The beauty of the surrounding landscape, its crystal clear sea, the high quality of typical products and its closeness with the Sila mountains make Cariati a highly sought-after tourist location, appreciated by the thousands of people who visit the town every year. The origins of Cariati are very ancient. The antiquity of the settlement was evidenced by archaeological remains of the pre-protohistoric and classical period, found near the town at the beginning of the century. Close to the town walls, clay fragments, dwelling remains, unfinished large amphorae as well as coins from Metapontum, Kroton and the Roman period have been discovered.
Cariati boasts a very well-preserved old town centre, surrounded by mighty walls interspersed with massive towers. Crossing the bridge, where once upon a time there was a drawbridge, visitors can enjoy enchanting views overlooking the town below, an intense blue sea as a backdrop. Another viewpoint not to be missed is the “balconata della Spezieria”, which takes its name from the nearby tower, which is accessed by means of a slope called by the inhabitants of the country “u lavinari ir’ a vadd”.
Via XX Settembre is Cariati's main street, formerly known as Via Duomo as the Cattedrale di San Michele Arcangelo (Cathedral of Archangel St Michael) can be found on it; the cathedral is a rare example of a Neoclassical church with a 17th century bell-tower. Adjacent to the Cathedral is the seventeenth-century Palazzo Vescovile (Bishop's Palace), whose construction begun by Bishop Gonzaga in 1649, was completed by Bishop Barzellino Gerolamo. Other churches of the same period can also be found on the same street. Before leaving the town, worthy of a visit and also on the main street, is the palazzo del Seminario, established by Bishop Gonzaga during the first half of the 17th Century. This impressive building features the coat of arms of the Mantuan family on its façade and is located on one of the eight towers. Porta Pia (Pia Gate) leads to the outside of the town and its walls where visitors are immediately greeted by Cariati’s national monument: chiesa dei Minori Osservanti or di Santa Filomena (Church of the Order of Friars Minor also known as Philomena), dating back to the XV century and built in the late Gothic style. The church was part of the complex belonging to the Franciscan Friars Order of Friars Minor (“Minori Osservanti”). Today, the town’s cemetery can be found between the walls of the old convent. Tomba Bretia (Bretia Tomb), located on a hill close to the sea in the town of Salto, is an "underground chamber” tomb.
The feast of Cariati’s most worshipped saint, San Cataldo vescovo (Bishop St Cathal) is held in May and during the procession, the Saint’s bust is carried on the shoulders of worshippers and then on a float right up to the shrine, where it remains throughout the summer.
Out of devotion or due to a miracle granted some people, wearing rope belts, walk barefoot behind the Saint while others carry the Majo; a wooden pole full of fusiddi and adorned with ribbons and flowers.
San Rocco (St Rocco) is celebrated on 16 August with a typical procession. The statue is loaded onto a "float"" and carried for a long stretch of sea until arriving up to San Cataldo.
Local handicrafts keep the old tradition of hand-made carpets and blankets alive that has been preserved from the time of the raids of the Ottoman Turks. Originally, the fabrics were woven by local women who were deported for a certain period of time in Turkey where they learned this ancient manufacturing art, whose products still constitute a gem in terms of local handicrafts.
Clay-making is also not to be missed, carried out by Cariati’s potters from remote times, which was once a thriving business. Various shops selling rough terracotta items and pottery can be found throughout the town, processed in accordance with the tradition of Cariati’s potters. Cariati has a long shipbuilding tradition of fishing boats, with the presence in the district of a great number of shipwrights.
One of the main attractions of Cariati is its crystal-clear sea, an enchanting and pristine coastline, bordered by Mediterranean scrubland and thick pine forests that precede the shore. Precisely due to the quality of its sea and coastline, Cariati has been awarded the Green Flag for many years; this prestigious award is awarded to the best Italian beaches in terms of hygiene, cleanliness and safety for children, thus offering: crystal clear water, low water near the shore, clean sand, lifeguards for increased safety, services such as bars, ice-cream parlours, restaurants and games nearby.
Near Cariati Marina, it is possible to enjoy many activities: for those who love sports and cycling, there are plenty of routes to be discovered and the town’s cycling club offers tours and cycling trips.
Cariati is a town with a rich culinary tradition. Typical dishes include aubergines stuffed with chopped and salted anchovies, pitted olives in brine, chopped garlic, mollica di pane (breadcrumbs from home-made bread) with olive oil, "ghiotta" alla marinara (fish similar to mackerel which is flavoured with a stew of tomato, capers, celery and olives), the "anchovies Scattiate” (fried anchovies). Typical desserts include, “crustuli", the “fusiddi" and "crispeddi".
Furthermore, Cariati is a centre for the production of "sardella salata” (salted pilchard), the "Calabrian caviar" which is much appreciated worldwide.