My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Is Calabria the new Puglia?

Do you remember how Puglia was touted as "the new Tuscany" by the travel media last year? Well, as we recently discovered, the reality is very different. We've just completed a road trip in Calabria researching a guidebook, and spent some time in Basilicata at the start of the trip and drove through Basilicata and Puglia at the end. Conde Nast Traveller called this remote heel of Italy's boot "captivating", writing that Lecce was "the Florence of the Baroque". But then the travel media seems to be on an endless search for 'undiscovered' places to promote as the next hot destination, and once 'discovered', there's a tendency to compare the place with another. As if our imaginations were incapable of conceiving something new or different. A few years ago Croatia was the new Greece, now Montenegro is the new Croatia, and even Abu Dhabi is being hailed as the new Dubai. (Oh, I think I wrote that, but you know what I mean.) Before Puglia, Basilicata was under the spotlight, after it hit the screen in Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ, which was filmed in Matera, pictured. But if you travel through either Italian regions, you'll quickly realize that while they may boast two of southern Italy's most atmospheric cities in Matera and Lecce, and some dramatic, craggy coastline and azure-colored sea more reminiscent of Greece than Italy, they're also home to some of Italy's scruffiest beaches, shabbiest towns, driest countryside, and some seriously ugly urban development. Conde Nast Traveller's website might claim you'll be "gloriously alone" if you venture this far south, but you won't. Aside from the fact that the south has always been popular with Italian summer holidaymakers because it's cheaper than the northern rivieras (70% of the region's tourists are Italian), we saw more tour buses in Matera's public car park in one morning than we did during our whole research trip in Calabria. But is Calabria the new Puglia? Let's just say that first you'd better get any images of a low-key Tuscany or quaint Florence out of your head. Then let's consider Calabria on its own terms.

No comments: