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What to see in Italy: Tauriana, the City of Bretti

2021-03-03 16:36

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What to see in Italy: Tauriana, the City of Bretti

Tauriana or Taureana (Taurianum in Latin, Ταυρανία in Greek) was a Brettonian city, located in the southern part of Calabria.

What to see in Italy: Tauriana, the City of Bretti.

Tauriana or Taureana (Taurianum in Latin, Ταυρανία in Greek) was a Brettian city, located in the southern part of Calabria. Its ruins have been located in the territory of Palmi. The name of the city derives from that of the Italic populus that founded it, the Taurians.

The Brettian town, which stood on the south bank of the Metauros river (probably the Petrace), marked the boundary of the territory of Rhegion (Reggio Calabria) on the north-western Tyrrhenian side, beyond which that of Locri Epizefiri began. Later Roman and then Byzantine, Tauriana was destroyed by the Saracens in the mid-10th century. Most of the archaeological finds constitute the Archaeological Park of the Taurians.

Currently it bears the name of Taureana a fraction of the municipality of Palmi.



  • Ancient history
    In ancient times, the area in which Tauriana was located was the northernmost part of the chora of Rhegion. Tauriana was adjacent to the neighbouring city of Metauros, founded in the 7th century BC near the mouth of the river of the same name. The river served, among other things, as a division between the two cities.

    About the foundation of the city, some legends tell of a possible Achaean colonisation of the area where Tauriana was built. Other hypotheses link the birth of the city to the second half of the 4th century B.C., when Brettian groups, who had become autonomous from the Lucanians, reached southern Calabria and conquered several cities: this is the case of centres such as Terina, Hipponion and Petelia.

    Thus, in the Hellenistic period, there was a conquest of the territory south of the Metaurus by a Brettian people, specifically the 'Taurians'.

    The town is mentioned in official documents of the later period, when Livy asserts that in 212 BC, during the Hannibalic war, the Taureans, together with the Cosentines, passed through Bruttium 'under the protection of Rome'. The passage is as follows:

    "eodem tempore in Bruttiis ex duodecim populis, qui anno priore ad Poenos desciverant, Consentini et Tauriani in fidem populi Romani redierunt".


    "At the same time as twelve states in Bruzio, which the previous year by the Carthaginians had rebelled, Consentia and Tauriana were returned to the protection of the Roman people".

    (Titus Livius, Ab urbe cond., XXV, 1, 2)

    With the Romanization of the area, after the social war, the Brettian presence on the territory disappeared and the Taurians, thanks to a good relationship with the Romans, gained a political and administrative autonomy that allowed them to have their own territory, abandoning the condition of subordination to the city of Reghion.

    Cato also tells of the existence of the Taurians, giving an indication of the area in which their territory lay. The border with the territory of Rhegion was given by the river 'Pecoli'. According to some archaeologists, this Catoonian passage would give a historical basis to the legend about the links of Tauriana with the Achaeans.

    Pomponius Mela and Pliny the Elder also wrote of a "city of the Taurians" in the 1st century AD.

    The latter defines it as "Tauroentum oppidum" in the following passage:


    "quod mine Vibonem Valentia appellamus, portus Herculis, Metaurus amnis; Tauroentum Oppidum, portus Orestis et Medma."


    "After Vibo Valentia, which they now call the Port of Hercules, the river Metaurus; the city of Tauriana, the Port of Orestis and Medma."

    (Pliny the Elder, Naturalis historia, XIII, 5, 10)

    The Tavola Peutingeriana, in segment VI, reports the existence of the city of Tauriana in the imperial age. The Anonimo Ravennate also mentions Tauriana in late antiquity as one of the cities located 'near the strait that divides Sicily and Italy'.

    Around the 3rd-4th century, the town became a bishopric. The episcopate ensured, despite the numerous devastations and upheavals, the continuation of the place name Tauriana. In fact, the city followed 'its' bishop in the transfer of its seat or its cultural and religious identity.

    With the passage of the territory under the control of the Eastern Roman Empire, within the Thema of Calabria, Tauriana fell within the area of the "Turma delle Saline".

    Middle Ages

    In the years around 590, Tauriana fell prey to Lombard raids from the Duchy of Benevento. Because of this, the bishop of the town took refuge in Messina and the monks dispersed throughout Sicily).

    Also in the following centuries, Saracen raids occurred, as the city was very exposed, being situated by the sea.

    Between the 7th and 8th centuries, Tauriana was already seriously damaged by a raid carried out either by the Saracens from Africa or by the Longobards.

    Apart from this, very little information has come down to us about the life of the town. What little is known is due to the bios of the life of Saint Fantino the Elder, written in the 8th century by Peter, bishop of the Diocese of Tauriana. Among other things, the bios tells of a Saracen raid, which was followed by the legend of a miracle performed by St. Fantino and the Virgin Mary, following the prayers of the population to the saint's tomb. Following this event, the cult of 'Santa Maria ab alto Mari' was born in the town.

    Also in the 8th century, the nearby town of Metauros was abandoned. As a result, the settlement of Tauriana also expanded on the north bank of the Metauros River.

    In 904 the port of the town hosted a ship carrying the remains of St Elias of Enna from Thessaloniki. Waiting for the coffin were the saint's spiritual sons, who took his remains to the nearby Salinas mountain, where the monk lived most of his life and built a monastery.

    In the last years of its existence, towards the middle of the 10th century, Tauriana, although it had lost its former prosperity and greatness a few centuries earlier, remained the only maritime town on the western side of extreme Calabria, i.e. between the castle of Scylla and the land of Nicotera.

    Since the sea was a prey to pirates, who frequently raided the rivers in the area, people found refuge in the interior, in the mountains and valleys. Therefore the places near the sea remained deserted. So there was no village around Tauriana, and there were only the various monasteries of Basilian monks that stood on Mount Salinas and in the Mercurian territory, where there was a castle called Seminaio or Seminario that later took the name of Seminara.

    Historical sources date the destruction of Tauriana to 951. In that year, the Emir of Palermo Abū l-Qāsim al-Hasan, due to the lack of tribute owed to him by the Byzantines to whom the extreme part of southern Italy belonged, sent fierce militias to Calabria determined to occupy the territory. The emir asked for help from the Caliph of Africa, who promptly sent an army of agareni and a large army, led by Farag Mohadded. Having conquered Reggio Calabria, the militia travelled all over the southern side of Calabria, bringing devastation, looting and massacres everywhere. The inhabitants of Tauriana, having heard of the coming of the Saracens, abandoned the town as it was poorly defensible because it had no defensive walls, was sparsely populated and was still ruined by previous raids. As a result, the population fled to the nearest castles, abandoning Tauriana. In fact, the city was attacked by an army of Agaemen, Moors and Carthaginians who, not finding abundant booty, destroyed it entirely and devastated all the surrounding territory.

    The noble part of the population, with the clergy and the bishop, found shelter in Seminario (Seminara), while the rest of the Taurians, unable to take shelter there, found refuge in Mamertium Oppidum (Oppido Mamertina), Calatrum (Galatro), Quinquefrondium (Cinquefrondi). Others, on the ruins of Sappominulim, began to build the cities of Terranova, San Martino and Pedavoli.

    The part of the Taurians that was dedicated to maritime traffic, finding it uncomfortable in the inland villages, settled near the sea but in the upper part of the coast, between Mount Salinas and the Metaurus River, i.e. above the area of Rovaglioso. In that place there was a district called De Palmis, and the village they built there became in time the present Palmi.

    The lands on which Tauriana stood, formed by vast and depopulated districts, were subjected to the jurisdiction of Seminara, which had remained the only town to rise not far from the sea. Therefore the lands of Tauriana followed the vicissitudes of Seminara until 1632 and, from that year until today, the vicissitudes of Palmi, which had obtained its independence in that year.

    In 1086, Ruggiero I, Count of Calabria, who had established the bishopric of Mileto in 1081, added the territory of the destroyed and abandoned diocese of Tauriana to the latter, since the seat remained empty.

    The city's port lived on until the 18th century. In fact, it is presumed that, in the 11th century, Roger I landed there to disembark in Calabria from Normandy.

    photo below:

    Tabula Peutingeriana: Segmentum VI; representation of the southern end of Calabria and the Strait, with Tauriana highlighted.




The first historical instrument on the research of ancient Tauriana is the book Metauria e Tauriana, written by the scholar Antonio De Salvo at the end of the 19th century, in which the author provides a plan of the still visible ruins.

The first accidental discoveries date from the end of the 19th century. They are mainly concentrated on the Scinà coast and on the plateau of today's Taureana di Palmi and concern the area in the Greek-Italic, Imperial and Byzantine-Medieval periods.

In the nineties of the last century, research led to the identification of the remains of road axes, residential structures, pavement, drainage channels and dolia for foodstuffs, all dating from between the second half of the 4th century BC and the 1st century BC.

photo below:

Plan of the ruins of Tauriana, drawn up in 1886 by the writer Antonio De Salvo.


Taureana of Palmi


Taureana di Palmi is a hamlet of Palmi. It rises on the same plateau where, until 951 A.D., the ancient city of Tauriana or Taurianum was located, from which it takes its name.

The territory of Taureana was the birthplace of Saint Fantino the Elder, the oldest saint in Calabria.

Physical geography

The hamlet is now an important archaeological centre in Calabria, hosting the Taurian Archaeological Park, a 16th century Saracen tower and the San Fantino Complex. Under the latter building is the crypt of San Fantino, the oldest Christian place of worship in Calabria.

The hamlet of Taureana di Palmi stands on a terrace north of the town centre, planted with olive groves and vineyards, overlooking a stretch of the Costa Viola. The built-up area, situated at a height of about 70-80 metres above sea level, rises through a system of cliffs on the plain and on the beaches below, which constitute the Lido di Palmi. Part of the territory of Taureana is included in the list of sites of national interest of the Metropolitan City of Reggio (Metropolitan Area of the Strait) with the name of 'Torre di Taureana'.


After the devastation of the ancient city of Tauriana, which occurred in 951, the first news about the territory dates back to 1086, when the Count of Calabria Roger I of Sicily suppressed the diocese of Tauriana aggregating it to the new diocese of Mileto.

Since then, the little information that has come down to us about the Taureana territory concerns the events linked to the church of San Fantino (as well as the convents and monks linked to it), which was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries due to earthquakes or Saracen raids and the construction, in 1565, of the Pietrenere coastal tower to protect the city of Palmi, destroyed in 1549 by the Turkish pirate Dragut and rebuilt by the feudal lord Carlo II Spinelli.

From the end of the 19th century, the area became a centre of historical and archaeological interest due to the discovery of artefacts and structures linked to ancient Tauriana.

The current quarter was rebuilt in the 1920s after the 1908 earthquake.

Traditions and folklore

Feast of San Fantino, held annually on 24 July with a horseback procession of the icon of the saint from the parish church to the ancient place of worship;
Festa della Madonna dell'Alto Mare (Feast of Our Lady of the High Sea), celebrated annually on the Saturday preceding the last Sunday in July, with a procession of the statue of the Madonna through the streets of the district and into the sea at Lido di Palmi;
Feast of the Guild of Cattlemen, in August. The corporazione dei bovari is one of the five corporations of the Varia di Palmi, a festival included in the UNESCO Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity since 2013.



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