What to See in San Giovanni in Fiore

San Giovanni in Fiore

San Giovanni in Fiore is in the heart of the Sila National Park. What makes this mountain village so interesting is that it is one of the largest and oldest towns in the Sila Mountains. The town, dating back to the 12th century, when Gioacchino da Fiore founded the Monastery and Abbey of San Giovanni in Fiore. Gioacchino, born in a neighboring Calabrian town, Celico, was a theologian and monk who, according to many, was the most important apocalyptic thinker of the medieval times. Even Dante Alighieri described him as “endowed with prophetic spirit” in the Divine Comedy.

When visiting Sila, a visit to San Giovanni in Fiore is highly recommended. This medieval town offers an enchanting medieval village, sweeping views of the Sila Mountains, and the opportunity to indulge in different ancient traditions.

If you want to get an authentic feel of village life in Calabria, and you love nature then San Giovanni in Fiore is worth a visit, and here are a few things you don’t want to miss while you are there.

San Giovanni in Fiore

Explore the Town

San Giovanni in Fiore is one of those towns that merits walking aimlessly along its cobblestone roads. If you take the time to really explore your surroundings, you’ll be gifted with impressive archways, intricate terraces, and the winding alleyways that take you through the village completely immersed in the lush forest of Sila.

As you make your way through the labyrinth of small walkways in this ancient town, you can’t help but be pulled in, each turn begging you to discover what lies ahead.

For a beautiful view of Sila Grande and the Neto Valley, stop at the outdoor amphitheater – a great place to stop for a snack or just sit back and admire the view.

And don’t forget to look out for the Norman Arch which dates back to the 1200s. Once upon a time. the nearby abbey was surrounded by a wall with a series of arches and this is believed to be one of them.

The Abbey (Abbazia Florense) and Monastery

The abbey, founded in the 12th century by Gioacchino da Fiore, can be found in the historic center. The original abbey was completed in 1198 but it didn’t have a long life after being destroyed by a fire in 1214. It was decided that a new Romanesque style monastery would be built not from the original abbey. It was completed in 1230 and is considered one of the most important religious buildings in all of Calabria. The monastery is dedicated to St. John the Baptist which is also the patron saint of the town and is celebrated on June 24.

San Giovanni in Fiore Abbey

The exterior is quite simple apart from its massive Gothic-style arched door completely carved out of rock and a bell tower. Upon entering the abbey, you are greeted with a long apse with incredible stonework and an impressive large rose window framed by three smaller windows. One thing may surprise you about the interior though, as it’s almost pretty much void of paintings and sculptures. This was done intentionally, however – removing any distractions for those who come to pray.

There are also two chapels, one on each side of the long apse, and a staircase that leads down to the crypt where the remains of Gioacchino di Fiore are kept in an ornamented casket.

Within the abbey, there is also a museum displaying a series of local artifacts and photographs narrating the traditions and ways of life in the Sila region. There is also a large collection of drawings that present the interesting theological views of Gioacchino di Fiore.

“Cona” District

Towards the east of the old town is the oldest district of San Giovanni in Fiore known as “Cona”. It is home to the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Sanità which was built in 1678. The exterior of the church, with its sandstone frame door, may not seem very interesting from the outside. However, you need to take a peek inside because it is filled with beautiful frescos by Calabrian and Neapolitan artists.

Ponte Cona

Another important element to this district is the Ponte della Cona which you can find by following the road (Via Cona/Via Avellino) that leads out of the town towards the Neto River. This bridge was once the only link that the town had to nearby villages, but this bridge has an even more interesting past. It is historically important because it is the very bridge that the Fratelli Bandiera (heroic Italian nationalists during the unification of Italy) passed over after they were captured.

Lake Arvo

A short car ride away (about 30 minutes) is Lake Arvo, the second largest lake in Sila. Next to the lake is the small village resort of Lorica which is a great place to visit offering different types of outdoor activities to suit everyone’s tastes. Here you can choose to follow hiking trails, go horse-riding, or even take a small boat trip around the lake and enjoy the views while breathing in the cleanest air in Europe.

San Giovanni in Fiore is a pleasant 1-hour drive from the city of Cosenza, making it part of a great day trip in Sila if you choose Cosenza as your base.

If you are interested in traveling to Calabria and would love to experience its gorgeous mountain regions, then the Sila National Park and villages such as San Giovanni in Fiore are a great option. We’d love to help you out in planning your next trip to Calabria, contact us here!

Image Credits: Bernardob, Asia 1/2, Horcrux