Calabria means culture, mythology and unforgettable landscapes. Here are 10 reasons to visit Calabria and its Costa degli Dei.
Whether you love culture and Greek mythology, sea or coast-hiking, or are a simple tourist that is just looking for something exciting and full of food typical of the famous "Mediterranean diet", Calabria is for sure one of the places you don’t want to miss out on, along with the Thyrrenian “Coast of the Gods”, that goes from Tropea to Nicotera, among a beautiful crystal-clear sea, medieval castles, ancient caves and an enviable cuisine.
Why is it called Coast of the Gods? The name of the Calabrian coasts owes its origin to, other than the idyllic and oneiric scenarios omnipresent in the over 50km of shoreline, to the links between the place itself and Greek mythology. The tip of the old "Magna Grecia", that has been crossed, according to the legends, by Ulysses himself, will guarantee a holiday full of relax and great food during a full-immersion journey that goes through the most unique and worldwide famous cultures: from the Greeks to the Norman-Swabian Kingdom, up to Napoleon's occupation, and much more.
Here you are 10 reasons to visit Calabria and its "Costa degli Dei".
10. Belvedere in Capo Vaticano
The Thyrrenian coast's most famous lookout is located on a cape and has one of the best landscapes in the whole Italy, that goes from the Aeolian Islands all the way up to Mount Etna, over the Strait of Messina. Admiring a sunset from the beacon in Capo Vaticano, maybe while having a drink, is another experience not to be missed.
The Italian writer Giuseppe Berto, who came from Veneto, fell in love with the beautiful landscapes of Capo Vaticano and decided to make it his home for his summer holidays.
The belvedere though has way more deep deeds than you would imagine: in fact, according to the myths, it is right here that a well-known prophetess lived during the Greeks' domain.
The legends tell that many seamen, before setting out for long journeys, used to seek for her advices, Ulysses included. It is from the Latin term "Vatinicium" (which means "prophet/ess") that Capo Vaticano got his name.
9. Beaches and bays on the Thyrrenian coast
The Coast of the Gods with its many beaches and bays is one of the most popular destinations among the sea lovers. The rocky cliffs, the white sand and the crystal-clear water make it one of the most beautiful and rarest places on Earth.
One of the most famous beaches of Capo Vaticano, Grotticelle, has been crowned many times as one of the top three most fascinating beaches in Italy, and included many other times in the top 100 most beautiful bays in the world by many top tier magazines.
A peculiarity of the beach is its unspoiled and multicolored vegetation, in which we can find the famous Calabrian olive trees, the broom, the myrtle trees, the Indian figs and much more.
Whilst talking about famous beaches we can't forget about the beach of Tropea and its “Sanctuary of Santa Maria dell'Isola"; the "Praia i focu" ("Beach of fire" in the local dialect) that got its nickname from the many fires that the fishermen of the place used to light up at night; the beach of Santa Maria, an old town founded by anglers in the vicinity of the small of church of the "Madonna Lauretana", in the ancient Port Hercules; last but not least comes the beach of Torre Ruffa, that hides the mysteries of the unhappy legend of Donna Canfora, a young woman that was kidnapped by the Saracen pyrates and committed suicide while trying to escape.
The town of anglers, founded directly on the shores, stuns its visitors with its romantic beauty.
The district "Chianalea" is known for its almost unchanged ancient sailor villages, with buildings that rise directly on the rocks of the sea and that have earned the small town the title of "Venice of the South".
A walk up the hill will bring you to Castello Ruffa, a Castle that has been, in the past decades, home to many cultural meetings and exhibitions, and that will amaze any adventurer or trekking-lover.
Scilla itself has got its set of myths and historical monuments (such as the previously mentioned "Castello Ruffo"). The most popular legend tells the story of Scylla, a six-headed monster that hunts its preys in the Streat of Messina, that was once a beautiful naiad. Glaucus, a demi-god, son of Poseidon, once become immortal, decided to declare his love for the nymph, that though rejected him.
Circe, who had previously been rejected by the demi-god because of his love for Scylla, decided to get revenge on her poisoning the sea she used to bathe in and thus turning her into the monster we know her as today.
Paying a visit to the Caves of Zungri will take you more than a thousand years into the past. The rupestrian village, that gained Zungri the title of "City of rocks", is located in the vicinity of Vibo Valentia, fully immerged in the nature and surrounded by Mediterranean vegetation.
The village was carved from rocks by Basilian monks that were fleeing from the iconoclasm, presumably between the XII and the XIII century, and consists of 100 "apartments" that have almost completely been preserved to this day.
The facility develops on 2 different levels, linked by one ramp, also carved from the rocks. There are numerous historical testimonies of the coexistence of the inhabitants, partly exhibited in the "Museum of Rupestrian and Peasant Civilization" attached to the caves.
The Basilian monks also created excavations to channel rainwater and that of a nearby spring, thus bringing fresh water to all houses. Definitely an example of a unique rupestrian culture in Calabria!
6. Vibo Valentia
The provincial capital of the Coast of the Gods is another city with many nicknames and thousands of years of culture: we're talking about Vibo Valentia, or as the Greeks would've called it, Hipponion. Its origin dates back to the Neolithic Age, more or less eight thousand years ago.
The most popular touristic attraction though only dates from king Frederick II of Sicily: it's the Norman Swabian Castle, that dominates the city from the top of its hill.
It was commissioned by the king himself, who, while visiting the city for the first time, was stunned by its beauty and decided to embrace it even more.
The building rises on top of an ancient Greek necropolis, whose rests have been found and are now part of the Archeological Museum, based in the castle itself. Visiting the historical centre you can visit other historical monuments from many different ages and also do some shopping.
5. Boat trips along the coast
Take your chance to admire the many bays and beaches of Thyrrenian coast directly from the sea! Some of the bays, of amazing beauty, can be reached only (or more easily) through some boat trips.
It is during these little tours that you will be able to see many outlooks from a really unique point of view. It is also usually possible to do some snorkeling to admire the peculiar seabed, as enchanting and breathtaking as the landscapes of the coast of the Gods.
4. Excursion to the Aeolian Islands
During your journey in Calabria, a hydrofoil excursion to the Aeolian Islands is a must. The archipelago of the "Seven Sisters" is technically part of Sicily, but is at the same time really close to the Calabrian coast.
The most famous out of the seven is "Stromboli", the only ever active volcano in the whole Europe, that shows itself in all its impressiveness from the Coast of the Gods.
Lipari is the capital of the archipelago, and thanks to its unique and really interesting culture and geology. The island of "Vulcano” has natural thermae, Panarea is the destination of the Italian and international "jet-set" while Salina, Alicudi and Filicudi are the "green islands", each one with its unique and rich flora.
3. Diving in Calabria
The seabed of the Calabrian coast, and in particular those of the "Costa degli Dei", are a real paradise for fans of diving.
It is here that rocky shoals host a rich marine flora and fauna, that will let you admire colorful encrusting marine sponges, seabreams (or "Dentici"), groupers, moray eels, huge octopuses, but also several historical testimonies, such as: a steamboat, which was sunk by an air attack during the Second World War and that today hosts a rich fish fauna.
In an ancient Roman harbour you can find sea daisies and corals. The most popular destination among the sea-divers is the "Paradise of Diving", a bay in the vicinity of Zambrone, well-known for its beautiful sea bottom.
2. Typical Calabrian Food
Calabria has a lot to offer also on the culinary aspect: Have a taste of the original Calabrian cuisine and its rustic dishes, that may look simple but are able to give off the taste of the genuineness of each one of their ingredients.
The famous red onion of Tropea and its sweet flavor; the "nduja" of Spilinga, a really spicy food, that quite looks like salami but tastes really different; the "pecorino" of Mount Poro; the "fileja", a typical home-made pasta, and a lot of other goodies that will definitely please your tastebuds.
Another quite unique experience would be learning how to cook some of these dishes, with the help of the locals, known in the whole world for their warmth towards the tourists.
1. Live Italian Language in Calabria
Why not learning also the Italian language during your stay in Calabria? In a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, the Conte Ruggiero School offers qualified and recognized by the Ministry of Education courses for visitors of all language levels, but also thematic itineraries like "Italianeggiando", that will give you the chance to take a more in-depth look at the Italian culture; "Gustando", a culinary journey to discover some of the best typical treats of Calabria, or "Tutto mare", to discover the most beautiful and fascinating beaches of the Coast of the Gods.
Thanks to the morning lessons, taken out in the open, in a huge Mediterranean garden, you will have the chance to identify with the typical Mediterranean life even more and to know even the most hidden corners of this beautiful little paradise.