Italian fisherman

The Murals of Diamante, An Engaging Stroll by the Sea

These past months have been difficult for everyone and particularly challenging for Italy. First small towns, then larger areas, museums, organized events and the whole country shut down. It got me to thinking about how resilient Italy, its villages and its cities have been, how Italians have come back time and time again after catastrophes of varying natures and proportions. In the spirit of new beginnings, I would like to talk about a revitalization project in a town of northwestern Calabria, today often referred to as the Città dei Murales. On this post, you can visit the compelling murals of Diamante virtually, and hopefully soon in person with the requisite social distancing.

OPERAZIONE MURALES

Back in 1981, Nani Razetti, a Milanese painter enamored with Diamante, proposed a project called “Operation Murals” to the mayor of the coastal town. He jumped on board, and in the first year, 83 Italian and foreign painters joined forces to breathe new life into Diamante’s historic center. The original works still adorn town walls, many of which have been restored as sun and saltwater can take their toll. The project continues today, boasting over 150 murals and extending to other Diamante districts.

Welcome to Diamante

Welcome to Diamante, City of Murals and Peperoncino

The community would eventually become to be known as the City of Murals. Its high-quality spicy pepper accounts for its other nickname, City of the Peperoncino. And interestingly, Diamante is located in the center of what’s called the Citron Riviera, and this special variety of citrus fruit is named the Diamante citron.

peperoncino statue

Peperoncino woman in Diamante

MURALS OF DIAMANTE: PLACES, PEOPLE AND TRADITIONS

The range of subjects and styles is wide amongst the murals of Diamante, and by nature of the narrow streets, the images can be difficult to capture photographically.

murals of Diamante

Diamante city murals

People are pictured traditionally, such as these two men, one represented with the area’s citron (note the book in his hand entitled Il Cedro or The Citron) and the other dressed as a fisherman.

murals of Diamante

Traditional occupations of Diamante men

The mural project also embraces mosaics. In these images, fishermen go about their daily chores and farmers cultivate the citron.

ceramic murals

Traditional occupations of fishing and citron cultivation

The long mural on this wall shows the challenges of harvesting the low-hanging citron.

citron cultivation

Town wall showing citrus harvest and production

Other depictions are more contemporary, such as the women in the photos flanking the historical representation of filling the water jug.

murals of Diamante

Murals of women

There is traditional Italian culture and foreign culture.

street art

Murals of Italian woman selling bread (note the real window and plant) and Native American

MURALS OF DIAMANTE: POETIC MUSINGS

In addition to imagery, the visitor will note many words, phrases and longer compositions amidst the murals of Diamante, such as in this excerpt from Walt Whitman’s poem “To a Stranger”:

Passing stranger! You do not know how longingly I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking….
I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.

street poetry

Walt Whitman in Italian

An image of a man standing on a pile of intellectual books in order to reach the top of a brick wall and a dove in flight is accompanied by an aphorism by the Roman poet Juvenal: “The censor forgives the crows and harasses the doves.” The painting to the right features an aphorism by the French poet and philosopher Paul Valéry: “War is a massacre of people who don’t know each other for the profit of people who know each other but don’t massacre each other.”

philosophical imagery

Juvenal and Valéry amongst Diamante’s poetic and philosophic musings

American Richard Bach, best known for his Jonathan Livingston Seagull, is referenced in another mural with a quote from his book There’s No Such Place As Far Away: “Rise in flight past the night and beyond sunrise…. Fly free and happy beyond birthdays and across forever…. there’s no such place as far away….”

There's No Such Place As Far Away

Richard Bach flying freely on a Diamante mural

A mural next to a clothing shop ponders the history and fate of this crossroads on the Tyrrhenian Sea: “The Mediterranean, cut through by myths, by hopes and dreams, by heroes and migrants. A legend? A reality! Eyes that look on from afar, helplessly incredulous in a disquieting silence that threatens from below.”

Diamante mural

Mural of the Mediterranean

MURALS OF DIAMANTE: DIVERSITY

Strolling through the old town past the intriguing murals of Diamante is de rigueur for both the local population, counting over 5,000, and the town’s visitors, particularly the many summer beachgoers and those attending its various festivals. The images are amazingly diverse. Here are a few more.

Religious references are crowned by the Passion played out on a corner.

Italian street art

The Passion in Diamante

Several surreal works pop with bright colors.

surreal fish

Entitled “Mutations”

A street scene blends with its surroundings.

Mediterranean street scene

Diamante street scene

A young black child implores, larger than life, from a wall.

child mural

Mural of a child in Diamante

Fishermen repair their nets in a mural enhanced by a real window and live house plant.

fisherman painting

A Diamante fishing scene

A Disneyesque lion makes a splash on an already bright yellow wall.

lion mural

Colorful lion mural in Diamante

Is your head full?

Diamante murals

In the Città dei Murales


Interested in other contemporary art and artists in Calabria? On this blog, read about Nik Spatari in MuSaBa: Not Just a Museum, Textile Artist Domenico Caruso, A Dream in Terracotta, ARGHILLÀ l’arte delle terre of Nicola Tripodi, Enzo Ferraro and the Ceramics of Seminara, Salvatore Tonnara in An Artist in Amantea and The Palazzo della Cultura in Reggio Calabria. And for an in-depth look at the beautiful land in the toe of the boot, check out Calabria: The Other Italymy non-fiction book about daily life, history, culture, art, food and society in this fascinating southern Italian region. It’s available in paperback and e-book versions.

Check out the itineraries of my Calabria tours, “like” Calabria: The Other Italy’s Facebook page and follow me on Karen’s Instagram and Karen’s Twitter for more beautiful pictures and information.

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CALABRIA: THE OTHER ITALY makes a great gift!Calabria book

Comments 20

  1. I truly enjoyed your email. I have sent your email to a client who was intending to visit Calabri next year….his plans have been put off for now. Italy will recover … of this I am sure.

    Ciao e Pace

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      Thank you. Everyone’s plans have unfortunately changed, but I think more disconcerting is the “wait and see,” the not knowing what the future will bring. But as you say, we all will recover. Cari saluti.

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  2. What a delightful blog! Informative, interesting and stimulating –as is most everything you put your hand to.T

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  3. Thank you Karen, always such an interesting read, will forward on to some Italian friends, both Sicilian and Calabrian. Take care and keep posting,
    Regards Louise N.

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  4. Grazie Karen! i have read about this town before, but I can’t remember where. Some of these murals are gorgeous, although I could do without the Disney lion. I prefer the images that look like they have a connection to a small southern Italian village. Let’s hope we can get back to travelling soon…well not too soon, but soon! Ciao, Cristina

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      I had so many images to choose from and as odd as that lion king may seem, the bright colors jumped out at me and I found myself wondering if the homeowners had chosen the string door curtain before or after the big cat. On the one hand, I agree that a connection to the location is preferable, but on the other, I can see that the people might not want to feel frozen in time. It’s certainly a delicate balance, but one thing’s for sure – the mailman won’t have any trouble finding the lion house!

  5. Great post and photos!
    Love Diamante and its murales. Always take friends and family visiting from overseas to Diamante and it’s never disappointing. The murales are added to all the time so always discover new ones to photograph.

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  6. Ah, how wonderful to have an outdoor museum like this! I’m so grateful to all the artists who decided to gift their talents to these murals. And thank you for sharing this bit of art with us.

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      Public art can serve so many purposes – spark conversation, entertain, edify and give the community a face lift! Glad you enjoyed it.

  7. Diamante is such a treat. I took my mom there when she came to visit me and she absolutely loved it. It’s so much fun wandering around the little narrow streets and finding murals everywhere you turn. I need to go back because there are so many murals I didn’t see (some of which you have pics of on this post! haha)

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