Medieval Village

The charm of Bova and the Greeks of Calabria (a national linguistic minority protected by L 482/99 and L.R. No. 15/03) captures the visitor and takes him back in time like an ancient 19th century traveller discovering unexplored places as he travels along roads rebuilt in local stone, meets churches and noble palaces that have been completely renovated (Bova was an ancient bishopric until 1996 and was then unified with the Diocese of Reggio, becoming the Archdiocese of Reggio Calabria-Bova), climbs the lanes that lead him to the remains of the Norman Castle and the Norman Tower, appreciates the low-key lighting with street lamps reminiscent of those of yesteryear, reads the trilingual toponymy (Italian, Greek of Calabria and modern Greek) used for the street signs of historic buildings and churches, and notices how the townspeople have skilfully restored their houses by redoing the façades in the old style and using wood for window frames and tiles for roofs. He encounters the Path of Rural Civilisation, and is fascinated by the ancient mills and olive presses that tell of rural traditions and a simple life linked to nature, the seasons and the products of the land.

The visitor notices the care with which the Borgo, thanks to a skilful use of European Funds by the various Administrations that have succeeded one another, has been redeveloped and enhanced and is maintained, respecting environmental sustainability and the original urban layout. Bova's wonders enchant visitors and show them that urban decorum and the culture of beauty are possible even in marginal and underdeveloped areas.

The ancient origins of the town of Bova (Vùa) are evidenced by the numerous archaeological finds in the vicinity of the Norman Castle dating back to the Neolithic period, although the first historically documented evidence of Bova's existence dates back to the early years of the second millennium, when between 1040 and 1064 the Normans imposed themselves over the Arabs and Byzantines in the domination of Sicily and Calabria. In the 8th-6th century B.C. it became a colony of Magna Graecia, while in the following centuries it was besieged by the Saracens, the Arabs and the Normans, and it was with the latter domination that Bova entered the feudal period and became a county. The city was an ancient Episcopal seat (it remained an Episcopal seat until 1996 and was then unified with the Diocese of Reggio, becoming the Archdiocese of Reggio Calabria-Bova), and followed the Greek rite introduced in Calabria by the Basilian monks until 1572, the year in which Bishop Stauriano imposed the Latin rite, made all traces of the Byzantine rite disappear, and with it all the paintings and statues, replacing them with seventeenth-century statues in keeping with the Roman rite. Artistic evidence of this period is also represented by the numerous churches scattered throughout the territory with their decorated local stone portals and marble statues attributed to the Messina School. Latinisation led to the gradual disappearance of the Greek language, which was considered the language of the people or of the poor. However, from a cultural point of view, Bova has remained the capital (the Chora) of the Hellenophone Island, that territory of the Grecanica Area made up of villages where the elderly still speak the Greek language of Calabria, a linguistic minority protected by Law 482/99 and Regional Law 15/03, which still preserves knowledge, traditions and trades that testify to the presence over time of important civilisations, first and foremost the Greek and Byzantine ones.

The natural orographic characteristics of the site not only strongly condition the planimetric structure of the centre, with its medieval layout, but also underline the strategic and economic importance that Bova had in the past in controlling a vast portion of the mountainous territory behind it. Recent history leads to the 1970s, when, after major seismic and flooding events, the majority of the population moved to the coast and the municipality of Bova Marina was established. But Bova, despite the serious social and economic consequences, resisted depopulation and abandonment and continued to remain a municipality in its own right, not merged with the Marina, as is the case with most other mountain municipalities. This situation ensured that the speculative building interests of those years were directed towards the coastal strip, allowing the precious village with its medieval layout to be preserved in its settlement characteristics and architectural merits. From the mid-1990s to the present day, a new interest in the town of Bova was born and not only its cultural resources were enhanced, but its public and private architectural heritage was also recovered. In 2003, the first confirmation arrived at national level that the path taken was the winning one: Bova was included in the network of Italy's Most Beautiful Villages.

Bova today not only belongs to ANCI's Club 'I Borghi più belli d'Italia' but is also recognised by the Ministry of Tourism as a 'Jewel of Italy' and by the TCI as an 'Orange Flag' both for the unique natural habitat it offers (it is located within the Aspromonte National Park) and for the way the Borgo has been preserved over time and saved from the illegal building that ruined much of Italy after World War II.

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