A seaside resort of the Low Tyrrhenian near Cosenza, the village of Amantea is perched on an outcrop, that for centuries was strategic from a military point of view. The new part of the town is spread along the coast, while the old center was founded more inland between the surrounding hills.
There is no certain documentation on the origins of this center, whose roots are probably earlier to the Greek presence in Calabria. Evidence reports that between the IV to the XI century A.D., the area was inhabited by Byzantines, Arabs and Normans, that have all left traces of their presence. Under the Swabians (XIII century), the city expanded with the construction of new buildings, including a fortified watchtower and the Monastery of San Francesco (approx. 1222). In 1416, after years of hard struggles and revolts, the D'Aragona, in order to have a better control of the territory, decided to exempt the residents from the payment of customs fees in all ports of the kingdom. In 1424 the city was declared a Royal Harbour, which meant that it could not be sold or ceded as fief. Around 1528, Emperor Charles V erected strong walls from the castle to the sea, making of Amantea a military fortress of considerable importance. In 1630 the viceroy was forced to sell all the State-owned towns, including Amantea, but the citizens, in order to defend their freedom, gathered the money to cancel the purchase contract. In 1806 it was one of the main center of resistance to the occupation of the French troops of Joseph Bonaparte.
The historic center features a typical XVI-XVII century imprint, except for the medieval fortress. The town is divided a main road that descends to the sea, from which unfold short stairways and alleys that end into small plazas and squares.
Not to miss:
- the Castle built in the XII century on the site of a previous Byzantine fortification. It features an irregular quadrangular plan with corner towers and was characterized in the past by a defensive ditch and a stone bridge on the North and West sides. The current appearance is the result of the rebuilding during the Norman period and renovations completed in 1545, made under Charles V;
- Church of St. Bernardino of Siena, with an adjoining convent founded in 1436 by the Minor Observant Friars. Its cusp façade is preceded by a cloister with portico with five arches of stone, which was originally decorated with a rare decoration of Arab-Sicilian bill, currently preserved at the Museum of Reggio Calabria. The interior features two naves and preserves several statues of the XIV-XVI centuries, including a Madonna by Antonello Gagini (1505);
- the XVI century Oratory of the Archconfraternity of the Immaculate Conception, located near the Church of San Bernardino, which houses a marble altarpiece in high relief depicting the Adoration of the Magi Kings by Pietro Bernini;
- the Mother Church of San Biagio, built in 1677, which features a monumental XVIII century altar with a gilded wood frame in which are carved flowers and shells, an artwork of the craftsmen of Cosenza, that was previously exposed in the Church of St. Elias the Prophet, annexed to the College of Jesuits;
- the ruins of a Franciscan Convent, built in 1216, probably of Basilian origins. At present of the adjacent Church remain only the dome with an octagonal central lantern, part of the interior decorated with stucco elements of the XVIII century, part of the perimeter walls of the aisles and the triumphal arch;
- the XVII century Palace of the Poor Clares.