At land’s end: Capo Vaticano Tirreno


Calabria: a tale of two coasts

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From ancient sights to seaside delights, Calabria has everything about Italy that most travellers dream of – without the crowds. But, with a stunning coastline on each side of the region, the first question is where to go first?

Both Calabria’s Tyrrhenian and Ionian coasts are dotted with fishing villages that have grown into resorts wherever there is a fine beach to be found – and Calabria’s are unquestionably the best beaches in Italy. Along with shimmering blue and turquoise seas, bags of culture, outdoorsy adventure opportunities and the freshest of food – each has its own personality and year-round appeal…

Where to go: the Tyrrhenian coast

More than 150 colour-drenched murals cover the walls of Diamante. Often used as a film set, the town boasts beaches and underwater grottos beloved of divers. Hire a sea kayak to explore the little Isola di Cirella. And Diamante likes it hot: its chili peppers are celebrated at the September Peperoncino Festival.

inset-Tyrrhenian coast-Praia a Mare

Praia a Mare
The long beaches of charming Praia a Mare (above) offer water sports galore, paragliding and trips to the glittering marine caves of Isola di Dino. Pollino National Park is nearby for treks and canoeing, as is magical Arcomagno Beach, hidden behind a natural arch. Join in Praia’s evening passeggiata (stroll about town) – it feels like a party!


La dolce vita lives on in atmospheric Pizzo, on the aptly named Coast of the Gods. Visit its castle, museum and fantastical Chiesetta di Piedigrotta carved out of solid rock by sailors, and don’t miss a gelateria stop for a famous tartufo di Pizzo, an ice cream ‘truffle’ filled with molten chocolate.

A mediaeval town with a Norman cathedral teetering high on sea cliffs, Tropea is pure romance. Soft white sands line the shore below, and the spectacular sunsets seen from here are famous across Italy.

inset-Tyrrhenian coast-Scilla

Named after the Homeric monster who haunted the Strait of Messina, Scilla (above) delivers breathtaking views, with houses spilling down the cliff into a bijou port, all under a massive castle high over the sea. Add shiny black beaches and fresh swordfish, and you have one of Calabria’s best kept secrets.

Where to go on the Ionian coast

Roccella Ionica
Set on The Jasmine Coast, Roccella’s mediaeval centre and castle overlook a curvaceous two-mile beach, dotted with art installations and two mysterious ancient porphyry columns from Egypt found here in 1863. Roccella is Calabria’s capital of jazz, hosting an internationally famous festival in August and a free Jazz Village at Christmas.

inset-Adriatic coast-Isola di Capo Rizzuto

Isola di Capo Rizzuto
Here the landmark is a spectacular Aragonese castle (above) on an islet in a turquoise sea so warm you can swim into October. Yet the star attraction is mostly out of sight: Capo Rizzuto’s waters host a major Mediterranean marine reserve. 

Laid-back Caminia is famous for granite reefs and two idyllic beaches: sheltered Spiaggia di Caminia, with clear turquoise water and hidden caves, and the outrageously picturesque Pietragrande. When you can pull yourself away from the sands, head to nearby Soverato, ‘the Pearl of the Ionian’ buzzing with bars and nightlife.

This is a matched pair of lofty hill villages, gazing down on endless beaches, which also make a great base for visiting the mountain forests of the Sila National Park. The area is full of surprises, from Rossano’s Baroque cathedral and Italy’s only liquorice museum to whitewater rafting and hot-air balloon rides.

inset-Adriatic coast-Capo-Colonna

Founded by eighth-century BC Greeks, Crotone was an ancient powerhouse and home of Pythagoras – glory days recalled in its archaeological museum and the archaeological area of Capo Colonna (above). It’s perfect for combining beaches with excursions into the mountains and to Byzantine-Norman Santa Severina, an extraordinary village atop a volcanic plug.

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