ADVERTORIAL • July 2023
A verdant tableaux, where thriving woodlands meet soaring mountain peaks and cascading waterfalls lead to the quaintest of villages, Calabria’s National Parks are some of the most stand-out in all of Italy. We explore the essential itineraries for an any-season adventure inspired by nature…
Devil’s Bridge and Raganello Gorges, Pollino National Park
Best for: Gourmet explorers
The biggest of the bunch (and the largest of its kind in all of Italy), UNESCO-protected Pollino National Park spans a monumental 192,000 hectares. A tapestry of heady peaks, rushing rivers and historical monuments, the mountain village of Civita makes an optimum starting point for an action-packed day. Hike down from the 15th-century Old Town to the cavernous Raganello Gorges – Gole del Raganello – canyon and marvel as this meandering river valley snakes out to the Ionian Sea. Then hop across the dizzying Ponte del Diavolo (Devil’s Bridge), so called because its construction, which dates to the Middle Ages, was said to have called upon supernatural powers, so advanced was the work for its time. Once you have enjoyed a short stay in the mountain and its villages, hop only a few kilometres to the Ionian or Tyrrhenian seaside – a trademark of holidaying in Calabria.
What to eat: After climbing those peaks, sit down and refresh yourself with a taste of the many typical Pollino delicacies, such as felciata di Morano cheese accompanied by fragrant Cerchiara bread baked in an oak, chestnut and beech wood-fired oven. Pair with a delicious glass of Moscato di Saracena wine.
Arvo Lake (Lorica), Sila National Park
Best for: Tree huggers
A mere 50km south of Pollino, you’ll find yourself in yet another breathtaking oasis: the Sila National Park, home to some of the finest woodlands in Calabria. This mountainous massif rises up in the heart of the Mediterranean, coated in forests of giant trees, sweeping valleys, rivers and waterfalls, canyons and villages – all brimming with evidence of history, art and local traditions. It dates back 3,000 years BCE, as evidenced by the archaeological remains of a Neolithic village discovered a few years ago on the southern shore of Cecita Lake. Other places to take your swimming costume in the park include the Arvo, the Ampollino, the Ariamacina, the Passante Reservoir and the small Savuto lake.
When to visit: Sila’s natural majesty can be admired all year round. Visiting it in spring means being delighted by an early bounty of primroses, violets, saffron and forget-me-nots. If you look closely, you will also see the soldanella, endemic to the region, which consists of a lilac-coloured snowflake-like bell. Visit in the colder seasons, and Sila enchants under a fine dusting of snow.
Maesano waterfalls, Aspromonte National Park
Best for: Hardy hikers
Down the toe of the Italian ‘boot’, Aspromonte National Park is a veritable paradise of biodiversity, home to an outstanding geological heritage and evocative landscapes. Avid hikers can take their pick from countless trails of varying difficulties, perfect for photography enthusiasts, but you can just as easily explore by skis, on horseback, in a canoe or by mountain bike. For a more relaxed ramble, follow the dedicated path down to the cascading three-tiered Maesano waterfalls. Continuing south along the Amendolea river, history buffs will be in their element exploring the quaint village of Condufuri, Gallicianò, where locals converse in Grecanico – a language dating all the way back to Ancient Greece. Nature lovers will be impressed by the forests’ centuries-old trees, where the southern squirrels with their characteristic black fur find refuge.
What to pack: Don’t forget your swimmers if you’re visiting during summertime. A hike down to Maesano’s final pool will be rewarded with an invigorating plunge in the midst of one of Calabria’s most staggering beauty spots.
Fly direct to Naples or Bari and drive to the most northernly of Calabria’s National Parks, Pollino, in less than two-and-a-half hours. To plan your trip, click here