EXCURSION to the Fossato Valley
Municipality: Montebello Jonico
Time: 4 hours
Drinking water: Fossato, Borgo Santa Lena
Altitude: Bridge for Santa Lena (350 metres above sea level) – Punta d’Argento (743 metres above sea level.)
Elevation difference: 500 metres
Season: all year round
Ordinance Survey Maps: Scale 1:25.000 n.e. F° 615 IV Melito Porto Salvo
Although the main purpose of this itinerary is to see the impressive fresco of Sant’Anastasio [Saint Anastasios], the view from Rocca di Santa Lena of Pentedattilo, against a backdrop of the Ionian Sea and Mount Etna, is spectacular.
The hamlet of Fossato is alluring, resting as it does within a hollow (fossato), surrounded by luxuriant, well cared-for olive groves which produce a first-class and much sought-after olive oil.
On a small plateau overlooking the San Pietro stream stands the church of the patron saint erected in 1648, and rebuilt in 1920 by the Manti family from Montebello and dedicated to Our Lady of the Annunciation. Every year an ancient religious tradition involving the populations of Fossato and Montebello is repeated: a procession on foot along the stream by the faithful from Montebello delivers a picture of Our Lady of the Annunciation to the faithful of Fossato who bring it to the church where a propitiatory Mass is celebrated in favour of a good harvest.
Up until the end of the 1950’s an important livestock fair was held on this occasion. The route along the river bank could be a problem if it rains heavily.
Arriving by car
From Reggio Calabria drive fewer than 30 kilometres along the SS 106 before turning off in the direction of Fossato Jonico. Follow the signposts and, after 10 kilometres with a few curves but spectacular views of Pentedattilo, too, you will reach Montebello Jonico. Having driven uphill from there for about 5 kilometres you will arrive at Fossato.
Excursion on foot
Some of the placenames mentioned here in the description do not appear in the Ordinance Survey Maps, but survive only in the memory of the locals. As soon as you reach the bridge over the Calamaci River lock (the bridge before entering Fossato) turn left onto a small road that passes under the bridge. Leave the car and follow the San Pietro River for about 1 kilometre as far as the point, left, where it joins the confluence from the left with the Torrente Boschetto. Just 100 meters further on, take the paved route on your left, ascending gently between massive oaks and olive trees. At the first bend, leave the track and turn right into an olive grove. Proceeding a little further up and peering through the trees; you will see the remains of an ancient oil mill and, below, what remains of the Chiesa di Sant’Anastasio [Church of St. Anastasios].
Having returned to the Torrente Boschetto, take the path leading back to the first paved roadway on the right. After about a climb of about 2 kilometres, you will arrive at Punta d’Argento [Silver Point] which provides a view, to the south of the Rocca di Santa Lena, Pentedattilo, and the sea, to the east of San Lorenzo, Bova and, to the west, of Mount Etna. At the junction take the right-hand turning, with its slopes and false flats descents. At the next intersection, at a country cottage, take a left turn. Remain on the ridge heading in the direction for the Santa Lena Fortress. Ignore the side roads. Once you have left the Rocche di Smiroddu to your left you arrive at a crossroads where an increasingly steep right-hand turning will take you to the Hamlet of Santa Lena. But first, continuing straight ahead for a few hundred metres, you will arrive at a small plateau providing you with a last look of Santa Lena and the surrounding landscape.
Back at the crossroads, the pathway, first a dirt track, then concrete, descends for 2 kilometres towards the houses of Santa Lena (fountain). Then, in front of a shrine of the Sacred Heart, just before the bridge over the St. Peter Torrent (near the waterfall) on a short hairpin bend to the right, a small road leads down to the banks of the stream. Take it and follow the flow of the river amid tamarisks and reeds. Having passed a couple of weirs (less than 1 kilometre) to the right you will find the Chiesetta Patronale dell’Annunziata [Annunciation]. Continue to follow the course of the river upstream as far as the intersection with Torrente Boschetto. Here the circuit concludes. After another very short climb, you can retrieve your car.
Source: Guida Naturalistica della Calabria Greca– Alfonso Picone – Rubbettino Editore – Collana Parco Culturale della Greek Calabria