th-century high altar in polychrome marble by sculptor Francesco Raguzzini and, on the pendentives of the dome, paintings by Vibo Valentia artist Giulio Rubino depicting the four Evangelists. 

 There are also the Santuario della Madonna della Salute (Chiesa di Santa Ruba), Chiesa del Rosario,  Chiesa del Carmine, Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli,  Chiesa di San Michele,  Chiesa dello Spirito Santo, Chiesa Santa Maria la Nova,  Chiesa di Santa Maria del Soccorso and  Cappella della Madonnella, all churches dating back to different periods and with different styles.

Finally, worth mentioning are the remains of the walls of ancient Hipponion, the Roman baths and Domus of Vibonia, the Doric Temple of Persephone, the Ionic Temple of Kore-Persephone-Demeter, the Greek Necropolis, the Doric Temple Cava Cordopatri, the Early Christian Baptistery, the Roman Domus of Piazza San Leoluca and the Roman Furnaces.

Completing the picture just described, being an important seaside resort, are the turquoise, crystal-clear sea and spectacular picture-postcard beaches, admired in Italy and abroad, where it is possible to enjoy numerous water activities.

The harbor, another very interesting structure, is a base for trade and tourism, and in particular for the fishing industry, from which connections to the Aeolian Islands depart during the summer. As mentioned above, Vibo Valentia is part of the spectacular Costa degli Dei, a stretch of coastline about 55 km long.

Proceeding inland, the landscape changes, reaching the plain and the protected area of the Regional Natural Park of Serre, which contains the Lake Angitola Oasis. There are numerous species of flora and fauna in the area, which stretches between the rocky massif of the Aspromonte and the plateau of the Sila and embraces three Calabrian provinces: Vibo Valentia, Reggio Calabria, and Catanzaro.

The ancient and delicious gastronomic traditions crown this combination of history, art, beautiful green landscapes, sea, and beaches: wines, sausages, oil, baked goods and sweets, the chili pepper of Spilinga...

So, for your trip to Vibo Valentia, you are spoilt for choice: where do want to start from?

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