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Calabria

Spicy and sweet at the same time – it would be all too easy to use these terms to describe a region that is full of surprises; a region that has to be seen to be believed. Encompassing everything from mountain villages like Ajeta to the towns on the Tyrrhenian coast, and offering everything from trekking in the Sila area to a feast of ‘nduja sausage at Bova in the heart of the Grecanica area, Calabria has what it takes to satisfy the curiosity of the most hardened of travellers, and it is very much worth taking the time to get to know it personally.

In Calabria, the summer temperatures are verging on those in Africa, but nobody worries about it, given that you can easily choose to relax along the attractive coast. In the winter, you can become acquainted with the many protected nature reserves, which stretch from the Pollino National Park all the way to the “toe” of the “boot”, where the Apennines plunge into the heart of the Mediterranean.

Every corner of this region is a spectacle of nature, in which the fragrances of citrus groves mix with the salty air of the sea, which with its currents comes crashing against the solid rock of the cliffs on the Tyrrhenian coast or gently laps the immense white beaches of the Ionian coast.

The name Italy came into being right here, as a derivation of Italo, King of the Oenotrians, the first people encountered by the ancient Greeks who, on the Calabrian coast, founded some of their most important cities, such as Sybaris and Locri Epizephyrii, the remains of which can still be seen. There are imposing traces of Magna Graecia, wonderfully showcased for the benefit of the public by the new displays of the Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria. Calabria is a land of arrivals and departures, as evinced by the villages where the local still speak Arbëreshë, the language of the Albanian minority who fled the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century. Due to the unfathomable cycles of history, today in Riace – a mountain village facing out over the Ionian Sea – the most widely spoken language is that of central Africa. Indeed, that municipality is the symbol of the welcome given to migrants who cross the Mediterranean, escaping hunger and war.

Have you ever wondered what happens if you mix chilli pepper with the rustic tradition of working pork? This is what gave rise to ‘nduja sausage and I assure you that once you’ve tried it, you can’t do without it! If you don’t like spicy food, don’t despair, there’s something for everyone, there really is. From the fish-based dishes of the Tyrrhenian coast, like Scilla swordfish roulades, to the great classics of meat and vegetables to be found in the hinterland and on the Ionian coast, every dish will be a banquet! And what can we say about the sweet red onions of Tropea or the Pizzo truffle? Just wonderful! At the end of the meal, a liquorice liqueur is a must. What are you waiting for?

Every trip has to have its memories, and souvenirs purchased on holiday are often part of the process.

In Calabria, if you’re dying to go shopping, you would do well to go for a stroll through the historical centre of cities such as Cosenza and Reggio, where you will find the boutiques of major brands next to time-honoured, traditional stores.

If that’s not enough, and you want to add something unique to your shopping experience in Calabria, you can head off in search of the stores in the little villages of Diamante and Tropea, where you will find attractive, well-made souvenirs.

Climb up to a height of 2,000 metres, and cast your eye onto the Strait of Messina, protected to the north by the Aeolian Islands and to the south by Mount Etna. If that seems impossible, then you have never seen the peaks of Aspromonte, where the view over the unique landscape of the Strait and its volcanoes is so clear that you are sure to remain open-mouthed with astonishment.

That’s not enough for you, and you want to find dozens of different backdrops for your photographs? Well then, you should criss-cross the Tyrrhenian coast, taking in the Strait all the way to the Pollino National Park. The mountainscapes and seascapes will definitely surprise you!

While the food is always excellent and there are always numerous opportunities for relaxation, it is worth bearing in mind that Calabria is also a great place for every outdoor sport under the sun. The region has three wonderful ski resorts: from Pollino, to Aspromonte to the Sila area – you may well not have expected to hear that!
Snow-shoe walks or treks lasting a day or more are activities that fit perfectly into the Calabrian environment, as does high-adrenaline rafting, which you can practise on the River Lao, in the province of Cosenza.

And what can we say about watersports? At Gizzeria and in the Pellaro district of Reggio Calabria, windsurfing and kitesurfing are not to be missed, and at Bova Marina surfers from all over Italy come to enjoy some of the peninsula’s best left waves.

Being surrounded by a verdant, hilly landscape, with the brilliant blue of the Ionian Sea in the background, as you relax immersed in (entirely free) thermal waters, is an unmissable experience if you want your holiday in Calabria to re-charge your proverbial batteries like never before. What you will find at Agnana Calabra, in the Locride area, is a real treat. This is the perfect place in which to savour some unforgettable “me” time. Naturally, since it is so beautifully romantic, it can also be “us” time!

If adventure is not your thing, and you want instead to be pampered in a thermal spa, you have six to choose from, dotted all across the region.

A depopulated borgo that comes back to life for three days, in which it pulses with culture, music and theatre, channelling the true spirit of Calabria – this is what the Cleto Festival is all about, as are the many similar celebrations held over the summer, which here lasts for a fill six months, in the myriad towns and villages scattered across the inland areas and along the coast. They include the Paleariza World Music Festival and the great international jazz on offer at the Festival in Roccella Jonica.

Also unmissable are the summer beach parties in the Soverato area, where you can take endless selfies, cocktail in hand, or enjoy a spritzer at sunset, with the wonderful beach as your backdrop. It’s all part of the Calabrian summer experience.

Calabria was the native region of Francis of Paola and the Blessed Father Gaetano Catanoso, and in every town you visit you are likely to come across religious traditions and rituals that are deeply rooted in the life of the community. Particularly noteworthy are the Rite of the Vattienti, a ritual of self-flagellation that takes place in Nocera Terinese, and the celebrations of San Rocco in Scilla.

The list of must-see places includes the Certosa di Serra San Bruno in the province of Vibo Valentia – a wonderful 11th century Carthusian monastery. Visits are recommended both to its museum area and to its delightful gardens.

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calabria

Excellences of the region

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