Visitors to Bova are welcomed in a simple manner and spontaneously by a community that still revisits many memories from its past, so much so that street names are also written in grecanico language (Italiot Greek). The small alleys that suddenly open up into vast outdoor spaces, the sunny piazza which seems designed by De Chirico, uninhabited houses where the landscape floods into empty rooms: Bova is an environment born of light and silence, which calls for calm and reflection.
Bova's viewpoint, located in a panoramic position at 850 metres of altitude, allows to enjoy views of the entire coastline. The village is one of the most important centres of the grecanica island of the province of Reggio Calabria and boasts a long history of which many traces can still be found in the village. An ancient bishopric, it has a cathedral whose original construction dates back to the early centuries A.D. Dedicated to Madonna della Presentazione o “Isodìa”, and the result of subsequent reconstructions and renovation works, the inside has three basilica-type naves.
The most important works are the Cappella del Sacramento (chapel of the Sacrament), made by Sicilian masters specialising in the manufacture of inlaid polychrome marble, and the statue of the Madonna “Isodìa” with Child, attributed to Rinaldo Bonanno (1584), placed on a marble base that reproduces Bova’s municipal coat-of-arms. Excavations have brought to light numerous tombs and the ancient Norman Church.
The Norman Castle, now in ruins, rises on the top of a rocky spur. The church of San Leo has a single nave with side chapels, precious stucco-work of the nineteenth century on the walls and a sumptuous altar in baroque style, which features a polychrome niche with a statue of San Leo (St Leo) in white marble, the work of Pietro Bernini.
Between the alleys there are many elegant buildings that attest to Bova's importance over the centuries. Worthy of a visit is the palazzo Mesiani-Mazzacuva, built at the end of the XVIII century near the town’s ancient defensive structures and destined by the Municipality to become a cultural centre on the Magna Graecia; the palazzo Nesci Sant’Agata (XVIII century), which rises in the main square and is privately owned; and finally palazzo Tuscano (XIX century) in the high part of the inhabited centre, which will house Aspromonte National Park's Visitor Centre.
The origins of the thriving local handicrafts go back to the agro-pastoral tradition and "grecanica” culture, following a long tradition that survives today in certain sectors, such as wood carving (spoons, molds for sweets and cheeses, collars for goats, corset bones), the processing of glass, weaving (blankets, tablecloths, rugs, offcuts). Popular raw materials for weaving are made from wool, linen and especially from the broom plant, gathered on the slopes of Aspromonte and processed naturally by weavers with long manual processes. The decorative fabric pattern displays the Greek cross in general, inspired by the frescoes of the Madonna and Saints in Byzantine churches.
A beautiful long beach with fine sand that alternates with sections of gravel. A small loop which allows to take in the views of the fishermen’s colorful boats, umbrellas, and, at the bottom, in the distance, the Madonnina del Mare, that from the top of Capo San Giovanni (commonly called “Rocca del Capo”) protects everyone.
Between Capo Crisafi, San Giovanni d'Avalos and Amendolea, Bova Marina emerged in relatively recent times by separating from inland Bova. The ancient port of Bova grew as an urban entity itself at the end of the nineteenth century on the bay of Capo San Giovanni D'Avalos; the most elegant promontory of the Ionian Sea.
Bova Marina developed concurrently to the urbanisation of the Ionic coast, determined by a series of advantageous factors, as for example the construction of the railroad, the statale 106 (motorway) and by increasing profitability deriving from cultures in the alluvial plains, progressively rehabilitated and no longer the prey of Turkish invasions that threatened coastlines until the early XIX century.
In 1910, the small village of fishermen became a municipality, progressively inhabited by Bova's citizens, who found it increasingly advantageous to live of the proceeds of the cultivation of Bergamot and later also Jasmine.
Bova Marina is a land rich in history and also one of the most precious archaeological sites of Bovesìa. In fact, it boasts an extraordinary prestige due to findings of an archaeological nature that have come to light in the town of Deri, in the San Pasquale valley. The site, in addition to containing traces of a settlement of the protohistoric period dating back to the X century B.C., preserves the ruins of a Roman villa, an aqueduct and some tombs, and the base of a building dating back to the IV century A.D., identified as a synagogue especially due to the presence of a mosaic floor with symbols of the Jewish iconographic tradition; the Menorah, the shofar, the citrus fruit and the palm leaf. This sinagogue would be the oldest in the West following that of Ostia Antica.
The synagogue stood in a location where there were other buildings, and therefore, it is assumed that a small village existed near the coastal zone, which in olden times linked Reggio with the other places of the Ionian coast.
Bova Marina offers as cultural tourism, the important itinerary of the Archeoderi Archaeological Park, in contrada San Pasquale, where it is possible to visit the whole area around the synagogue and inside the Antiquarium, various finds belonging to the Neolithic, Bronze, Magna Graecian and Byzantine periods, in addition to the valuable Hebrew mosaic.
In addition, going up the valley visitors will encounter the ruins of the Byzantine church of Panaghìa; one of the innumerable places of the itinerary for the worship of Italo-Greek saints of the Byzantine period, which recalls in its circular structure the baptistery of Santa Severina and Cattolica di Stilo.
Evidence of the Byzantine period can be found in the town of Apambelo, on a small hill, that stands between the olive groves and the expanses of broom, through the ruins of another Byzantine treasure; the chiesetta di San Niceto dating back to the X century.
In Bova Marina is the base for the headquarters of the I.R.S.S.E.C. (“Istituto Regionale Superiore Studi Elleno Calabri” or Regional Institute of Calabrian Hellenic Higher Studies) which was recently inaugurated. Inside it is possible to embark on a journey to explore the traditions of handicrafts by visiting the Museo della Civiltà Contadina (Museum of Farming Culture) which adds to the town's cultural offer.
The site of Capo San Giovanni d'Avalos, Bova's tip is quite impressive. On the crest of the elegant promontory, dedicated by the Greeks to Hercules, today we can find symbolic monuments of the history of this Italo-Greek coast: a “torre cavallara” of the XVI century, a church from the eighteenth century, commissioned by a family of noble benefactors, the Marzano, and a massive bronze statue of the Madonna del Mare (Our Lady of the sea), brought here by helicopter in 1962.
The devotion to the Blessed Virgin, celebrated on the first week of August, with an impressive procession at sea, is tied to the presence of the church dedicated to the Madonna del Porto Salvo, which remained standing at the base of the promontory until, at the end of the XVII century, a violent storm erased its memory.
Going up the course of the San Pasquale river, the road divides into two a site of the Roman period, already known to scholars. Recent excavations conducted on the northern slope of the road axis have allowed to ascertain that this is quite a large residential complex, which can be dated to around III to IV century A.D.
Interesting discoveries were also carried out at the site of the church of Panaghia, whose perimeter walls feature a niche of a great apsidal room from the late antique period.
Products of the agro-pastoral tradition - goat's milk, tomato, olive oil - are the basis of delicacies such as “maccarruni al sugo di capra” (maccheroni with goat-meat sauce), “cordeddi con il sugo” (cordelle pasta with sauce), “tagghiarini con i ceci” (chick-pea pasta), “ricchi di previti con il pomodoro” (small gnocchi-type pasta with tomato sauce), “carne di capra alla vutana” (a Calabrian goat-meat stew). Salami, cheese (made from cow’s, sheep and goat’s milk) and sweets/desserts are excellent in this area. Not to be missed is the “lestopitta”, a pancake of flour and water, fried in oil and eaten hot.