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Orsomarso, the The Italy of Long Ago

Orsomarso in Calabria

Everything great about Calabria is to be found in this village. Every bit as clean and pristine as any village in northern Italy, with all the passion for life that only southern Italy can offer. 

My family and I arrived very early one morning on the bus. The moment I climbed off that bus I knew I'd stepped into a little bit of heaven. The air was crisp and clean, the scenery took my breath away. 

We stepped into the Bar Battaglia for our usual travel breakfast of croissants and cappuccino and twenty minutes later I felt like one of the locals.

I met half the town at Bar Battaglia.

The deli owner, the postman, a school teacher and so many more. We shared stories, laughed and smiled. I already felt I could live here. It felt like home. 

I was only going to spend the day, but, right there and then, we decided to spend a few days exploring the town and area. We booked into Casa Sara: the only place to stay in Orsomarso. Because of the lack of options in Orsomarso most people stay in the nearby village of Santa Domenica Talao.

What to See in Orsomarso

The Pollino National Park

Pollino National Park

On our first full day in Orsomarso we woke up to a gorgeously bright and sunny morning; perfect weather for a walk through the pristine forests of the Pollino National Park. Such a beautiful day was perfect for taking the path to the Ficara Waterfall.

The UNESCO World Heritage Pollino National Park surrounds Orsomarso; the park is one of the last truly wild places in Italy and it is stunning: wolves and deer roam free in this paradise and vultures soar high above.

So off we headed, into the wilds beyond.

The walk begins in the main piazza, you head down the lane called Vico Argentina which starts right outside the Casa dei Peperoncini (the local grocery store with a splendid selection of peppers and locally grown fruits and vegetables). In summer they hang the peppers out to dry, however, when we visited they were still working on stringing the peppers but this is what it looks like once they are done...

Back to the walk... keep heading down through the old town until you reach via Panebianco, where you'll turn left, following the river towards a little bridge, don't cross over, continue on along via Panebianco.

At the bridge you may well meet a huge white dog called Pippo, he'll likely come bounding across the bridge towards you and give you a huge fright.

Pippo the dogPippo

Never fear though, he's a friendly giant with a sad story.

Pippo was abandoned by a shepherd. His loving nature wasn't suited to scaring off wolves - he always wanted to be friends with everyone: sheep, people, even the wolves.

He is now cared for by the owners of the Golden Park Ranch restaurant which, despite the unpromising name, is a great spot for a traditional Calabrian lunch or dinner.

golden-park-ranch-orsomarso-2.jpgGolden Park Ranch

Pippo is now the self-appointed falls tour guide: he'll walk along with you all the way to the falls and back, often leading the way if he thinks you (his flock of sheep) are likely to wander off the path.

We normally like to get hopelessly lost wherever we go as we try to explore without the help of Google. It's the best way to make your own discoveries. This time though we were happy to have Pippo's help.

The falls themselves are lovely and the walk through the forest enchanting. We were all alone when we walked in midweek June, just us and Pippo. The only sound the gentle whispers of the trees in the breeze and the gurgling of the stream. 

There's a water fountain near the falls too where you can drink the sweetest mountain water you've ever tasted. It's just to the right, as you stand looking at the falls, and along a short path.

Ficara Falls

What Else To See in Orsomarso?

The Clock Tower

Clock Tower in Orsomarso viewed from the piazzaClock Tower in Orsomarso viewed from the piazza

Very unique, I don't recall ever seeing anything similar in Italy.  The hill that the clock stands upon rises sheer from just behind Piazza Municipio.

I thought "how do I ever get up there?"

Good news! There is a path that leads from the piazza and winds its way up the hill and the path isn't nearly as steep as I expected. The view from the top is incredible. 

The Piazza Municipio and the Church of San Giovanni Battista

The Piazza Municipio in OrsomarsoView of the piazza from Casa dei Peperoncini

The main piazza in Orsomarso is delightful: there's a great little bar, the one I mentioned earlier called Bar Battaglia, that does an excellent cappuccino and there's always someone to chat with in the bar or in the piazza.

Visit Casa dei Peperoncini too for some excellent locally grown fruits and vegetables and enjoy the views of the amazing clock tower which peers down on life in the square from its hilltop perch.

Explore the old town too - we simply followed a cat and then another one.

In that way we found some really quaint streets and ended up meeting the owner of one of the cats, a really talented carpenter carving beautiful wooden cabinets. He invited us to join him for lunch and that led to hours of great conversations, a little too much red wine and quantities of delicious pasta, local salami and cheese. 

Do pop into the beautiful church of San Giovanni Battista and admire the beautiful frescoes by Giovan Battista Colimodio.

Church in Orsomarso

The Church of Santa Maria di Mercuri

An 11th century Byzantine church that was once part of a settlement, of which only a few ruins remain. The church is still in excellent condition and is surrounded by ancient olive trees, planted by the monks who lived here in the 11th century.  Great views too from the olive groves of the surrounding countryside.

To get to the church you will need a car as it is around 3 miles/5 kilometers from Orsomarso and the roads aren't suited to walking.

Madonna in a Cave

Madonna in a Cave in OrsomarsoMadonna in a Cave

Plinio Frigo, a sculptor from Vicenza carved the Madonna statue in stone and it was placed in its cave home in Orsomarso in 1958. Since then, together with the clock tower, it has become one of the symbols of the town. From a distance the statue appears to be almost floating within the cave.

La Church of Santissimo Salvatore

In the upper part of the old town you'll find this church, a wonderful and calming escape from the heat of a summer's day.

Getting Here

Having your own car rental makes things a lot easier. it's a pleasant drive up through the hills from the coast along the provincial road and the scenery is often spectacular with breathtaking views around every bend in the road.

If you don't have a car you can get here by bus from Piazza Moro in Scalea: take bus 149 or 150. You'll find the timetables on the bus companies website: consorzioautolineetpl.it.


For more about the Pollino National Park visit the rather good official site: https://parconazionalepollino.it/  (use Google Translate as they don't yet have an English version).

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A Few Short Videos of Orsomarso