Orsomarso: a hidden gem in the Calabrian Apennines

A drone view of Orsomarso and its sorrounding landscape (drone filming by Skykab Studios)

Nestled in the heart of the Calabrian Apennines, Orsomarso is a charming village that offers a unique blend of natural beauty, rich history, and cultural heritage. This small, picturesque settlement is cradled by the crystal-clear waters of the Argentino river, a sight that is as breathtaking as it is serene. The village is crossed by the Argentino river, and lies in the Argentino River Valley, offering magical sights to its visitors. The iconic Clock Tower that dominates the village from the top of the tufa rock on which it was built is a must-see attraction.

una veduta di Orsomarso da Santa Croce con il palazzo baronale e la torre dell'orologio sullo sfondo
Una veduta di Orsomarso da Santa Croce, con il palazzo baronale e la torre dell’orologio sullo sfondo, il campanile della Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista visibile a destra e, a sinistra, il Convento di San Francesco (foto di Bonaventura Di Bello)

Orsomarso is situated on the western foothills of the Calabrian Apennines, a mountain range that stretches across the southern part of Italy. This location provides the village with a stunning backdrop of rugged mountains and lush greenery, making it a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The village is located near the confluence of the Argentino and Lao rivers, adding to its natural allure. The town has also promoted the initiative of planting a tree for each newborn baby, further enhancing its green credentials.

veduta aerea di Orsomarso in Calabria
An aerial view of Orsomarso from the side hosting the Church of the Most Holy Savior (or of St. Anne), with the Baronial Palace, the Clock Tower and the Church of St. John the Baptist on the background (photo by Fabio Perugino)

Orsomarso and the Pollino National Park

The village is located within the boundaries of the Pollino National Park, Italy’s largest national park that spans across the regions of Calabria and Basilicata. The park is a UNESCO designated site and is renowned for its diverse flora and fauna, including the rare Bosnian Pine and the Apennine wolf. The park’s rich biodiversity, combined with its stunning landscapes, make it a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Orsomarso. The Pollino National Park extends from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Ionian Sea, covering an area of almost 200,000 hectares and is one of the GeoParks protected by UNESCO. The park consists of several massive mountains, between the Ionian and the Tyrrhenian Sea that rise up to the higher elevations of the Southern Apennines: the Pollino Massif, the Orsomarso mountains and Mount Alpi. The park offers a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking and climbing, and features seas and streams, as well as large, towering woodland areas full of beech. Visitors can also find dolomitic rocks, morainic deposits, caves and gorges, glacial cirques, paleontological sites, and even snow, depending on the time of year.

Orsomarso and the Tyrrhenian coast

Despite its secluded location, Orsomarso is just a few kilometers away from the Tyrrhenian coast. This proximity to the sea offers a unique opportunity for visitors to enjoy both the mountainous landscapes and the beautiful coastal scenery in a single trip. The Tyrrhenian coast is known for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and charming coastal towns, providing a perfect contrast to the rugged beauty of the Apennines. Calabria’s Tyrrhenian Coast offers kilometers of wild coast alternating with stretches of sand and evocative villages overlooking unspoilt sea. The coast of Calabria stretches from the municipality of Tortora to the city of Reggio Calabria, presenting very different scenarios that are grouped according to the peculiarities of the area. For those arriving from the north, the Riviera dei Cedri welcomes you. With 7 Blue Flag beaches, super-friendly people and amazing food, Calabria is a true gem of southern Italy, yet international travelers rarely venture here. This makes Orsomarso an ideal destination for those seeking a unique and off-the-beaten-path experience in Italy.

veduta di Orsomarso con alle spalle la catena montuosa che lo circonda
A view of Orsomarso with, behind the village, his mountain range and, on the right, the Valley of the Argentino river (photo by Christoph Heylen)

The fascinating Orsomarso mountain range

The village of Orsomarso derives its name from the eponymous mountain range that surrounds it. The Orsomarso range is a prominent feature of the Calabrian Apennines, with its highest peak, the Cozzo del Pellegrino, reaching almost 2000 meters in altitude. This peak is a popular destination for hiking and mountaineering, offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. The Pollino National Park features the Pollino and Orsomarso mountain massif in the southern Apennines and extends nearly from coast to coast. It is nestled between the summits of Dolcedorme and Cozzo del Pellegrino, further enhancing the natural beauty of the region.

Orsomarso historical origins

Orsomarso’s history is as rich and diverse as its natural beauty. The village has been inhabited since ancient times, with archaeological evidence suggesting the presence of prehistoric settlements. Over the centuries, Orsomarso has been influenced by various cultures, including the Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines, each leaving their mark on the village’s architecture, traditions, and way of life. The town has probably Romanic origins, further adding to its historical significance. The village’s rich history and diverse cultural influences make it a fascinating destination for history buffs and those interested in cultural heritage.

Come visit Orsomarso!

Today, Orsomarso continues to charm visitors with its quaint streets, traditional stone houses, and friendly locals. The village offers a range of activities for visitors, from exploring the natural beauty of the Pollino National Park and the Orsomarso range, to immersing oneself in the local culture and traditions. The village’s charm and hospitality, combined with its rich history and stunning natural beauty, make it a must-visit destination in the Calabrian Apennines.


Q: What is Orsomarso?
A: Orsomarso, a town steeped in Greek-Roman heritage, began as a military fortress known as Kastron. Strategically positioned at a height of 120 meters above sea level, it stood sentinel over a vital communication link between the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas. Even today, the town remains nestled above the pristine waters of the Argentino river.

Q: What does the name Orsomarso mean?
A: The intriguing name of Orsomarso hails from the Byzantine period, thought to be in honor of an imperial officer, Oursos Marsos.

Q: When was the town of Orsomarso established?
A: The town of Orsomarso was established in the first half of the 11th century.

Q: Why was Orsomarso renowned during the medieval period?
A: Notably, the town carved out a significant niche for itself in the medieval era, gaining renown for housing Italo-Greek monks. This religious presence fueled the birth and ascendency of a widely recognized monastic eparchy.

Q: Is Orsomarso part of a national park?
A: Yes, Orsomarso is included in the Pollino National Park and gives its name to the Orsomarso mountain range.

Q: What is the Orsomarso mountain range?
A: Within the realms of Orsomarso lies the expansive Pollino National Park, and the town also lends its name to the Orsomarso mountain range within the park. The range features the towering peak of Cozzo del Pellegrino, which at 1987 meters, rivals the nearby Pollino Massif.

Q: What is the Natural Reserve of Valle del fiume Argentino?
A: One of Orsomarso’s ecological treasures is the Natural Reserve of Valle del Fiume Argentino. The reserve, a starting point for various hiking trails, also serves as a tranquil retreat with areas dedicated to picnics.

Q: What are some of the outdoor activities available in and around Orsomarso?
A: Orsomarso offers a plethora of outdoor activities catering to adventurous souls. Thrill-seekers can traverse the gorges of the Argentino river or brave the rapids of the nearby Lao river via canoe or raft. The Armilungo, a renowned cliff at the entrance of the valley, adds to the array of natural wonders waiting to be explored in this fascinating region.