17 things to know before you travel to Calabria (and how to deal with them)

I spent 6 months in Calabria and can only recommend anyone who loves the original Italy to visit this beautiful colorful corner of the world. In my opinion, Calabria is the most beautiful corner of Italy with the most delicious Italian cuisine.

At first a bit unsure about the mafia and crime, during my time in Calabria I fell in love with the country of Italy even more than before. To prepare you for a dream vacation without unpleasant surprises, I have summarized the most important 17 points that might be interesting for your trip.

1. Entry

Entry is very uncomplicated for Germans, Swiss and Austrians and possible with passport or identity card. For the entry the entry regulations of the EU apply:

www.bmf.gv.at/zoll/reise/einreise-aus-eu/einreise-aus-eu-staaten.html

2. Transfer

Those booking a package tour will be greeted at Lamezia Terme airport by a representative of the tour operator and assigned to the correct transfer bus to the hotel.

The transfer time from Lamezia Terme airport to the vacation home takes between 50 and 90 minutes, depending on the location of the accommodation and stopovers. Those who like it a little more comfortable and faster, already book a rental car from home, which is picked up and dropped off directly at the airport. I recommend the conclusion of a comprehensive insurance without deductible! The trip from Lamezia Terme to Tropea by cab costs between €70,- and €90,- per way.

Therefore: If you do not want to leave other hotels in the bus transfer and want to reach your accommodation as quickly as possible, book a rental car or a private transfer. Private transfers can be booked in advance, but here you have to dig a little deeper into your pocket (approx. €160,-/route/car).

 

 

 

 

3. Weather

Calabria is one of the sunniest regions in Europe, with 320 days of sunshine. The coastal areas have a subtropical climate, which means that it can get quite warm in the summer months from June to September. In midsummer, the thermometer sometimes climbs above the 35 degree mark! In the mountains the climate is cooler. If you want to discover the interior of Calabria in May and October, I recommend to take warm clothes and good shoes.

Therefore: be aware that it can get very hot in summer. If you fly to Calabria in May or October, you risk one or two rainy days.

 

4. Location

Most of the vacation hotels in Calabria are located at Capo Vaticano. This rugged and beautiful coastal area is located at the western end of the Tropea peninsula. (about 10 km away)

Why is this important to know? A very narrow, winding serpentine road leads to most of the hotels. The big transfer buses cannot drive on this road without running the risk of getting stuck. For this reason, the transfer bus will drop you off at the top of the road and the hotel shuttle will take you down to the hotel. Unfortunately, since almost all the hotels are in bays, you can’t walk to Tropea, or you have to walk up to the coastal road first and then up the hilly roads (some without sidewalk) into town. What other possibilities there are to discover Calabria, you will find under the point “Locomotion”.

Therefore, if it is very important to you that you can walk to a small town in the evening, it is best to book a hotel in or very close to Tropea, for example: this one:

www.roccettemare.info

www.hotelcolombadoro.it

 

5. Budget

The unit of currency is the euro. The price level is comparable to that in Germany or Austria. Here are a few guidelines for orientation: gasoline €1.30 per liter, scoop of ice cream €1.50, espresso €0.60 – 0.80, museum admissions: €3,- to €6,-. A plate of pasta costs about €8,-, a pizza Margherita €7,-. You can find more tips about restaurants under “Tips” and “Culinary”.

Therefore: In most hotels and many restaurants you can pay with your credit card, but I still recommend to take enough cash with you, because the next EC machine is not always just around the corner. Withdrawing cash from the credit card is not possible everywhere.

 

6. Beaches and sea

From romantic coves to long sandy beaches. In Calabria, every beach lover will find just the right thing. The beaches at Capo Vaticano are mostly coarse-grained sandy, sometimes a bit pebbly. The water is turquoise blue and clear. Some hotels have placed large rocks in the water as breakwaters. These are of course visually not so beautiful, but prevent the erosion of the beach and give children more safety when splashing.
 
Therefore, if you do not want breakwaters on the hotel beach, inform yourself in advance and look at current pictures of the hotel online before booking.

 

7. Mafia and Crime

For many, the first thing that comes to mind when you hear Calabria – the mafia. As far as that goes, you can’t sugarcoat anything either. The Ndrangheta is active and for me there were one or two incidents behind which I suspected mafia involvement.
 
But! 6 months not a single theft, assault or other criminal incident with my guests or me. Fears regarding the mafia are completely unfounded.
 
Therefore: do not worry about this. The uncomfortable truth is; the mafia profits from tourism and it would not be smart to jeopardize this source of income in any way. Of course, as in any other country, it is advisable to take care of your valuables, especially in the cities and tourist centers.
 

8. Health

There are no mandatory vaccinations for Calabria, a small medicine cabinet with mosquito repellent and painkillers is usually enough. Should there be something more serious, I advise against visiting a state hospital which, for various reasons, are usually catastrophic. The costs for the treatment usually have to be paid on the spot and can be submitted to the health insurance at home. The invoice should be in German or English and the diagnosis should be noted on it.
 
Therefore: It is worthwhile to take out a good private health insurance for abroad, which also covers the costs for a visit to a private hospital.

9. High season

High season is from July to mid-September. The absolute highlight of the summer season is August 15 when the Italians celebrate “Ferragosto”. Loud animation from early to late, full hotels, restaurants and beaches.
 
Therefore: who wants a quiet and relaxed vacation, avoids this time. The ideal vacation time for German vacationers are June and September, because the temperatures are not so high and the sea has a good bathing temperature.

10. Culinary

For me the best cuisine in Italy! Crispy thin pizza, homemade pasta with mussels and light sauces, refined with a little peperoncino. Delicious ice cream, ice-cold Limoncello or Amaro – simply wonderful!
 
In the restaurant you usually first order “antipasti” – different kinds of cheese, pickled or grilled vegetables, tomato with mozzarella, melon with raw ham. This is followed by a pasta dish and then a meat or fish dish. Of course, the “Dolce” – the dessert afterwards may not be missing! If you wonder who can eat so much – I don’t know either. Usually after antipasti and pasta dish you are already stuffed.

Therefore: It is best to order one or two plates of “antipasti” which are placed in the middle of the table and from which everyone may help themselves. The original Calabrian cuisine is relatively spicy due to the addition of the peperoncino and the spicy N’duja sausage. Those who don’t like it so spicy are well advised to let the restaurant know. Ordering a cappuccino after dinner risks wry looks from the locals. An espresso is the only recognized coffee drink after a rich meal.

 

11. Mandatory bathing cap

Believe it or not. In some hotels Calabria is still mandatory in the pool bathing caps. Please inform yourself before booking whether this is the case in your desired hotel. If so, it is best to take a cap from home or buy one on site for a few euros in the hotel.
 
Therefore: If you don’t want to wear a bathing cap – the most beautiful pool is still the sea!
 

 

12. Siesta

Usually in Calabria is siesta between 12:00 – 16:00. This means that at this time many stores close for the afternoon rest.
 
Therefore, especially those who are self-supplied on vacation pay attention to this, so as not to stand in front of closed doors with a growling stomach.

 

 

 

13. Sunbeds on the beach

The sunbeds on the beach are not included in every hotel. As a rule, two sunbeds and one umbrella cost €10 to €20 per day, depending on the beach.
 
Therefore: check before booking if the sunbeds are included. If not, there is of course also the possibility to lie in the sand with a towel free of charge.
 

14. Moving around

  • Driving a car
If you decide to take a rental car, it is best to book it from home; locally, the cars are usually more expensive. An international driver’s license is not necessary. I recommend taking out comprehensive insurance without a deductible. In the narrow streets of Tropea, a house wall is quickly grazed and on the serpentine roads into the interior, a pothole is immediately overlooked.
 
As a general rule, parking spaces with a white border are free of charge, blue ones require payment, and yellow ones mean no parking. Parking tickets are available in bars, kiosks or directly from the parking attendant.
 
The speed limits are similar to ours: 130 km/h on highways, 50 km/h in built-up areas. The blood alcohol limit is 0.5.
 
A very good overview with all important information about driving in Calabria can be found here:

www.azzurro-diary.com/reisen/unterwegs-mit-dem-auto

  • Busses
City and country buses drive along the coastal road, which means that you first walk up the narrow serpentine road at Capo Vaticano or ask at the hotel if the hotel shuttle can take you up. Not every bus stop is recognizable as such! Bus schedules are available at the hotel, at the kiosk in town or from the tour guide.
 
Therefore, it is easiest to find out at the hotel where the next bus stop is or where it is best to stand. Bus schedules exist, but they are only guidelines. You should be there about 10 minutes before the indicated departure and do not despair if it should take a little longer. To signal to the bus driver that you want to go – it is best to raise your arm briefly.
  • Train
The Calabrian railroad network is only well developed on the coast. For trips inland, I recommend booking a rental car or an excursion at the hotel or with the tour guide.
 
For example, if you want to go south from Lamezia Terme to Reggio di Calabria, you can book your ticket at www.trenitalia.com and check the times there.
 
A regional train runs between Zambrone and Ricardi at Capo Vaticano or from Capo Vaticano to Tropea. The trip takes about 10 minutes, the price is about €2,-/person.
 
  • Taxis

Cabs can be called from the reception or are usually waiting for customers at each entrance to the village. Cabs are not quite cheap. For 10 km you have to calculate about €15,- – €20,-. The price should always be negotiated before the trip.

  • on foot

Unfortunately, there are hardly any walking paths from the hotels. The path usually leads either along the coastal road or along the beach. However, most hotels are located in bays, which of course often cuts off one’s path. If you are vacationing at Capo Vaticano or in Zambrone, it is best to take the hotel’s own shuttle bus or public transportation to get to Tropea..

  • Shuttlebus

Very many hotels offer shuttle buses for a fee that go 2-5 times a day to Tropea and back. (depending on the season) Just ask at the reception for the departure times. You should pay attention to the opening hours (see point “Siesta”).

15. Souveniers

Always the same problem – what do I bring for those at home.
 
Here are my recommendations:
 
  • Products of bergamot, the “yellow gold”: soaps, perfume, oil, teas, etc. (90% of the world production of bergamot oil comes from Calabria!)
  • Ceramics: through the colorful works of art you can take home a little vacation feeling.
  • Culinary: Nduja sausage, dried porcini mushrooms, pesto, a bottle of Amaro del Capo, a jar of onion jam, dried peperoncino, a bottle of Cirò – the Calabrian house wine.

 

16. Language

The national language is of course Italian, very many Calabrese speak German or English as a foreign language. In addition, many locals speak a special dialect, which is not easy to understand even for native Italian speakers. I think Calabrian sounds great and with a little concentration and careful listening, you usually understand at least what the conversation is about.

17. Tipping

In Calabria, as in the rest of Italy, it is cheaper to eat and drink at the counter than to sit at the table. Those who sit down pay the “coperto” – the place setting. This usually amounts to between €2,- to €4,- /person and serves as a service charge. Nevertheless, additional tips are of course appreciated, usually leaving 5-10% of the total bill on the table. It is not customary to split the bill, but the waiter issues one bill for the whole table. Who pays what, the guests decide among themselves. By the way, the barista is also happy about a small “mancia” if you drink the espresso at the bar.

 

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