Do you know the 'Little Venice' of the South? Today we set off discovering Chianalea di Scilla, a beautiful seaside village, pearl of Calabria.

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Have you ever heard of the 'Little Venice' of the South? Well, whether it's the first time you've heard this nickname or not, today our journey to the most shining gems of Italy takes us to Calabria discovering Chianalea, a beautiful seaside village with an ancient history and irresistible Mediterranean charm - it is no coincidence that CNN has included it among the most beautiful Italian villages to visit.

Better known by the full name of Chianalea di Scilla, as it is actually the oldest area of the well-known tourist location, this picturesque seaside town, nestled between the waters of the Strait of Messina and the lush nature of Aspromonte, is a little paradise to discover for a holiday in the most authentic south. Come on, set off with us!

I arrived in the town admiring its strange location. Built on a hill, it descends the eastern side of the mountain like a long ribbon, and then it turns like a S extending along the sea...

Alexandre Dumas

Chianalea di Scilla: where it is and how to get there

Where is Chianalea di Scilla and how to get there

First of all, let's find out where it is and how to get to this fantastic village. Chianalea is a part of Scilla, a tourist location overlooking the sea in the province of Reggio Calabria, located on the northern coast of the province at the mouth of the waters of the Strait of Messina, which separate Calabria from Sicily. Getting to the hinterland, in this territory that perfectly combines sea and mountains, starting from Chianalea di Scilla you can venture out discovering the natural majesty of Aspromonte.

To get to Chianalea di Scilla starting from Reggio Calabria, the most convenient means of transport is certainly the car. Starting from the capital, you can easily reach your destination in less than 30 minutes by driving along the A2 highway, also known as Salerno-Reggio Calabria or Mediterranean highway. Alternatively, you can travel comfortably by train along the coast (a journey of about 45 minutes on average); or, for the sportiest tourists, it’s also possible to undertake a nice bike ride (about 1 hour and a half) following the coastal road.

To get to Chianalea di Scilla starting from Messina, instead, it is possible to cross the Strait aboard a ferry (with the possibility of taking vehicles on board) getting to Villa San Giovanni; from here, you can proceed a little further north to your destination. The journey takes on average 1 hour.

Visit the Interdisciplinary Museum of Messina

Chianalea di Scilla: what to see in the 'Little Venice' of Calabria

What to see in Chianalea di Scilla, the 'Little Venice' of Calabria

Chianalea di Scilla is one of the seaside villages included in the so-called Costa Viola (Purple Coast), a portion of the Calabria’s coast overlooking the Strait of Messina and the Tyrrhenian Sea, famous for its spectacular sunsets, characterized precisely by the shades of this color. A name that seems to originate from a reflection of the Greek philosopher Plato on the suggestive panorama of this ancient town.

But this is not the only Greek 'trace' that can be found here: even the name Scilla (Skýla in Greek) recalls the mythological figure, present in the Odyssey, of the namesake sea nymph transformed by Circe into a terrifying monster with six canine heads and snake tails, believed to be responsible for storms and shipwrecks. According to the myth, the monster found refuge in a sea cave in the area where this famous tourist location stands today.

More recently, Chianalea di Scilla has taken on the famous nickname of 'Little Venice' of the South due to its architectural and aesthetic characteristics. In fact, here in Chianalea all the buildings are built on the cliff right next to the sea, separated by small alleys that dive directly into the water where small fishing boats replace cars. What to see in such a beautiful and evocative place?

We recommend you explore all of Chianalea on foot, in particular by delving into its more internal and lively alleys such as Via Grotte (where you can admire the beautiful Little Mermaid Fountain, inspired by the myth of Scilla), Via Zagari and the namesake Via Chianalea.

Here you will be able to discover around every corner a stunning view to photograph for a splendid postcard from Calabria, where the colorful boats run aground, the small balconies and the small courtyards full of plants and flowers stand out. Obviously, in such an attractive place for tourists, close to the sea you will also find many hotels and restaurants where to taste local delicacies - especially fish.

Everything turns painted with different shades of purple, originating ever new visions every evening with spectacular color reflections


The Ruffo Castle of Scilla and the Church of Maria Santissima Immacolata

The Ruffo Castle of Scilla and the Church of Maria Santissima Immacolata

On the top of the Chianalea cliff stand the two most iconic symbols of the Scilla landscape, that are the Ruffo Castle and the Church of Maria Santissima Immacolata: let's discover more about them.

Ruffo Castle is an ancient military fortification, dating back to around 500 BC, which has always been a point of reference for the control of sea routes through the Strait of Messina. On a terrace of the castle is also installed the Scilla lighthouse, one of the most important in this stretch of sea. Its current name originates from the Ruffo family, who decided to purchase the fort in the middle of 1500s, transforming it into a noble residence. From a geographical point of view, the castle stands on the highest point of the cliff, effectively dividing Scilla into the hamlets of Chianalea, the oldest and most evocative, and Marina Grande, the most modern one where are located the city train station and above all the sandy beaches craved by tourists in summer.

The Church of Maria Santissima Immacolata, a little lower than the castle in terms of altitude, is also very ancient and is even considered the oldest Christian building all over Calabria (around 400 AD). Destroyed several times by the violence of earthquakes, and always rebuilt with great faith and sacrifice by the citizens of Scilla, today this evocative church remains the religious symbol of the village and is characterized above all by some artistic masterpieces kept inside, in particular the majestic wall mosaic depicting an angel illuminating Chianalea di Scilla and a statue of the Immaculate Conception dating back to the 1600s.

After leaving the church, continuing further towards the central Piazza San Rocco it is possible to reach the fantastic 'u' ffacciaturi' viewpoint, as well as a statue dedicated to the myth of the little mermaid of Scilla.

Chianalea, pearl of Aspromonte across sea, land and sky

Chianalea, pearl of Aspromonte across sea, land and sky

One of the most important qualities of Calabria is its natural ability to combine sea, land and sky in a single large landscape, as wonderful to look at as to explore. And in particular, here in the hinterland of Reggio Calabria, the mountains and woods of Aspromonte act as a counterpart to the wonder of the sea in a complementary logic.

Even Chianalea, a village that has always developed and lives in very close touch with the sea, is in fact a gem nestled in the lower coastal reliefs of Aspromonte, while in the background the highest peaks preserve the panorama of the Strait of Messina and the Calabrian coast like gigantic silent guardians cloaked in greenery and rock.

What better way to enjoy a holiday in Calabria while experiencing all its dimensions to the fullest? This wonderful region is perfect for traveling sustainably in touch with nature, discovering new fascinating stay formulas such as glamping, which can also be practiced in the hinterland of Scilla and the province of Reggio Calabria.

Discovering the authentic south traveling between Calabria and Sicily

Travel itinerary between Calabria and Sicily

In Italy there are many possibilities to build an itinerary full of adventures and beautiful moments to experience and remember, especially by setting off to discover the most authentic south by traveling between Calabria and Sicily.

Crossing the Strait of Messina, boarding on a ferry from Villa San Giovanni or Reggio Calabria, reach the ancient Zancle and give yourself some time to experience it like a Messina’s native for a truly unique travel experience.

Are you looking for other destinations to discover in eastern Sicily? Take a look at the button below to find out how to reach and visit the splendid city of Taormina! And to best complete your itinerary, find out how to get to Etna and don't miss the opportunity to visit the most famous and fascinating volcano in the world.

Find out how to visit Taormina starting from Messina

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