Nestled in the mountains of southern Italy, the town of Acri is situated within the modern province of Cosenza, which historically was part of the Calabria Citra province, in the Calabria region—the southernmost region of mainland Italy. Adjacent to the Sila National Park, Acri is known for its scenic beauty and rich historical background.

Historical Background

Founding and Early History: Acri was established in prehistoric times upon three mountain tops, providing a strong defensive position at an elevation of 2,360 feet. The town overlooks the Mucone and Chàlamo rivers, and there is evidence suggesting it may have originally been a Greek settlement.

Second Punic War: During the Second Punic War, Acri sided with Hannibal and the Carthaginians against the Roman Republic. This act of defiance led to a Roman siege in 203 BC as a form of punishment.

Medieval and Later History: Over the centuries, Acri faced numerous sacks during the various conflicts that arose as kingdoms and empires came and went after the fall of the Roman Empire. 

Present Day

Nestled in the heart of Calabria, in the province of Cosenza, lies the charming town of Acri. With its rich history, beautiful landscapes, and cultural treasures, Acri is a hidden gem that offers visitors a unique glimpse into the heart of southern Italy.

Acri dates back to the pre-Roman era and has been inhabited by various civilizations throughout its history. Its strategic location, nestled between the mountains and the sea, has made it an important center of trade and commerce since ancient times. Over the centuries, Acri has been ruled by different powers, including the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Normans, each leaving their mark on the town’s architecture and culture.

Iconic Landmarks

Castle of Acri: One of the most iconic landmarks in Acri is the Castle of Acri, a medieval fortress that dominates the town’s skyline. Built in the 11th century by the Normans, the castle served as a military stronghold and played a crucial role in defending the town from invading forces. Today, the castle is open to visitors, offering a unique glimpse into the town’s past and spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli: Another must-visit attraction in Acri is the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, a beautiful baroque-style church that dates back to the 17th century. The church is known for its stunning frescoes and artwork, including the masterpiece “Madonna della Neve” by Giovanni Battista Lama. Visitors can also admire the church’s magnificent bell tower, which is one of the tallest in Calabria.

Architectural and Cultural Heritage

Palazzi Nobiliari: One of the unique features of Acri is its “palazzi nobiliari,” a series of ornate, historic palaces that line the town’s main street. These palaces were built by wealthy merchants and aristocrats during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, and today they serve as a testament to Acri’s rich cultural heritage.

Natural Beauty and Outdoor Activities

Breathtaking Natural Scenery: Aside from its historical and cultural treasures, Acri is also famous for its breathtaking natural scenery. The town is surrounded by lush forests, rolling hills, and verdant valleys, making it a paradise for nature lovers and hikers. One of the most popular hiking trails in the area is the “Sentiero delle Ginestre,” a scenic route that offers stunning views of the Mediterranean and the surrounding countryside.

Culinary Delights

Food and Wine: When it comes to food and wine, Acri is a gastronomical paradise. The town is renowned for its local delicacies, such as “Nduja,” a spicy spreadable salami, and “Caciocavallo Silano,” a tangy, aged cheese. Visitors can also sample the town’s excellent wines, including the robust “Cirò” red wine and the crisp “Greco di Bianco” white wine.

Quirky and Fascinating Trivia

Palio degli Asini: In addition to its rich history, culture, and natural beauty, Acri also has its share of quirky and fascinating trivia. For example, the town is home to the “Palio degli Asini,” an annual donkey race that dates back to the 17th century. The race, which takes place in August, is a festive event that attracts visitors from all over Italy.

Antonio Gramsci: Another interesting fact about Acri is that it is the birthplace of Antonio Gramsci, one of Italy’s most influential Marxist philosophers and political theorists. Gramsci was born in Acri in 1891 and went on to become a key figure in the Italian Communist Party, advocating for workers’ rights and social justice.

Conclusion

Acri is a town that offers something for everyone, from history buffs and culture vultures to nature enthusiasts and foodies. Whether you’re exploring the medieval castle, admiring the baroque art, hiking in the hills, or indulging in the local cuisine, Acri is a town that will captivate your heart and leave you with lasting memories.

For those who are interested in learning more about Acri’s rich history and cultural heritage, the town offers a variety of guided tours and cultural events throughout the year. Visitors can explore the town’s museums and art galleries, attend traditional festivals and celebrations, and even take part in local workshops and cooking classes.

If you’re planning a trip to southern Italy, be sure to put Acri on your list of must-visit destinations. With its stunning scenery, rich history, and vibrant culture, Acri is a town that will enchant and delight you at every turn. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready for an unforgettable journey to one of Italy’s most charming and unique towns.