The Chiesetta di Piedigrotta

May 3, 2011 / Places
Pizzo Calabro, Calabria

Tucked below the road just outside Pizzo Calabro and all but invisible to unwitting travelers, La Chiesetta di Piedigrotta is one of Calabria’s most interesting attractions.

According to a 17th Century legend, a group of sailors were caught in a storm just off of the coast of Pizzo. Fearing an imminent death, the captain gathered his crew and prayed to the Madonna, promising to build a church in her honor in exchange for safe landing. When they landed on shore unscathed, they kept their promise and built an altar inside a nearby cave.

The cave is carved entirely in tufa stone and over the years local artists and sculptors have added to the display. Light seeping into the cave from the overhead crevices and nearby ocean cast a dramatic, yet eerie, glow on the statues and the occasional golden-hued fish can be seen swimming in the puddles that have formed over the years.

– This and other fascinating stops on the 1st Annual Calabrian Table Tour in October! (see below)

Cherrye Moore

by Cherrye Moore

Cherrye Moore is owner of My Bella Vita Travel, a boutique tour operator specializing in custom vacations and heritage tours in southern Italy. Join her in June or September for the Small Group Heritage Tour of Calabria – a unique small group tour that combines group travel with a private heritage tour, or in September for the Undiscovered Southern Calabria and Eastern Sicily Tour.


14 Responses to “The Chiesetta di Piedigrotta”

  1. Torre

    What a wonderful story and such a beautiful place. I am going to include it in my itinerary next trip in the area. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Robert Lemon

    An altar on which holy images are kept and from which the sacrament is dispensed, is a noun.

    Alter, on the other hand is a verb, indicating that something is changed or modified.

    Otherwise I enjoyed the story, describing an area of Italy that is unfamiliar to me.

    Thank you.

  3. Ken Borelli

    I have always said, Calabria is Italy’s best kept secret, It is off the track but charming and very interesting, and not over run with tourism…..happy to read about the Calabrese cooking tour too..would love to go, since I have a cookbook out since the 1980’s Flavors From A Calabrese Kitchen…….Ken Borelli,

  4. Angela Melczer

    This is amazing and beautiful, too. It helps me understand a bit better my Calabrese mother’s devotion to the Rosary, which I try to honor and keep up.

  5. Gian Banchero

    Thank you Cherrye! During this mornings meditation I focused my eyes on the photo of the priest with the angels, great photos… Mr. Borelli, where might I buy a copy of your book Flavors From a Calabrese kitchen? I really admire la cucina Calabrese.

  6. Linda

    This absolutely beautiful. We visited Calabria in October as my in-laws were born there and my husband wanted to see their place of birth. We definitely will include it when planning our next trip.

  7. Sue Savage

    Absolutely beautiful a must see! I have visited this mystic place so many times and every time I love it more and more!

  8. I have been to this place several times, and i have to say that it is interesting enough to visit again…hopefully it will be there for many years, though the ‘statues’ in the grotto have deteriorated. The first couple of times i went there, it was free to enter-now they have caught on to collect money. Not too much is free anymore in Italy-except nature. And we had better take good care of it.
    The first time i was there i was ‘flashed’ by a local (mentally ill) man who lives in Pizzo, so take care to go with a friend in case he is still around. i was terrified at the time. When you enter, you have the sense that this was a place where the fishermen came to pray for good harvests.

  9. Marianne Balotta Virgili

    My mother told me that the Balotta family helped build the grotto. I just visited and could not find any plaques about who built it, though my parents saw our family name posted there in the early 1970s. Do you know anything about the name of the original family or families that built the grotto?

  10. Phoebe Grigg

    I just came back from a visit to this wonderful little cave-church, and in the “Little Guide, Pedigrotta Church, Pizzo” it says: “Towards 1800, a local artist, Angelo Barone, who owned a small stationery shopp in the centre of town, decided to dedicate his life to the chapel of Piedigrotta; every day he would walk there and with his pickaxe he expanded the cave…” “…Angelo died in the 19th of May 1917, his son [Alfonso] then took over his work and dedicated forty years of his life to the church…” then at the end of the 1960’s “…a nephew…named Giorgio decided to return to Pizzo from Canada where he had moved to, and had become a famous sculptor…He stayed in Pizzo and worked on the restoration of the church…The restoration was finished in 1968.”


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