The magnificent Riviera dei Gelsomini, or Costa dei Gelsomini (Jasmine Coast) is Calabria’s southernmost coastal region and is located between the cities of Riace and Locri. Overlooking the Ionian Sea, it is rich in biodiversity and is considered one of the most untouched coastal areas in Italy. The Riviera takes its name from the cultivation of jasmine, a climbing plant that is characteristic of the area which grows prolifically throughout the province of Reggio Calabria.
After being picked from the plants, jasmine flowers were sold by weight and were once used in perfumes. A large volume of the flowers were exported abroad, especially to France. In fact, the jasmine industry was thriving to such an extent that, in 1928, the Experimental Station for Essences and Essential Oils of Reggio Calabria was established. Along with bergamot and other citrus fruits, jasmine plants have long characterised the coasts of Reggio Calabria and constituted an important economic resource for the local inhabitants and the thousands of gelsominaie (jasmine-harvesters) that flocked to the area from neighbouring villages for the harvest.
The coast is home to many bays with low and sandy beaches alternating with high cliffs overlooking the sea. Verdant hills teeming with olive and citrus trees characterise the surrounding area that extends up towards the Aspromonte National Park.
The coastal landscape is dominated, for the most part, by long and extensive beaches of white sand mixed with pebbles which are intersected by the mouths of the numerous rivers that descend from the hills. Its wide beaches are frequently awarded the prestigious blue flag from Legambiente (an Italian environmental organisation), confirming the absolute purity of the seawater, which is among the cleanest and clearest in Calabria.
The Riviera contains 42 villages that preserve the beauty of unspoilt locations steeped in history, legend and traditions.
The first tourist destinations just south of the Allaro torrent are Caulonia Marina, Roccella Ionica and Marina di Gioiosa Ionica. Further south is the small plain of Grotteria which is the gateway to the geographical heart of the Riviera dei Gelsomini including the towns of Siderno and Locri, an ancient colony founded in the 7th century BC, and the small towns of Sant'Ilario allo Ionio, Ardore Marina and Bovalino.
Just south of the Bonamico River, the most important river of the Aspromonte massif, you will encounter the southern stretch of the Costa dei Gelsomini, which ends at Capo Spartivento. This area includes seaside resorts such as Africo, Bianco, Brancaleone Marina and Capo Ferruzzano with its characteristic cliffs that break the monotony of the landscape.
The Riviera dei Gelsomini has been inhabited by humans since antiquity and contains important evidence from the past within the Archaeological Park of Epizephyrian Locris and in the excavations of ancient Kaulonia, as well as in the medieval villages of Gerace, home to more than one hundred churches, and Stilo with its famous church of the Cattolica.
The Archaeological Park of Epizephyrian Locris is situated on the borders of the sacred area of Marasà and is a sort of open-air museum that includes, among other attractions, the theatre dating back to the 4th century BC and the sanctuary of Zeus.