Mendicino is located at the foot of picturesque Mount Cocuzzo, a mountain referred to by Homer in the adventurous journey of Odysseus.
This charming village contains terraced alleyways, open spaces, and ancient palazzos brimming with historic stories and traditions that still live on today thanks to the commitment of the local administrations. Sericulture remains the village’s most well-known tradition and is the reason why Mendicino is often known as the village of Silk.
To explore this rich territory, start from the top of Mount Cocuzzo, the highest peak of the Paolano Apennines. From there you will be able to marvel at the breath-taking views over one of the most characteristic landscapes of Calabria.
Mount Cocuzzo is one of the sections of the Sentiero Italia CAI (Italian Alpine Club Trail) and can be accessed by hiking enthusiasts via a beechwood forest and then across an uncovered stretch amidst outcrops of the Dolomites and a large karstic sinkhole.
The enchanting path then opens up, leaving behind the olive groves and vineyards to enter the chestnut woods, then the pinewoods, and then the forest of beech trees. From the top of Mount Cocuzzo, on clear days you can admire Stromboli and Mount Etna, Sila, and Mount Pollino. One side gives stunning views over the sea, whereas from the other you can appreciate the Crati Valley.
The ancient Natural Caves of Alimena, located on the rocky ridge overlooking the river Acheron, should also be on your list of must-visit attractions. The caves are the subject of several legends that tie them to Alaric, king of the Visigoths who led the sack of Rome. He and his treasure are said to have been buried in the area after his death near Cosenza in 410 AD. Inside the caves you will find evidence of its ancient visitors.
As you descend towards the town of Mendicino, you will encounter the Parco Fluviale, a veritable green oasis just a stone’s throw from the historic centre. The park’s man-made landscape blends in perfectly with the natural one including the Caronte valley and the lavish Botanical Garden.
The Park is a living symbol of the history of a community with ancient ties to water which starts at the wheels of the mills and the millstones and continues to the ancient Filanda Gaudio (Gaudio Spinning Mills) and the charming Museo Dinamico della Seta (Dynamic Silk Museum). The museum itself gives a modern portrayal of the knowledge of the past when families lived off silkworm breeding and mulberry tree cultivation.
The medieval village of Mendicino is best explored on foot.
Starting from Piazza Municipio, as you stroll through the narrow streets of the historic centre you will reach Piazzetta San Giuseppe and its Amphitheatre, a simple and modern structure that can accommodate up to 200 people with a chessboard floor as a stage.
The Piazzetta di San Giuseppe is also home to the wonderful Palace of Gaudio Campagna. During the 19th century, the Palace was a centre for high culture as it was inhabited by the poet Giuseppe Campagna, who wanted to attract the best intellects of the time to Mendicino.
In the Piazza del Duomo, you can admire the majestic ancient Church of San Nicola, which has a facade of pink Mendicino tufa stone and is attached to the bell tower. Right in front of the cathedral is the small and charming Church of San Sebastiano which features a facade of Mendicino pink stone and a particularly striking tufa stone portal. The church is also the site of a confraternity.
Within the ancient Rione Castello district, which follows the route of the ancient boundary wall, you will encounter the town’s oldest houses as well as the Clock Tower which was built on what were the last ruins of the ancient castle. The Clock Tower perches on top of the hill from which you can take in breath-taking views of the surrounding landscape. The building has the appearance of a crenellated tower with clocks placed on the sides and can be accessed by a long staircase of 132 steps carved into the rock. Although the exact date of its construction is unknown, the Tower definitely existed in its current form as early as 1838.
Also worth mentioning is the Sanctuary of Santa Maria dell'Accoglienza. Located in the upper part of the village, it was one of the jubilee requests for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy called in 2015 by Pope Francis. It features a Gothic style front and the typical colours of Mendicino stone.
The Parco Fluviale Tre Valloni is a point of natural and environmental interest.
The valley of the river Caronte has recently been redeveloped, upgraded, and made accessible thanks to a well-equipped, illuminated pathway with rest points, refreshment areas, and panoramic terraces. It runs along the length of the river and gives visitors the chance to admire the area’s many waterfalls and ancient rural buildings such as the mill, the oil mill, and various spinning mills. There is also an attractive botanical garden that houses a wide variety of trees and plants with explanatory panels describing their characteristics.
The path leads to the ancient Filanda Gaudio, where visitors can observe the authentic working tools used for traditional sericulture and visit the interesting Museo Dinamico della Seta.
The Parco Fluviale has been perfectly incorporated into the urban environment of the historic centre and represents an extraordinary combination of nature, art, culture, and tradition.
The Museum, which opened in December 2015, was established with the aim of protecting and disseminating the centuries-old practices and expertise of traditional sericulture.
The exhibition space is spread across two floors at the historic Filanda Gaudio (Gaudio Spinning Mill). On the ground floor visitors can admire the authentic furnace from which the silkworm secretions were extracted and then transformed into textile fibres; the upper floor displays work tools, wooden reels and mangles, the processing bench, various machines used for processing raw silk as well as a multimedia space with audio-visual materials that provide valuable insights from people who experienced the birth and the rise of the Spinning Mill.
The restoration of the Filanda Gaudio has made it one of Mendicino's highlights and is part of an extensive project to recover the silkworm breeding industry itself. The project aims to revive an eco-compatible city economy focussed on the well-being of the community.
Radicamenti is a cultural festival promoted by the municipal administration of Mendicino with the aim of creating new spaces for collaborations, socialisation, and artistic fruition.
Every year the festival hosts cultural meetings and artistic events held in the picturesque historic centre. The events take place all the way from the splendid Palazzo Del Gaudio-Campagna up to Mount Cocuzzo, the emblem of this region located over a thousand metres above sea level.
The programme of events follows a pleasant route that meanders its ways through the ancient Palazzo Campagna, the Silk Museum, Piazza Duomo, the San Giuseppe Amphitheatre, Piazza Municipio, the Clock Tower, and the winding alleys of the charming historic centre. The Parco Fluviale is also part of the route and during the festival it is open to families during the day and to music and entertainment enthusiasts during the evenings.
The final day at Mount Cocuzzo aims to promote the beauty of this extraordinary setting to a wide audience and allows spectators to spend an entire day in the great outdoors. The final concert takes place against a background of the sun setting over the Tyrrhenian Sea.
There are many themed musical concerts, not only by local artists but also by performers who have been able to revive the popular genre whilst remaining firmly attached to tradition. The festival, which takes place every year between the end of August and the beginning of September, also includes initiatives to promote the silk industry, artistic installations organised in collaboration with the Comics Museum of Cosenza, and screenings in synergy with La primavera del Cinema Italiano.
As demonstrated by the numerous ovens scattered throughout the town, Mendocino is a bread city and also has an important dairy tradition.
The abundance of chestnut trees in the woods surrounding the town has given rise to the characteristic Chestnut Festival which, every year, allows visitors to sample the local chestnuts and many of the town's traditional dishes.
The essence of the local gastronomic tradition is most evident on 13 December. For the occasion, a Cuccìa is cooked in Piazza Municipio in honour of Saint Lucy. The dish, containing thirteen different cereals and legumes, follows an ancient recipe and is cooked in a large pot known as a quadara. The community eats the Cuccìa together on the afternoon of Saint Lucy’s day.