A construction boom in the 1950s and '60s encased Cosenza's medieval city—which winds up the hillsides between the Busento and Crati rivers—in a sprawling, traffic-clogged modern town. Nevertheless, the steep, stair-filled centro storico truly hails from another age: wrought-iron balconies overlook narrow alleyways lined with old-fashioned storefronts and bars. The palazzi that line the route to the 12th-century Duomo, a UNESCO World Heritage monument, once housed nobility but today serve as studio spaces for many artists and artisans. The medieval castle, open to the public, crowns Pancrazio Hill, where the views of town and the surrounding countryside are magnificent.
Cosenza is also the gateway to the cool and silent forests of the Sila mountains and villages like Rende (only 13 km [8 miles] away) and the Pollino National Park area (less than 80 km [50 miles]).