Calabria is at the toe of the boot, the extreme south of Italy - lapped by the splendid crystal blue Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas and separated from Sicily by the Strait of Messina. The warm climate, the beautiful colors of the sea, rocky coasts that alternate with sandy beaches, a nature that is wild and mysterious, the strong and genuine flavors of local food and the vestiges of its ancient origins make Calabria a unique place that vacationers can enjoy in both winter and summer.
Any wish can be fulfilled. Those who love nature, its scents and mysteries, can explore the Calabrian hinterland, discovering pure and unpolluted sceneries, where huge green belts alternate with blue lakes and waterfalls.
On the other hand, those who prefer basking in the warm rays of the sun and dive into a crystal-clear sea can choose from the many charming localities along the long Tyrrhenian and Ionian coasts.
Instead those who prefer to learn about the region's past, Calabria, the cradle of Magna Graecia and land of ancient settlements, is full of splendid churches, monasteries, castles, palaces and towns where age-old traditions still survive.
The provinces of Calabria are: Catanzaro (regional capital), Reggio Calabria, Cosenza, Crotone and Vibo Valentia.
Art lovers will not want to miss the occasion to see the famous Riace Bronzes, on display in the National Museum of Reggio Calabria. The bronzes are an important vestige of Magna Graecia, an epoch that shaped the history of this region significantly. These beautiful statues, representing two warrior heroes, are a rare example of classical Greek sculpture.
With its 800 km (497 mi) of coast, Calabria offers a wide choice of gorgeous beaches; in particular, Capo Vaticano, in the province of Vibo Valentia, is defined as one of the 100 most beautiful beaches in the world: a long tract of fine sand surrounded by age-old trees and lapped by crystal-clear water that teems with a variegated fish fauna.
An immersion into the wilderness of the Calabrian hinterland is an un-missable opportunity, while the National Parks of Sila, Serre, Aspromonte and Pollino are among the most interesting nature destinations. The creeks and boulders of Aspromonte, the grand, ancient plant life of Sila, and the rich fauna of Serre are just some of the natural wonders offered by this region.
When we speak about Calabria, we think of the sea and its marvelous beaches for basking and sun-bathing. Still, these clear waters in their thousand hues are also a natural gym where one can go windsurfing, kite-surfing or scuba-diving, to discover a wonderful seabed hosting brightly-colored corals and even intriguing wreckages from the Second World War.
The region offers many opportunities of fun and relaxation to those who decide to spend their holidays in its hinterland.
The National Parks, which cover most of inland Calabria, are a thrill for nature lovers and non.
And winter sports are certainly not out of the question; choose between the many ski resorts, equipped with artificial slopes to ski year-round.
Those who love a good challenge should not miss a rafting experience along the Lao River or through the Sila gorges.
Alternatively, the river can be walked without, no need for a boat of any kind: just dive into the water, descending with a rope in the most difficult tracts. This is canyoneering, and the support of expert guides makes these fascinating sports accessible to anyone.
Another possibility to learn and have fun at the same time is orienteering, a sport that was born in the Scandinavian countries to test sense of direction. Participants equipped with a map and a compass must reach the goal in the shortest time; they can choose independently the route to take but they must arrive at preset intermediate stops.
And why not try the emotion of flying over these breathtaking landscapes? Specialized instructors will take you through the clouds (firmly attached to a paraglider’s saddle, no less) to show you the beauty of Calabria from an entirely different perspective!
Calabria is a land of strong and intense emotions; such is no less true when it comes to cuisine. Witness the famous Calabrian hot pepper (pepperoncino), found in most Calabrian typical dishes. From toasted bread with n’duja sausage or sardines – called the “caviar of the poor” – to pork sausages, from pasta sauces to fish dishes.
The strong flavor of hot pepper contrasts with the sweet taste of the Tropea red onion, protected by the PGI quality mark. The onion is used for seasoning dishes as well as for curative purposes.
Some of the delicacies among Calabrian products and typical dishes that explorers of this amazing region must try include: extra-virgin olive oil, wines, bergamot liqueurs, liquorice, citron and herbs, honey and jams, special types of homemade pasta (strangugghj, fileja, maccaruni) that are still made today using the old methods.
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Tropea is a small town of ancient history, deeply rooted not only in its archaeological finds, but also in the mythological origins credited to it, such as its legendary foundation by Hercules. Some studies state that its name, Tropea, may stem from some trophies which could be seen from the sea.
The Ionic coast of Calabria is high, jagged, with mountains dropping to the sea, furrowed by the riverbeds, dry in summer and rushing with water in winter. The coast has no large ports.
A scenographic route beside the sea winds beside the walls of the fort Le Castella, built on a small island. The cylindrical tower looms over the walls, partially destroyed during the attacks by the Saracen pirates who infested the Calabrian coasts.
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At the extremity of Capo Colonna we find the symbols of Calabria: the superbe coast and sea, the archaeological remains of the Greek city of Hera Lacinia, a sixteenth-century watchtower and a white chapel of mediaeval origin.