Calabria - Things To Do
Italy is a European playground of sorts for visitors from across the globe, but of all the regions of Italy, Calabria features one of the most natural and untouched landscapes of the country. The pristine condition of its white sandy beaches, the wildness of several national parks, and three mystic mountain ranges all contribute to the unique and primarily outdoor celebration of life in Calabria.
Festivals & Events
There is an attitude of joy amongst the people of Calabria who embrace a slower pace of life. Combined with the stunning displays of Mother Nature that surround them, it is easy to see why the people of Calabria have much to celebrate.
With more than 480 miles of coastline, the summer months bring international visitors that are able to partake in a number of festivals. In July, Cosenza hosts the Festival delle Invasioni (a music festival) and Laureana di Borello hosts a Madonna del Carmine Festival, while in August the town of Bagnara Calabra hosts a swordfish festival,
The fall is dedicated primarily to several food festivals honoring the eggplant, orange, sausage, wild mushrooms, and chestnuts. On the other hand, winter and spring festivals focus on a more religious nature. Live nativities are common in the month of December, and spirited processions for Good Friday and Christ’s crucifixion are held every spring during Easter.
While Calabria is not a particularly large region, being no more than 68 miles wide and 248 miles long, what it lacks in area it makes up for with a variety of ways to admire the outdoors. Rocky mountain ranges, sunny beaches, and several national parks are just some of the outdoor attractions that locals and visitors alike can enjoy.
The region is home to three main mountain ranges: La Sila, the Pollino Massif, and Aspromonte. As close as these mountain ranges are, they are diverse in their offerings and national parks.
The Sila mountain range is a heavily wooded area which is aptly called the Great Wood of Italy. Some of these trees reach as high as 130 feet tall, earning them the name Giants of the Sila. When hiking through the range, breathe deeply and revel in walking amongst the towering trees and lakes of Sila National Park, which is considered by some to have some of the purest air in all of Europe.
The Pollino range can be heavily wooded in some areas with more barren plateaus tucked between the mountains. This mountain range is home to Pollino National Park, the largest national park in Italy, covering more than 740 square miles. Tree enthusiasts will enjoy seeing a wide variety of rare trees such as the Bosnian pine and Heldreich’s pine. The park is also a sanctuary for animals like the Italian wolf, golden eagle, and peregrine falcon.
The Aspromonte mountain range is more unique as it is an unusually compact group of mountains found in southern Calabria. While it is home to Montalto, which reaches 6,545 feet into the air, some peaks feature large, man-made terraces that slope down to the sea. Aspromonte National Park is close to the sea and features a number of brooks and streams created by mountain rainfall. Nature lovers looking for something rare can find the elusive Bonelli’s eagle and tropical ferns here.
If hoping to steal away for a romantic retreat, visitors need look no further than Chianalea di Scilla. This narrow piece of land is an ancient fishermen’s town with a character all its own. The homes of this town are built into the craggy hillside that butts up against the crashing waves of the sea. Wandering amongst the tight and winding roads of the village yields a simply charming atmosphere, only enhanced by the quaint bed and breakfasts sprinkled throughout and a breathtaking view of the boats in the harbor just below the town. While the town is a show stopper even during the daytime, it is nothing short of enchanting when lit up brightly against the dark night sky.
Located in Reggio, the National Museum of Magna Graecia houses an extensive and interesting archeological collection from the Magna Graecia area. Not to be missed here are the Greek statues known as the Riace Bronzes or Riace Warriors that were discovered by a scuba diver and recovered from the Ionian Sea in 1972. The statues are estimated to attract more than 130,000 visitors per year to the museum.
While there are a number of indoor activities such as frequenting museums and historical sites, the majority of Calabria’s offerings are outdoor activities. The region’s amiable weather and stunning works of Mother Nature are so vast and prevalent that visitors and locals spend a great deal of their time here enjoying the outdoors.
Take the whole family to walk the Falcomata Promenade in Reggio Calabria. The promenade offers a gorgeous panoramic view of the Strait of Messina and even nearby Sicily. The area is lined with statues and monuments as well as popular eateries and shops that invite onlookers to occupy one of the many benches and take in the sparkling blue expanse of the Strait of Messina. The promenade is particularly beautiful when lit up at night and it is not unusual to see people strolling along the walkway late into the evening.
The seaside town of Tropea on the western coastline of Calabria offers a magical beach experience for the entire family. Both public and private beaches showcase pristine white sand that gives way to the clear, glittering waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea that are perfect for snorkeling. The area is canvased in craggy cliffs that offer spectacular sunrise and sunset views.
The Sanctuary of Santa Maria dell’Isola is an iconic Tropea church that is perched atop a large cliff overlooking the ocean. The church is steeped in ancient history and boasts intricate and ornate details on the interior. The castle-like exterior looks magnificent when lit up at night.
Calabria With the Kids
The Corigliano Castle, a famous fortress located in Cosenza, was originally built in the eleventh century but has received a number of modern updates throughout the years making it a tourist favorite. The exterior of the castle is lovely with a number of stately stairways, wrought iron stair railings, and matching wrought iron lamp posts that make it look like something straight from the pages of a child’s fairy tale storybook. However grand the exterior of the castle, it does not hold a candle to the luxurious and ornate décor of the interior. Intricate paintings, spiral staircases, and crystal chandeliers are just a few of the elegant touches visitors can find deep in the heart of this castle.
The Aragonese Castle in Le Castella is somewhat of an icon of Calabria due to its unique location. The castle’s base sits on a circular island and is close to having its base submerged in the Capo Rizzuto Marine Reserve. One long, narrow walkway is all that connects the castle to the mainland. Because of its location in a reserve, one of the rooms in the castle allows visitors to view the marine life of the reserve in real time via several strategically placed underwater cameras.
Unique Experiences in Calabria
Visitors that are short on time, but wish to take in the varied beauty of Calabria, can do so with a stunning drive along the coastline. The SS106 Reggio-Taranto roadway runs the length of the east coast providing a gorgeous view of the waves of the Ionian Sea. The SS18 Napoli-Reggio runs the length of the west coast and offers stunning panoramas of the Tyrrhenian Sea and nearby mountains. Both main thoroughfares intersect at Reggio, which is the perfect place for travelers to stretch their legs with a walk along the promenade.
Wine connoisseurs will enjoy a tour of Calabria’s finest wineries. The majority of red wines from this area are made with the Gaglioppo grape and the white wines are made with Greco bianco. Visiting the wineries along the Ionian coast is a wonderful way to learn about the unique wine offerings of the region, as well as to participate in tastings and food pairings.
A trip to Calabria in the southernmost tip of the country is a delightful and often less crowded way to enjoy some of the best kept secrets of Italy. Whether you are scaling mountains, swimming in the waters of the Ionian Sea, or enjoying the national parks, there is something for everyone in this enchanting jewel of a region.