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    Palmi - Jewel of the Olive Tree

    Set like a jewel among the rocks of Mount Sant'Elia, Palmi enjoys a magnificent natural setting, surrounded by seas and mountains that form a wonderful natural background. The town lies at the foot of monte Sant'Elia, which allows visitors to observe the enchanting view of the horizon and the sketched contour of the Aeolian Islands and Sicily.

    From monte Sant'Elia, which with its terraces and panoramic viewpoints overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea is one of Calabria’s most breathtaking places, it is possible to admire Stromboli and the islands; looking north, instead, the green Gioia Tauro Plain can be seen, while southwards, the infinite shadows of the Costa Viola (Violet Coast) and the Tonnara bay near the iconic “rock of the olive tree” can be admired. The reef naturally divides the area characterised by the terraced hills called “Giardini di Pietra” (stone gardens) from the “bosco degli ulivi” (olive tree forest).

    Palmi’s entire coast, where the Marina and the Bay of Tonnara are located, is enriched by marine and coastal caves, beaches and cliffs.

    View of Palmi

    The origins of Palmi are very ancient, dating back to Ancient Greece. The name of the town derives from the many palm trees that, together with century-old olive trees, stood in the area. The area was inhabited since the Bronze and Iron Age, but the town probably emerged in the 10th century as a refuge for refugees from nearby Taureana, destroyed by the Saracens. Exploring the neolithic caves of the grandiose monastic-Byzantine rock settlement of Tarditi is an exciting journey, surrounded by myths, legends and tales of buried treasure. The proximity to the sea has favoured the development of commerce, industries and tourism, which are increasingly growing. In fact, Palmi is today one of the main tourist destinations in the province of Reggio Calabria.

    A large number of events take place in Palmi and above all, the “Varia di Palmi”; a religious and popular event of extraordinary importance, such as to be promoted by the UNESCO as an intangible world heritage in the category “celebrations of big shoulder-borne processional structures”. Palmi’s events mostly take place in summer, which starts in mid-July and ends in early September comprising, among others, religious festivities, festivals, musical concerts and theatrical performances as well as firework displays and the “Fiera di San Rocco”.


    La Varia di Palmi

    Every five years in Palmi, on the last Sunday of August, festivities are held in honour of the Madonna della Lettera (Our Lady of the Sacred Letter) and the fascinating procession of “Varia”; a votive machine that is brought by worshippers through the town’s streets. Palmi’s “Varia” is one of Calabria’s most important religious festivities.

    The event has been listed since 2013 under the category of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO. The “Varia”, imported from nearby Messina since 1582, was originally called “Bara” or “Vara”. The supporting structure is that of a large wagon with a pyramidal shape, built using mainly wood. It is conceived choreographically in such a way as to represent the Assumption of Mary into heaven. The presence of living figures gives uniqueness to the religious representation and at the same time contributes to creating that atmosphere of expectation and pathos that distinguishes the entire duration of the “procession”. At the top of the structure we find the Animella, a girl from Palmi who represents the Madonna, a figure full of religious and anthropological implications. The girl sits at the top of a pole that represents the culminating part of the wagon and is suspended at 15 metres high, while she smiles and continues to bless the town’s crowd, enduring the jolts and ups and downs of the route. She is held by God’s hand; the man who sits a little lower hold her firmly, reassuring her both symbolically and specifically with his presence.

    The people participate and emotionally reciprocate, following the fate of the soul with heartfelt inspiration. The wagon is wrapped in a cloud of silver cardboard that masks the underlying structure, on which other boys and girls who represent the angels of Paradise sit, while the other interpreters representing the apostles are positioned at the foot of the wagon. Further down are the carriers, positioned barefoot along the five beams fixed to the base of the structure (cippu) which supports the entire scaffolding. The carriers are the ones who have the very important task of carrying the structure as in the past.

    The structure was designed by a craftsman from Palmi, Giuseppe Militano, who had the idea of building a mechanical wagon in order to bring back the festivities, which were suspended at the end of the nineteenth century following some accidents. In those days the structure of the wagon was much lighter and was transported on the shoulders, making the whole thing not very stable. The craftsman worked for years on a project that could guarantee the re-enactment of the “Varia” without having to compromise on safety, managing to create the “Varia Meccanica”; a structure that after more than a century has protected a centuries-old tradition belonging to the “Italian shoulder-machine network”.

    The Varia


    Olive Tree Rock

    The “Scoglio dell'Ulivo” (the olive tree rock) is Palmi’s symbol, so much so that it was immortalised in a stamp issued in 1987. The rock that is home to this specific plant is located just a few metres from the coast and in local dialect, the rock is known with the name of “Luvareddhra”. The plant is a natural “unique sculpture”, visually intriguing with its many effects, formed by the specific intertwining of its branches, roots and by the trunk itself, twisted and smoothed by time, embellished by matter, shaped by nature, uncontested for centuries, made of wind, salt, sun and rain.

    According to legend, in the distant past, before a divine force chained them to the Mediterranean caves, the Aeolian Islands roamed the sea. Immediately after they were created, large incandescent boulders sank down from the peaks as the sea boiled and bubbled. The Aeolian Islands saw the first olive trees and fell in love with them, so much so that they moved to the coast in front of Palmi, longing for a single branch. It was then that a compassionate bird chose the smallest of the islands and dropped an olive seed on it. Today the olive tree lives on this small island with its roots is chained to the seabed of a mysterious and secret valley.

    Olive Tree Rock


    Swordfish Beach

    Palmi’s Spiaggia della Tonnara, which overlooks the Tyrrhenian Sea, owes its name to an ancient “tonnara”, built in the early 1900s for swordfish fishing. This is a beautiful white sandy beach, almost 2 kilometres long, nestled in the bay of the same name. The beach has what remains of the symbol of Tonnara di Palmi, or the imposing Olive Rock; a rock in the middle of the sea that can be reached by swimming, on which there is a solitary olive tree. To the north there are traces of an ancient cliff overlooked by the mountainous stronghold of Sant’Elia, which seems to take the form of a crouching lion.

    The sea that bathes this beach is wonderful, turquoise in colour, with pristine water and the rich seabed is an irresistible attraction for divers and snorkelers. In the surrounding area there are many sea caves, including Grotta della Sirena, Grotta dell’Arcudace and Grotta Perciata.

    Spiaggia della Tonnara

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