A Guide to Calabria

Discover the toe of Italy’s boot

Calabria is at the toe of Italy's boot and one of the country's least-visited regions. In this part of southern Italy, getaways are all about the beach and the sea, making it the ideal spot for a vacation. It’s a place where you’ll discover seaside towns spread out along the clifftops, with the coves and beaches below being some of the best in the country. 

Across from the aquamarine waters of Sicily, those that venture this far south will be rewarded with eye-catching coastlines, ancient castles, and churches that watch over the waterfronts of small towns like Pizzo and Parghelia.

The Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, once wrote, “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” And this will resonate with you as you travel around the most rural regions of Italy, where the air is swathed in jasmine and bergamot. No matter what your plan is when traveling around this southern gem, you will find other destinations.

At the height of summer, you can expect to bathe in temperatures of 86° F. As the Calabrese proverb says, "U sule a chinne vidari, scafari," the sun warms whomever it sees. 

TIMELESS TROPEA 

The origins of the city are wrapped in legend. It is said that Hercules stood on the coast and named Tropea one of his ports. There’s plenty to do in “the town of Hercules.”

Tropea's two and a half miles of pristine white beaches are among the cleanest and best in Italy. Le Roccette (The Rotonda Beach) in Tropea is one of the most internationally photographed. With vanilla-colored sands being lapped by the ultramarine waters, you could almost think you’re in the Caribbean. 

Eat:

The most famous onion in Italy comes from Tropea and is named "Cipolla Rosa di Tropea" (red onion of Tropea). You’ll see them hung from shop doorways all over the town. 

This sweet onion is used in many local recipes. They’re thrown into bowls of Zuppa di cipolle, onion soup with Italian brandy. So special is this onion that it even has its own annual festival, which takes place on July 27th.

Sleep:

Just a few minutes from Tropea is the Capovaticano Resort Thalasso SPA, which is located on one of the most evocative stretches of Calabria’s Tyrrhenian coast, the Costa Degli Dei, famous for its white beaches and abundant views. 

Pray:

Tropea's cliff-top churches. There's an idyllic hilltop church overlooking the shoreline, and no visit would be complete without visiting the clifftop Benedictine monastery. 

STUNNING SCILLA

Scilla (pronounced "sheella") is a fishing village and is the traditional site of the sea monster Scylla of Greek mythology. Scylla and Charybdis are the names of two rocks between Italy and Sicily. This is the birthplace of the everyday saying "between a rock and a hard place."

Visit:

Scilla's Ruffo Castle perches on a rocky ridge jutting into the sea. Pay a visit to catch an overlook of Sicily and the Ionian Islands.

Sleep:

Il Principe di Scilla offers panoramic sea views and classic-style suites. During the summer months, it has a magnificent seafood restaurant located right by the water. 

CAPO VATICANO

On the west coast, south of Tropea, Capo Vaticano is sprinkled with coves and bays. You’ll discover its sublime coastal in and around Capo Vaticano. The name comes from a natural cave that was used by shepherds as a shelter for their flocks.

View:

From the lighthouse, you can enjoy an unforgettable view of the whole coast, the Aeolian Islands, and the Strait of Messina.

Visit:

Capo Vaticano beaches are characterized by a crystal-clear turquoise sea and marine fauna and flora. The beaches are ideal for those who love snorkeling and scuba diving.

See:

Grotticelle is a beautiful beach with fine sand and clear sea. From here, take a pedal boat to all the isolated coves and beaches of Capo Vaticano.

FOOD FANATICS 

This region of Italy is all about good Italian food. You don’t need to reserve a table at a Michelin-starred restaurant here. Stumble across any village trattoria and you’ll be amazed by what they are cooking. The region’s sunny climate guarantees fresh produce. 

Cook:

Marianna's kitchen is located a few steps away from the main square in Tropea. Learn to make traditional fresh pasta and understand more about Calabrian cuisine at this top-rated cooking school. 

ROAD TRIPPING 

A car and a sense of adventure are vital in this region. Inland, Calabria offers a handful of little historic towns steeped in culture. Stilo, known for Italy's best-preserved Byzantine church; and Rossano, where the museum is home to an illustrated manuscript of the Gospels, one of the earliest in existence. 

Visit:

Vibo Valentina, the region’s little capital, is known for its churches and Norman castle. 

Explore:

Roccaforte del Greco and Gallicianò, where the presence of the Greeks 2,500 years ago is still reflected in a dialect said to be closer to the language of Homer than modern Greek.

See:

Pizzo is a pretty seaside town. Its historic heart is a maze of narrow lanes, winding down to a 15th-century castle. Don’t forget to try Pizzo's famous Tartufo dessert, where gelato is wrapped around a fruity core and given a chocolate shell.

Amanda Akien

Amanda Akien graduated from The University of Wollongong, Australia with an MA in Journalism with Distinction. Her writing has appeared in international travel magazines, as well as The Guardian newspaper. Although Amanda is based in the UK, she has traveled throughout Italy, even interning at a major modeling agency during Milan Fashion Week. Her favorite region is Tuscany - she loves Florence and is also partial to a glass of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo! 

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