The Lavender Park: a corner of Calabrian Provence


When one thinks of lavender, one automatically thinks of Provence and its infinite expanses of purple flowers. The plays of light the flowers make with the sun, especially at sunset or sunrise, are one of the most sought after natural beauties by visitors.

Well, in Calabria there is a similar place in the province of Cosenza. Exactly in Campotenese, on the Pollino massif, in a fraction of Morano Calabro.

Spectacular lavender field

Herein, the Rocco family has created the Lavender Park, dedicating themselves exclusively to it, from cultivation to distillation and transformation into cosmetic products.

The initial idea was to look for plants that could withstand the cramped winter temperatures and that would resist under the blanket of snow.

They found out that between 900 and 1700 meters the lavender can survive; the same flowers which in the whole Pollino National Park until the beginning of the two wars guaranteed a flourishing activity and was a source of income for the inhabitants of the place.

The Rocco family tried to understand if it was possible to reproduce it, keeping its genetic properties intact in cultivation. Thus, from eight seedlings, three were selected and multiplied in vitro. Everything started in their labratory, at that precise moment.

Lavender flowers

From 2013 their agricultural property was converted into a botanical garden, exactly a sort of educational farm where you can study the peculiarities of lavender and learn to distinguish its species.

Today, in addition to the native flower that grows freely on the Pollino and which is called Loricanda, more than 50 are grown. Each has different characteristics from the others and is uniquely distinguished.

These 50 types are called simply Lavender (also called “lavelli”), while True Lavender (cultivated) show up a rainbow of colors, ranging from white to all shades of purple.

OTOH, on the Polluino plateau, near the lavander crops there are also random types of medicinal herbs such as thyme, roseate, peppermint, lemon and chocolate.

Lavender harvest

Furthermore, the Lavender Park offers visitors the opportunity to witness the distillation and separation of oil from lavender water.

This is also sometimes used as a soothing agent. The oil obtained from lavender angustifolia is the true essential oil with antifungal properties.

Finally, it is possible to buy lavender-based cosmetic products: natural soaps with drops of oil or with flowers for a scrub effect, scented candles, shelled for the fragrance of cabinets and environments, and herbal teas…

Another breathtaking place in Calabria you cannot miss out…

Lavender flowers

The red gold of Calabria: saffron, treasure of King Alaric


In past centuries, the province of Cosenza was known for the production of saffron. The province of Cosenza was one of the largest exporters in the world. There are historical sources that tell of its production in Presila in 1500.

Some people, in the wake of this tradition, have even believed in the precious spice, linking the business to the legendary figure of the Gothic king Alaric.

Saffron and its flowers

Many loads of saffron went all over the world, in the very middle of the Renaissance, from the city of Cosenza, replying to a global demand.

This happened since the past. The most expensive spice on the market, it has come a long way from Cleopatra to Calabria. The Egyptian queen used it every day to brown her skin. And so we rediscover it as the ancestor of today’s cosmeticians treatments.

King Alaric


There is a moment, between October and November, when the hills of the province of Cosenza are tinged with purple, just as soon as autumn has turned off all its colors.


It is the time for saffron to bloom, and it lasts about 15 days.
“Let’s go and pick the flowers one by one – explain the growers – a job we do personally because it requires extreme care”.

The harvested flower must arrive intact at the “brushing” stage, a word full of charm since it contains within itself the act of removing the flower from the stem, but also the need to do it with extreme delicacy.

A Saffron field on the hills

The customers of Calabrian saffron companies are mostly restaurateurs.

Spice, dear to Sardinia and indispensable for the famous Milanese risotto, is today the perfect ingredient of gastronomic laboratories of starred chefs who enhance Calabrian traditions.

«Our research – explain the producers – has allowed us to trace a strong link with the territory and to make a story out of it. And it is a fundamental aspect, because the average type of consumer wants to appreciate its qualities but also to know its history ».

The partner friends of Calabrian saffron are great chefs. They say: «The real treasure, the one we have under our eyes, is the earth. We believe in it. In a territory, rather than chasing something non-existent, we need to seek and preserve what really exists ».

A saffron flower


That of saffron is a very simple production: the bulbs are planted around mid-August, when the temperature begins to change.

The plant grows in a few months, in late October it blooms. This is the most important moment, because everything must be done in a very short time and manually, in order not to damage the very delicate flowers, which must be placed in the baskets.

At this point the processing takes place in the laboratory, where the flower is separated from the pistil (this is the so-called “grazing”) which will then be dried.
The saffron obtained is finally stored in the glass, waiting to be bagged and packaged. Only 10% of what is produced remains in Calabria.

Saffron harvest


Saffron is the most counterfeit product in the world and the small Calabrian production must compete with the intensive ones of Iran, Morocco and Spain. These countries bring to the markets a saffron which costs two euros per gram, against twenty-five of the Italian one.

There is no resignation in the words of a young and stubborn businesswoman. “The way forward is certainly to join forces,” he says. «We small producers are many, and we all have similar difficulties that we can overcome by creating a network, a collaboration that allows us to stay on the market and become truly competitive. At the moment we are on the ground, but we are evaluating new strategies ».
Small but tenacious like the red gold crocus flower.

Saffron cultivation


In the past, saffron treated rheumatism, gout and strong inflammations such as toothache.
Also used as an abortion powder, it was better known as an aphrodisiac (Cardinal Richelieu was among the usual consumers).
For the Roman emperors and priests it was a precious perfumer of sumptuous salons and temples, the Calabrian peasants scattered it on the bed of the newlyweds’ first night.
A spice with a thousand uses, a world to discover.

Kardinal Richelieu