Calabria is a region in Southern Italy. It features pristine beaches, stunning landscape, and rustic charms as well as hillside towns, ancient Greek temples, Norman castles and Byzantine churches.
The region's climate is mild in the winter, with hot, dry summers. The region is surrounded on three sides by the sea: the Ionian Sea is to the east, the Tyhrrenean to the west and the Strait of Messina to the south. As such, the sea is a big part of the region's culture and cuisine.
Calabria is subdivided into five provinces: Catanzaro, Cosenza, Crotone, Reggio di Calabria and Vibo Valentia.
It was the region of Calabria which gave Italy its name “Italia”, which means the "land of calves". The landscape, architecture and history has been shaped by various cultures over millennia including the Greeks, Normans, Arabs and, of course, the Romans. Calabria can boast of many historical achievements such as being the heart of silk production in Europe, having the third tallest bridge in Europe, the first Western Bible (the Codex Grandior) and formulating the Pythagorean Theorem.
Although Calabria is one of the less developed regions in Italy, it has respectable universities, national parks which can boast of having the cleanest air in Europe, and international airports. The region remains under-visited by tourists but is, as a result, also “unspoiled”.
It also happens to be the region where Italy's most powerful mafia organization is based, the 'Ndrangheta. However, that does not affect tourists as Calabria is simply the entry point for their drugs into Europe, and there are other countries in Europe which have drug smuggling volumes which dwarf the volumes passing through Calabria. All in all, it would be illogical to say that Calabria is a dangerous place to visit because of mafia.
Italian is, of course, the official language of the region, but with the “law 482/1999” a few minor languages, such as Calabrian-Greek, “Arbëreshë“ and Occitan have been recognized. Although you can't speak of a “Calabrian” dialect, you can divide it into three subcategories: northern (the one included by the UNESCO in the Napolitan\Southern Italian), southern and central (the one included by the UNESCO in the Sicialian language) Calabrian.
Despite Calabria having a slightly low proficiency in spoken English on average within Italy (55.31), a 50.16 proficiency EF EPI score should not be a warning sign to not travel there. Urban youth would be more likely to speak English.
Calabria is connected by airports in Reggio Calabria (Tito Minniti), Lamezia Terme (Sant'Eufemia), and Crotone (Sant'Anna), and many cheap Ryanair and Eurowings flights are available.
The main road infrastructures in Calabria are: A2 (Italian Motorway), SS 106 (Italian State Highway), SS 18 (Italian State Highway).
For holiday makers, there is a free bus service that runs from Lamezia Terme Airport to Tropea.
Other modes of transport include the train which runs along the whole coast of Calabria and stops at the main towns or alternatively you can hire a car from Lamezia Airport.
When you visit Calabria, spending a couple of days in Praia a Mare (known as Praja) is a great time. The off-coast Dino Island is popular for its Grotta Azzurra (Blue Cave), where you can swim surrounded by fish in crystal blue water.
Tropea Isola Bella- This island with convenient ferry sevice to the mainland has not only wonderful white sand beaches but is a charming village with a lot of history. The church on the former island is a real photographers delight but you should go up and visit also the gardens and the little museum upstairs. While the church entrance is free, for the rest you have to spend 1 Euro but you can shoot nice pictures. There are restaurants in the village center, where you can taste authentic southern Italian food for very little money!
The Historic center of Cosenza-The Corso Telesio brings you from the bridge over the Busento river up to the City green. On your way up you will pass the dom built in the 12th century where Isabel of Aragon's grave is. Further up you come to the Piazza XV Marzo with the government palace and the theater. There are many well preserved buildings from the Baroque period up to the early 20th century. There are plenty of restaurants which have been open for hundreds of years
Chianalea di Scilla-This Mediterranean beach is picture perfect. The clearest water you can imagine. Boardwalk with restaurants and shops. Umbrellas and chairs available at a very minimum price for the day. This beach does not have sand, instead you walk over large pebble stones. Make sure you wear beach shoes because the stones can be difficult to walk on and they do get hot with the summer sun. The town of Scilla is beautiful and very quaint! Magnificent sunsets. You can see Sicily and the Strait of Messina from the town, and on a clear day, you can see the active volcano of Etna. There are beach side shops and restaurants, with very good prices, selling great food and souvenirs.
If there is a fundamental ingredient to Calabrese cooking, it would be the peperoncino. Calabrese cooking tends toward the spicy thanks to the generous use of various varieties of hot peppers in regional cuisine. In fact, so popular is the peperoncino, that the village of Diamante honors the hot pepper with its own festival. In the first week of September the locals celebrate the Festival del Peperoncino, dedicated to the unofficial symbol of Calabria -- the cayenne pepper. During the festival, one can taste freshly harvested peppers or try locally-produced products that make use of the spicy condiment -- anything from pasta to (yes) gelato. Olio Santo, olive oil infused with hot pepper, is sometimes added to a plate of pasta to give it a little extra zip.
‘Nduja is a famous spreadable, spicy salami native to the region, in particular to Spìlinga.
Soppressata (Sopressata) is a popular dried sausage typical of the region.
Alici ripieni, stuffed anchovies, is a popular seafood dish.
Sardella is produced in some of the towns along the Ionian coast in the province of Cosenza. It is a spicy paste made with olive oil, mashed baby sardines and hot pepper.
Some Neapolitan specialties such as Braciole ('Raciol in Calabrese dialect) are common in the region.
Calabria is an up-and-coming producer of wines, with a number of regional wines earning the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) label from the Italian government. Among the region's DOC wines are:
Most of these wines are not available for purchase or would be exceedingly difficult to purchase at a store in the U.S. as they are primarily produced for domestic consumption. Locally-produced wines can be purchased by the bottle at area stores at a steep discount to what they would retail for (if available) stateside.
Crime in Calabria is quite low. The major problem in this southern region is corruption at high levels. Petty crimes are low and the homicide rate has decreased significantly, not only since the years 1988-92, but also since the past few years from 5.23 homicides per 100,000 males in 2010-2012 down to 1.95 in the years 2016-2018 (equivalent to a drop of 62.8% compared to the national average drop of 39.0% for the same period). Contrary to the various opinions of some travel guides, consumers of mafia-movies and even some Italians, the highest crime rates in the peninsula can be found in the country’s North-West, setting Calabria, in fact, as one of the safest regions.
Definitely, the presence of Mafia remains indisputable, but the homicides committed by these organizations (like the 'Ndrangheta) have decreased dramatically, and their operations have little or no influence on tourists.
Road safety is a much greater concern than the Mafia for tourists visiting the region. The SS 106, which runs along the Ionian coast from Reggio Calabria to Taranto, is counted among Europe's most dangerous roads.