Reggio is located on the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula and is separated from the island of Sicily by the Strait of Messina. It is situated on the slopes of the Aspromonte, a long, craggy mountain range that runs up through the centre of the region. The third economic centre of mainland Southern Italy, the city proper has a population of more than 200,000 inhabitants spread over 236 square kilometres, while the fast-growing urban area numbers 260,000 inhabitants. About 560,000 people live in the metropolitan area, recognised in 2015 by Italian Republic as a metropolitan city.
As a major functional pole in the region, it has strong historical, cultural and economic ties with the city of Messina, which lies across the strait in Sicily, forming a metro city of less than 1 million people.
Reggio is the oldest city in the region, and despite its ancient foundation – Ρηγιον was an important and flourishing colony of Magna Graecia – it has a modern urban system, set up after the catastrophic earthquake on 28 December 1908, which destroyed most of the city. The region has been subject to earthquakes.
It is a major economic centre for regional services and transport on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. Reggio, with Naples and Taranto, is home to one of the most important archaeological museums, the prestigious National Archaeological Museum of Magna Græcia, dedicated to Ancient Greece. Reggio is the seat, since 1907, of the Archeological Superintendence of Bruttium and Lucania.
The city centre, consisting primarily of Liberty buildings, has a linear development along the coast with parallel streets, and the promenade is dotted with rare magnolias and exotic palms. Reggio has commonly used popular nicknames: The "city of Bronzes", after the Bronzes of Riace that are testimonials of its Greek origins; the "city of bergamot", which is exclusively cultivated in the region; and the "city of Fatamorgana", an optical phenomenon visible in Italy only from the Reggio seaside.
During its 3,500-year history Reggio has often been renamed. Each name corresponds with the city's major historical phases:
The toponym of the city is perhaps derived from Chaldean word Rec (meaning king) or maybe from the Greek one régnȳmi referring to the straits between Calabria and Sicily as a break in the land.
From the late 3rd millennium BC onwards until the 8th century BC the city was inhabited by peoples such as the Osci (sometimes referred to as Opici), Phoenicians, Trojans, Mycenaeans and Achæans, then by Oenotrians, Ligures, Ausones, Mamertines, Taureanes, Sicels, Morgeti and Itali. The sculptor Léarchos was at Reggio at the end of the 15th century BC, and one Iokastos appears on its coinage at the beginning of the 13th century BC. The land around Reggio was first known as Saturnia, or Neptunia, and later Italia, which in Roman times became the name of the whole Italian peninsula. In those days however, it corresponded only to present-day, southern Calabria, which later came to be known as Bruttium, while the name Italia (Italy), in fact, was first used only for the area of Reggio itself.
After Cumae, Reggio is one of the oldest Greek colonies in southern Italy. The colony was settled by the inhabitants of Chalcis in 730 or 743 BC on the site of the older settlement, Erythrà (Ερυθρά), meaning "the Red one". This dated back to the 3rd millennium BC and was perhaps established by the Ausones. The last Ausonian ruler was king Italós, from whom the name of Italy is derived. King Iokastos is buried on the Punta Calamizzi promontory, called "Pallantiòn", where Greek settlers later arrived. The colony retained the earlier name of "Rhégion" (Ρήγιoν).
Under Greek rule, Reggio became a Polis of Magna Græcia and an ally of Athens; it was also first an ally and then an enemy of nearby Locri. Rhégion was governed by the Messenians, from 737 to 461 BC; by Syracuse from 387 to 351 BC, when it was known as Phœbèa and subsequently by the Campanians but between the 5th–3rd centuries BC, from time to time, it was also a republic. Reggio was one of the most important cities in Greater Greece, reaching great economic and political power during the 5th and 6th centuries BC under the Anaxilas government. Anaxilas allowed Reggio to rule over all the Messina Strait, including Zancle (modern Messina). Rhegion later allied with Athens during the Peloponnesian War until 387 BC when the city was taken by the Syracusans.
Throughout classical antiquity Rhégion remained an important maritime and commercial city as well as a cultural centre as is demonstrated by the presence of academies of art, philosophy and science, such as the Pythagorean School and also by its well-known poet, Íbykos, the historian, Ippys, the musicologist, Glaúkos and the sculptors Pythagóras and Kléarkhos.
Under the Greek rule, the former Italic culture was amalgamated into the Hellenic before disappearing altogether.
As an independent city since 271 BC Regium was an important ally and "socia navalis" of Rome. During the Imperial age it became one of the most important and flourishing cities of southern Italy when it was the seat of the "Corrector", the Governor of "Regio II Lucania et Bruttii" (province of Lucany and Brutium). During the Roman Empire it was elected a Municipium and named "Rhegium Julium" as a noble Roman city. It was a central pivot for both maritime and mainland traffic, reached by the final part of the Via Popilia (also known as Via Annia), which was built in the 2nd century BC and joined the older, Via Appia at Capua, south of Rome. Close to Reggio, on the Straits of Messina, was the busy port of Columna Rhegina. Rhegium boasted in imperial times, nine thermal baths, one of which is still visible today on the sea-front. During the whole Latin age Reggio maintained not only its Greek customs and language but also its Mint.
In 61 AD the apostle St. Paul passed through Rhegium on his final voyage towards Rome, converting the first local Christians and, according to tradition, laying the foundations of the Christianization of Bruttium. Due to its seismic activity, the Reggio area was often damaged by earthquakes, such as in 91 BC, when it was destroyed but then was rebuilt by order of the Emperor Augustus. Other memorable shocks took place in the years 17, 305 and 374 AD.
Invasions by the Vandals, the Lombards and the Goths occurred in the 5th- 6th centuries, and then, under Byzantine rule, Reggio became, a Metropoli of the Byzantine possessions in Italy and several times between 536 and 1060 AD was also the capital of the Duchy of Calabria. Following wars between the Lombards and Byzantines in the 6th century, present-day Calabria, then known as Bruttium, was renamed Calabria.
As Reggio was a Byzantine centre of culture, certain monks undertook the work of scribes and carried out the transcription of ancient classical works. Until the 15th century Reggio was one of the most important Greek-rite Bishoprics in Italy and even today Greek words are used and are recognisable in local speech and Byzantine terms can be found in local liturgy, in religious icons and even in local recipes.
Numerous occupying armies came to Reggio during the early Middle Ages due to the city's strategic importance. The Arabs occupied Reggio in 918 and sold most of its inhabitants into slavery. For brief periods in the 10th–11th centuries the city was ruled by the Arabs and, renamed Rivàh (or sometimes Rŷu), became part of the Emirate of Sicily. During the period of Arab rule various beneficial ideas were introduced into Calabria, such as Citrus fruit trees, Mulberry trees (used in silk production) and several ways of cooking local vegetables such as aubergines. The Arabs introduced water ices and ice cream and also greatly improved agricultural and hydraulic techniques for irrigation.
In 1060 the Normans, under Robert Guiscard and Roger I of Sicily, captured Reggio but Greek cultural and religious elements persisted until the 17th century. In 1194 Reggio and the whole of southern Italy went to the Hohenstaufen, who held it until 1266. In 1234 the town fair was established by decree of Emperor Frederick II.
From 1266 it was ruled by the Angevins, under whom life in Calabria deteriorated because of the their tendency to accumulate wealth in their capital, Naples, leaving Calabria in the power of local Barons. In 1282, during the Sicilian Vespers, Reggio rallied in support of Messina and the other oriental Sicily cities because of the shared history, commercial and cultural interests. From 1147 to 1443 and again from 1465 to 1582, Reggio was the capital of the Calabrian Giustizierato. It supported the Aragonese forces against the House of Anjou. In the 14th century it obtained new administrative powers. In 1459 the Aragonese enlarged its medieval castle.
Reggio, throughout the Middle Ages, was first an important centre of calligraphy and then of printing after its inventions, boasting the first dated printed edition of a Hebrew, a Rashi commentary on the Pentateuch, printed in 1475 in La Giudecca of Reggio although scholars consider Rome as the city where Hebrew printing began. The Jewish Community was also considered to be among the foremost internationally, for the dyeing and the trading of silk: silk woven in Reggio was esteemed and bought by the Spaniards, the Genoese, the Dutch, the English and the Venetians, as it was recognised as the best silk in the Kingdom of Naples.
From the early 16th century, the Kingdom of Naples was under the Habsburgs of Spain, who put Reggio undet a viceroy from 1504 to 1713. The 16th and 17th centuries were an age of decay due to high Spanish taxes, pestilence, the 1562 earthquake, and the Ottoman Turkish invasions suffered by Reggio between 1534 and 1594. In 1534, facing attack by an Ottoman fleet under Hayreddin Barbarossa the townspeople abandoned Reggio. Barbarossa captured eight hundred of those who remained, and then burned the town. After Barbary pirates attacked Reggio in 1558, they took most of its inhabitants as slaves to Tripoli.
In 1714 southern Italy became once more property of the Austrian Habsburgs who remained until 1734, when they were replaced by the Bourbons of Spain. Reggio was the capital of Calabria Ulteriore Prima from 1759 to 1860. In 1783, a disastrous earthquake damaged Reggio, all southern Calabria and Messina.
The precious citrus fruit, Bergamot orange, had been cultivated and used in the Reggio area since the 15th century. By 1750 it was being grown intensively in the Rada Giunchi area of Reggio and was the first plantation of its kind in the world.
In 1806, Napoleon Bonaparte took Reggio and made the city a Duchy and General Headquarters. After the former's fall, in 1816, the two ancient Kingdoms of Naples and of Sicily were unified becoming the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
During the course of the 19th century new public gardens were laid out, the piazzas (or squares) were embellished and cafés and a theatre were opened. On the newly opened sea promenade a Civic Museum was inaugurated. In fact, some 60 years after the devastation caused by the 1783 earthquake, the English traveller and painter Edward Lear remarked "Reggio is indeed one vast garden, and doubtless one of the loveliest spots to be seen on earth. A half-ruined castle, beautiful in colour and picturesque in form, overlooks all the long city, the wide straits, and snow-topped Mongibello beyond."
On 21 August 1860, during the famous "Battaglia di Piazza Duomo" (Cathedral Square Battle), Giuseppe Garibaldi conquered the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Bruno Antonio Rossi (the mayor of Reggio after the historian Domenico Spanò Bolani, who helped the citizenship during the previous turbulent years) was the first in the kingdom to proclaim the new Garibaldi Dictatorship and the end of the rule of Francis II.
On 28 December 1908, at 5:21 AM, the town was hit by a heavy earthquake and shook violently for 31 seconds. Damage was even worse in Messina across the Straits. It is estimated that 25,000 people perished in Reggio and 65,000 in Messina. Reggio lost 27% of its inhabitants and Messina lost 42%. Ten minutes after the catastrophic earthquake those who tried to escape running towards the open spaces of the coast were engulfed by a 10 metre high tsunami. Three waves of 6–12 metres swept away the whole waterfront. The 1908 Messina earthquake remains one of the worst on record in modern western European history.
During the World War II, due to its strategic military position, it suffered a devastating air raid and was used as the invasion target by the British Eighth Army in 1943 which led to the city's capture. After the war Reggio recovered considerably. During 1970–71 the city was the scene of a popular uprising – known as the Moti di Reggio – against the government choice of Catanzaro as capital of the newly instituted Region of Calabria. The revolt was taken over by young neofascists of the Italian Social Movement, backed by the 'Ndrangheta, a Mafia-type criminal organisation based in Calabria. The Reggio Calabria protests were the expression of malcontent about cronyism and the lack of industrial planning. Between the 1970s and the 1980s Reggio went through twenty years of an increase in organized crime by the 'Ndrangheta as well as urban decay. The town is home to several 'ndrine, such as the Condello-Imerti and the De Stefano-Tegano clans, which were involved in bloody wars against each other during this period. The 'Ndrangheta extorts protection money ("pizzo") from every shop and viable business in town and has more power than the city council in awarding licences to retailers.
The spiral of corruption reached its zenith in the early 1990s. The sitting mayor at the time, Agatino Licandro, made a confession reporting "suitcases coming into city hall stuffed with money but going out empty". As a result of the nationwide corruption scandals most of the city council was arrested. Since the early 1990s, the so-called "Primavera di Reggio" (Reggio Spring) – a spontaneous movement of people and government institutions – encouraged city recovery and a renewed and stronger identity. The symbol of the Reggio Spring is the Lungomare Falcomatà, the sea-side boulevard named after Italo Falcomatà, the centre-left mayor who initiated the recovery of the town.
On 9 October 2012, the Italian government decided to dissolve the city council of Reggio Calabria for infiltration by the 'Ndrangheta. The move came after some councillors were suspected of having ties to the powerful crime syndicate, under the 10-year centre-right rule of Giuseppe Scopelliti, mayor from 2002 to 2010. His successor, the centre-right mayor Demetrio Arena and all 30 city councilors were sacked to prevent any "mafia contagion" in the local government. It was the first time that the entire government of a provincial capital has been dismissed over suspected links to organized crime. Three commissioners ran the city for 18 months until a new election. According to anti-mafia investigators in 2016, Scopelliti was elected thanks to votes from the 'Ndrangheta.
Reggio has been destroyed by earthquakes several times over the centuries, such as in 91 BC, after which the city was reconstructed by order of the Emperor Augustus, followed by another in the year 17 AD; yet another one in 305 AD, and again another in 374. In 1562 one destroyed the natural, medieval port of the city and brought about the submersion of the Calamizzi promontory, known in ancient times as the Pallantiòn, where, we are told, the first Greek settlers, the Calcidesi, had set foot. The particularly devastating of 1783 and that of 1908, which was the worst natural calamity to take place in Europe in human memory, both profoundly altered the urban aspect of the city, due to the successive re-building which gave the present-day layout of straight, intersecting roads, planned by Giovanbattista Mori in 1784 and by Pietro De Nava in 1911. But some town-planning policies at the time were decided upon with no respect for the architectural history of Reggio, as is shown by the demolition of the remaining Norman part of the Castle, following the last big in 1923.
Although Reggio and Calabria in general were less popular destinations than Sicily or Naples for the first Northern European travellers, several famous names such as the Flemish Pieter Bruegel (in c. 1550), the German Johann Hermann von Riedesel (in 1767), the Frenchmen Jean Claude Richard de Saint-Non (in 1778) and Stendhal (in 1817), the British travellers Henry Swinburne (in c. 1775), Richard Keppel Craven (in c. 1820), Craufurd Tait Ramage (in 1828), the Strutt family and Elizabeth Byron (in 1840), Edward Lear (in 1847), Norman Douglas (in 1911), D. H. Lawrence (in c. 1920) and Eric Whelpton (in 1950s) and the Belgian Jules Destrée (in 1915 and in 1930) visited Reggio.
With an exceptionally high population density, Reggio Calabria was cited as having the least green space in a study of 386 European cities. The study reported that green space coverage varied markedly, averaging 18.6 per cent and "ranging from 1.9 (Reggio di Calabria, Italy) to 46 (Ferrol, Spain) per cent." The study further reported "Per capita green space provision varied by two orders of magnitude, from 3 to 4 m2 per person in Cádiz, Fuenlabrada and Almería (Spain) and Reggio di Calabria (Italy) to more than 300 m2 in Liège (Belgium), Oulu (Finland) and Valenciennes (France)."
According to the Köppen climate classification, Reggio Calabria possesses a typical Mediterranean climate (Köppen: Csa). Its climate is mostly identical with Messina which lies on the other side of the strait. Precipitation is the only exception because Messina receives approximately 300 mm (12 in) more.
The municipality of Reggio is divided into 15 sub-municipalities (Circoscrizioni) containing the frazioni ("subdivisions", mainly villages and hamlets) of Catona, Gallico, Archi, Pentimele, Gallina, Mosorrofa (Greek: Messorofè), Ortì (Greek: Orthioi), Pellaro (Greek: Pèllaros) and Saracinello. They are: Centro Storico (1st); Pineta Zerbi, Tremulini and Eremo (2nd); Santa Caterina, San Brunello and Vito (3rd); Trabochetto, Condera and Spirito Santo (4th); Rione Ferrovieri, Stadio and Gebbione (5th); Sbarre (6th); San Giorgio, Modena, Scido and San Sperato (7th); Catona, Salice, Rosalì and Villa San Giuseppe (8th); Gallico and Sambatello (9th); Archi (10th); Ortì, Podàrgoni and Terreti (11th); Cannavò, Mosorrofa and Cataforio (12th); Ravagnese, San Gregorio, Croce Valanidi and Trunca (13th); Gallina (14th); Pellaro and Bocale (15th).
Reggio di Calabria is twinned with:
Reggio retains a somewhat rural ambience despite its sizable population. Industry in the city revolves primarily around agriculture and export, fruits, tobacco, briar and the precious essence of the bergamot which is used in perfume production. Reggio is a port city with a sizeable fishing industry.
The beaches of the city have become a popular tourist destination., even if the sea is often polluted by untreated sewers. Tourism is distributed between the Ionian coast (Costa Jonica), the Tyrrhenian coast (the Costa Viola, Purple Coast) and the Aspromonte mountain behind the city, containing the natural reserve of the Aspromonte National Park where, at 1,300–1,950 metres above sea level, there is a panoramic view of the Strait of Messina from the snowy mount Etna to the Aeolian Islands.
The new waterfront, designed by architect Zaha Hadid, is located on a narrow strait separating Italy from Sicily. The museum (13,400 m2) draws inspiration from the organic form of the starfish, utilizing a radial symmetry to coordinate communication and circulation between different program elements: exhibition spaces, restoration facilities, archive, aquarium and library. A second, multifunctional building (8,000 m2), comprises two separate elements, placed around a partially covered piazza. It houses offices, gyms, craft laboratories, cinema and flexible auditoria.
For more information, see Category:People from Reggio Calabria
Reggio is a road junction on the SS18 Naples-Reggio and on the SS106 Reggio-Taranto roads and also on the A2 Salerno-Reggio motorway.
The Tramway of Reggio was operative since 1918 until 1937. Tramway line was 5.3 km long, from Sbarre district (southern suburbs) until Annunziata bridge (northern part of town centre) passing by the whole historical centre.
It has an important main central railway station, the largest in Calabria, opened in 1866, with ten smaller stations.
The Port of Reggio was enlarged after the 1908 earthquake.
Reggio Calabria, served by air from the Reggio Calabria Airport (IATA: REG, ICAO: LICR) also known as Aeroporto dello Stretto or Tito Minniti Airport, is located a few kilometres south of Reggio.