Overnight we sailed away from Sicily travelling South and then East around the boot of Italy to the small town of Crotone, another Italian place about which we knew nothing.

Harbour buildings and castle in the centre

This was another town of Italy first settled by Greeks in about 710BC and they named the settlement Kroton. Legend has it that Hercules accidently killed his best friend and named the settlement after him. This was its name until the Middle Ages when it was changed to Cortone but in 1928 it was changed again to its current name of Crotone, pronounced Craw-toe-ne. Our visit to this little town was very different but very interesting in comparison with the others.

Crotone is a small town with a population of just over 65 000 and very keen to develop its tourism activities.  When we got there, they had only 5 guides and so, instead of allocating individual guides to separate groups, they arranged for them to be at the places of interest where they entertained us. They were dressed in period costume and were able to describe happenings at the time.

On our way into town, we visited the Fresh Food Market where the smells and sights were really beautiful. It was larger than one would expect in such a small town but sales seemed to be taking place quite actively. We did feel rather sorry for a few stall holders who had their stalls off the beaten path where there didn’t appear to be many shoppers. Not only were foods sold here but also small household items.

Fresh food market

From there, we wandered to what we had been told was the main street which, as was the case in Taormina, went straight uphill to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. It was this climbing of hills that caused several passengers from the ship to report that they were disappointed in some of the choices for excursions. At the top of the hill we received our first welcoming surprise. Outside the Cathedral a 3-sided tent where we were served ice cold juice from citrus fruits grown locally. It was delicious, especially on such a very hot day.

Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta at the top of the main street
Receiving fruit juice and Roman actor

Outside the Cathedral stood a gentleman wearing the robes of the 11th Century and told of how things were decided and planned in those days. It was such an interesting way to learn of the town and its development. Many people were mesmerised. It was amazing how he moved from one story to the next and all the actions that went with them. Once we had heard him we went into the Cathedral and found it to be just wonderful. It was originally built in the 9th to 11th Centuries but has been updated and rebuilt over the years. Unusually, the nave has 2 aisles which are decorated in Baroque style. The Baptismal font dated from the 12th Century and there is a beautiful painting of the Black Madonna which was brought from the East in the first years of the Christian era.

The Sanctuary
Organ loft
Painting of the Black Madonna

We walked around to the side of the church and continued up a steeper hill to the Castle, Castello di Carlo V, named for one of the early Kings of Italy. At the top of the hill, we had to decide as there was no signage, do we go down the hill which turned to the right or straight ahead? We decided to go down the hill and found we had chosen correctly for, at the bottom, we could see the Castle walls at the T-Junction at the end of the road. Between the Cathedral and the Castle we passed the National Archaeological Museum which had a long queue of people waiting to enter it. The Castle is now a Museum but we did not turn in that direction but went the other way towards the park.

Downhill to the park and the Castle
The castle with a school gate on the right

We had 2 short stops en route. The first was to listen to a young woman dressed in period Roman clothes telling us how “she and her family of that time” had come by boat for her father to lecture at the local university. The second stop was with a gentleman, also dressed as a Greek from the early settlement of Crotone. In fact, he was Pythagoras, the most famous person to have lived in this town. It makes the local people very proud to be able to claim him as theirs. He told us all about his proven theory – “In a Right-angled triangle, the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other 2 sides.” Unfortunately, his Italian accent was very strong and so it was not easy to understand him. He called himself “Pitygras”.

The Roman lady
Quiet and cool park

Our next station was a gorgeous one. No need to listen to anyone this time, just admire and eating watermelon. This station was setup and staffed by teenagers who were not in school as it was the summer holidays. There was 1 lady who was older than the students and showed to be excellent at carving into the watermelons. One read, “Welcome to Crotone” and another was decorated with roses and a map of Italy which showed carved roses and a small map of Italy with an indication of the position of Crotone in the South. Just beautiful. Each person was served with a big piece of watermelon, and we all took the opportunity to sit under the trees. We could see our ship, Viking Sky, from the park.

Sculpted welcome watermelon
Sculpted watermelon

Having had a lovely morning looking and learning about lovely Crotone we began to walk back into town where the coach was waiting. The roads were not pleasant to walk on. Not only were they steep, they were also constructed of a combination of strips of tar, cobbles and concrete and to make things worse they were narrow and there didn’t seem to be any traffic rules. Cars parked on both sides of the roads and drove at quite high speeds. Pedestrians had to be very aware and cautious at all times. Pavements were very narrow and uneven so not an easy option.

Our time to explore Crotone was anything up to 5 hours and shuttle buses rotated between town and the ship every 20-30mins. This different type of excursion was a really interesting way to visit Crotone.

Viking Sky from the park