Found in the toe of Italy’s boot, Calabria is known for its mountainous terrain, a 500-mile long coastline, and historical towns. The region was once controlled by the Greeks and was a strategic part of the Greek Empire with its Latin name, Magna Gaecia, meaning Great Greece. Now, Calabria is the main producer of the peperoncino and exports about one-third of the country’s olive oil. The region also gave the world the Gianni Versace.
This area of Italy has so much to offer, but somehow it still remains low on most tourist lists. If you find yourself looking to explore this wonderful region, here are some of the things I would recommend seeing.
1. Cattolica di Stilo
Built into the side of a mountain, this Byzantine church is a sight to behold. It is built in the traditional Greek fashion with the layout mimicking a cross. Inside there are still remnants of the original frescos. Cattolica di Stilo was previously damaged by earthquakes, and during restoration efforts, some unusual discoveries were made. These findings included an Arabic inscription on one of the columns and an upside-down pillar in another area.
2. Lungomare Falcomata
If you are looking for some amazing coastal scenery, check out Lungomare Falcomata. It is the most famous street in Reggio Calabria, and it offers miles of promenade for visitors to stroll along. You can also find one of the city’s most popular attractions along this path, The Monument of Athena. It is said the goddess defends the city in its time of need.
3. Parco Nazionale del Pollino
Parco Nazionale del Pollino is Italy’s largest national park and sits between Basilicata and Calabria. It covers about 760 square miles and is known for its pino loricato trees. These trees can only be found in this park and the Balkans, with the oldest tree standing 131 feet tall.
4. Chiesetta di Piedigrotta
This underground cave turned church is a bizarre but worthwhile stop. The area is filled with hand-carved statues done by shipwreck survivors from the 17th-century. Afterward, more people began adding statues to the array, including Fidel Castro and John F. Kennedy.
5. Corigliano Castle
Built by the Normans in the 11th-century, this imposing fortress has been home to some of the region’s most powerful families. Each family left their own architectural impacts on the building, such as the stunning Hall of Mirrors, where a beautiful painting decorates the ceiling.
6. Corso Garibaldi
Corso Garibaldi is the spot to go when you are looking for great shopping. You’ll find a range of high-end boutiques, independent establishments, as well as spots for lunch and other refreshments. This is also the heart of Reggio Calabria’s nightlife. Shop til you drop, then party all night.
7. Rocca di Pentedattilo
If you’re looking for adventure and a little mystery, hike to the Rocks of Pentedattilo. These natural towers are beautiful, but the abandoned town at its feet is even more interesting. Pentedattilo was built by the Greeks in 640 B.C., but earthquakes caused citizens to leave the city in the 1800s. The original buildings are still there, providing tourists with a one-of-a-kind photo opportunity.
8. Santuario di San Francesco di Paola
The Santuario di San Francesco di Paola rests upon an empty cave where St. Francis of Paola and his followers carved out for themselves during the 15th-century. The church above features paintings depicting the saint’s life along with holy artifacts significant to his ministry.
9. Archeological Site and National Museum of Locri Epizephyrii
Located south of the modern-day Locri, this archeological site was once home to the Greek colony of Locri Epizephyrii. Visitors can see the town’s ancient harbor structures, the cent-camera (hundred rooms), and a bathhouse/farming villa. The museum houses many artifacts discovered on-site and recaps the colony’s history up to its abandonment in the 10th-century.
10. Santa Maria dell’Isola
The town of Tropea is one of Calabria’s most popular spots, especially the enchanting hilltop sanctuary of Santa Maria. The church is perched on the top of a rock expanse overlooking the blue-green waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Though this building is a recreation of the original structure that was damaged by earthquakes, it is still a sight to behold, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find better views of than coast.
- 15 Things to do in Reggio Calabria [The Crazy Tourist]
- Cattolica di Stilo [Atlas Obscura]
- Parco Nazionale del Pollino [Lonely Planet]
- Chiesetta di Piedigrotta [Lonely Planet]
- The Castle [Italian Ways]
- Santa Maria dell Isola [Calabria the Other Italy]
- Museo Nazionale di Locri Epizephyrii [Lonely Planet]
- Santuario di San Francesco di Paola [Lonely Planet]
- Feature Picture [Need Pix]