The Destination Guide You Didn’t Know You Needed | Calabria

beautiful beaches and towns of Calabria - Scilla.jpeg

This is the only destination guide of Calabria you’ll ever need!

The Region of Calabria

The southern Italian region of Calabria is a coastal paradise, known to many as the toe of Italy’s “boot”. The region’s peninsula consists of impressive mountain ranges, abundant hills, and picturesque coastlines along the Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas. It’s separated from the island of Sicily by the Strait of Messina, which is just over 3 kilometers wide at its narrowest point.

Calabria has its own distinct culture and rich history, evident in the region’s ancient towns, churches, and castles. Its cuisine also sets it apart from other Italian regions with its emphasis on bold and spicy flavours.

Calabria’s beaches are a main draw for many visitors; however, this diverse Italian region is still rather underrated and less touristic in comparison to others. In other words, it’s a spectacular region that will take you off the beaten path and into the little-known heart of southern Italy.

What is Calabria known for?

Calabria has a lot to offer in terms of culture, history, and sights, however this sun-kissed southern Italian region is perhaps best-known for its beaches.

Sandy white with clear blue waters and rugged cliffs, the beaches in Calabria are amongst some of the most beautiful in all of Italy.

What are the top places to visit in Calabria?

Here are some of the top Calabria destinations to visit:

Coastline and castle in Tropea, Calabria.

Coastline and castle in Tropea, Calabria.

Tropea

Tropea is a town unlike any other, known for its distinctive clifftop city centre, sweet red onions, and white sand beaches. The town sits on Calabria’s east coast and is a pristine seaside spot you won’t want to miss.

The town’s stretch of beautiful public and private beaches are a big draw for visitors looking to swim in clear turquoise waters and soak up some sun. And a walk through Tropea’s historic centre will allow you to browse the artisan shops, visit the ancient palazzi, and enjoy the wonderful local cafes and restaurants.

Capo Vaticano, Calabria, Italy.

Capo Vaticano, Calabria, Italy.

Capo Vaticano

About 12km away from the town of Tropea is Capo Vaticano, a spectacular cape known for its white granite rocks, surrounding turquoise waters, and beautiful beaches. Whether you’re enjoying the area on the beach or by boat, Capo Vaticano is a stunning destination that will connect you to the unspoilt beauty of Calabria.

National Parks

A large portion of Calabria’s land is occupied by magnificent mountains and natural areas, which is why the region’s three national parks offer amazing spots to hike, fish, canoe, ski, bike, and enjoy everything the great outdoors has to offer.

Calabria is home to Pollino National Park (the largest national park in Italy), Sila National Park, and Asporomonte National Park. From scenic waterfalls and lakes to rolling hills and amazing wildlife, the national parks of Calabria are natural worlds that are just waiting to be explored.

Monument on the Lungomare, Reggio Calabria.

Monument on the Lungomare, Reggio Calabria.

Reggio Calabria

Reggio Calabria is the region’s largest city, located at its southern tip, which makes it an important port and link to Sicily. Some of the city’s main sights and destinations include the ancient Castello Aragonese, The National Archaeological Museum of Magna Graecia, the botanical gardens with views of the sea, the Lungomare Falcomata promenade, and the Monument of Athena.

Cosenza

The ancient town of Cosenza is one of the cultural hubs of southern Italy as it’s home to a number of important museums, theatres, and schools including the University of Calabria.

Some of the best things to do in Cosenza include walking through the open-air museum on Corso Mazzini, visiting the Norman Castle and Cathedral of Cosenza, walking along the River Crati, and exploring the city’s Old Town.

What food is Calabria known for?

Calabrian cuisine is typically simple and spicy, with strong flavours and distinct Mediterranean influences. Some must-taste ingredients are the famous Calabrian “pepperoncino” (hot pepper), found in a number of traditional Calabrian dishes, and the prized Tropea red onion with its uniquely sweet taste.

Other popular Calabrian food includes:

  • Nduja – A spicy salami spread often served on bread and with cheese.

  • Fish & Seafood – Because of its proximity to the sea, fish and seafood are major aspects of Calabrian cuisine. Popular dishes include cured fish (swordfish, cod, and sardines), and stockfish.

  • Preserved vegetables & meat - Food preservation is a major part of Calabrian cuisine because of the region’s hot temperatures. And because Calabria is a major olive oil producing region, many vegetables are preserved “sott’olio” or “under oil”.

  • Cheese – Many wonderful cheeses are produced in Calabria, including Pecorino Calabrese made from sheep’s milk, Provola, and Caciocavallo.

  • Eggplant – Eggplant or “melanzana” is a favoured ingredient in many Calabrian dishes, as the vegetables grow abundantly throughout the region. It’s often used in pasta and meat dishes, as well as in stews.

Tartufo – This delicious ice cream dessert hails from the Calabrian town of Pizzo and typically consists of two or more flavours of ice cream sculpted into a round shape, with a frozen fruit or syrup filling and chocolate or cocoa covered exterior.

Many jars with preserved Italian food with vegetables and sardines.

Many jars with preserved Italian food with vegetables and sardines.

Nduja  – A spicy salami spread often served on bread and with cheese.

Nduja – A spicy salami spread often served on bread and with cheese.

What wine does it produce?

Calabria is home to 12 DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) wine regions, which produce much larger amounts of red wine than white wine. A large portion of Calabria’s red wine is made from the Gaglioppo grape, with one of the most popular varieties being Cirò.

Is Calabria safe?

Despite having a reputation for Mafia activity and crime, Calabria is generally a safe place for tourists to visit. Of course, there are always risks associated with travelling and safety precautions should be taken wherever you choose to travel.

Calabria Map, Italy.

Calabria Map, Italy.

How do you get there?

You can easily reach a number of Calabria destinations in different ways:

  • By plane – Calabria has three airports: Reggio Calabria's Aeroporto dello Stretto, Sant'Anna Airport, and the Lamezia Terme International Airport.

  • By train – Both long-distance and regional trains frequently run both to and from Calabria. If you’re travelling from a major Italian city like Milan or Rome, there are many options that will take you to Calabria’s main Reggio Calabria Centrale train station.

  • By boat – The Reggio Calabria to Messina ferry connects Sicily with Calabria and is a journey that takes just over an hour. It’s also possible to take a ferry from Messina to Villa San Giovani, which takes approximately 20 minutes.

What is the best time of year to visit, Calabria?

Depending on what you like to do, Calabria is a destination that can be visited year-round. For those looking to relax on the beach, summer (June-August) is the best time to visit. This is also a good time to enjoy Calabria’s many natural areas, where you can find great hiking opportunities and take in the beauty of the region’s mountains, waterfalls, and blue lakes.

Calabria’s mountains are also a main draw for winter (December-February) visitors looking to ski and enjoy other winter activities.

What is the weather like in Calabria?

Calabria is a very sunny region with little rainfall. The summers tend to be very hot and dry with average temperatures around 25°C, while winters are usually mild with temperatures around 10°C.

Tropea, Calabria.

Tropea, Calabria.

Sara DiCarlo