Calabria has all the cards on the table – and the elements on the map – to amaze. Here are some suggestions on where to go and what to see, between the (crystal clear) sea, rafting and dromësat
Del Molise is said to not exist (although, obviously, it is not true). But also on Calabria hovers strong on mystery. Terra unfairly known more for its troubles than for its riches, it would have all the cards on the table – and the elements on the map – to be counted among the most beautiful and tourist regions of Italy, whatever some airlines say.
Believe it or not, Calabria is truly our California. For this reason it should be (re) discovered and enhanced.
The ocean is missing, all right, but in return there are two seas, the Tyrrhenian and the Ionian, who compete which is more beautiful, and it has not yet been understood who wins.
There are two coasts, both varied and jagged, alternating between fine sand and rocks, along which the Big Sur they are wasted (i.e. those headlands overlooking the water that characterize the section between Los Angeles and San Francisco).
There are mountain ranges, six of them, ranging from the most rugged and wild to the most familiar, but no less fascinating: Aspromonte, Sila and Pollino, in order, the most famous.
There are the canyon, fantastic. That can be crossed on foot or by making gods rafting spectacular.
And if you really feel the lack of Hollywood, the little hill on the beach of Tropea from which stands the panoramic Sanctuary of Santa Maria dell'Isola, Benedictine monastery of 1500 from which you can admire the Aeolian Islands, will fill the absence and be comforting (without forgetting that there are also red onions). Of movie sets, between these latitudes, few could come out!
Leaving aside certain obviously out of place spots, to discover Calabria this could be the right year: according to a survey carried out by Demoskopica on post-Covid tourism, in fact, the demand is growing, and has its reasons. Here mass tourism has the road blocked, partly for the very conformation of the territory, partly – it is undeniable – for the lack of certain services, which however the extraordinary hospitality of the people knows how to make up for. In Calabria we prefer a slow tourism, nature and adventure. And the advice, also for this reason, is to leave cities alone.
How to get
There are three airports, but one – that of Crotone – does not even know the Calabrians. The main ones are the international one (e central) of Lamezia Terme, also served by many companies low cost; and Reggio Calabria, in the far south of the peninsula, functional if you want to stay in the area or pass through the Strait in Sicily. Calabria can also be reached by train, with the new fast routes Turin-Reggio Calabria Trenitalia and Italotreno, and of course also by car, taking into account the infamous queues of the Salerno-Reggio Calabria (but only those: in terms of maintenance the road is fine today and the panoramas are certainly not lacking).
If you arrive do not arrive by your own means, the advice is to rent a car to get around: moving around will be an obligation, to admire the different landscapes and enjoy both the Ionian and Tyrrhenian beaches. The most beautiful are not counted, really. And if you ask the locals everyone will come up with a different and equally wonderful one. Along the renowned coast of the gods – nomen omen – there are the beaches of Pizzo Calabro, Tropea, Zambrone and Vibo Valentia, where sand and cliffs alternate and where it is also nice to practice snorkeling. Do you think that Michelino beach, in Parghelia, is in third place in the ranking of the most beautiful Italian beaches according to the travel site Skyscanner. Further south there are Palmi and Scilla, the so-called Costa Viola beaches, where as well it's impossible make a mistake. On the other side, on the Ionian side, less touristic places alternate, but equally deserving of a dip (literally): from Roseto to Cirò Marina (Punta Alice), from Capo Rizzuto (archaeological park and marine protected area) in Roccella Jonica. You are with children? Those considered best for families are located in Bova Marino, Bovalino, Capo Vaticano, Cariati, Torre Melissa, Nicotera, Palmi, Praia a mare, Siderno, Roccella Jonica and Soverato (source Zingarate); while the beaches where to bring also the dogs at the sea (source Zampavacanza) are Torre Melissa (Crotone), Lido Kahlua (Cirò Marina), Hang Loose Beach (Gizzeria Lido), Lido Calypso Yey (Bocale Secondo).
Civita, the Pollino Park, and Calabrian-Albanian cuisine
Nestled between the peaks of the Pollino (and this is why the country of the rocks), but with its gaze always fixed on the sea (you can see the Ionian Sea from here), Civita – with just over 800 souls – is a fascinating village, between the most beautiful in Italy, home to one of the historical Albanian communities of Italy (arbëreshët), of which it retains language, customs and religion (and a monument to the hero Scanderbeg, in the city center). To visit, the Arbëreshë Ethnic Museum, which tells precisely the life of the Albanian ethnic group, fleeing here in the fifteenth century from the Turkish persecution.
Thanks to its well-preserved historical center, to important architectural elements (one above all the Devil's bridge in medieval stone, unfortunately rebuilt after a collapse in the 90s), and in a strategic naturalistic position (at the gates of the Pollino park and its numerous paths, as well as close to the steep gorges of Raganello), Civita has become a center of tourist attraction, including food and wine. As he tells Stefania Emmanuele from B&B Il Comignolo in Sofia, «In Civita there are 7 restaurants where you can eat very well and which recover dishes from the forgotten Calabrian-Albanian tradition, such as Raskatielli (macaroni with underwire) and Dromësat, transforming them into gourmet dishes .
The "pasta of the poor"
You write it dromësat and it reads dromsa, small pasta, and it is the so-called pasta of the poor, typical of Albanian mountain cuisine. It is a middle ground between pasta and polenta, it resembles couscous and is often cooked in a soupy sauce, with meat or with simple tomato and dried pepper. An ancient rite provides that the flour scattered on the pastry board is first blessed with a sprig of oregano soaked in Pollino and then sieved, so as to obtain small balls that are cooked for 3 minutes. In Civita you can enjoy excellent dromësat at the Kamastra Restaurant. And also in Lungro (Cs), at Anna Stratigò's house, housewife and local artist, who also handed down in these remote lands worship of the mate, the typical drink of South America.
The Raganello Gorges
As mentioned before, Civita is exhibited on the Raganello a stream that originates on the Pollino, from the Source of the Lamia, and more or less violent it flows into Sibari and Villapiana (Cs). It is a river nestled between two rocky walls – the Timpa di Porace-Cassano and the Timpa di San Lorenzo (1652 m) – which dominate it for a dizzying height, in some places, of 600-700 meters. Here and there it also creates caves and cliffs, where bandits once used to hide. The name derives from the Greek Ragas, rocky cliff, but according to some it can also be linked to Calabrian verb rragàre, fight, Like the force with which the water flows between the gorges, and which in some cases can prove dangerous: in 2018 a flood caused by bad weather overwhelmed a group of unwary hikers, causing 10 deaths, and since then the accesses to the Gorges are unfortunately still dumbfounded («a disgrace for our community, which has always been a very popular tourist destination by nature lovers, she vents on the phone the mayor of Civita Alessandro Tocci). A never superfluous recommendation: especially when you visit rough and rough places, always contact expert guides and guides.
To fully enjoy the wild and unspoiled nature of Calabria, but in complete safety, the Rafting Explorer Center of Orsomarso (Cs) offers rafting activities on the Lao river, also for families, guided trekking and quad biking. The softer rafting descent lasts an hour and a half, the sports one up to three hours. In the price (from € 25 per person) all equipment is included. Even the company's photo shoot.
Where to sleep
On the slopes of Monte Calimaro, on a natural terrace overlooking the Gulf of Policastro, just 25 minutes by road from Praia al Mare (Cs): TerreRosse di Massadita also organizes excursions by boat, on horseback and by mountain bike; spacious rooms with spectacular views at the La Dolce Vita Hotel in Tropea (Vv), where breakfast is served strictly on the terrace every morning. Cozy and familiar atmosphere at Il Comignolo di Sofia in Civita (Cs), where culture and traditions are also protagonists. On the Ionian side: the TH Capo Rizzuto Village, Le Castella Village is located in Punta Le Castella in a splendid panoramic position on the bay, 10 kilometers from Isola Capo Rizzuto. A true paradise for lovers of the sea, sport and relaxation.
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