An Introduction to Calabria, Italy
Calabria is a region in Southern Italy, and it is affectionately called the “toe of the boot” for its position. It is bordered by the Ionian Sea to the east and the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west. Calabria is the birthplace of the term Italy, given to it by the Ancient Greeks who first settled here.
The region was one of the centers of Magna Graecia, which is why many Calabria towns have remarkable archeological findings. Beyond its stunning beaches and two national parks, Calabria is a paradise for foodies and wine lovers!
Things to See & Do in Calabria
Calabria’s crowning jewel is the town of Tropea. The dramatic rock formations and crystal-clear waters are one of the many things that make Tropea special. Strolling around the pedestrian-only historical center, you will see the famous red onions hanging everywhere.
Don’t miss Tropea’s most famous landmark, the Benedictine sanctuary of Santa Maria dell’Isola. Get ready to climb the 300 steps to reach the sanctuary and marvel at incredible views across the Strait of Messina.
Gerace is among Calabria’s most visited villages. The 8th-century Baroque cathedral is a stunning piece of art that will leave you speechless as soon as you enter. The Diocesan Museum is another must-see in Gerace for its impressive holdings.
One of Calabria’s bigger cities, Reggio Calabria is the perfect destination for relaxing walks along the seaside promenade, lined with palm trees and Art Nouveau buildings. History lovers will have a blast in the city thanks to the ancient Greek theater and the National Museum of Magna Graecia, where you can see the famous Riace Bronzes.
The lovely fishing village of Scilla, on the Tyrrhenian coast, is an absolute must-see! Perched on a promontory overlooking the crystal-clear sea, the breathtaking village is famous for the legend that it was once the home of the namesake six-headed sea monster guarding the Strait of Messina.
Other two splendid towns in Calabria are Castella, with its 15th-century Aragonese fortress that appears to float on an island, and Badolato, known for its 13 churches. Calabria is a great summer destination for its wonderful beaches.
From long sandy beaches to pebbly coves, there is something perfect for every travel group! Capo Vaticano and Arcomagno are unforgettable beach spots.
If you enjoy snorkeling and diving, Castella is the place to be, as the town is part of Italy’s largest protected marine area, featuring stony coral reefs and lots of marine life.
Calabria is a perfect holiday destination for outdoor and sports lovers as well. With pristine nature, lush vegetation, stunning waterfalls, and fantastic slopes to ski in winter, the region’s two national parks (Sila National Park and Aspromonte National Park) will overjoy children and adults alike!
Secret Secret Gems of Calabria
Nearby the city of Pizzo Calabro is a little cave church called Chiesetta di Piedigrotta. What’s special about this church is that it is entirely carved in limestone, even the interiors! All the altars and sculptures are directly created on the stone. The church has a simple façade and is located on a small, pebbled bay where you can admire the beautiful colors of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Don’t leave before a refreshing swim!
Food & Drink of Calabria
Calabria food is quite unique as it displays influences from French, Spanish, Arabic, and Turkish cuisines, which were among the people who ruled the region.
The undisputed queen of Italian cuisine, grown in Calabria, is the Tropea Red Onion. Its distinct color and flavor make every dish extra special. According to locals, the best way to taste this product is as a marmalade paired with your favorite cheese.
A Calabrian must-have for every visitor is the ‘Nduja, a peppery hot and buttered sausage most commonly eaten spread on a piece of bread. ‘Nduja is perfect with pasta dishes, and one of the best is Fileja, a type of pasta shape served with a sauce made from tomato puree with ‘Nduja dissolved into it.
A wonderful seafood main dish is Pesce Spada Alla Ghiotta, swordfish cooked in olive oil and infused with Tropea red onions and anchovies. So simple and yet so delicious! One of the most beloved Italian desserts is from Calabria, the Tartufo. Created in the town of Pizzo, this dessert consists of a chocolate shell of two different gelatos enclosing a molten chocolate core. It will delight every sweet tooth!
End the meal in true Calabrian fashion with a glass of licorice liquor.
Thanks to the sunny and warm climate, Calabria is also a most notable DOC winemaking region. The full-bodied and robust fruity reds are the best wines from Calabria!