Cosenza has suffered from the chaotic construction boom of the 1950s and '60s, with a sprawling, traffic-clogged modern town that encases the old medieval city, which winds up the hillsides between the Busento and Crati rivers. Its steep, stair-filled centro storico truly hails from another age. Wrought-iron balconies overlook narrow alleyways with old-fashioned storefronts and bars that have barely been touched by centuries of development. Many artists and crafts workers have set up their studios in the abandoned palaces of the former nobility, which line the route to the 12th-century Duomo, a UNESCO World Heritage monument. The medieval castle, open to the public, crowns the Pancrazio Hill, with a magnificent view over the town and the surrounding countryside.
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]).