The “Tito Minniti” airport in Reggio Calabria (REG) links the city on the Strait of Messina with Rome and Milan (Alitalia). You can also land at Lamezia Terme airport (SUF) and then proceed to Reggio Calabria and the Costa Viola by train.
The main stations for those coming by train are Reggio Calabria and Villa San Giovanni. If you’re arriving from the north on an Intercity train, you can in certain cases get off at the Palmi or Scilla stations.
There are various bus companies that link the “toe” of Italy with the rest of the country, the main ones being Lirosi and Federico, which have recently been joined by Venus Line. The routes allow you to reach all of the main cities of central and northern Italy.
There is only one way to reach Reggio Calabria by road from the north, and that is via the old A3 motorway, which has now been renamed “A2-Autostrada del Mediterraneo” (A2-Motorway of the Mediterranean). You can exit from the motorway and get where you want to go in a matter of minutes, whether it’s Reggio Calabria or one of the towns along the Costa Viola.
To reach the Aspromonte National Park, there are several roads that lead from the coast towards the massif. For example, leaving Reggio Calabria, in 20-25 minutes you can reach Gambarie.
Ferries and hydrofoils from Sicily arrive at the port of Reggio Calabria (located in the centre of the city) and the port of Villa San Giovanni.
The best way to get around in this coastal destination is to use the train. If you wish to travel towards the municipalities within the Aspromonte National Park, you can use the Federico buses and, in certain cases, those of the public local transport company for Reggio Calabria (Atam).
The Via Nazionale plays host to several cycle routes that make it easy for you to reach the most attractive towns and villages on the Costa Viola. The routes almost always afford panoramic views of the Strait of Messina and the Aeolian islands, and are not particularly tough going. For more sports-oriented visitors, the challenge is to take on the ascents of Aspromonte in search of the most attractive villages with the best views.
The distances and travel times within this destination are always relatively short by car. On the Tyrrhenian side, the renovated motorway makes every journey easy and rapid, whereas the Ionian tract of the SS 106 highway is slightly more complex. To reach the most beautiful and interesting places within the Aspromonte National Park, the provincial and regional roads will take you through the park’s few inhabited towns and villages.
In spring, Aspromonte is suddenly filled with colours, and particularly with a bright, vibrant, unmistakable green that blends with the blue of the sea, which makes its presence felt from any panoramic point on the mountainous massif. This is the best season to savour the dozens of unmissable towns and villages – Gerace being worthy of special mention. For those who like to go exploring, spring is the time for trekking and excursions, and for those with a passion for nature, the Aspromonte National Park is home to many unique species of flora and fauna.
Average temperature: 40 degrees in the shade! Plenty of dips in the sea are essential if you want to cope with the African-style heat. Alongside the beautiful blue water, you can also re-charge your batteries with numerous slushies and brioches filled with ice cream, which are ideal at breakfast and also as a refreshing snack after a day on the beach.
Who would ever have thought that you could go skiing in the deep south of Italy? Put your astonishment to one side and slip into your ski or snowboarding boots: in the heart of the Aspromonte National Park, you will find Gambarie, a ski resort with a full four ski lifts, to allow you to ski overlooking the panorama of the Strait of Messina. For those who are not fond of the snow, there is always the option to visit the numerous coastal villages, where the climate is mild and the winter seaside atmosphere is decidedly relaxing.
If you want to spend your whole holiday by the sea, you will of course need to bring plenty of sun cream; equally essential will be a pair of beach shoes, because most of the beaches are pebbly and can be rather uncomfortable to walk on; the pebbles do, however, imbue the water with a truly spectacular bright, clear shade of blue.
Don’t forget to bring some heavier clothing. Here, in 15 minutes, you can go from the beach to villages and mountains at more than 1,000 metres above sea level, so even in summer a winter garment can come in handy.
In this area, hotels, B&Bs and “agriturismi” (working farms offering accommodation and dining) have rates for all budgets. There are certainly low-cost options, even in great locations for those who love the seaside or the mountains. And then there is no shortage of options offering every imaginable comfort, with rates of around €1,000 per week for a couple staying in a 5-star hotel during the high season.
It’s hard to go far wrong. From brioches with endless flavours of artisanal ice cream (€2-€3), to substantial meals with locally reared meat at agriturismi (around €30 per person, including drinks), all the way to a gourmet dinner in a fish restaurant in the Chianalea district of Scilla, or at “A Gourmet l’Accademia”, the restaurant run by the “anti-mafia” chef Filippo Cogliandro, right in the centre of Reggio Calabria.
If you take the train, you can go places on a very limited budget – for just €3 you can get from Reggio Calabria to Bagnara, in the heart of the Costa Viola. The main municipalities of Aspromonte are linked to the city by the public buses run by Atam and, in certain cases, by the shuttles of private operators. In summer, you can get to the Aspromonte National Park via a free shuttle laid on for those who have purchased a ticket for the Reggio Calabria Archaeological Museum.
Pesce stocco: the stockfish that constitutes the main ingredient in what is one of the most traditional specialities of this destination comes directly from Norway; it is then processed in one of just two municipalities straddling the Aspromonte massif: Mammola and Cittanova. A multitude of recipes are used for this dish, but the locals’ favourite is a simple one that sees the fish accompanied by potatoes, olives and cherry tomatoes, with a sprinkling of fresh chili pepper.
Involtini di pesce spada: these swordfish roulades taste highly refined, but preparing them could not be easier. This recipe makes the most of the tradition of hunting for swordfish that has been consolidated over the centuries in the waters off the Costa Viola.
Frittole di maiale: around the world, people know not to throw away any part of the pig, but here they are particularly zealous about it. Every Saturday (and every public holiday) from September until March/April, it is almost impossible not to come across “frittole”, which are leftover scraps of pork that are boiled in their own fat for 8-10 hours in the so-called “caddare” (a type of cooking pot). Once ready, the fritters are served in a roll, street food-style, from the butcher’s shops of Reggio or on the tables of the most traditional families and the finest rural retreats.
Maccarruni cu’ sucu ra crapa: hand-made maccheroni pasta with white (or red) sauce made using meat from Aspromonte goats. It takes several hours to make, but the result is delicious, especially with a sprinkle of salted ricotta cheese.
In Mammola, a town known for its stockfish, there is a magical place that aficionados of modern art will not want to miss. The site in question is the Musaba, a veritable open-air museum, which skirts the banks of the local river and offers visitors quite unique sensations, thanks to the hundreds of works of art and installations dotted across the area. The owners of the site are the eclectic artists Nik Spatari and Hiske Maas, a Calabrian/Dutch couple who decided to revolutionise this small town in the Locride area through a highly unusual artistic language, which attracts visitors and artists from around the world.
A famous Italian nursery rhyme tells the tale of Giuseppe Garibaldi wounding his leg. Well, he received that injury during a battle at Reggio Calabria. In general, this part of Italy was not very kind to the “Unifier of Italy” who, before being wounded, was also fired at by cannons while staying overnight in the Melito area of Porto Salvo. The remains of the attack on the so-called “Casina dei Mille” (the Little House of the 1000 Redshirts) can still be seen here.
Come face-to-face with the Riace bronzes, housed in the National Museum of Magna Grecia in Reggio Calabria
Admire the phenomenon of the Fata Morgana mirage from the seafront of Reggio Calabria
Hear the ancient Calabrian Greek language still being spoken in semi-abandoned villages such as Gallicianò, within Aspromonte National Park
Discover the fishing village of Chianalea, the little “Venice of the South”, surrounded by the aromas of the swordfish being prepared and the sound of the sea
Ski in Gambarie, with a view over the Strait of Messina, Etna and the Aeolian Islands
Go trekking along the numerous trails within Aspromonte National Park, discovering breathtaking waterfalls and landscapes
Stroll around the streets and alleys of the wonderful Mediaeval village of Gerace
Go fishing for swordfish using the traditional “spadare” boats in Bagnara
Have some eco-sustainable fun within an old fortress at the Ecolandia High-Tech Environmental Play Park
Visit Pentedattilo, the evocative village at the foot of an enormous hand-shaped rock