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A holiday to live in colour


Villages of Calabria: Rocca Imperiale, the Federiciana town famous for its lemons

2022-12-02 17:46

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rocca imperiale

What to see in the village of Rocca Imperiala, the Frederician town famous for its lemons





About 4 km from the Ionian Sea, positioned on a hill, from which rises an imposing castle that dominates

the surrounding town, Rocca Imperiale retains the appearance of a medieval village and offers a suggestive coastal panorama of the ancient Siritide plain.

The geographical position between the Pollino National Park, the Sibari Plain and the Metapontino area makes Rocca Imperiale a tourist attraction among the itineraries of the Calabria region.


The settlement was founded around the 13th century at the behest of Frederick II of Swabia, who ordered the construction of a castle on a rock, hence the name Rocca. The town subsequently belonged to the state of Oriolo, the princes of Salerno, the Carafa, the Raimondi and finally the Crivelli.

to be visited

As monuments and historical-religious sites, there are: in the Town/Centre the Castle, the Monastery and five churches, one of which is in the latter, in the Marina a church, the old granary/warehouse and a tower, the latter two close to each other and located in the suburban area before the waterfront, and in the countryside a seventh church.

As places of interest, most present in the Marina district, are the Giovanni XXIII square, the Arena square, the walkable railway tunnels, the town promenade and the municipal villa, in front of the latter. In the middle and upper part of the town, in front of the mother church and south of the castle respectively, are the Piazza Monumento and the amphitheatre.

- Mother Church of Santa Maria

Assunta: the three-nave interior housesamong many works, a beautiful polyptych from 1650 and a wooden Crucifix withgolden halo, probably from the 16thcentury.


- Sanctuary of Maria SS. della Nova:

is said to have been built in the 16th century at the behest of a pilgrim princewho was shipwrecked on the beach of Rocca Imperiale. Simple in style, it houseson the altar a painting of the effigy of the Madonna delle Cesine.

Swabian Castle (1255): the fort looks like an enormous stone ship,
the prow facing south, the grey sides protected by symmetrical towers.

It consists of a polygonal scarp keep whose shorter sides, to the south, rise above a deep ravine. The garrison of the castle was made up, until the invention of gunpowder, of archers and crossbowmen, who lurked in combat behind the loopholes and battlements. Two 15th-century front fuse muskets were found in a cistern in the old manor. During Bourbon rule, the curtains of the fort were protected by 25 artillery pieces, which were removed after 1861. One was forgotten and today holds the shelf of a small terrace.

The Monastery

In the Registrum Ballarum, at number XIII, we find the "diploma" with which the Franciscan Friars Minor of the Regular Observance of the Province of Basilicata were authorised to build a Monasterium seu Conventum...cum Dormitorio, Refectorio, Officinis, Campana, Campanili, aliusque ad id necessariis in Rocca Imperiale (27 June 1562). This is the date on which the construction of the monastery was authorised; once the authorisation was granted, it is believed that the monks set to work immediately and began building it without delay.

It includes the Wax Museum, the Municipal Library and the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie or St Anthony of Padua

The Church of St Anthony: built in the 16th century with a Byzantine dome; inside there is a 16th century wooden statue

16th-century wooden statue of the Madonna and Child, of Neapolitan art

of the 16th century.

Wax Museum : 

It can be visited every day in Rocca Imperiale and numerous artistic and cultural events such as art exhibitions, theatre plays, film shows, as well as musical and folklore events.

The museum preserves and exhibits the wax bodies of life-size historical figures with period clothing, crystal eyes and real hair, giving visitors an evocative and surreal atmosphere.

The museum is therefore connected to the circuit of Frederick's castles, in which Rocca Imperiale with its mighty Swabian-Aragonese manor is obviously involved, and is a must for visitors and inhabitants of this province precisely because of the uniqueness and meticulousness of the exhibits on display, the result of skilful manual and scientific work in reconstructing the characters and finding the objects and marine fossils.

Inside we also find the:

Scientific Museum of the Sea

Mineralogical Museum

Soap Museum

Mythological Museum

Medieval Museum

Heraldic Museum

Mixed Museum


toto museo delle cerepapa francesco museo delle cereultima cena museo delle cere

top: wax museum

chiesa rocca imperialechiesa-santa-maria-delle-grazie.jpegsantuario-della-nova.jpeg

top (from left to right): Church of St. Anthony, Mother Church of Santa Assunta, Sanctuary of S.S. Maria della Nova

800px-castello_svevo_-_cinta_muraria.jpeglimoni rocca imperialepanorama rocca imperiale

top (left to right): Swabian castle, lemons of Rocca Imperiale, panorama of Rocca Imperiale



  • Madonna della Nova: celebrated on 1 and 2 July. According to tradition, the chapel/sanctuary of the Cesine, under the title of Santa Maria della Nova (currently included among the sanctuaries designated by the ecclesiastical authority in which it is possible to gain Jubilee indulgences), was built at the behest of a pilgrim prince who, after being shipwrecked on our coasts, retreated to the high ground in front of the landing place to do penance of thanksgiving. It is said that the prince's portrait appeared on the walls of the old church, but this image has disappeared over the centuries, as has the image of Our Lady to whom the prince had turned. The painting of the Visitation that is venerated now, in fact, is not the original one, nor is the temple, which underwent at least three transformations.

The episode mentioned must have happened no earlier than 1400, in fact the institution of the liturgical feast of the Visitation dates back to 1389 by decree of Pope Urban VI, promulgated by his successor Boniface IX. The Jubilee, which aroused an intense fervour of pilgrimages, was proclaimed in the early 15th century, so the sinking may have occurred at that time. Nothing is known about the celebration of festivals at the time, but it can be assumed for certain that the solemnity of 2 July became patronal soon after the Turkish incursion of 1644.

On 29 June of that year, a large Turkish fleet of 50 galleys appeared; having landed two to three thousand armed men on the beach, the invaders surrounded the town walls while the inhabitants slept. The latter, woken up by surprise and believing all defence impossible, took refuge in the castle. During the siege, the Turks were unable to seize the stronghold and set fire to many buildings, including the Mother Church, whose bell tower remained undestroyed. On this occasion, the people, gathered in the castle, from which they could see the small Church of the Nova in the distance, vowed to solemnise the date in perpetuity if they were freed from danger and suffered minimal damage. And the grace, which came the next day, was considered by the survivors as a sign of divine protection, whose gratitude and remembrance must be kept alive through future generations. Later, because of the trust placed in the Mother of God, the custom arose of going to collect the sacred effigy on the Sunday in albis to bring it back with pomp and circumstance on 2 July.


- Emigrant's Day: it is celebrated on the first Sunday in August in the Cesine district, for the return of emigrants.



The village is known for the production of the so-called 'uva regina' (queen grape) and for juicy citrus fruits, such as the well-known nustranu, a yellow lemon with an elongated shape.

The Rocca Imperiale lemon is the best-known variety of lemon in Calabria Known as a re-blossoming lemon, since it flowers at least four times a year, producing fruit for each blossoming.The particular soil and climate of the area have favoured the cultivation of this variety of lemon.

n the early 2000s, the 'Consorzio di Tutela e Valorizzazione del Limone di Rocca Imperiale e dell'Alto Ionio Cosentino' (Consortium for the Protection and Valorisation of the Rocca Imperiale and Alto Ionio Cosentino Lemon) was set up, which later became the 'Consorzio di Valorizzazione del Limone di Rocca Imperiale' (Consortium for the Valorisation of the Rocca Imperiale Lemon) with the aim of publicising, valorising and protecting this product.

The 'Limone di Rocca Imperiale' product was included in the list of traditional products of the Calabria Region.

The Consortium's various Boards of Directors, which have succeeded one another over time, have worked to set out on the road towards PGI recognition of the 'Limone di Rocca Imperiale', a recognition that was definitively obtained in 2011.

Peach cultivation and oil production are also flourishing.


Fish is favoured, especially shrimp and cuttlefish (fried and roasted) and salted whitebait.

Traditional is maiatica, a dish made with dried peppers. A typical dessert is the pitta duce, or sponge cake. Still present is the ancient ritual of killing the pig and then eating its


- Fish is favoured, especially shrimp and cuttlefish (fried and roasted) and salted whitebait.

Traditional is maiatica, a dish made with dried peppers. A typical dessert is the pitta duce, or sponge cake. Still present is the ancient ritual of killing the pig and then eating its


Let's take a look at some recipes:

Frizzuli with breadcrumbs
Frizzuli with breadcrumbs and fresh sausage sauce are the first course that best represents the culinary traditions of Rocca Imperiale. Frizzuli are a type of long durum wheat pasta strictly made with a square-section iron and dried in the sun; the sauce, redder thanks to the pepper powder used in the preparation of the sausage, is a triumph of flavours and aromas that perfectly combine with the crunchiness of the breadcrumbs, pan-fried and slightly spicy.

Laganelli with chickpeas
Laganelli (from the ancient Greek làganon, λάγανον) are a typical type of pasta mainly used in Rocca Imperiale for celebrations in honour of St Joseph.

Laganelli are made from a mixture of durum wheat flour. This is then thinned out using a rolling pin (laganaturo) and the resulting sheet is left to dry slightly and then rolled on itself and cut with a knife into thin strips that are left to dry in the sun. The result is tagliolini of varying sizes that are cooked and served with a chickpea-based sauce and a little tomato.

Crispi and majatica
Crispi, widespread throughout the area of the Alto Jonio Cosentino, are fritters of leavened dough that, torn directly from the dough, are shaped into a ring and fried in extra virgin olive oil. Once fried, dried of excess oil, the crispi, golden, crispy outside and soft inside, are a dish to be used during all meals of the day. During a visit to Rocca Imperiale, it is not difficult to find majatiche, which unlike crispi have the classic shape of a pancake and have a tasty dried pepper heart.

  • The sausage
    The traditional recipe for Rocca Imperiale sausage with minced local pork, natural casing, the use of sweet and hot pepper, coriander and salt encapsulates the characteristic aromas of our land. Used both dried in hors d'oeuvres and fresh in first and second courses, it always finds a place on the table of the people of Rocchesi.

    Pepper powder and peperoni cruschi
    Typical of the entire area that climbs from the coast up to the peak of Mount Pollino, cruschi peppers in their simplicity are one of the dishes that catapult the taster into an unparalleled sensory experience through their aroma, colour, taste and crunchiness. After harvesting, the peppers, sewn in clusters, are dried in the sun, adding colour to the medieval village. At this point, if not transformed into the famous pepper powder (paprika), they undergo a quick passage in boiling oil and once cold and salted are ready for direct consumption. They are called 'cruschi' because they are crunchy and go very well with cheese, leafy vegetables and fish.

    Nduss (Olives crushed and spiced and preserved in water and salt)
    Scapecia (Aubergines cut into thin strips, spiced and preserved in oil)
    Ghiommarill (kid or lamb entrails with pepper, salt, oregano and parsley made into a roulade)
    Bambata (Traditional baked focaccia with peppers and tomato)

    Ptticill con la ricotta (Baked panzerotti with ricotta filling)
    Ptticill con gli spinaci (Baked panzerotti with spinach filling)
    Incasatill (fried panzerotti stuffed with chickpeas cooked and seasoned with various spices)

    Pastizz (Baked Panzerotto stuffed with boiled eggs, sausage, bacon and cheese)
    Muffit (Puff pastry with pork cracklings)




Rocca Imperiale has been chosen from among dozens of locations for the production of a film by director Pupi Avati, Le nozze di Laura (Laura's Wedding), an updated version of the Gospel episode of the Wedding at Cana.

With Le nozze di Laura, Avati presents the story of Laura, a girl from Calabria, from the small town of Rocca Imperiale, who moves to Rome to study. One evening she decides to celebrate her birthday and thus meets a middle-aged Roman man, with whom she spends the night. A few days later, Laura discovers she is pregnant. She thus sets off in search of the man she spent that night with, but in vain.

She returns to her home town, determined not to tell her parents the truth. Her father, considering that she finds herself unemployed, offers her a job in the family business. She accepts and thus gets to know the reality of manual labour, makes friends with other workers and meets an African boy named Karimu, with whom she falls in love. He reciprocates the feeling, the two date and decide to get married. But her family is against this marriage, due to cultural differences and xenophobic prejudices. She reveals that she is pregnant and therefore determined to get married as soon as possible, but her parents do not accept the news willingly: her father gets so frightened that he is sick. At the hospital, he calls a friend and orders him to dismiss Karimu and discredit him so that he cannot find another job in the area.

However, the young people are determined to get married anyway. They organise the ceremony, facing the mistrust of their fellow citizens who shun them and speak ill of them. Laura's cousin decides to reveal the secret of the pregnancy to Karimu, thinking he is doing the right thing. But he feels betrayed and is never heard from again. Laura's cousin and one of their aunts improvise a wedding banquet in the street at night, inviting passers-by, claiming they can thus encourage a miracle to happen. Laura is present but defiant. Eventually Karimu shows up at the banquet and the wedding is celebrated.

A strong film full of dense allegorical meanings but also, like all great works, strongly criticised.

90 minutes in which Rocca Imperiale, with its places and views, entered the eyes and hearts of 4 million 284 thousand viewers and a share of 17.48%, even crossing the borders of Italy, participating in the fifth edition of the Italian Contemporary Film Festival (ICFF) "Toronto from 9 to 17 June 2016".




1. Pizzeria L' Impero

2. Experience Cafè

3. Ristorante Villhour

4. Trattoria dei Poeti

4. Trattoria dei Poeti




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