In addition to its natural beauty, Laino Borgo has a rich architectural and cultural heritage thanks to the numerous churches dotted around the territory. Among these is the Sanctuary of the Madonna dello Spasimo, also known as the Sanctuary of the Chapels, which is an important place of worship and major pilgrimage destination characterised by its small chapels, and faithful reproductions of the holy places of Jerusalem. The Chiesa Santo Spirito, the mother church, is another of the village's churches.
Many folk and popular traditions have stood the test of time including La Giudaica and Paliu cu i Ciucci, which make Laino Borgo one of the most visited villages within the Pollino National Park. In particular, La Giudaica has been performed on Good Friday for about four centuries. About 200 actors, all local, take part in the performance which is divided into 19 scenes that recreate the Passion of Christ.
From the centre of Laino Borgo, if you lift your gaze towards the bell tower you can admire the remains of one of the most characteristic ghost towns in Calabria: Laino Castello.
This cluster of narrow streets and ruined houses clinging to the central church is perched on a rocky hill about 270 metres above sea level.
Very little remains of the fortress and its walls, but the inhabited area, abandoned in the early 80s, is still standing along with its steep streets and crumbling gates, towers and fortifications.
In addition to the ruins, on the side of the hill you will find a series of natural caves used in the Byzantine period by the monks and, later, used as houses.
Every year during the Christmas period, visitors flock to Laino Castello to see the Living Nativity scene which is staged between the caves dug into the rock and the streets of the abandoned old town centre. Thanks to its surroundings, the scene looks more realistic than ever.
After years of complete abandonment, the municipal administration has launched an innovative hospitality project known as Albergo Diffuso which is firmly rooted in the local territory and culture.
The project aims to make use of renovated empty houses to accommodate tourists.
In the small historic centre, the Conca Rossa of Santa Gada is the perfect area to stay and eat in a place where time seems to have stopped.
The territory of Laino Borgo is home to numerous caves, some of which are of great archaeological, historical, and botanical interest. Among the most important are the grotte dei briganti (brigands’ caves) which consist of wide yet hidden gorges which were once used as shelters by marauders and robbers and later as refuges for coalmen and patriots. In 1901, the bandit Musolino hid there for six months just before he was captured.
In the village’s difesa area you can admire the wonderful grotta del Capelvenere which is accessed via an arduous yet picturesque path. The cave walls are covered with maidenhair ferns and, at the bottom, a freshwater spring emerges from the cracks in the tuffaceous rock and the moss. Meanwhile, the reflections of the light that shines in from the entrance and from a crack in the vault create an enchanting and harmonious ambiance.
The Lao river, a real treasure of the Pollino National Park, is a popular destination among rafting enthusiasts in Calabria. As you raft along the river accompanied by expert guides, you will experience the thrill of riding the waves of the Pollino National Park’s most important river.
Rafting in Laino Borgo is a unique experience thanks to the wide range of routes on offer. From the simplest courses most suitable for children, to rafting the entire length of the Lao river from the foot of the Pollino to the Tyrrhenian Sea, there is something for everyone.
The village is also an ideal destination for those looking to go trekking or walking surrounded by nature.
The location of the village means there are many different routes to choose from. Whether you are looking for a gentle walk along the Lao river to the mouth of the canyon or whether you'd prefer a long hike up Mount Gada, which offers a wonderful viewpoint over the Tyrrhenian coastline and the Gulf of Policastro, the choice is yours.
Accompanied by Pollino National Park guides, you can explore the enchanting paths that traverse the most hidden places, the woods, and the peaks of the massif.
The Iannello River is the ideal place to try your hand at canyoning in the Pollino Park.
With the help of experienced guides, you will navigate the river as you slide along the surfaces of the rocks smoothed by the currents. You can also descend the numerous waterfalls or, if you’re a real thrill seeker, dive from considerable heights into the crystal clear lakes.
The aquatic excursions on offer are very enjoyable and are suitable for all abilities.
On Good Friday, Laino Borgo transforms into Southern Jerusalem when it gives a popular historical and religious theatrical performance of the passion of Christ. La Giudaica: the trial of Jesus, taken from an ancient 17th century manuscript, recreates the trial, condemnation, and crucifixion of Jesus and is performed every two years.
It takes place in the streets and squares of the old town and lasts about six hours. It is a type of mobile popular theatre and the inhabitants actively participate in it as actors, extras in period costume or in a number of other ways. In fact, every family of Laino Borgo is directly or indirectly involved in preparing and performing the event. It is therefore an important event that brings the community together.
The play consists of 19 scenes located in various parts of the village, which relive the emotions, doubts, fears, and pain of the different parts of the story.
At the end, there is a procession towards the Mother Church.
The Sanctuary of the Chapels, also known as the Sanctuary of the Holy Sepulchre or of Mary the Most Holy of Splendour, is just a stone’s throw from the centre of Laino Borgo and is surrounded by a picturesque area of unspoilt beauty offering the perfect viewpoint to admire the panorama of the Pollino mountains.
According to local tradition, the Sanctuary was built in 1557 by Domenico Longo following a dream in which he had visions of the religious sites of Jerusalem. The devotee travelled to Palestine and returned with drawings to use as guidelines for building the structure. The Sanctuary bears the name of the Madonna dello Spasimo or of the Chapels because originally, small chapels were built there that were accurate reproductions of the sacred places visited by Longo. Over the centuries the number of small chapels have multiplied and today there are 15 of them, one of which is incorporated into the church.
From the cave of Bethlehem to Mount Calvary, from the tomb of Saint Joseph to the tomb of Saint Helena, each chapel, decorated with frescoes and Latin phrases from the Gospel, represents an important place visited by Jesus, Our Lady, and other biblical figures. These little chapels are so small that they can accommodate only one person at a time.
The single-naved church has a simple style and is decorated with a ceiling fresco depicting the Deposition of Christ. The walls feature just two altars dedicated, respectively, to the Holy Trinity and the Baptism of Christ.
The square in front of the Sanctuary is adorned with a fountain in worked stone that was built in 1890 during extension and restoration works. As soon as they enter the Sanctuary, visitors will be struck by the fairy-tale-like and evocative atmosphere of this very special church.