The archaeological area of the ancient Greek city of Kaulon (or rather Kaulonia) lies near Punta Stilo, in the territory of the municipality of Monasterace Marina, along the Ionian coast of the province of Reggio Calabria. It is made up of both the Archaeological Park with a nice little Museum and the Archaeological Underwater Area in the sea section in front of the Park, where it’s possible to dive to see the underwater Archaeological Site of Kaulonia.
Over the centuries, due to a progressive phenomenon of coastal erosion and bradyseism, there has been a profound change in the coastline, which is backward compared to the age of the Greek colony. According to recent geo-archaeological studies, it appears that the coastline in front of the Kaulonia city, in the Greek age, was about 300 m further to the east than the present, as well as being characterised by a slightly arched shape. This wide area, time ago on the surface, is currently in the range of 7.5 m to 5 m deep and is characterised by the presence of many architectural elements, completed or semi-finished. These are pieces of columns (parts of the stem) and bases of grooved ionic columns, squared blocks of various sizes, rough hollow blocks and mooring bits. This important underwater site, made up of more than 200 finds, has been interpreted as an area of work of architectural elements or as a temple under construction, not completed for reasons still unclear. About the columns age, thanks to stylistic comparisons, it is probably set between 480 and 470 BC.
The first excavations were undertaken at the beginning of the twentieth century and supervised by Archaeologist Paolo Orsi. They explored the sacred area, the Doric temple and part of the walls, then in the 1950s topographic and urban studies were conducted by Schmiedt and Chevallier. The excavation of the House of the Dragon is attributed to Alfonso De Franciscis, following his researches there were others investigating the temple, the walls and one of the residential areas.
The archaeological investigations of the Ancient town of Kaulon started again only in the 1980s, thanks to the efforts of the Archaeological Superintendence of Calabria in collaboration with the national scholastic system and other institutions, both Italian and foreign. The researches made in the last decades studied almost exclusively the side of the town that oversees the sea: the temple area is being studied by the University of Pisa and the Scuola Normale Superiore; the vast complex of the Casa Matta is being investigated by the Archaeological Superintendence of Calabria with the contribution of the Mediterranean University of Reggio Calabria and the University of Calabria; while the University of Florence has been investigating the northern part of the ancient residential area, known as San Marco, since 2003.
A path running parallel to the coastline, mimicking one of the main streets of the ancient city of Kaulon, allows visitors to observe the ruins of the residential area with its regular structure and its houses, preserved at the level of the foundations, starting from the buildings discovered in the area called San Marco, inhabited since the mid eight century B.C. Here were discovered some archaic structures to whose other buildings were superimposed, the “Casa del Personaggio Grottesco” (i.e. House of the Grotesque Character) built in the classical period and then a Hellenic period house on top of it. Continuing along the path, you get to the so-called Casa Matta (Crazy House), where they brought to light a luxury mansion that served different purposes in the course of time.
In the same area you can see the ruins of a thermal complex, the so-called Thermal Baths of Nannon, boasting one of the most important and big mosaics of the Magna Graecia, the mosaic with dragons, dolphins and hippocampuses. In the last section of the itinerary you can see the sacred area with the Doric temple of which you can distinguish the base, the altar, the stairs and other structures of sacred character.
Going back, a little road takes you to one of the most luxurious mansions of the ancient Kaulon, the House of the Dragon, where the mosaic now displayed in the museum was found. An underway located on the opposite side from the first will now lead you to a residential area at the feet of the hill of Punta Stilo’s lighthouse. The Archaeological Park also includes a wide underwater archaeological area, extending from the Doric temple to the Assi torrent, which is now submerged and under protection, and it coincides with a Hellenic period complex for the manufacturing of stone.
The healing potential of the thermal waters, known as "Ancient Waters," were known since ancient times, as they were used by the ancient city of Locri Epizephiri. The ancient Locrians sent the waters in their city through an aqueduct built along the bank of the stream of Gerace.