A few years ago an advertisement said: “Calabria, Mediterranean to be discovered”. We really believe that this is the case: Calabria is in some ways a region still mysterious and little travelled by international tourist routes, but it preserves an incredible naturalistic, environmental, historical and cultural heritage full of surprises. All the great civilizations of antiquity passed through here, crossing the Mediterranean basin, and in these lands, the most flourishing and important Greek cities outside the Hellenic peninsula arose. But in addition to this great huge historical tradition, Calabria today is a region that offers interesting contrasts between ancient maritime practices and contemporary water sports, between typical and gourmet cuisine, between almost 900 kilometers of coast and some of the most important mountains in southern Italy. We have tried to summarize in this article some of the best things to do in Calabria. Surely there will be plenty of them, and for this reason, maybe we will return to the topic soon! In the meantime, let’s start …
1) Visit of Tropea and boat trip to Capo Vaticano
The beauty of Tropea and Capo Vaticano is never banal. In the 40 km of Costa degli Dei’s coastline, there are all types of beach in the Bel Paese, and between ravines, coves, rocky spurs and crystal clear water, where you could really spend a whole summer. Tropea is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, perched overhanging a rocky natural terrace from which you can enjoy a unique panorama in the world. Among alleys, streets and small squares there are numerous restaurants and attractions for tourists, both day and night. Capo Vaticano, on the other hand, is perhaps one of the most representative images of Calabria. Here, white beaches interrupted by sheer rocks, turquoise waters and a Mediterranean bush at its maximum splendour, make a visit by boat truly a must, also because the most beautiful coves can only be reached by sea. The two spots are located very close to our Falkensteiner Club Funimation Garden Calabria.
2) Savor the Tartufo di Pizzo in the main square, in front of the castle
Even closer to our resort is the town of Pizzo, an ancient resort overlooking the Vibonese coast, with splendid views of the surroundings. Even in this location, a lot of history has passed from the probable origins of the Magna Graecia era to the Aragonese domination, which has left pieces of evidence with the Murat Castle.
The undisputed protagonist in the history of the town is, however, the famous Tartufo, a typical hazelnut ice cream that is rigorously modelled in the palm of the hand, shaped like a hemisphere with a melted dark chocolate heart and covered with a sprinkling of bitter cocoa powder and sugar. It was invented in the 50s of the last century, and today it is always a pleasure to savour it in the main square in front of the Castle.
3) Kitesurfing in Gizzeria, where the world championships are held
Nearby the Falkensteiner Club Funimation Garden Calabria, in Gizzeria, on the Gulf of Sant’Eufemia, there are large beaches equipped for kitesurfing. The climatic conditions and especially the different winds that blow throughout the year have made Gizzeria one of the world capitals of this sport that involves more and more people from all over the world. Even in unexpected periods such as winter or autumn, it is easy to come across sportsmen from distant countries. The 2019 edition of the world competition was exciting with athletes from 19 different countries. For those who love this sport, Gizzeria is a destination not to be missed.
4) Visit the Lungomare and the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria
Reggio Calabria, the capital and most populous city in the region, is also one of the oldest cities in Europe. Reggio was the first colony founded by the Greeks in southern Italy. Its position is fantastic because the city lies on gentle slopes that reach the sea and from here you have a wonderful view of the Strait of Messina and Ionian Sicily. What is most striking to visitors is the city’s waterfront which offers a spectacular panorama from Messina to Etna. The volcano eruptions seen from here are unforgettable. The seafront of the city is rich in extremely varied plant species. The avenue is adorned with Art Nouveau buildings. It is also enriched by some archaeological sites such as stretches of the city walls of the Greek city and a Roman thermal spa, and by the arena of the Strait, a typically Greek-style theatre which hosts events, especially in the summer months. Those who visit the city cannot miss the National Archaeological Museum of Magna Grecia, where numerous archaeological finds are kept, including the Riace Bronzes, famous all over the world.
5) The 3 Calabrian national parks: high peaks and Nordic scenarios
Calabria is immediately associated with the sea, yet this region full of surprises has 3 mountain national parks. Going from north to south, we first encounter the Pollino National Park, made up of snow-covered rocky massifs for most of the year, with beautiful places to visit and a species of conifer that lives clinging to the stone, the larch pine, unique in the world. The Sila National Park extends between the provinces of Cosenza, Catanzaro and Crotone: here you stand amazed thinking that in the heart of the Mediterranean there is a plateau covered with huge pine forests that remind a lot of northern European scenarios. The Sila National Park has been recognized as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. In the park’s visitor centers, it is also possible to admire numerous animal species. Finally, the Aspromonte National Park protects a large part of the mountain area of the province of Reggio Calabria, preserving wonderful woods with spectacular sea views.
6) A couple of tips on Sila
The Sila plateau is one of the most visited places in the Apennines both because in summer it offers a lot of relaxation and nature, and because in winter you can practice winter sports on skis and snowboards, in the resorts of Lorica, Camigliatello and Botte Donato. The National Park often hosts events related to sleddog (would you have ever thought of seeing dog sleds on the snow in Calabria?) Attended by people from all over the world. For those who visit Sila, especially in summer, a valuable advice may be to go and see the sunset on one of the beautiful white beaches of Lake Cecita, surrounded only by nature: an incredible sight.
7) The unmissable Diamante Festival Chili Pepper
Let’s move on to the main ingredient of Calabrian cuisine, which we can jokingly define as the main ingredient of the character of the Calabrians: chili pepper! In the city of murals, Diamante, on the Tyrrhenian coast of Cosenza, every year in September the festival dedicated to this Calabrian delicacy is held. The local peperoncino can be tasted in all sauces. Between impressive competitions of serial eaters, moments of satire stands scattered throughout the town, shows, exhibitions and conferences, the Peperoncino Festival is a famous event that attracts thousands of visitors every year. This year will take place from 9 to 13 September.
8) The best of world jazz at the Peperoncino Jazz Festival
If the Chili Pepper Festival was not enough, the chili becomes a moment of the union also in terms of music in Calabria. For many years the Peperoncino Jazz Festival has carved out remarkable visibility both in Italy and in the world, thanks to a truly winning formula, with the participation of the greatest and most interesting artists on the planet and the most beautiful places in the region that become the sets for shows to be experienced in every sense. In 2020’s spring the Peperoncino Jazz Festival was due to land in New York, but the events of the past few months have postponed the Big Apple appointment. Anyway, keep an eye on it, because jazz lovers could enjoy many spectacular free concerts.
9) Around the Ionian Calabria
For now, we have only considered Tyrrhenian and central Calabria, but we strongly recommend tourists to consider a visit to the most beautiful places on the other side of the region, the one overlooking the Ionian Sea. From the beautiful Swabian castle of Roseto Capo Spulico overlooking a 2020 Blue Flag sea, to the picturesque historic center of Rossano which houses the oldest copy of the Gospels, the Codex Purpureus recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, from the beautiful Aragonese fortress in the middle of the sea of Le Castella to the dream beaches of Caminia, there are numerous places to visit and also a great cuisine to taste.
10) The Lamezia DOC wine area
At the end of the article, we return to our Falkensteiner Club Funimation Garden Calabria. In the nearby town of Lamezia Terme, there is a rich production of local wines with controlled denomination of origin Lamezia DOC, created in 1978. We suggest you take a tour of the local producers and taste these varieties of white, red and rosé wines from a long tradition that comes from vines such as Gaglioppo, Greco Nero, Nocera, Greco Bianco and Malvasia Bianca. You will surely be surprised by so much character even in wine!