Calabria is a region in Southern Italy, it forms the metaphorical toe of the Italian boot. It's considered the Caribbean of Europe thanks to its pristine beaches, stunning landscape, and rustic charms. Hillside towns, ancient Greek temples and Byzantine churches dot the countryside of Italy's best kept secret.
The region's climate is mild in the winter, with hot, dry summers. The region is surrounded on three sides by the Mediterranean Sea: the Ionian Sea is to the east, the Tyhrrenean to the west and the Strait of Messina to the south. As such, the sea is a big part of the region's culture and cuisine.
Calabria is divided into five provinces:
|Catanzaro (CZ) |
|Cosenza (CS) |
|Crotone (KR) |
|Metropolitan City of Reggio Calabria (RC) |
|Vibo Valentia (VV) |
- 1 Gallicianò is a remote village with a population of 200 Calabrian Greek-speaking people. It was founded during the 10th century.
Calabria has historically been one of the poorest regions in Italy, although it is improving now. The region is quite undeveloped and undervisited by tourists, but is therefore also unspoiled.
As one of the more remote regions of Italy, English is not as widely spoken in Calabria as it is in the more urbanized north, though still spoken by many urban youth. Calabresi speak either Italian or the local Calabrese dialect natively though basically all Calabresi speakers also speak Italian.
The main north-south highway through Calabria is the A3 Autostrada from Salerno to Reggio Calabria.
For holiday makers, there is a free bus service that runs from Lamezia Terme Airport to Tropea. Other modes of transport include the train which runs along the whole coast of Calabria and stops of at the main towns or alternatively can hire a car from Lamezia Airport.
When you visit Calabria, spending a couple of days in Praia a Mare (known as Praja) is a great time. The off coast Dino Island is popular for its Grotta Azzurra (Blue Cave), where you can swim surrounded by fish in crystal blue water.
Much of the traditional Calabrian food is called cucina povera, or simple peasant food. It is long on comfort and good vegetables, and short on fancy frills. Because of the climate, many foods were preserved by salting or packing in olive oil, and this style continues today.
If there is a fundamental ingredient to Calabrian cooking, it would be the "peperoncino" (pepper). Calabrian cooking tends toward the spicy thanks to the generous use of various varieties of hot peppers in regional cuisine. In fact, so popular is the peperoncino, that the village of Diamante honors the hot pepper with its own festival. In the first week of September the locals celebrate the Festival del Peperoncino, dedicated to the unofficial symbol of Calabria: the cayenne pepper. During the festival, one can taste freshly harvested peppers or try locally produced products that make use of the spicy condiment, anything from pasta to (yes) gelato. Olio Santo, olive oil infused with hot pepper, is sometimes added to a plate of pasta to give it a little extra zip.
Soppressata (Sopresatta) is a popular, peppery dry sausage that is typical of the region. Nduja is a very soft, very spicy sausage that you might not be able to find at home. Look for its dark rust-red color on top of pizzas, or pair it with good bread for a popular sandwich. If you want something less spicy, then Capocollo is the local interpretation of ham.
Alici ripieni, or stuffed anchovies, is a popular seafood dish. Sardella is produced in some of the towns along the Ionian coast in the province of Cosenza. It is a spicy paste made with olive oil, mashed baby sardines and hot pepper. If you get a chance, try the mpigliati con le sarde pie as a spicy, salty appetizer to share with a group.
Some Neapolitan specialties such as Braciole ("Raciol" in the Calabrian dialect) are common in the region.
In summer many dishes are prepared with eggplants. Calabria has its own reddish, rounder eggplant with a mild taste. The favorite onion, the red Tropea, is mild.
If you are looking for something sweet, Calabria offers a delightful variety of baked goods. Around holidays, look in pastry shops for a dish made of little bits of honey-glazed, deep-fried dough called pignolata or struffoli. They also make high-quality licorice, and if you're devoted to this candy that is more usually associated with Nordic regions, then consider a trip to the Giorgio Amarelli Museo della Liquirizia, along the north coast of the Cosenza district.
Calabria is an up-and-coming producer of wines, with a number of regional wines earning the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) label from the Italian government. Most of these wines are difficult to purchase outside of the region. Reds tend to be bold and full-bodied.
- Albergo Diffuso Cropani, Via Duomo, 6, ☏ . Albergo Diffuso Cropani offers holiday apartments in the small village of Cropani, close to Catanzaro and the sea.
Though not as poor as it was in the early part of the last century, Calabria is still one of the least developed regions in Western Europe, and so there is crime in the region. The high-profile crime in Calabria that receives the most media attention, at least in Italy, concerns the Mafia, called in Calabria the 'Ndrangheta, but it almost never targets tourists.
Road safety is a much greater concern than the Mafia for tourists visiting the region. The SS 106, which runs along the Ionian coast from Reggio Calabria to Taranto, is considered one of the deadliest roads in all of Europe.