Nestled among and tinted by the hillside blooms, Sant’Andrea gazes over the sea – that mysterious, fascinating sea that has influenced the towns history for centuries. It’s a perfect place to spend a laid-back holiday, letting you savour the sunshine and countryside warmed by people and time
A bit of history
Sant’Andrea Apostolo dello Ionio has 2,033 residents and is located in the province of Catanzaro, Calabria. It stands on the slopes of the Maddalena, Lipantania e Cerasia hills, which gently descend towards the sea where they meet the shore line.
It is said that the town dates back to the 10th century, between 981 and 110. This was an era when the Greco-Byzantine population from the nearby Fiume Assi moved to the territory around Sant’Andrea to escape the repeated Saracen raids. At that time Sant’Andrea belonged to the Badolato farmstead. After 1044, the village was under Norman rule, as was the rest of Calabria, when it acquired a new status thanks to the Carthusian charterhouse, Grancia della Certosa di San Bruno, which became the centre of public life. A ‘Grancia’ is a building that forms part of a charterhouse, used for the preservation and provision of agricultural produce, which was to sustain of the monks of the order. In 1193, the Pope believed that the Carthusian monks were no longer living by their original moral values, but were guided by political and economic interests. For this reason, he handed it over to the Cistercian hermitage, Serra San Bruno ai Cistercensi, along with the ‘grancia’. It was under Cistercian ownership until 1513, when Pope Leone X of Medici reassigned the charterhouse to the Carthusians. They were to finally lose its profits to Joachim Murat, Marshal and Admiral to Napoleon, in 1808, when the San Bruno Charterhouse was abolished.
The Castle’s ruins also add to the town’s history. It was built between 1532 and 1537 by Toraldo di Ravaschiera, the feudal landowner and was commissioned by Emperor Charles V. In the 18th century, it became part of the Bourbon dynasty, and later in the 19th century the French violently took over the Sant’Andrea territory. The Scoppa family gained control in the 19th century, who had a majestic palace constructed which is now home to the Benedictine Sisters.
Wandering around the village
The ancient gateway signals the entrance to the town. The same gateway used by peoples over the centuries, who wanted to occupy this charming place that symbolises the cultural fusion of east and west. The alleys are lined with a succession of buildings that tell the town’s history, which was deeply influenced by religious matters. Among these is the church dedicated to the town’s patron saint, Sant’Andrea Apostolo, whose worship was spread by Basilian monks. Inside, a statue of the saint can be found, which is linked to a strange legend: in 1806, the French tried to take possession of the town and devastated it. Among their acts of desecration, they tried to throw the statue into a ravine. They didn’t succeed because the statue had become extremely heavy, so a soldier tore out the statues’ eyes.
Further Byzantine evidence includes the ruins of San Nicola di Cammerota church, where Arabic artistic influences are visible, such as the black and white windows and the east-facing apse. The matrice church stands in the oldest and highest part of the town, and it is dedicated to the apostles Peter and Paul, which at one time was surrounded by the majestic castle commissioned by Charles V. Today, it has three naves and a large matroneum, housing a precious painting by Mattia Preti depicting Mary the Immaculate. A chapel overlooks the Palazzo Scoppa courtyard, which was constructed in 1806, at the request of Baron Pier Nicola Scoppa. The Sacro Cuore di Gesù church is also worthy of note, as it dates back to 1897, and was built to honour Baroness Enrichetta Scoppa. A composite of the Baroque, Neo-Classical and Neo-Renaissance styles, it stands out for its exterior and interior beauty.
The welcoming, genuine smiles of the Sant’Andrea people make a stroll around the town even more pleasant. The aroma of local cooking emanates from their homes, which can be explored in the local restaurants and agriturism establishments on the upper slopes and along the coast. Kiosks, shops and villages line the golden beaches and crystalline seas, making this area a much sought-after bathing destination. Not far from Sant’Andrea Marina, the Chiesa dell’Assunta al Campo church that dates back to the Basilian era, stands near to the Salubro river. It is believed that it was built in the exact spot where a picture of the Virgin was found, which was repainted when the church was restored in 1964.
Sant’Andrea Apostolo dello Ionio all year round
Sant’Andrea Marina is at sea level and the town on the slopes is 330 above sea level. Seashore and hillside – a unique combination, that makes this location appealing 365 days a year. In the hotter months, the local people and tourists flock to the seaside area, where they can find more than just beautiful beaches – many bathing establishments, villages and food outlets can be found.
Easter is the main event in Spring, with its associated events, such as the renowned Holy Week rites. The whole town lives this event to the full, with its emotions transferring to those who are attending the celebrations for the first time. The climax is reached on Easter Sunday, with the Cunfrunta, an event similarly celebrated across Calabria. It represents the moment when the Risen Christ meets the Madonna. Two statues are carried by men from the brotherhood and are brought together to meet in the town’s main street, which is met with applause and excitement from onlookers. In Autumn, the flavours from the nearby countryside can be enjoyed. Grapevines, citrus and olive groves offer up their authentic, scented fruits. Homemade wine and liqueurs accompany the typical local dishes, fiscottino, a doughnut-shaped bread, stands out and has recently been awarded Slowfood status. It is an exquisite baked product that retains the aroma of wild fennel and is also known as the “cake of festivities”, as it used to be made for events leading up to weddings.
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