A cracking stage and overall lead was decided after a solo break came at 10 kilometers to go and the chasers fell just short of making the catch by metres.
Lampre-Merida's Diego Ulissi gave the host country its first stage victory 200km after the 2016 race had returned to Italian soil. It was his fifth career stage win at the Giro.
"I’m extremely happy," Ulissi said. "My victory comes after enormous team work. Valerio Conti managed to create the small group and I rode away knowing that, on the final descent, the peloton of chasers would go even faster than me.
"I gave it everything I had. It’s a huge emotion."
As expected, the beautiful rolling terrain from Catanzaro to Praia a Mare in Calabria eliminated the sprinters like race leader Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) from the final equation and returned the Maglia Rosa to the hands of its first holder, Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin).
What wasn't expected was the fact that it also saw a lot of accomplished climbers dropped, with high profile riders in last year's fourth place finisher Andrey Amador and 2012 winner Ryder Hesjedal losing valuable time to their rivals.
"It’s great to get the Maglia Rosa back," Dumoulin said. "That’s what we were working for today.
"We sent Georg Preidler into the last breakaway. It would have been perfect if he had taken the race lead but it wasn’t to be.
"At the last gasp, I tried for the stage win but Ulissi was just too strong," Dumoulin said.
But it was Ulissi who was the star of the day with a trademark punchy ride to hold off a chasing group containing the crème de la crème on a course which suited his talents perfectly.
Dumoulin was in that chasing group and kicked at the close of the stage to finish second and again take control of the pink jersey as the leader of the general classification.