Eastern Calabria is very different from it’s western more populated part. Yet they both share a fascinating fusion of hundreds of miles of coastline with ancient rocky outcrops, interesting history and mountains.
The drive from Matera in Basilicata to eastern Calabria was quite long, so we decided to spend a night in Le Castella – a quaint little town only known for it’s beach and of course the 15th century Aragon castle.
It is also a famous place for wedding pictures – we saw a couple of wedding parties making their way around the beach and the castle during the spectacular (and very colorful) sunset.
Sitting high up on a hilltop, Badolato has spectacular views of the sea. It is a very well preserved medieval town. In part thanks to it’s Mayor who a few years ago promoted the revival of the partially abandoned town by giving away free homes to those who promised to restore them.
The town is spotless with a few cute restaurants, cafes and shops and very welcoming inhabitants.
Stilo is one of the most fascinating places in southern Italy. We were so grateful that we got to spend a number of days here as this town with it’s multiple “layers” of things to do and see truly requires some time to fully comprehend the depths of it’s beauty and history.
The Byzantine monks established the town and then built the beautiful basilica known as La Cattolica, a 10th century Byzantine church that is one of Calabria’s most famous churches. The Cattolica is an architectural gem built on a panoramic point overlooking the tile roofs of Stilo and the countryside beyond.
Here we stayed in a lovely B&B which was in the center of the town – the owner would bring us home baked snacks and freshly farmed produce which we gladly ate on the terrace overlooking the valley of Stilo.
Above Stilo stand the ruins of the Norman Castle. There is a great hike to the top of the castle. Our first attempt up lead to a large heard of goats guarded by their loyal and very hot four legged shepherds.
So we decided not to scare the crew and found another way up. The following morning we made the trek up again (as the trail is lovely and the views are breathtaking).
This time we found a momma goat and 2 of her babies trapped in a receded part of the castle’s ruins. The drop was a few meters down and they could not jump out – they must have been lured by the tasty new weeds and shrubs growing out of the “well” of the ruins.
After assessing the situation Rob was certain that in the confined space that the goats were trapped in, he could not safely lift them out. Another solution needed to be found.
We looked around for planks long enough to place in the “well”. After much searching a long enough piece was found. We placed it on an angle hoping that the wood would hold the momma goat and take her and her babies to safety, but unfortunately the goats decided to start eating the wood.
Saddened we walked away to find another solution. After some time, out of the corner of our eyes we saw that momma goat had figured it out. Quickly after her escape, the babies followed suit. We did a happy panda dance and vowed to return to this beautiful area as soon as possible.
Just minutes from the Aspromonte National Park, Gerace sits above the Ionian Sea offering gorgeous sunrises and colorful sunsets above it’s mountainous valleys.
We stayed in a partially renovated grand hotel of Gerace (originally built in the 1700’s) currently owned and run by the grandson of the owners (when the hotel was truly grand).
La Rupe reminded us of villa’s in Ravello (Amalfi Coast) – stunning, endless views with beautiful grounds overlooking the sea. Giuseppe gave us great tips on the area and was a wonderful host.
This cobblestone town is truly lovely with much to offer. Between the architecture, history, lovely restaurants, stunning views, Gerace’s proximity to the mountains and sandy beaches make it one of our favorite towns in Calabria.
The famous ghost town was fully abandoned in the 1960’s and now is mostly a tourist attraction. Annually the town hosts a film festival which attracts about 1,000 people each year.
Pentedattilo’s rocky jagged shape has attracted many including the ancient Greeks, who settled the area in the 7th-century B.C. Pentedattilo: penta + daktylos = five fingers (due to it’s shape) in the local Greek-Calabrian dialect. This area still has strong ties with its Greek heritage, which is reflected in the language and customs.
Today, it is an interesting place to visit (or even stay for a night in one of the local B&Bs). But beware, the 15 remaining locals tell many a story about the ghosts of Pentedattilo which they promise will visit you during your stay.
Natural Pools of Africo
En route to Reggio Calabria we were easily lured to the beaches of Africo. The natural rock pools create refreshing “swimming pools” for lounging while the sandy beaches are great for a picnic or sunbathing.
Reggio Di Calabria
The city of Reggio Calabria is a melting pot of nationalities and cultures which is nothing new as this region of Italy has seen some form of inhabitation since the 3rd Millennium BC from civilizations such as the Trojans, Mycenaean’s and Phoenicians; it is considered one of the oldest Greek colonies of Southern Italy.
We stayed in a moderately priced B&B in the center of town where the hostess Bernadette made us feel like we were staying in a 5 star hotel – no kidding. She made us a 3 course breakfast which she brought to our door every morning, made dinner reservations for us and basically treated us like royalty.
To me, Reggio Calabria is a big town with less character and charm than some of the smaller castle towns that we visited in the area. What this city does have is a plethora or restaurants and shops along the Corso Garibaldi (which is a pedestrian only walking street) and the beautiful Lungomare Falcomata which is the main beach strip along Reggio Calabria’s coast.
In addition, here are interesting pieces of outdoor modern art along the embankment intermingled with many beautiful old trees and a sandy/pebbly beach.
The medieval Castello Aragnese has been the cities main form of defense for hundreds of years and has remained in great condition, so is also worth a visit.
All in all our comprehensive visit to Calabria has only scratched the surface of what is here. Obviously we want to return and explore so much more.
Have you been to any of the parts of the southern boot of Italy? It is hard to say but I think we preferred the western part more. Or perhaps Sicily or the Amalfi Coast or the stunning Matera?
What about you? Where in Italy do you want to visit the most?