Vibo Valentia is an ancient city situated
in a panoramic position overlooking the Tyrrhenian
coasts of the S. Eufemia Gulf. It is rich
in noteworthy places of art.
On the site where the inhabitants of Locry Epizephyrii founded
Hipponion (VII century C), is where the modern Vibo Valentia
probably already existed as a centre by the name of Veip,
founded by Ausoni or by the Enotri, a Greek population who
arrived in Southern Italy during the XVI century BC.
The Greeks founded Medma, the present day Rosarno, along with
Hipponion, with the intention of finding new territory to
dedicate to agriculture. This was because it was more difficult
to carry out along the Jonica coast where Locry Epizephyrii
After a long period during which the centres were governed
by the mother cities of Hipponion and Medma, they waged war
against Locry (422 BC) to obtain their independence.
Following victory of Dionigi of Siracusa over the Lega Italiota
(389 BC), Hipponion was destroyed and its inhabitants deported.
Moreover, Locri annexed the cities of Caulonia, Medma and
In 378 BC, the Carthaginians decided to re-establish Hipponion,
which was soon conquered by the Bretti, a population of Italic
stock with strong growth.
At the beginning of the following century, the Greek Agathocles,
ally of Locry, managed to free Hipponion from Bretti domination
(292 BC), but the tyrant's death brought Hipponion once more
under Bretti domination until the end of the wars with Pirro,
which consigned a large part of the region to the Romans (275
After the end of the Second Punic War (202 BC), the Romans,
who were already owners of the Calabrian territory, founded
the Latin colony of Valentia (194 BC), alongside the old centre
determining the name of Vibo Valentia.
The construction of Via Popilia (132 BC), which linked Capua
to Reggio by passing through Vibo Valentia, gave rise to the
development of economic well-being for the entire Imperial
In 88 BC, the centre became a Municipium, and later assumed
a front line role during the civil war between Cesare Ottaviano
and Pompeo Magno's son, by accommodating the fleet of the
future Augusto in the port.
The artefacts uncovered and the archaeological digs, attest
to a certain liveliness during the Imperial period: there
were thermal buildings present as well as theatres and domus
(form of house) of wealthy people.
The centre assumed the name of Vibona when becoming a Episcopal
seat. It was then plundered by both the Visigoths (410) and
Vandals of Genserico (450).
After the end of the Roman Empire (476), the pause of the
Odoacre Reign (476-493) and the Ostrogoth Reign (493-553),
which was then cancelled by the Greek-Gothic war (535-553),
Vibona ended up as part of the territory of the Eastern Roman
The centre suffered from Byzantine politics which considered
Southern Italy as a secondary province to the Empire. Beginning
during the IX century, it suffered numerous incursions and
plundering by the Saracens (850, 915), who eventually destroyed
it in 983.
The Normans (1060), having understood the strategic importance
of the place, had the Castle constructed (1070). But it was
Emperor Frederick II of Swabia, who recreated the conditions
for the birth of the new centre. He decided to amplify the
Castle and employed Marco Faba to repopulate the centre (1235)
and offered advantageous conditions to whoever went to live
there. The new village assumed the name of Monteleone.
In 1269, it passed hands to the Angioinians, who, together
with Carlo II, decided to construct the Bivona Castle (1304)
to protect the port.
In the XV century, it lost its freedom when becoming fief
of the following families: Caracciolo, Brancaccio and finally
the Pignatelli (XVI century). Many inhabitants refused the
new subjection and transferred to Tropea, where from time
it enjoyed the state of Royal City.
However, Monteleone lived its Renaissance by becoming wealthy
in new buildings and becoming one of the main cultural centres
In 1734, the Bourbons ascended to power, and inaugurated politics
closer to the needs of the population. The latter, however
adhered the same to the Republican motions of 1799 by planting
a freedom tree in the main square. Monteleone was occupied
by Cardinal Ruffo's troops for this reason (1st March 1799).
From 1806, it became the capital of Calabria Ulterior, one
of the two provinces where Calabria had been divided by the
French, then owners of Naples.
During these years, there were continuous clashes between
Bourbon troops and bands of brigands.
After the Council of Vienna (1815), Monteleone merged into
the Reign of the Two Sicilies, leading to economic decline.
The population took part in the Renaissance motions (1848)
against the Bourbons and later welcomed the troops of Garibaldi
(27th August 1860).
The city once more assumed the name of Vibo Valentia on 19th
A visit to the City
Vibo is rich in monuments and history. There are numerous
cultural stops, among which we would definitely like to point
out: the Duomo, the Norman-Swabian Castle, the National Archaeological
Museum, the Rosario Church,, and the ruins of the Greek and
Roman city of Hipponion.
The Castle lies in an area of acropolises of Hipponion and
in fact, encompasses re-utilised material which came from
Greek temples. It was constructed by the Normans (1070) and
amplified by the Swabians and Aragonese. It is the seat of
the Vito Capialbi National Archaeological Museum, which exhibits
funerary objects, Corinthian vases and armour.
Nearby is where one will find the 15th century Palazzo Romei,
the Renaissance San Michele Church (1519) with its beautiful
clock tower and the San Giuseppe Church (1750) which preserves
interesting 17th century canvases in its interior.
Descending, one will arrive at the S. Maria La Nova Church,
with a 16th century portal and noteworthy canvases in its
interior. Palazzo Galiardi stands nearby, once the seat of
the Archaeological Museum, and the beautiful Villa Comunale
Next to the gardens one can visit the Rosario Church, which
preserves a 14th century sarcophagus and beautiful canvases
in its interior.
Moving along Via Vittorio Veneto, one will arrive in front
of the Santa Maria Maggiore and San Leoluca Duomo, erected
during the '600s on the place where a Byzantine Basilica from
the IX century once stood. It preserves a rich collection
of canvases and statues from various historical eras in its
The Hipponion Archaeological site is situated around 2 kilometres
from the actual centre.
Place of interest
- Castello Normanno-Svevo (XI sec.)
- Mura di Hipponion
- Duomo di Santa Maria Maggiore e San Leoluca (IX sec., rifatto
- Chiesa di Santa Ruba (XI sec.)
- Chiesa del Rosario (1337)
- Chiesa di San Michele (1519)
- Chiesa Santa Maria la Nova (1521)
- Chiesa dello Spirito Santo (1579)
- Chiesa dei Cappuccini
- Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli (1621-66)
- Chiesa del Carmine ('600)
- Chiesa delle Clarisse
- Chiesa di Santa Maria del Soccorso ('600)
- Chiesa di San Giusepe (1750)
- La Madonnella
- Parco Botanico Palazzo Di Francia
- Villa comunale Regina Margherita
- Villa Gagliardi
- Palazzo e Biblioteca Capialbi
- Palazzo Romei ('400)
- Castello di Bivona
- Visita di Rosarno
- Visita di Pizzo
- Visita di Tropea
- Museo Archeologico Nazionale Vito Capialbi, Castello normanno
- Museo di Arte Sacra
- Museo dell'Emigrazione G. B. Scalabrini
- Museo dei Marchesi di Francia
- Museo della Civiltà Contadina
- Museo della Tonnara