Its ideal location in the Pollino National Park lets visitors enjoy breath-taking panoramic views as well as numerous routes within the park itself. Plant lovers must pay a visit to the Difisella botanical garden where you can take a guided tour to discover a wide variety of medicinal herbs.
Alessandria del Carretto has remained a rare oasis of well-being and tranquillity where visitors can enjoy taking some time out in peace and rediscovering the flavours of days gone by, all whilst surrounded by gloriously unspoilt nature.
Palazzos with exposed stone facades add colour to the streets of the old town centre. In the centre itself, you may well come across artisanal woodworkers who are particularly well-known for their carved ladles. The characteristic town centre and the botanical garden, which overlooks the upper part of the village, lend themselves perfectly to leisurely walks. As you stroll along you might even be able to detect the aromas of the traditional cuisine as they pass through the alleyways. Murals with various themes, created during the Radicazioni Festival, decorate the cobbled streets of the old town.
Just a few kilometres from the town, near Mount Sparviere, you can stop at one of the picnic areas and immerse yourself in the beauty of the natural landscape as you relax on the banks of the small artificial lake of Piano Pichino.
Dotted throughout the territory are numerous churches steeped in history and art. Particularly noteworthy is the Mother Church dedicated to the patron saint Alexander, which was built in the 17th century. A priceless entrance portal is built into the facade and the left side of the building features a square bell tower. The interior is divided into three naves.
Alessandria del Carretto is one of the most characteristic villages of the region because of its ability to promote the most ancient and traditional elements of the territory through festivals, events, and cultural centres.
During the Feast of the Pita, which takes place in the high mountains on the border with Basilicata, the Alessandrians host tourists in their homes and serve them the delicacies of the period. All the Alessandrians, and many others, meet in Spinazzeta to begin the journey that will see a large trunk of silver fir cut down in the woods and manually carried back to the village using the sheer strength of their arms.
The Carnevale Alessandrino (Alessandrian Carnival), an event known for a magical mask with a controversial history, attracts scholars, photographers, and spectators alike to the village. The Połëcënellë, in their colourful and precious costumes, parade through the streets of the village performing propitiatory dances, fascinating both visitors and the local community in the process.
Radicazioni, the Festival of Traditional Cultures, is held in Alessandria del Carretto in August. The streets come alive with artists, music, and theatrical performances. The festival is also an opportunity to discuss any issues in the village, and conferences and discussions take place in a bid to find solutions.
The Carnevale Alessandrino is an ancient and unique rite in which masks linked to the local culture are worn and paraded through the streets. The wearers of the masks are known either as u’ pohicinelle bielle or 'u pohicinelle brutte.
The former is dressed in white trousers, light-coloured shirts, amphibious feet and wears a white painted mask with a rosy and anonymous face similar to a traditional Italian mask. Completing the costume is a little hat, an artificial artistic creation embellished with colourful ribbons and rosettes, feathers, medals, medallions, embroidered handkerchiefs, and various decorations.
The finishing touch on the mask is the u scruiazzo, a wooden stick with engravings carved by local carpenters. This particular mask brings joy and good humour to the homes in the village and during the procession flour is thrown to resemble confetti.
The ugly mask, on the other hand, which also goes by the name of l’Uerse, consisted of a disguise made of goatskin or black sheepskin, with chains and cowbells.
This mask represented evil, ugliness, and arrogance and, in this instance, ash was thrown as confetti.
Although the ugly mask has now disappeared from the carnival, it has certainly not disappeared from popular memory. The ‘U pohicinelle bielle continue to take part year after year and their unusual beauty has made them a talking point throughout the world.
The feast of the Pita, in English the Feast of the Fir, is an ancient celebration in the village of Alessandria del Carretto which dates back to the 1700s. The feast takes place in various stages and is linked to the festival held on 3 May in celebration of the village’s patron saint, Alexander Pope Martyr, who is given a silver fir tree as a gift.
On the second Sunday in April, in the mountains of the Pollino Massif on the border between Calabria and Lucania, a fir tree at least two metres tall is selected, cut down, divided into two parts and then cleaned. Then, early in the morning on the last Sunday of the month, the tree is prepared to be transported by foot to the village. Sticks are attached to the trunk with special ropes made of twisted branches. These act as handles to be slung over the shoulder or held in the hand as it is carried. The transportation of the tree is coordinated by the so-called oarsman who sits on the trunk to encourage the people carrying the tree and to ensure that they are working in sync. Food, wine, and dances are enjoyed along the way and the sounds of traditional songs, accordions, shawms, tambourines and bagpipes can be heard for the entire journey. The participants arrive in the village in the evening, when the festivities are in full swing in Piazzetta di San Vincenzo.
The next morning, the top of the trunk, decorated with gifts and typical products, is raised like a “greasy pole”. After the celebration of the Mass and the procession the competition to climb the fir tree using only the arms and legs begins. Prizes are awarded for the best climbers.
Once the competition is finished, the Pita is knocked down and its fall is greeted with a round of applause. Spectators often collect a small branch of the tree with leaves as a souvenir of the day.
Radicazioni an international festival of traditional cultures which is held in Alessandria del Carretto in August.
The festival brings together artists and musicians from all over Italy and abroad.
During this three-day festival, some of the artists wanted to leave a mark of their passage and thus created murals representing typical scenes of the festive and daily life of Alessandria.
Radicazioni has grown to become a remarkable event within its genre and attracts many visitors and spectators from Calabria and beyond.
Typical Calabrian dishes were born from the simple cuisine of peasant origin.
And it is this same simple and rustic style that characterises the dishes and products of Alessandria.
Typical products from the village include the white soppressata, a refined sausage made from the leanest pork meat without nerves, stewed leg of turkey or lamb, and delicious calzones made with ricotta cheese.