Tropea, the Pearl of Calabria, Italy
Bathed by a fiery summer sun, Calabria, Italy is located in the South, in the toe of the Italian boot, almost touching the tip of Sicily. This southern Italian region is as off the beaten track as you can get in Italy and boasts amazing beaches with turquoise waters.
While the Calabrian peninsula is still one of Italy’s least visited regions by non-Italians, many Italian families like to spend the summers enjoying the Tyrrhenian sea to the west and the Ionian coast to the east.
Avoid August if you can and visit Calabria in September. At this time of the year the temperature of the blue sea water is virtually perfect —still very warm but not as bath-hot as sometimes in August.
Calabria may be one of the poorest regions in Italy, but it is blessed with a superb nature, a rich history and a cultural heritage as diverse as its landscape. Apart from the hundreds of miles (km) of coast and the quaint towns in Calabria, Italy, 90% of this southern region is covered by mountains and hills.
Thanks to the mountainous nature of the territory, the low industrial development and the abundance of protected natural habitats, Calabria has preserved its splendid nature extremely well. Indeed, it has three national parks, a regional park and protected marine areas.
What to Do in Calabria, Italy
If you like outdoor activities like hiking, trekking, mountaineering, paragliding, horse riding, mountain biking, rafting or scuba diving Calabria can feel like a paradise with the added bonus of its unique charm, authenticity, and unspoiled nature. The Sila and Aspromonte National Parks offer skiing facilities in the winter as well.
Want to swim in the summer? Calabria has a plethora of beaches on the Ionian Sea on the east coast and on the Tyrrhenian Sea on the west coast. Apart from lying on the sand, you will be able to explore exquisite coves, gorgeous seascapes, dramatic cliffs and extraordinary rock formations.
Visit Six of the Most Beautiful Villages In Calabria, Italy
Sometimes eating your way through a region is the perfect excuse to explore towns and villages. If you aren’t into food, don’t worry! Just walking around and roaming the streets of these lovely villages with such a remarkable cultural heritage is a pleasant and relaxing activity that can fill an afternoon with joy and peace.
Here is our choice of six Calabrian villages that rightly belong to the club of I Borghi più belli d’Italia, Italian for The Most Beautiful Villages in Itay.
GERACE – Perched on a cliff on the Ionian coast, Gerace is a charming, impressively preserved medieval village inside the imposing Aspromonte National Park. Don’t miss the magnificent Norman Cathedral, the largest religious building in Calabria and the remains of the 10th century Norman Castle at the top of a cliff. Gerace used to be famous for its 128 churches, but only a few remain. The Church of San Giovannello in Piazza delle Tre Chiese is the oldest one standing.
STILO – At the foot of Monte Consolino, Stilo used to be the core of the Byzantine culture in Calabria and you can still sense the oriental atmosphere. Today, Stilo is one of the most important cultural destinations in the region due to the Cattolica di Stilo, an amazingly undamaged Byzantine church built in the 9th century. Not far from Stilo, in Bivongi, the Orthodox Christian San Giovanni Theristis is a rare example of an Italo-Greek monastery.
If you happen to be in Stillo during the first week of August, the Palio di Ribusa is one of the most followed summer events in Calabria. You will be able to witness medieval re-enactments, shows, music and the distinctive Calabria Italy food in the streets of the town.
ALTOMONTE – An almost intact medieval town that offers an awesome panoramic view, Altomonte rises on a promontory about 455 meters above sea level and it is surrounded by a lovely natural scenery that encompasses the peaks of Pollino and Orsomarso, the Ionian sea, the plain of Sibari and the valley of the Esaro.
Not to be missed are the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Consolazione in the upper part of the town and the Chiesa di San Giacomo Apostolo, one of the oldest religious buildings in Altomonte.
MORANO CALABRO – Morano Calabro is a stunning vertical town built over a hill, completely covering its slope. The town falls within the Pollino National Park, the largest national park in Italy with its rare Bosnian pine tree. On clear days you can see the three seas from Monte Pollino —the Adriatic, the Ionian and the Tyrrhenian.
BOVA – Bova is a small town with a population of around 500 that is regarded as the cultural capital of Bovesia, that is, of the Greek culture of Calabria, Italy. The majority of its territory is included in the Aspromonte National Park and it has an Information Center for visitors of this stunning protected area.
SCILLA – In Scilla, it is the coastal district of Chianalea that is included in the Borghi più belli d’Italia. It is also known as the Piccola Venezia del Sud, Little Venice of the South, because the small houses that rise directly from the rocks and very close to the sea are separated from each other by small alleys, similar to canals, which descend directly into the Tyrrhenian sea.
Don’t miss the Ruffo Castle that overlooks the beach and the Scilla Lighthouse located on a terrace of the castle of Scilla.
Explore Tropea and Other Seaside Towns in Calabria, Italy
Overlooking the edge of a promontory on the Tyrrhenian Sea, Tropea is a busy but lovely town divided into two parts: the upper part, where most of the population live, and the Marina, close to the sea and the port of Tropea.
Olive and citrus groves, vineyards, its fishermen and scenic beauty have made of Tropea the vivid pearl of Calabria. Maybe you want to stay in Tropea for its fantastic beaches but it can also be a very good base from where to explore the Calabria region of Italy.
The historic center of the town features many noble palaces of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Of particular interest is the Benedictine Sanctuary of Santa Maria dell’Isola, the Cathedral di Maria Santissima di Romania in Romanesque style and the ancient Convent of the Pietà.
As Tropea, nearby Capo Vaticano and Pizzo, famous for the delicious Tartufo ice cream, are all a part of the awesome Costa degli Dei, which literally translates as Coast of the Gods.
Amantea with its remarkable historic center, Soverato and Caminia (Staletti) on the east Ionian Coast are also totally fabulous places to take a swim and discover more unmissable tourist attractions in Calabria, Italy.
Calabrian Cuisine Is a Tempting Activity
But… Don’t expect anything fancy. The Calabrian cuisine is a poor man’s cuisine with numerous dishes linked to religious events. What makes it even more interesting is that you don’t find every dish across all Calabria or if you find it the differences in preparation are substantial. This is partly due to its history and the ethnic and linguistic diversity that makes Calabria so captivating.
If you are a gourmet that loves traditional cuisine, Calabria is the right place for you. Be aware though that Calabrian cuisine is the spiciest in all Italy due to the iconic peperoncino, the horn-shaped, red chili pepper that doubles as the unofficial symbol of Calabrian cuisine. It even has its own annual festival, the Peperoncino Festival in the town of Diamante.
If you haven’t been to Calabria, you probably never tasted the spreadable salami called Nduja or Nduja di Spilinga, for the Calabrian town where it originated. It is made with sweet peperoncino AND plenty of hot peperoncino. It can be spread on bread, eaten with cheese or added to pasta sauces.
Other valued Calabrian specialties are Caciocavallo, the Calabrian cheese par excellence, and the Red Onion of Tropea that is so sweet and juicy that you can make jam from it.
Discover More Images of Calabria, Italy
Jump to the photo gallery and enjoy awesome images of the towns in Calabria, Italy and its fabulous Mediterranean landscapes before you leave. Your wish to travel to this underrated Italian region as soon as possible will increase manifold. There are so many things to do in Calabria, Italy… Click the button below to start your visual tour.