Italy, a nation born in Calabria (near Catanzaro)?


Italy according to the ancient Greeks corresponded to the current Calabria!

It has been hypothesized that the name derives from the word “Italói“, a term used by the Greeks to refer to the Vituli (or Viteli), a population that lived in the extreme tip of the Italian peninsula, the region south of today’s Catanzaro, and which worshiped the simulacrum of a calf (vitulus, in Latin).


The name “Italy” would therefore mean “inhabitants of the land of calves“. In fact, what is usually considered certain is that the name initially indicated only the part located in the extreme south of the Peninsula, Calabria.

Italy, starting from Catanzaro

At first it was limited to that extreme part of Calabria that lies south of the gulfs of Sant’Eufèmia and Squillace, or, according to another possible interpretation of the sources, roughly in Cilento, between the Sele and Lao rivers (the latter is in Calabria).

The region, which is now called Italy, anciently was inhabited by the Enotri; in that time their king was Italo, then they changed their name to Itali; succeeding Italo Morgete, they were called Morgeti; then came a Siculo, who divided the people, who were then Morgeti and Siculi; while Itali were those who were called Enotri

(Antiochus of Syracuse, in Dionysius of Halicarnassus 1, 12 vg).

A map of population, according to Antiochus

There are various legends about the character of Italo, king of the Enotri who, according to the myth, would have lived 16 generations before the Trojan War: the name Italia (Italy) would derive from him.

The name Italy was given first to the region corresponding to his kingdom, namely to almost all of Calabria except the northern zone, the name Italy subsequently extended to the whole peninsula (up to the current regions of Tuscany and Marche) as reported by Thucydides, Aristotle, Antiochus of Syracuse and Strabo.

King Italo converted the Enotri from a nomadic to a sedentary people, establishing them in the extreme offshoot of the European coasts, in the present isthmus of Catanzaro between the Gulf of Squillace to the east and the Gulf of Sant’Eufemia to the west.

The capital of his kingdom, according to Strabo, was Pandosia Bruzia, today probably corresponding to the city of Acri.

According to what Strabo tells us, Antiochus of Syracuse (V century BC) already spoke of the borders of Italy in his work “On Italy“, which identified the country with the ancient Enotria.

At that time, Italy extended from the Strait of Sicily to the Gulf of Taranto (east) and the Gulf of Posidonia (west).  Later, with the Roman conquest of the following centuries, the term Italy extended to the Alps, including Liguria up to the Varo River and Istria up to Pula. Conclusively, all its inhabitants were considered Italic and Roman.

Enotri, a woman and her jewelry


Among the proposals that motivate the name Italy beyond a real linguistic analysis can be remembered that of Domenico Romanelli, who, basing himself on the ancient but never fully accepted hypothesis that it was in relation with the bulls, explained it with the fact that who came from the west sea saw taurine shapes in the Bruzia peninsula (corresponding to actual Calabria).

This idea suits the tradition in ancient times that the lands of present-day Calabria were known as Italy. The Greeks, indeed, indicated the origin of the name in “Ouitoulía” from the word “Italòi” (plural of Italós), a term by which the Achaean settlers who arrived in the lands of present-day Calabria ambiguously designated both the Vituli and a population that inhabited the lands to the south of the isthmus of Catanzaro, whose ethnology was etymologically related to the word indicating the bull, sacred animal to the Vituli and deified by them, namely the bulls themselves: the Greek  word “italós” in fact is of Oscan derivation, from “uitlu“, nameyl “bull” (see also  the Latin “uitellus“, a form with a diminutive suffix meaning calf).

Thus, “Ouitoulía” came to mean “land of the Vituli” or “land of the bulls“. To support this hypothesis, it is recalled that in the southern part of the Calabrian peninsula there are place names of Magna Graecia origin (some translated in Latin by the Normans) probably referring to the most ancient etymology of the bulls’ land (of cattle):

Bova (from the latin “bos-bovis”, calf),

Bovalino (from “bos-bovis”),

Taurianova (from the latin “taurus”, bull),

Gioia Tauro (from “taurus”), etc.

Conclusively, also the Greeks would have applied little by little the name “Italy” to an ever-wider region, until the time of the Roman conquest, when it was extended to the entire peninsula.


For some linguists who have supported this thesis, the name would be based on a non-attested Greek form (therefore hypothetical) like  Aιθαλία (Aithalìa) which in its initial part Aith- (typical of fire-related words) would contain a reference to the volcanic dimension of the peninsula lands. This meaning would resist for example in the name of Etna, in ancient Greek “Aitna“.

King Italo

This proposal had already been advanced by Gabriele Rosa, according to whom the first Greeks arrived in the peninsula would have called it precisely Aιθαλια (Italy) because the territory was volcanic, flaming and sooty, for the same reason they said Aιθαλια the islands of Elba (Ilva), of Lemnos and Chios, full of iron forges (SOURCE: Gabriele Rosa, The origins of civilization in Europe, Milan 1862-1863).

In all cases, whether Italy is the land of volcanoes or of King Italo or calves, Calabria is at the center of the origin of the name Italy. Something that few know!

Aspromonte Park, return to Greek culture!


There is a Greek Calabria, land of myth, isolated, wild, rural. Hospitable and spiritual. Greek in the landscape, in food, in religious traditions, in craftsmanship, in idioms: between the Aspromonte and the Ionian, many elders still speak the language of Homer!

Old village Gallicianò

Gallicianò, a small village, is entirely Hellenophone. That strip of Calabria (Bovesìa) so close to the Strait is Greek also in the toponymy, but above all in the manifestation of the feeling of “filoxenia”, love for the foreigner, ancestral concept of hospitality, as the Greeks conceived it in antiquity…


In the Grecanic area (which preserves deep Byzantine traces), from Pentedattilo to Bova, passing through Amendolea, Gallicianò, Roghudi, Chorìo, Roccaforte, Condofuri, Palizzi, Staiti, Sant’Agata del Bianco, Brancaleone, up to Africo, the stranger is a deity.

And as such it is treated. Do not be surprised, therefore, if you will receive an invitation to lunch from the locals: there is a “lestopitta” (Greek-style unleavened bread), always ready to be filled in every home.

Certainly, some of the residents you meet on the street will guide you to discover the places, telling you stories and legends. It is their welcome.

Landscape of the park: the sea on the horizon


The journey has to be prepared carefully, requires a conscious and participatory approach: it is slow, experiential tourism. The local tourist offices provide valuable information.

Ghost Greek Village of Roghudi

It should be noted that the roads within the Aspromonte National Parkthe kingdom of the Sibyl – are impervious, the vertiginous valleys. That from the villages to the coast you go up and down between domes of rocks with slopes of a thousand meters.

A marvelous environment, in an aerial perspective

In the distance, Etna, Stromboli and Vulcano. Lunar landscapes: mulberries and junipers among the gullies. And the most beautiful river in the world: the Amendolea.

Lake Menta

The urban archaeological park of Brancaleone Vetus (“ancient”) looks down on the so called “Valley of Armenians” and its villages.

Cascade of Amendolea

The gaze ranges from new Africo to the marina of Bruzzano, on bergamot plantations, on ancient vines and ancient olive trees.

The native goats, balanced on the steep walls of the mountains, among small groups of abandoned houses, have a prehistoric beauty.

Brancaleone Vetus


The sea there is like you’ve never seen it before. Needless to say that it is Caribbean: in the Greek navies of Calabria “the deserted sea lays like a child’s painting on the arc-shaped, white and solitary coast“, wrote Corrado Alvaro, a famous writer native of San Luca.

Corrado Alvaro

On the sandy beach, from Melito to Brancaleone, it will be easy to follow the turtle hatching: the environmentalists of the Caretta turtle Calabria Conservation association will guide you in the exploration.

This way your journey in Calabria will become also a real experience of the richness of sea and a chance to learn new things.


The museum of the Greek-Calabrian language of Bova named after the German linguist Gerhard Rohlfs.

Pentedattilo ghost village

He was the first to support the  origin from Magna Graecia of the spoken language still living in the Hellenophonic villages and in the most inaccessible slopes of the southern Aspromonte.

The Greek Calabria is “like a relic” of 2500 years ago.

Africo Ruins in the Grecanic area

Local Shepherds are as repositories of secrets and ancient knowledge. For example, the music and the tarantellas “remember the sacred dances of the Greeks”.

This is the reason why the village of Pentedattilo was recovered (this is a few houses perched on a rock that stands out like a giant hand)…You will discover that its name is the same greek word for a hand with five fingers!

House in the stones

Now Pentadattilo backs to life thanks to the commitment of the Pro Pentedattilo association.

Now there is a bar, shops, a hostel and a popular hotel. Every year the Pentedattilo film fest brings international cinema operators to the scene. And many fans: usually from 26 to 31 August.

Etna volcano, a sight of Sicily from Aspromonte


You sleep in characteristic B&Bs or in hotel houses. Hospitality is often managed by local cooperatives.

Cascade of Maesano

The flavors of the kitchen awaken pastoral memories (such as “maccheruni” with goat sauce). Only in Bova it is possible to choose between seven restaurants. The ricotta is served almost hot, just made. Organic is a fact.

Greek-speaking village of Bova

The wooden or terracotta souvenirs are of fine craftsmanship, from the “pinakes“, the votive tablets that the Greeks printed in honor of Demetra, to the “musulupare“, carved wooden containers, with anthropomorphic forms, to shape the cheese.

Quiet Nature in Aspromonte

Artisans made them in Melito, near Condofuri.

Seafront of Melito

Along with collars for goats, bagpipes and old tools that are real pieces of art. Other local artists create delicious Greek madonnas with cherry, olive, medlar and chestnut branches.

The mysterious monolith “Pietra Cappa”

The ceramists elaborate Greekism in a contemporary key.

Reggio Calabria

In their workshops on the outskirts of Reggio Calabria they mold enchanting artifacts that tell stories and myths of the Grecanic area.

Castle Ruffo, near Amendolea and Condofuri

As the “fuitina d’u previte”: a love escape of a priest with a woman of Bova.

The designers in their small workshops in Delianuova (on the slopes of Aspromonte) realizes bijoux for high fashion with what nature offers: berries, leaves, pine cones, woods sea urchins, shells, starfish. Also citrus fruits, vine shoots, crystallized bread, hemp and hard stones. Land and sea become catwalk jewelry.

Delianuova in the Winter