ADVERTORIAL • December 2022
Word is getting out when it comes to Calabria – one of Italy’s loveliest and least-discovered corners. There are mountains dotted with Byzantine castles and terracotta-tiled towns, sweet-scented bergamot orchards and rugged national parks. Its 500-mile coast, meanwhile, spans rocky coves and white-sand beaches, with turquoise shallows to paddle in and second-to-none gelato. Thirteen reasons to visit Calabria? We could easily give you a hundred…
From bergamot granitas to breakfast brioche con gelato, Calabria excels at ices. Crema reggina is its pastel-pink signature scoop, spiked with rum and candied fruit. Alternatively, try a tartufo di Pizzo (pictured), a cocoa-dusted ball of hazelnut ice-cream with a decadent chocolate centre.
For pine-edged pistes and zero queues for lifts, head for Calabria’s four ski resorts – including Gambarie (pictured), whose sea views stretch to Mount Etna. For snowshoe-stomps and sledging, visit the Sila plateau or ski cross-country trails in its snow-dusted, fairy-tale forests.
The Tyrrhenian coast is dotted with pretty towns, starting with Tropea (pictured). Handsome palazzi edge its cliffs, overlooking dreamy white sands, while the old town’s a beguiling mix of cafés, cobbled backstreets and churches. Along the coast, Pizzo is another beauty, with its pastel-painted centro storico and world-class gelato.
Calabria excels when it comes to seafood, from handsome turbot to freshly landed squid – and, above all, swordfish. Try its alla ghiotta, in a garlicky, caper-studded sauce, or in a sandwich in the town of Scilla (pictured). Think precision-grilled fish with sweet onions or rocket in perfectly toasted panini.
With three National Parks, each on an epic scale, this is paradise for hikers. Head for the Amendolea waterfalls at Aspromonte, search the shores of Lago Cecita in Sila (pictured) for spring’s first primroses or tackle the 34-mile Kalabria Coast to Coast – a three-day amble spanning mountain paths, chestnut groves and glorious seascapes.
Centuries of invaders left their mark on Calabria – including the ancient Greeks, who claimed it as Magna Grecia. At the Museo Nazionale di Reggio Calabria, come face to face with the shipwreck-salvaged Bronzi di Riace (pictured) – two life-size, nude Greek warriors with silver teeth and ivory eyes.
The mountains are dotted with perched towns and villages – including the mountain-framed Morano Calabro (pictured), with its tessellating terracotta roofs. On the Ionian Coast, Stilo is another standout, with its Byzantine church, sun-faded palazzi and seaward panoramas.
Life was often hard in Italy’s south, so cucina povera was essential – the art of making delicious meals from an almost-empty larder. Today, those recipes are the region’s signature dishes, from stuffed aubergines (pictured) to pasta e alici scattered with anchovies and breadcrumbs.
Calabrians adore peperoncino (chilies), especially in the north, liberally adding them to bruschetta, pizzas and pasta. You’ll also find plenty of ’nduja (pictured) – the spicy, spreadable sausage that’s now gone global, best slathered on toast, fileja pasta or punchy diavolo pizzas.
With almost 500 miles of coastline, there are plenty of beaches to bask on. On the Costa degli Dei (Coast of the Gods), Tropea has white sands and turquoise shallows, while Capo Vaticano (pictured) is known for its wilder, cliff-backed coves – including Praia di Fuoco, accessible only by boat.
The Calabrese calendar is packed with events, from Castrovillari’s folklore-fuelled carnival to Tropea’s Tri da Cruci, with its firework-laden boats and papier-maché giants. Look out, too, for the Festival del Peperoncino – a five-day celebration of the eponymous chilli – pictured here drying on the windows of a house in the village of Orsomarso.
Set on a rocky spur, this fortress-topped seaside town is every kind of magical, and – according to Greek myth – once home to six-headed sea-monster Scylla. Stroll Chianalea, its charming fishing quarter, then climb to the castle (pictured) for far-reaching views before a sublime seafood lunch.
There’s plenty to keep small fry happy here, from fairy-tale castles and forests where wolves roam to the steam train that chugs across the Sila. Its beaches are perfect for sandcastle-builders, while the passeggiata, gelato in hand, is an all-ages institution.