Calabria is a region in Southern Italy. It's considered the Caribbean of Europe thanks to its pristine beaches, stunning landscape, and rustic charms. Hillside towns, ancient Greek temples and Byzantine churches dot the countryside of Italy's best kept secret.
The region's climate is mild in the winter, with hot, dry summers. The region is surrounded on three sides by the Mediterranean 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.
Calabria has historically been one of the poorest regions in Italy, although it is improving now. The region is quite undeveloped and under-visited by tourists but is, therefore, also unspoiled. It is also the region where Italy's most powerful mafia organizations are based and active.
As one of the more remote regions of Italy, English is not as widely spoken in Calabria as it is in the more urbanized north, though still spoken by many urban youth. Calabresi speak either Italian or the local Calabresi language natively though basically all Calabresi speakers also speak Italian.
The main north-south highway through Calabria is the A3 Autostrada from Salerno to Reggio Calabria.
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.
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.
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.
Things to do and see
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.
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.
Though not as poor as it was in the early part of the last century, Calabria is still one of the least developed regions in Western Europe, and so there is crime in the region. The high-profile crime in Calabria that receives the most media attention, at least in Italy, concerns the Mafia, called in Calabria the 'Ndrangheta, but it almost never targets 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 considered one of the deadliest roads in all of Europe.