Discover Calabria like a local with our tips inspired by those who live there. A journey through sea, mountains, cuisine and culture awaits you. 

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In Calabria, the Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas spin their peacock wheel. While it's tempting to get lost in the allure of the sparkling coast resorts, there's so much more to this region than meets the eye. From its rich history and culture to breathtaking natural wonders, Calabria has something for everyone

To help you experience the best of this enchanting region like a local, we've compiled some insider tips. So read ahead and soak up the beauty and charm of Calabria— you won't be disappointed!

Calabria like a local

Calabria like a local

From seaside resorts to inland mountains, from secluded villages to forgotten towns. Calabria boasts enchanting landscapes and a rich history that has given rise to a myriad of unfathomable traditions. 

To truly experience authentic Calabria, it's best to deviate from the typical tourist routes and explore the lesser-known areas. You'll be amazed by the unexpected sights and passionate stories scattered along the way. 

Our journey like a local takes us through the winter charms of Aspromonte and the salty flavours of certain seaside towns. We'll explore villages that have risen from their ashes and enjoy goosebump panoramas. Are you ready to embark on this adventure? We promise it will be worth it!

7. Calabria like a local: looking out from Tropea's Rico Ripa belvedere

Calabria like a local: looking out from Tropea's Rico Ripa belvedere

From the beach of La Rotonda, Tropea appears as a monolith of rock and soft, warm-colour houses standing outset like a pearl on the astonishing Costa degli Dei.

The arrival at the sanctuary of Santa Maria dell'Isola repays your effort with the wide panorama framing the village from the church gardens. Looking at it is a way for putting some distance and framing the town before diving in and wandering aimlessly through its streets and highlights: Piazza del Cannone, the colourful majolica staircase, the cathedral, the diocesan museum.

From time to time, you'll come across a more or less ample view of the Tyrrhenian Sea, a terrace on the sanctuary clinging to the rock facing the town, a belvedere where to catch a glimpse of Stromboli on a clear day. 

Any tips? In Largo Migliarese there is a tiny balcony jutting out into the blue that is a perfect romantic, hidden viewpoint.

6. Tasting the best liqueur in the world

There's a fascinating tale behind the local amaro that won the title of "best in the world" at the 2018 World Drinks Awards in London. The brew, named Jefferson, was inspired by the captain of a sailing ship that sank off the coast of Calabria in 1871, along with two of his fellow crew members, Roger and Gil. They found refuge in the workshop of Raffaele Trombino 'u Giocondo', located between Montalto Uffugo and Torano. 

While there, they witnessed and participated in the selection of citrus fruits and herbs that were used in the creation of citron and bergamot liqueurs. And, in the highly secretive "perfumery" located in the warehouse, they gave birth to the much-loved "Amaro importante".

This one-of-a-kind amaro is made with rosemary from Montalto Uffugo, oregano from Palombara, lemons from Rocca Imperiale, oranges and grapefruits from Bisignano, bergamot from Roccella Ionica, and gentian from Sila. 

A perfect way to enjoy it is as an after-meal treat served with orange peel and rosemary.

5. In the village recovered by MIT

Vaccarizzo di Montalto Uffugo is a quaint little village nestled between Valle del Crati and the Paolana mountain chain, with just over 600 residents and no major artistic attractions. However, despite its size, this hamlet has managed to reinvent itself in recent years by capitalizing on its unique strengths. 

With an old spinning mill that has been transformed into a museum, charming and characteristic architecture, delicious cuisine, numerous events throughout the year, and stunning bucolic landscapes, Vaccarizzo di Montalto Uffugo has become a haven of slowness and authenticity. It's a rare gem where visitors can learn forgotten ancient crafts, watch housewives making homemade pasta, cosy up around a brazier, and sip on wine in a cellar. 

The credit for this transformation goes to the passionate locals who believed in the power of their land and heritage, as well as to the social transformation project spearheaded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to repopulate and preserve at-risk areas.

Consider taking a trip to this small hidden village and experience the most authentic Calabria has to offer.

4. Diving into a scuba paradise

Calabria like a local. Diving into a scuba paradise

About fifteen-minute drive from Tropea is a wild white sandy beach embraced by high cliffs that frame it in a paradisiacal landscape. It is no coincidence that the place is known as Paradiso del Sub (scuba paradise).

To dive into its Caribbean sea, you'll have to head to Zambrone, in the province of Vibo Valentia, and walk a short path through the vegetation (watch out for your shoes: better to avoid flip-flops). In just ten minutes, you'll arrive in this enchanting hidden cove where a low row of rocks separates two small beaches, one sandy, the other pebbly.

Spend your day snorkelling and admiring the spectacular seabed or simply soaking up the sun. Just be sure to pack water and snacks as there are no bars on the beach.

3. Entering a little street covered by umbrellas

Nicotera's colourful umbrellas suspended between the buildings make for a picturesque stroll while humming beloved Italian songwriter Rino Gaetano's verses transcribed on the steps crossing it. It's a popular attraction in the central Baglio district and one of the town's most curious and attractive spots. 

While visiting Nicotera, explore the Marina area, the popular working-class districts with their churches overlooking the sea, the Jewish quarter, lovely covered passages, and stunning belvederes.

Don't miss the Baroque Cathedral and the Ruffo Castle, home to the Archaeological Museum sited in Nicotera Superiore. 

If you have more time, consider exploring the surrounding areas, reaching Monte Sant'Elia, or embarking on a mini-cruise to the Aeolian Islands. There's so much to see and do in Nicotera, making it a perfect destination for a day trip.

2. Skiing by the sea

Calabria may be more associated with seascapes than snow-capped mountains. However, this southern region delivers some great winter sports locations. Its mountains facing the sea boast unique and breathtaking panoramas covered in white.

You can find a fair number of ski facilities and snowboard slopes in the Sila Plateau and Aspromonte. Cotronei is the best well-known and popular destination, offering a vast expanse of soft white "sea" to cross by sledge, ski, snowboard, or even on board a snowcat at night. 

Gambarie, in the Aspromonte National Park, about thirty minutes from Reggio Calabria, boasts stunning views of the Aeolian Islands while skiing at 1800 meters above sea level among slopes and groves that delight free-riders. 

In Lorica, you can go bobsledding before gliding down the slopes of Mount Botte Donato, which is suitable for both experts and beginners.

1. Eating a swordfish sandwich in Scilla

Calabria like a local. Eating a swordfish sandwich in Scilla

Looking for an unforgettable but casual culinary experience? Head to Scilla and try the local panino al pesce spada.

The small, lovely seaside village is home to a delicious snack that is famous for its mouth-watering flavour. Even though Calabrian cuisine isn't usually known for seafood dishes, this swordfish sandwich is a tasty exception to the rule.

You can find it everywhere in town, from small kiosks by the sea to restaurants and food trucks. The fish, marinated and grilled to perfection, is dressed with a base of oil, oregano, lemon, and white wine, known as salmoriglio. It's definitely worth a try in all its variations! 

Scilla is an enchanting village with colourful houses sloping harmoniously down to the water, an austere castle towering from the top of its sheer cliff, a graceful inlay of squares, panoramic overlooks, and narrow streets that wind their way through the rocks. 

Sunny beaches, small wooden boats scattered here and there, and fishermen at work add to the charm of this magical place where there is no sign of the terrible monster that, according to mythology, besieged ships sailing the Strait of Messina. 

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