On the border between Calabria and Basilicata, in the heart of one of the most extraordinary parks in Italy, stands a truly enchanting village which is even considered by many to be the “Smallest City in Italy”. His name is Laino Borgo, a place with ancient origins that is loved for its natural beauty, as well as for its rich architectural and cultural heritage.
What to expect
Laino Borgo is part of the province of Cosenza and is immersed in the Pollino National Park, recognized since 2015 as a UNESCO World Geopark. It rises along the course of the Iannello river and is part of the Authentic Villages of Italy. Many choose to reach this beautiful destination for rafting on the Lao River, as well as for trekking, kayaking and canyoning activities.
But the reality of the facts is that Laino Borgo also impresses with its many precious buildings and the very popular events that take place in the area. One of these, for example, is the Feast of the Madonna delle Cappellebut even more curious are the singular Paliu cui Ciuccia kind of Palio di Siena done with donkeys, and the Judaica, a historical-religious representation that re-proposes the story of the trial of Jesus.
What to see in Laino Borgo
This precious village in Calabria is a real pleasure for the eyes. Among the wonders of nature that surround it, in fact, there are many buildings of particular interest and worth knowing. But not only that, because every small alley allows you to admire natural corners that even manage to excite you.
Among the attractions not to be missed we point out the Sanctuary of the Chapels dedicated to Maria Santissima dello Spasimo which comes to life a few kilometers from the historic center. It was built hundreds of years ago by Domenico Longo, a citizen of Laino who, once returning from a trip to the Holy Land, decided to build 16 small chapels which represent the most important places in the life of Christ, the Virgin and other characters from the Gospel, and the church.
But the truth is that the entire historic center of Laino Borgo is striking, because it is a network of alleys that open onto exciting natural views. Then there are the hidden courtyards, the small churches, the artistic stone portals, noble palaces and, above all, the fascinating Mother Church of the Holy Spirit, which stands out for being a place rich in history and centuries-old traditions.
A structure that boasts a rich artistic-cultural heritage and which houses within its splendid walls an altarpiece attributed to the Florentine master G. Balducci, an eighteenth-century choir with stalls carved in walnut and a painted and gilded wooden pulpit.
Nature and activities to do
The caves that embellish the territory of Laino Borgo are of great archaeological, historical and botanical interest. One of these is the Grotta dei Briganti, where the brigand Musolino took refuge for six months in 1901, shortly before being captured.
Equally extraordinary is the Capelvenere Cave which strikes you from the first moment you decide to visit it: to get there you need to follow an arduous and particularly evocative path in the midst of the purest and most authentic nature.
As we mentioned previously, Laino Borgo is the best for lovers of outdoor activities and contact with nature. The Lao River is the favorite destination for rafting lovers in Calabria because there are many possible routes ranging from the simplest and suitable for children, up to the crossing of the entire course of the river.
Then again the trekking amidst the purest vegetation, paths that even lead towards the Mount Gada from which it is possible to enjoy a magical view of the Gulf of Policastro. The Iannello river, however, is the best for those interested in canyoning, where together with expert guides you can slide on the surfaces of the rocks, descend the numerous waterfalls and even dive from great heights into the cool, crystal-clear lakes below.
What to see in the surrounding area
The beautiful Laino Borgo borders other municipalities that are really worth exploring. One of them is Roundabout, in the province of Potenza, which offers a historic center that is a succession of narrow and steep streets, stone stairs and houses with splendid portals. Absolutely not to be missed is his Old beech forest of Cozzo Ferrierorecognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its exceptional universal value.
Equally fascinating is the ancient village of Mormanno, in the province of Cosenza, which almost looks like a nativity scene. Here a lighthouse also comes to life which is one of the few mountain ones in Italy. It was built in 1928 in honor of the Calabrian soldiers who fell in the First World War.
Extraordinary, moreover, are the great Church of Santa Maria del Colle and the Swamp Lakean artificial water basin which today is much loved by those who want to practice canoeing and kayaking.
Papasidero, also in the province of Cosenza, stands on the slopes of a hill and immediately made itself loved thanks to its Sanctuary of Our Lady of Constantinople of the 17th-18th century and the archaeological site of Romito Cave.
Its historic center of medieval origin is certainly no exception, with the mother church of San Costantino and the Norman-Swabian castle at the top. Furthermore, a city wall with its ancient entrance doors still stands.
But it doesn’t end there, because raising your eyes upwards it is impossible not to notice the remains of one of the most characteristic ghost villages in Calabria: Laino Castello. What remains today is a mysterious agglomeration of narrow streets and ruined houses that seem to try to resist the passing of time by clinging around the central church.
Abandoned at the beginning of the 80s, it still offers those who visit it the steep streets, remains of gates, towers and fortifications, together with a series of natural caves which during the Christmas period are filled with people because a Living Nativity Scene. Today, among other things, it is characterized by being a widespread hotel.
In short, Laino Borgo is a pleasure for the soul and the heart, and its surroundings are also extraordinary Italian pearls waiting to be discovered.