Diamante, City of Murals
The seaside village of Diamante is situated on Italy’s western coast in the province of Cosenza, part of the Calabria region of southern Italy. It looks out over the Tyrrhenian Sea with Sicily in the distance. (If you visualize Italy’s “toe of the boot,” Diamante is on the front of the foot above the ankle!)
Dating back to as early as the 1600s, Diamante is known for its fisheries and agriculture. The crops it’s famous for are the Diamante citron fruit and hot chili peppers, thus its nickname, La città dei murales e dei peperoncini, or The City of Murals and Hot Peppers!
After leading a photo tour in Tuscany in 2019, I traveled south to the Calabria region to scout for a future photo tour there. That photo tour has been rescheduled several times now, first due the pandemic and then due to the war in Ukraine. This October, at long last, I’m returning with a small group of seven photographers to explore the region. While there are many photogenic locations throughout Calabria, the village of Diamante and its famous murals earned a special place in my heart.
How did the mural project get its start?
It wasn’t all that long ago – just 1981! – when the Milanese painter Nani Razetti, proposed the mural concept (he called it Operation Murals) to Evasio Pascale, then the mayor of Diamante, who enthusiastically embraced the idea. That first year, more than 80 Italian and international painters created murals throughout the heart of Diamante. Many of these original works have been restored after years of weathering along the coast. The project has thrived for the past 42 years thanks to the efforts of a new generation of painters and today Diamante and surrounding districts are graced with more than 150 murals.
While I almost always use a Fuji mirrorless and an iPhone, each of the images here was made with the iPhone XS Max and processed with Lightroom Mobile and/or the mobile app SnapSeed.
The photos of murals scattered throughout this article are some of my favorites from my 2019 trip.
While I’m sure they all have stories, I’ll share the one about the mural of the tree (shown) that moved me and has stayed with me since it was first told to me by Diamante’s Mayor, Maria Rosa, in 2019. I was told it is a true story.
A young couple, both artists, who were very much in love, celebrated their honeymoon in Calabria in the mid 1980s. They enjoyed a stay in Diamante and were taken with the many murals throughout the village.
Over the years, they developed their respective careers as artists, both influenced by the murals they had seen in the village in their youth.
Later, after enjoying a long and happy marriage, the husband succumbed to illness and died. The wife, now an accomplished artist, returned to Diamante in 2012 and painted the ambiguous mural featuring the tree in memory of her late husband and in honor of their loving life together.
After this October’s photo tour in Calabria, I plan to stay for an additional week to scout new locations for another trip in 2024. If you’d like to join me, email me or subscribe to my newsletter to see when the trip opens for registration.
In the meantime, be safe, stay well, and keep on creating!
Rad A. Drew
Photography has always been synonymous with fun and magic. As a kid, it was fun to compose, fun to capture, magic to develop and process, and fun to share. It was fun to seek out photos and to engage people, and magic to travel to new lands or find the unusual in familiar places. It was magic to convey an emotion or make a point and touch others through visual imagery that I created. As an adult, photography continues to be more fun and magical than I ever dreamed! Despite changes in technology that have occurred during my lifetime, the esthetic of photography remains much the same. The creative mind of the photographer is still the most important element in a great photo. The camera doesn’t create a photograph any more than a hammer designs a building; it’s merely a tool that allows us to create our vision. Today, my camera bag holds two mirrorless cameras, an infrared camera, a point-and-shoot, and an iPhone. Of these tools, I credit my use of iPhones since 2010 with providing more opportunities to practice the esthetics of photography, making me a better photographer regardless of the camera I'm using. And photography has never been more fun and magical!