South of Rossano lies an empty stretch of beach, with, inland, the vineyards of Ciro, the source of Calabria’s best-known wine. Crossing the River Neto into the fertile Marchesato region, you’ll find the approach to CROTONE (the ancient Greek city of Kroton) blighted by a smoky industrial zone – not the most alluring entry into a city, but a rare thing in Calabria, and a reminder of the false hopes once vested in the industrialization of the region. In spite of this, Crotone today has a pleasant, unspoiled old centre and a great museum, and makes a good base for the beaches that spread to the south and for the Greek ruins at Capo Colonna.
The site of ancient Kroton has been entirely lost, but in its day this was among the most important colonial settlements of Magna Graecia, overshadowed by its more powerful neighbour Sybaris, but with a school of medicine famous throughout the classical world and closely linked with the prowess of the city’s athletes, who regularly scooped all the honours at the Olympic Games back in Greece. In 530 BC the mathematician and metaphysician Pythagoras took up residence in Kroton and it went on to be the foremost of the Greek cities in Calabria. However, increasingly destabilized by internal conflicts, the city was eventually destroyed by the Romans. A resurgence of sorts occurred in the thirteenth century when it was made the main town of the Marchesato region, a vast feudal domain held by the powerful Ruffo family of Catanzaro. But its prosperity was always hindered by the scourge of malaria, provoking the author George Gissing – himself a victim of malaria during his visit in 1897 – to condemn Crotone as “a squalid little town”.