Comune di Santo Stefano in Aspromonte
This characteristic mountain village stands on a rocky spur of the Gallico torrent, located on the Tyrrhenian side of the Aspromonte area. According to most historians, its origin is rather ancient, dating back to the Byzantine period, when monks from the Calabrian coasts migrated to Aspromonte while trying to escape pirate raids. The history of this town seems to be closely linked to the development of the Monastery of Saint John in Castaneto, which acted as a propeller for Italian Greek spirituality from 1100 on.
The local vegetation – consisting of olive and chestnut trees in the area below 1000 metres from sea level and of beech, pine and fir trees past that altitude – is an undoubtedly fascinating sight. In the mesmerizing landscape which discloses itself before wayfarers, the green hue of the vegetation tones down to the navy-blue of the sea of the Strait of Messina, with its scenic view of Mount Etna and Sicily.
Among the monuments to visit is the Cathedral dedicated to St. Stephen the Protomartyr, which still presents its original 18th-century Greek-cross plan despite the works of complete restoration it had to undergo after the 1908 earthquake and a fire in 1934. In the valley of the Gallico torrent, close to Santo Stefano, the remains of the apse of the Church of Saint Silvestro are still visitable: they are accessible by way of two narrow paths, one beginning in Podargoni, the other close to the Basilicò Barracks in Gambarie. The last-mentioned is a renown tourism destination, a hamlet of the town of Santo Stefano sited at more than 1300 metres above sea level. Gambarie is not only a quaint ski resort, offering its visitors a breathtaking landscape and more than 10 kilometres of differently-leveled ski slopes, but also a pleasant summer location where tourists can take long walks in woods full of beech, fir, pine and alder trees, or among the majestic poplars of the so-called “Fairy Woods”. There are many attractions and pleasant sights in this area, such as the Tre Aie fountain and the Basilicò Forest Reserve, a nature sanctuary hosting plenty of plants and animal species, such as pheasants, boars, peacocks and fallow deers. The Garibaldi Cippus, a monument to the 1862 battle of Aspromonte, is also worth the visit.