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What to see in Italy: eight finds to visit at the Taurian Archaeological Park

2021-03-02 10:01

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What to see in Italy: eight finds to visit at the Taurian Archaeological Park

The Antonio De Salvo Tauriani Archaeological Park is located in Palmi, in the area where the city of Tauriana once stood.

What to see in Italy: eight finds to visit at the Tauriani Archaeological Park

The archaeological park of the Tauriani 'Antonio De Salvo' is located in Palmi, in the area where the city of Tauriana (or Taureanum) once stood.

The park, which currently covers three hectares, occupies the central part of a plateau overlooking the Costa Viola. It was built with funds from the APQ Beni Culturali Calabria and with financing from the provincial administration of Reggio Calabria and was inaugurated on 17 September 2011.

The park is named after Antonio De Salvo (Palmi, 25 June 1851 - 20 January 1924), a surgeon who made the first archaeological discoveries in the 19th century about the ancient Roman city of Tauriana. In 1885, during the construction of the bridge over the Petrace river of the Gioia Tauro-Palmi-Sinopoli railway, De Salvo found materials from the Neolithic age while, in 1900, he discovered and illustrated weapons and furnishings from the early Iron Age, found in the area called Ponte Vecchio. In 1906 he was appointed honorary inspector of antiquities and fine arts of the Palmi district.

His main works on archaeology are Notizie storiche e topografiche intorno Metauria e Tauriana, published in Naples in 1886, and Ricerche e studi storici intorno a Palmi, Seminara e Gioia-Tauro, also published in Naples in 1899.


The archaeological park of the Tauriani 'Antonio De Salvo' is located in Palmi, in the area where the city of Tauriana (or Taureanum) once stood.

The park, which currently covers three hectares, occupies the central part of a plateau overlooking the Costa Viola. It was built with funds from the APQ Beni Culturali Calabria and with financing from the provincial administration of Reggio Calabria and was inaugurated on 17 September 2011.

Towards the end of the 19th century, fortuitous archaeological discoveries and the drawing up of a topographical map by palmese historian Antonio De Salvo, in which he highlighted the ruins still visible at that time, marked the beginning of a historical-archaeological interest in that plateau where, until 951, the ancient city of Tauriana stood.

In the 20th century, investigations began in the area, not far from the park, where the San Fantino complex stands. However, these investigations increased from 1995, with archaeological excavations carried out by the Superintendency of Archaeological Heritage of Calabria, in collaboration with Italian and foreign universities.

Significant in this period was the systematic and passionate action of a group of volunteers from Palmi, known as the San Fantino Cultural Movement, who had already been involved since 1998 with the official adoption of the San Fantino complex. The volunteers made the park area usable by promoting it through careful and regular care and maintenance followed by free guided tours open to all. The attention and involvement at various levels, and the significant public participation recorded in about twenty years, made it possible to complete the excavation, recovery and study of the area, culminating in September 2011 with the signing of a special three-year agreement with the Superintendency of Reggio Calabria and the Reggio section of Italia Nostra.

Archaeological discoveries

The structures found and highlighted within the park are as follows:

  • a protohistoric village dating back to four thousand years ago
  • urban installations of the city of Tauriana (first Brettonian then Roman);

public, sacred and private architecture such as the 'Mosaic House';
the 'urban sanctuary', known to all as 'Donna Canfora's house';
a Roman road;
a circular building for shows, which the historian Antonio De Salvo, in his work Metauria e Tauriana, had already imagined to be an amphitheatre at the end of the 19th century.
The modern Saracen Tower is also part of the park.

The route through the park is marked by several explanatory panels.


The  ancient Roman Road

The paving of the large urban road passing through the ancient Tauriana is preserved in paving stones of hard local stone. It led to the tiers of seats in the building for performances. Its continuation, outside the town, led to the via Popilia, an important road linking Reggio Calabria and Capua-Rome.

photo below:

Roman pavement of the Archaeological Park of the Taureani of Palmi 


The performance building

This is a unique piece of architecture on the Italian scene, which has the form of a theatre but was originally built as an amphitheatre for recreational events, such as gladiator fights. Occasionally the structure could be used for theatrical performances. Its capacity must have been about 3,000 spectators.

photo below:

Performance building


Residential area

In the southern part of the plateau, a sector of the Brettian-Roman residential area is visible, where, on the sides of the road, it is possible to read the superimposition of Roman structures on the Brettian ones.

photo below: mosaic house

The Brettia town

From the 'Brettia' Tauriana (1st century B.C.) it is possible to admire the 'house of the mosaic', so called because of the discovery of a figurative mosaic that, together with a bronze bed decorated with silver and precious stones, embellished a room identified as a banquet hall. The bed is currently on display in the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria.

In the centre of the room was a mosaic made of minute polychrome tiles. It depicts a hunting scene with two horsemen and a spear bearer standing on either side of a wounded bear. A dog, a feline and a wild boar complete the scene, which is dominated by a large tree.

photo below:

mosaic house



Roman sanctuary

Of the sacred area, dedicated to an as yet unknown deity, the remains of a high podium (approx. 10x20 m) and a triporticus are visible today. Originally, the complex had decorations and coverings in local stone, marble and stucco.

Particularly significant archaeological evidence of this new Roman phase is the construction of this religious building on the western edge of the Tauriana plateau, whose typology is a 'unicum' in the architectural and religious context of ancient Calabria. Its construction entailed a modification of the previous Brettian settlement as evidenced, among other things, by the obliteration of the quadrangular gully with the stamps, brought to light a couple of metres west of the temple.

The sacred building faces north-east and is typologically one of the Etruscan-Italic podium temples: the high quadrangular podium, set on a 2.25-metre-high foundation, which in turn was set on the natural rock bench, was made of opus caementicium. A brick facing partially covered the elevation, and on a pair of bricks it is still possible to read the negative of the Numitori inscription (C), already known in Palmi because it was impressed on some bricks found by chance in the past century in the Tauriana area.

The entrance consisted of a flight of steps, no longer preserved, and was probably located on the short north side. A porticoed structure, of which the walls at foundation level are preserved, surrounded it on three sides, according to a building plan that was usual for religious architecture of the time.

Nothing has been preserved of the upper part of the building. Faint traces of wall remains are visible on the horizontal plane in a double orientation E-W and S-N, but it is difficult to say whether they refer to an internal partition or an altar. According to verbal testimonies that are no longer verifiable, circular mortar footprints were seen on the horizontal plane of the floor, most likely related to the colonnade.

The decision to erect it at the most visible point of the plateau with its sheer cliffs overlooking the coast was not accidental: the temple, close to the northern edge, almost isolated or in any case emerging from the rest of the residential context, would have been immediately visible to anyone sailing from the north.

The completion of the archaeological excavations in the area of the sacred building will make it possible to complete the typological study and give it a more precise date, perhaps also making it possible to propose a possible identification of the deity to whom it was dedicated.

The Italic temple building has always been identified by local popular tradition as the palace of Donna Canfora.

Donna Canfora was a particularly beautiful woman who was kidnapped by corsairs attracted by the fame of her beauty while she was buying fine merchandise at the marina and who threw herself into the sea from her boat, preferring death to separation from her loved ones.

photo below: 

Roman sanctuary known as the home of Donna Canfora


Protohistoric village

Below the Brettia and Roman phases, which are not yet visible, are the remains of huts from a Bronze Age village, active for about a thousand years, starting 4,000 years ago. The huts are built with high stone walls and a roof of perishable material.

photo below: Protohistoric village


Spinelli Tower

The Spinelli Tower, known as the Saracen Tower of Palmi, is one of the ancient sixteenth-century watchtowers on the coast of the Costa Viola. The structure stands on top of the Taureana plateau, close to a cliff overlooking the Lido di Palmi beach. Built in 1565, it was formerly called Torre di Pietrenere (or "Le Pietre Negre") to distinguish it from the other watchtower in Palmi, called Torre di San Francesco, which has now disappeared.

The tower is protected by a notification of 16 August 1913 and, since 11 September 2011, has been part of the "Antonio De Salvo" Taurian Archaeological Park complex.


In 1549, the destruction of Palmi by the Turkish corsair Dragut Rais took place. Following this devastation, the Duke of Seminara Carlo II Spinelli, who had become feudal lord of the city in 1555, decided to rebuild the 'land of Palma' and to fortify it. Therefore he also decided to build two coastal watchtowers. One was called 'di San Francesco', and was located in the place still called Torre, and the other, built near the Church of San Fantino, was called 'di Pietrenere', after the name of the marina below. The construction of the Pietrenere Tower, as indicated by the inscription that still stands today, dates back to 1565.

From an act of 1747 the tower was then owned by Bruno Ubaldo, as "Captain owner of the Royal Tower of Pietre Negre in the jurisdiction of the City of Seminara".

On 16 August 1913 a decree was issued to protect the tower.

Since 11 September 2011 the tower is part of the Archaeological Park of Tauriani 'Antonio De Salvo', inaugurated after the archaeological excavations that have been taking place since 1995 in the area near the tower and that have brought to light the ruins of ancient Tauriana.


The tower has a circumference at the base of about 22 metres, a width of 8 metres, a height of 15 metres and the entrance door is located at a height of 7 metres above the ground, leading to a chamber with slits in the perimeter walls. The materials used to build it are natural stone and brick.

The only window in the tower is located on the side looking inwards, leaving the side facing the sea without any openings, so that enemy ships could not see the tower's light.

Photo below:

 View of the medieval Saracen tower of Palmi, formerly called "di Pietrenere".


The Taurian Archaeological Park in 2 two minutes



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