Set amid green olive groves, Bagaladi stands at about 450 metres above sea level, on a hill at the foot of Monte Sant’Angelo and is one of the two Gateways to the Parco Nazionale d’Aspromonte [The Aspromonte National Park. Aspromonte is Calabria’s southernmost Calabrian mountain range. The name literally means harsh mountain].
Local historians hold that the town was founded after the tenth century AD, seeing that, according to a number of historical sources, the Valle Tuccio surrounding it was once home to several Basilian religious houses: La Badìa di San Teodoro [St. Theodore’s Abbey] which stands close to the present town and the Monasteries of Sant’Angelo, San Fantino and San Michele.
Bagaladi stands below Monte Sant’Angelo, so called after the nearby Monastery of St. Michael the Archangel, Prince of the Angelic Hosts. In the eleventh century this abbey, also known as ta Kampa, “the Fields”, was so important that it warranted the title of Archimandritate.
Since the seventeenth century, the town’s church has hosted the remains of Saint Gerasimo, a monk who died in the valley on the 25th of April 1180. The same building may once have housed the icon of the Madonna with the Christ Child and San Gerasimo and a sculpture representing Saint Michael, both of which may be seen today in Reggio Calabria’s Fondazione del Piccolo Museo di San Paolo. The former dates from some time between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the latter from the seventeenth. From the late Middle Ages up until 1806, Bagaladi belonged to the fiefdom of Amendolea.
Bagaladi is home to two valuable marble sculptures: the Annunciation group, which the Greek priest Iacopo Virducio commissioned Antonello Gagini to make in 1504 and a Crucifix, 1500, probably by the same artist. In 1908, these works were transferred from the Church of the Annunciation to the parish church dedicated to Saint Theodore, the holy warrior who, with St. George and the Archangel Michael, protected the Byzantines of the Valle Tuccio degli Arabi [Tuccio Valley of the Arabs].
Bagaladi seems to derive from Bagalà, a Reggio-Calabrian surname, which may come from the Arabic Baha’ Allah, “beauty that comes from God”, to which was added the suffix -adi, from the Greek Hades.
HAMLETS AND TOWNLANDS
Acque Solfuree, Embrisi, Gornelle, Ielasi, Lànzena, Pantanizzi, Piani di Lopa, Pristeo, Rungia, Saguccio, San Bartolo, S. Simeone, S. Teodoro.
The town appears to be of Arabic origin. Bagaladi enjoyed considerable prestige during the Norman and Swabian epochs, thanks to a series of feudal privileges it was granted.
A number of documents from the Norman period confirm the existence of property in the Vallata del Tuccio dating 1095, later donated to the Archimandrite of San Salvatore in Messina.
In the thirteenth century, the Angevins count the Vallata del Tuccio among the six Calabrian ecclesiastical lordships, later a fiefdom, included in the Barony of Guglielmo di Amendolea. Later on, the estate became the property of the Abenavoli family and of Bernardino Martirano before being purchased by the Mendozas who, in 1624, sold it to the Ruffo di Scilla family who kept it until the Napoleonic invasion of 1806.
In 1862, Bagaladi distinguished itself for the welcome it gave to the Garibaldian forces when they landed at Melito Porto Salvo.
Among the illustrious inhabitants of Bagaladi we find the artist Nunzio Bava, the greatest exponent of twentieth-century Calabrian realism. His work includes four imposing sacred artefacts produced for the Cathedral of Reggio Calabria as well as other creations made for the Santuario di San Paolo, the Chiesa del Carmine and Cattolica dei Greci in Reggio Calabria.
EXPLORING THE HISTORIC CENTRE
Walking through the narrow streets of the city, which all converge on the central square, we find the church of San Teodoro e la Santissima Annunziata, built in 1933 to replace two churches destroyed by the earthquake of 1908. The church houses two splendid works of art: the extraordinary marble group of the Annunciation, in white Carrara marble, sculpted by Antonello Gagini in 1504 and a marble Crucifix in 1500. Also of relevance are some ancient bells that appear to have been found among the ruins of one of the Tucci Valley’s lavras.
Well worth visiting are Palazzo Pannuti, Palazzo Misiano, the historic centre and, in the surrounding area, the water and old mills as well as the farmhouses, all dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
One of the village’s showpieces is certainly the ancient Iacopino Mill, today, one of the Gateways to the Aspromonte National Park, and the area’s most important oil mill, the first powered by water. Totally refurbished, it now houses the oil museum, containing a valuable Grimaldian water-powered wheel, which an expert operates for visitors. For those wishing to glean the rudiments of the art of weaving, a guide will sit at an old loom and provide a practical demonstration.
At the Gateway to the Park there is an information centre which indicates the pathways leading to the ruins of the ancient Greek-Italian saints’ coenobiums.
There is also a traditional pottery-making workshop where visitors may admire and purchase handmade products.
Skirting the Fiumara Melito [Melito or “Honied” River] , which the geographer Al Idris called the Wadi al ‘asal, “the river of honey”, the meadowland gives way to lush olive groves, which, with the honey bee, assure the prosperity of the valley, also called del Tuccio. The village is surrounded by smaller hamlets all with Greek names (Chorio, Prunella, Musupuniti) or called after saints venerated throughout the Byzantine East: Saint Pantaleone and Saint Fantino, both fourth-century martyrs. The former was born in Turkey, the latter on the plains of Gioia Tauro. A native of the area, from Chorio di San Lorenzo to be precise, was San Gaetano Catanoso, the valley’s most recent saint, who died in 1963.
The local cuisine is delicious. Based on local home-grown ingredients, it provides diners with the flavours of yesteryear, accompanied by bread baked in wood-fired ovens.
In Bagaladi one may savour outstanding frittole [a stew made from pork rind, offal and trimmings] as well as local, homemade sausages, salami, cheeses, ricotta and olive oil.
The red wine typical of Bagaladi, called Cuvertà, high in alcohol content, with purple highlights, is intended for the domestic market only.
|Area (km2)||30,02 kmq|