My top 16 destinations in Calabria

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

At first I was a bit unsure about the mafia and crime, but during my time in Calabria I fell in love with Italy even more than before. If you want to get to know not only the beautiful beaches of Calabria, but also the country and its people, I recommend discovering the interior on your own with a rental car. But also on the coast there are many great sights that you should not miss.

16. Serra San Bruno – the interior and silent monks

About halfway between the west and east coast is Serra San Bruno, a small town in the mountains with about 7,000 inhabitants. Already the drive there is an experience and a great way to discover the interior of Calabria. The village is located near a forest that you can explore with a walk or a short hike.

The highlight of the village is the Serra San Bruno Charterhouse where the monks of silence live. The monks have dedicated their lives to prayer and work in the monastery. The small museum in the monastery tells the story of the founder, St. Bruno from Cologne, and brings you a little closer to the life and work of the monastic brothers.

How to get there? By rental car in about 1h20 from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the tour guide. It can be combined with a trip to the east coast of Calabria or if you generally want to get to know the interior of the country.

15. Gerace – the city of a hundred churches

On the southeast coast of Calabria in the Aspromonte National Park lies Gerace, a municipality of about 2600 inhabitants. This medieval municipality is the seat of a bishop and is one of the most beautiful places in Italy. The town is characterized by many sacred buildings and is perfect for vacationers who are particularly interested in the history and culture of Calabria.

The highlight: is the largest church in Calabria with 73 meters and 26 meters wide, whose interior consists of 3 naves.

How to get there? By rental car in about 1h40 from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the tour guide. Can be easily combined with a visit to the town of Locri and the east coast of Calabria.

 

14. Locri – the pearl of the Ionian sea

Only 3 km from Gerace is the town of Locri. The city, founded by the Greeks in 680 BC, is in possession of numerous archaeological finds and impresses with the great old town. The ruins of ancient walls and temples inspire not only history fans.

The highlight: is the Greek-Roman theater. Here found in the 4th Jhr. BC up to 4500 people place.

How to get there? By rental car in about 1h35 from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the tour guide. Can be combined with a visit to the town of Gerace and the east coast of Calabria.

 

13. Stilo – the UNESCO World Heritage Site

Stilo is a small town in the Reggio di Calabria region with about 2500 inhabitants and a popular destination for fans of art and Italian history. The village is located on a hillside, idyllic among vines and olive groves and, like Gerace, belongs to the “I borghi più belli d’Italia” – the most beautiful places in Italy.

The highlight: is the very well preserved Byzantine church, built in the 10th century. It is a sacred building with a square floor plan and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2006.

How to get there? By rental car in about 2 h from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the tour guide. Can be well combined if you want to visit the east coast of Calabria or in combination with a visit to Serra San Bruno.

 

 

12. Pentedattilo – the ghost town

Picturesquely situated under a large rock, which looks like a giant hand stretching five fingers into the sky, this ghost village fascinates with its mysterious atmosphere. The village was abandoned by its inhabitants due to an earthquake and has hardly any tourist infrastructure. The village center consists of ruins and a few houses that have been renovated.

The highlight: is the view of the town from the parking lot. A beautiful and very special photo motif.

How to get there. By rental car in about 2h15 from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the tour guide. Can be combined well if you want to explore the south of Calabria around Reggio di Calabria.

11. Farò – the most beautiful viewpoint of Calabria

The Farò is the lighthouse at Capo Vaticano, perched on a rock above the sea. The spectacular thing is the view of the rocky coast and the beautiful beaches and the sea, which shines in different shades of blue and turquoise.

The highlight: the view of the rugged coast is the most popular photo motif in Calabria.

How to get there: by rental car in about 20 minutes from Tropea. From some hotels at Capo Vaticano, the Farò viewpoint is also easily accessible on foot.

For example, in about 10 minutes from these hotels:

Hotel Grotticelle

Hotel Stella Marina

 

10. Reggio di Calabria – Antiquity meets modernity

Reggio di Calabria is located in the south of Calabria, right on the Strait of Messina. It is the birthplace of Gianni Versace and one of the most modern cities in Calabria. The city is excellent for shopping. In the archaeological museum you can admire the bronze statues “Bronzi di Riace – the most beautiful men of Calabria”. Many other finds and artifacts such as Greek coins and prehistoric grave goods can be seen in the 4-story high museum.

The highlight: At the “Lungomare”, the promenade by the sea, you can enjoy a great view of the Strait of Messina and Sicily, which is at its narrowest point only 3 km away from Calabria.

How to get there: By rental car in about 1h45 from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the tour guide. Can be combined with a visit to the ghost town of Pentedattilo or a day trip to Sicily.

 

9. Zungri – the ancient cave dwellings

In the interior of the country is the small village of Zungri, which lies in a dreamlike position on the mountain slope of Monto Poro. (at 571 m) The cave dwellings, some with several rooms, served in the past as dwellings for humans and animals. The dwellings were cut directly into the tuff and served the population of that time as shelters from the Saracen attacks. The caves have blended homogeneously into nature and are still very well preserved today.

The highlight: for me is the beautiful nature of this corner amidst olive trees and streams. Zungri gives a great insight into the traditional way of life of Calabria and agricultural life.

How to get there: By rental car in about 25 minutes from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the tour guide. Can be easily combined with a visit to Spilinga.

 

8. Spilinga – Country, people and culinary highlights

At 430 meters above sea level lies the small village of Spilinga with about 1458 inhabitants. In Spilinga the “‘Nduja” was invented, a smoked sausage made of pork, which is quite spicy due to the addition of a lot of peperoncino. If you want to take one or the other typical delicacy home, I recommend one of the many small stores in Spilinga that sell homemade products.

The highlight: The Grotto of the Madonna delle Fonti is an open-air church, nestled in beautiful nature and on a beautiful pond, where it is quiet and pleasantly cool even in high summer.

How to get there: By rental car in about 20 minutes from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the tour guide. It can be combined with a visit to the cave village of Zungri.

 

 

7. Scilla – narrow streets, steep stairs, delicious swordfish

Scilla is a fishing village in the south of Calabria and is idyllically situated on a rock above the sea. Known through Greek mythology, Odysseus fought against the multi-headed sea monster “Scylla”, which devoured six of his companions. The narrow winding streets stretch from the entrance of the village to the fishing port.

The highlight: the picturesque village is famous for swordfish fishing and every restaurant in Scilla offers delicious and freshly caught swordfish specialties.

How to get there? By rental car in about 1h20 from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the tour guide. It can be combined with a visit to Reggio di Calabria.

6. Capo Vaticano – Coastal area and beautiful beaches

Rich in beautiful sandy, pebble and stone beaches and many hidden coves, Capo Vaticano is the most popular bathing area in the region. This place has nothing to do with the Vatican! According to legend, the name refers to an oracle that the Greeks visited during their occupation of Calabria. Turquoise blue, clear water shimmers in all blue facets and conveys real Caribbean flair.

The highlight: the most beautiful and secluded beeches can be reached by boat. Some beeches can only be reached from the sea side. With the appropriate license, you can rent a boat or book a private tour at an excursion office in Tropea.

How to get there? By rental car in about 15 minutes from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the tour guide.

My favorite hotel at Capo Vaticano:

Villaggio Il Gabbiano

 

5. Pizzo – Old town, culture and legendary ice cream

A must for every visitor to Calabria. This picturesque fishing village is bursting with Italian joie de vivre! Bars, restaurants, boutiques, cafes and numerous ice cream parlors, mainly lined up around the market square. Pizzo is apparently where the famous “tartufo ice cream” was invented. This sweet calorie bomb is still prepared by hand and consists of a scoop of vanilla or hazelnut ice cream and is filled with a liquid chocolate center. In addition, the ball is dusted with cocoa. In the “Castello Murat” in Pizzo Napoleon’s brother was imprisoned and executed.

The highlight: is the cave church Chiesetta di Piedigrotta, which was carved by hand into the cliffs by shipwrecked people as thanks for their salvation. 142 steps lead to this church grotto carved in tufa stone right by the sea.

How to get there: By rental car in about 40 minutes from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the tour guide.

 

4. Day trip Sicily – the largest island in Europe

Although Sicily is of course not a destination in Calabria, I think this excursion also belongs on the list. On the tour from Tropea to Reggio di Calabria you see a lot of the landscape of Calabria and learn a lot of interesting facts about the country and its people. The crossing over the Strait of Messina by ferry takes about 25 minutes. In Messina you should definitely try the sweet specialty of Sicily – a delicious cannoli. This is a roll of dough filled with a sweet cream of ricotta, vanilla and chocolate chips.

The highlight: the view of the usually snow-capped volcano Etna and the city of Taormina. Probably the most visited resort in Sicily, Taormina sits on a rocky terrace above the sea. The world-famous Greco-Roman amphitheater and the picturesque alleys with numerous cafés and souvenir stores already enchanted Goethe, Thomas Mann and Oscar Wilde.

How to get there: By rental car in about 1h20 from Tropea to the ferry port Villa San Giovanni and then crossing by ferry to Messina in about 20 minutes. The ferry departs about every 40 minutes. Here you should first check with the rental car company whether you are allowed to cross to Sicily with the rented car. Alternatively, with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the tour guide.

 

3. Lipari and Vulcano – the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean Sea

The Aeolian (Lipari) islands are all of volcanic origin, are inhabited year-round and are among the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean. Most shipping companies offer boat tours to the three most beautiful or interesting islands: Stromboli, Lipari and Vulcano.

The island of Lipari is the most populated and largest island and is considered the cultural center of the island chain. Here I recommend a walk through the narrow streets, a small shopping tour through the numerous souvenir stores or an espresso with Cornetto in one of the numerous cafes.

The island of Vulcano is due to the sulfur springs first a little challenge for the olfactory nerves. Nevertheless, one should overcome oneself to a sulfur bath; the sulfur mud is said to have healing powers and to be especially good against skin diseases but also healing for intervertebral discs, rheumatism and muscle inflammations. Shower facilities are available.

How to get there? By boat trip. The crossing takes about 2 hours to the first island (depending on the weather).

Good to know: the Aeolian Islands belong to Sicily; Calabrian guides are not allowed to guide and explain on the islands themselves. For this reason, the most important things are already explained during the trip, and the islands are then explored on your own. The stay per island is between 40 minutes and 1h30.

 

2. Stromboli – Europe’s most active volcano

My favorite of the 7 Aeolian islands off the coast of Calabria is Stromboli, the only permanently active volcano in Europe. Every 15 minutes, the 924 meter high volcano spews small or larger amounts of lava from its crater. The volcano is actually inhabited by about 500 people year-round. The black sandy beach in contrast to the white seagulls and the fishermen hauling in their nets is a very special photo motif.

The highlight: A special experience is a night boat trip to Stromboli. There are no fire fountains and lava streams flowing out of the crater but you can see very well at night how red lava rocks roll down the mountain. A very special natural spectacle.

How to get there? By boat trip. The crossing takes about 2 hours (depending on the weather).

 

1. Tropea – The Pearl of Southern Italy

The absolute highlight and a must of every Calabria stay. This beautiful, historic old town with its picturesque alleys was built on a cliff of sandstone that drops steeply to the sea. Winding alleys, narrow staircases and historic buildings enchant every visitor. In the cute cafes you can sit wonderfully and watch the hustle and bustle on the pedestrian zone. In the evening you can find a great, romantic restaurant in every corner where you can dine wonderfully under lanterns or in candlelight.

The highlight: The best thing about Tropea is at the end of the pedestrian zone where you can stand on the railing and enjoy a fantastic view of Stromboli, the beautiful beach, the turquoise blue water and the sanctuary of Santa Maria dell’Isola, which is located on a rocky outcrop. This view is especially beautiful at sunset.

How to get there? By rental car in about 15 minutes from Capo Vaticano or 20 minutes from Zambrone. Alternatively with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the tour guide. Many hotels also offer shuttle buses to Tropea several times a day.

My favorite hotel in Tropea:

Blu Tropea Maison

Located right on the cliff of Tropea, Blu Tropea Maison offers simple but great rooms in a prime location overlooking Tropea beach or the pedestrian zone.

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