The Greek heritage in Southern Italy is undeniable. Called by the ancient Romans “Magna Graecia”, present-day Calabria, Apulia, Basilicata, Campania and Sicily boast unique cultural and food treasures. Here are the essentials to retrace the Magna Graecia in a journey full of culture and gastronomy.

It is called Italy thanks to the Greeks
Centuries ago a significant portion of Southern Italy was colonized by the Greeks. The name itself “Italy” derives from the word Italòi, a term with which the Greeks designated a tribe that inhabited the extreme tip of the Italian peninsula, near today’s Catanzaro in Calabria. The ancient Romans called Southern Italy “Magna Graecia” as this area was extensively populated by Greek colonies. About 1,000 years ago, the present-day Italian regions of Calabria, Apulia, Basilicata, Campania and Sicily were home to over 2 million people, making it at the time one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

Bova and the Italian Greek-speaking municipalities
Fast-forward to today’s Italy, the Greek heritage is not limited to magnificent monuments and archaeological finds, but also involves the culture, gastronomy and even the language: a Greek dialect is still spoken today in the Italian regions of Salento and Calabria, which is considered to be the last living trace of the ancient Greek diaspora that once formed Magna Graecia.

Among these municipalities, Bova is a must-see. Considered the cultural capital of Greek Calabria, the village of Bova is perched on the east side of Aspromonte. With less than 500 inhabitants and an atmosphere of yesteryear, Bova is fully part of the class of “i Borghi più Belli d’Italia” (“the most beautiful villages in Italy”), thanks to its legendary beauties and breathtaking scenery. Its narrow alleys intersect under the watchful control of the castle, and join in a labyrinth of suggestive passages dominated by the heat of the stones and an atmosphere suspended in time. Palpable atmosphere that can be fully savored walking through the streets of the town. The best way to get to know the essence of the place and not miss a glimpse of it.

Every year the traditional Festa delle Pupazze is celebrated in Bova, on the occasion of Palm Sunday. The celebration originates from the world of Greek mythology and Eleusinian religious rites. Also important is the Paleariza, an ethno-cultural-musical festival that promotes traditional habits and customs, and which takes place in August.

You cannot visit Bova without experiencing its culinary tradition, characterized by mountain flavors and the rusticity of peasant-derived gastronomy. Among the most popular recipes we find maccaruni, homemade pasta usually served with meatballs sauce or goat sauce and sprinkled with salted ricotta, or the tagghiarini cu li ciciri, homemade pasta with chickpeas flavored with laurel.

Locride area: the cradle of Calabrian Greece
Candidate as Italian Capital of Culture for 2025, Locride includes some of the most stimulating travel itineraries in Calabria, from the finds of Magna Graecia to the beauty of its beaches.

From the Archaeological Area of ​​Locri Epizephiri you can retrace over 4000 years of history with its finds attributable to the Bronze and Iron Ages, the remains of the Greek city with its walls, sanctuaries, theater, its private buildings and the numerous testimonies of Roman and late antiquity. At the same time, with over eighty kilometers of coastline, nature lovers will be able to enjoy absolute relaxation by the sea to breathe that unmistakable scent that characterizes the jasmine coast, in one of the wildest coastal areas in Italy.

In Locride it is also possible to get lost in food and wine tastings, rediscovering the hidden flavors of the hinterland and listening to the stories of small local producers. The tenacious character of this territory is reflected in its cheeses, starting with the smoked ricotta from Mammola and the caciocavallo from Ciminà, which dominate the flavors of the local tables. Lovers of cured meats, cannot miss u boccuaru, a dialect term that indicates pork cheek, a cured meat obtained from the processing of the fatty parts of the head and neck, as well as preparations such as capocollo, pork ham and, of course, the ‘nduja which is very consumed here too.

Reggio Calabria: Magna Graecia at the tip of the boot
Situated on the tip of the Italian peninsula’s “boot”, Reggio Calabria is arguably one of its jewels in the crown, with its ancient history, entertainment and good food. Its Riace bronzes, Greek walls and numerous archeological sites are a must-see destination for anyone wishing to immerse themselves in ancient history, particularly that of Magna Graecia.

In the shade of the Riace bronzes, you can eat exceptionally well. The food and wine tradition of Reggio Calabria is very varied, including both land and sea dishes. The real protagonist is the chili, as in the rest of Calabria. Among the typical dishes we find as regards the cured meats the soppressata, the capicollo, the fillets and the ‘nduja; the traditional cheese is rosamarina, known as the “southern caviar”. Among the fish dishes, swordfish stand out, caught between April and September, together with the “blue fish”, in addition to the pan of anchovies and breaded and fried costardelle. Among the desserts we find the crepes with sugar, a classic Christmas dish, nougat and delicious jams.

Villages and farms of Salento Greece
Salento is the Southern part of Puglia. Grecìa Salentina, near Lecce, is an area made up of nine municipalities where griko, a language derived from ancient Greek, is still spoken and where traditions and styles derived from classical Greece still survive. This is what remains of the culture of Magna Graecia, which survived for two millennia in this isolated and protected corner of Puglia, where it evolved independently.

So the first thing to do in Grecìa Salentina is to discover its ancient villages, such as Sternatia, Calimera, Martignano and Castrignano dei Greci. The underground oil mill of Sternatia is worth a visit: it was dug into the rock below the town and which for centuries has ground the olives of the whole community to produce an excellent extra virgin olive oil. Also noteworthy is parco delle pozzelle in Martignano, where the pozzelle are located, an ancient and ingenious system of water collection typical of the Grecìa Salentina. There are still dozens of stone wells up to 6 meters deep and made impermeable, inside which the rainwater collected with a canalization system ends up. The pozzelle were used by the community until 1900, but they are still functional today and constitute a tangible testimony of the past, and a way to tell visitors about traditional grika culture.

While in the area, it is a must to stop in one of the local farms, true strongholds of traditional Salento cuisine. They are small communities where for centuries excellent products have been produced: wines (Negramaro among all), extra virgin olive oil, pasta, vegetables, cheeses and aromatic herbs, which combined together create something magical. Something as simple as a plate of handmade pasta with tomato and basil can become a true gastronomic experience. For sure, you cannot leave Salento without letting yourself be seduced by the magic of orecchiette and minchiareddhi. It is handcrafted fresh pasta typical of the oldest Salento tradition. There are many variations, with meatballs, vegetables, fish, but the delicious typical recipe, the one that still today the Salento people love to taste on Sundays, includes a dressing with fresh tomato sauce and grated ricotta cheese or melted in a sauce with the sauce itself.

Syracuse, the most beautiful polis
Defined by the French writer Guy de Maupassant as “a strange and divine museum of architecture”, Sicily is home to various archaeological sites, which testify to the ancient magnificence of its colonies. A good place to start is Syracuse, which boasts a thousand-year history to discover by visiting the monumental complexes and the most famous architectures. Syracuse was officially founded in 734 BC. as a colony of the Greek Corinth. In a relatively short time it became one of the most important and populous metropolis of Magna Graecia, rivaling only Athens.

To date, the Archaeological Park of Neapolis in Syracuse is a very important area of ​​the city, which proudly houses numerous finds of ancient origin. All the remains are direct testimony of a past on the traces of Magna Graecia and Ancient Greece, including the beautiful Greek Theater of Syracuse.

For the cuisine, even in Syracuse as in all of Sicily, the dishes are the result of the intertwining and influence of numerous cultures and peoples who have colonized the island over the centuries. The most typical types of pasta in these parts are cavatelli, short pasta engraved in the middle to better collect the sauce, ricotta ravioli and Sicilian macaroni. Also very popular are the fried pasta, with garlic, anchovies and breadcrumbs and pasta with Moorish sauce based on tuna bottarga, cinnamon, orange juice and lemon. As for the main courses, the fish is the master. In this regard, a typical dish of the area is matalotta, a fish soup served with toasted bread. The history of this dish is very old, in fact the name derives from the French matelote, which means precisely fish stew prepared with wine and onions.

How to plan a trip to Magna Graecia
Southern Italy has invested heavily in tourism in recent years, with consequent improvements in terms of organizational ease and hospitality on site. However, if time is short, perhaps it is best to seek the assistance of agencies that specialize in creating personalized individual holidays in this area to suit your specific interests, like Sicily & Beyond.

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