If you want to experience old Italy, you know the Italy you might be familiar with from those Hollywood mafia movies where everyone’s out to kill ‘Tony’, then visit the Calabrian Coast.
Calabria is a completely different Italy to what we’ve come to know in the central and northern provinces. The people look and sound different and the food has a uniquely Calabrian twist.
We based ourselves in Tropea, the beautiful coastal heart of Calabria. Tropea’s historic centre, built 50 metres above sea level has a rustic, alfresco charm with 180 degree views of the perfect crystal clear ocean below. The town centre is compact and filled with restaurants, cafes and outdoor bars.
Tropea beach, below the historic city, has a completely different, almost ‘caravan park’ vibe. Restaurants and bars line the waters edge. These beach bars make a perfect host to catch an unforgettable sunset, Aperol Spritz in-hand with the silhouette of Stromboli smoking away in the distance for dramatic effect.
What to do
This free beach (rare for Italy) is totally brag-worthy. Boasting brilliant aqua blue water, yellow sand and hidden beach caves; you’ll want to spend all day relaxing by the shore. And relax we did.
Saint Mary of the Isle Sanctuary
This picturesque church has medieval origins and is the emblem of the city. Perched above the ocean it’s a showstopper for sure but it’s best feature is the church garden with sweeping views of the beach below and Tropea historic centre behind it.
Stromboli by night
A cruisy hour long boat ride from Tropea lies one of Europe’s most active volcanoes, Stomboli. Surrounded by black beach and puffing a pungent nasal cleansing sulfur, it’s hard to imagine how anyone could live here without the constant fear of being part of a ‘Dante’s Peak’ style thriller.
Once you take in an island sunset you board the boat for an explosive volcanic fireworks display… If you’re lucky you might just catch it on camera; which we didn’t.
Technically by visiting Stromboli you have visited Sicily, just a nice note to add to your travel checklist.
Reggio Calabria may not have an historic centre like its trendy counterparts but what it lacks in historical monuments it makes up for in style. The stunning promenade reminiscent of Nice in France, is a stone throw away from Messina, Sicily divided by the narrow Strait of Messina, just 3km away. The city is young and vibrant with great promenade shopping and good restaurants. Reggio is well worth a visit.
The enchanting fishing village of Scilla is a perfect photo-worthy pit stop. Scilla is known as Little Venice, for its position almost immersed in the sea and an easy walk from the marina through the narrow single street of the village will give you plenty of wow moments.
Pentedattilo Ghost Town
If the walls in Pentedettilo could talk they would have an epic tale to tell. Invasions, massacres, Greek era, Roman era, Byzantine domination, natural disasters; man, Pentedettilo has experienced it all.
Established in 640 BC by the Greek Chalcis who colonised the area, this once bustling village was abandoned in the 1783 after a sever earthquake and has been slowly rebuilt by volunteers since the 1960s giving us a glimpse into Italy’s bygone era.
At first glance Calabria is not as refined as Italian beauties like Florence, Tuscany or Rome. It appears to have been forgotten, left behind and run down around the edges. But looks can be deceiving. Calabria is filled with natural beauty, the food is fresh, full of flavour and the best we have tasted so far and the people were so friendly we felt at home here. Definitely add it to your travel bucket list.