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Saturday, June 7, 2008

10 reasons to travel to Calabria: part 2

Here are 5 more reasons to venture to Italy's southernmost mainland region:
6. Sila National Park: breathtakingly beautiful, the Sila boasts three turquoise lakes skirted by sandy beaches; rural countryside so idyllic it's as if it's out of a children's picture book with wooden fences, apple blossoms, and horses grazing in the paddocks; forests of pine, fir and birch trees so thick they form a canopy over the road, often dark except for dappled light, making for an enjoyably eerie drive; and wildflowers so aromatic you become addicted to opening the car window and inhaling. Camigliatello, Sila's main town, is a great base for skiing, hiking and exploring the Sila, and a gourmet paradise with gastronomic restaurants and shops selling local specialties such as smoked cheeses, cold cuts and salamis, porcini, and soppressata, a delicious pork sausage.
7. The Calabrian
passagiatta: the Italian ritual of the passagiatta or evening stroll, when locals dress up and take to the streets to see and be seen and socialize, is a national pastime and a pleasure to watch anywhere in Italy. In Calabria it's at its most compelling. People dress up more and more people seem to promenade than anywhere else in Italy. (Why? A friend told us "We're more bored here in Calabria!") The sea of sharp-looking people is a sight to behold. My top 5 passagiatta towns are Vibo Valentia, Amantea, Crotone, Reggio Calabria, and Cosenza.
8. Calabria's castles, cathedrals and churches: every town in Calabria seems to possess a splendid duomo or basilica with chapels holding exquisite art and is watched over by the ruins of an imposing Norman castle. There are beautiful churches in all styles and from periods, from the little Byzantine La Cattolica in Stilo to the Church of St Francis in Gerace with a wonderful baroque alter. My favorite castle is Le Castella (pictured) at Isola di Capo Rizzuto
, which appears to float at sea.
Pizzo: with elegant palazzi perched precariously on steep cliffs overlooking the ocean and a charming old town that's a tiny tangle of pastel-painted houses, narrow lanes and steep stairs reminiscent of Positano. Unfortunately, tourists outnumber the locals at the gelateria tables on the main piazza, and one too many shops have given over to tacky souvenirs, however, wander the pretty backstreets where life goes on as ever and you'll smell the mouthwatering aromas of lunch being cooked and find women hanging out washing over their balconies. (See the blog Palazzo Pizzo).
10. Reggio di Calabria: the streets of this surprisingly sophisticated city are lined with elegant buildings, some in Venetian style; there are good restaurants, great shops and excellent gelaterias, a beautiful new art museum, the Pinacoteca, and the superb bronze Riace statues at the archaeological museum, not to mention an attractive seaside promenade with lidos that are lively in summer and stunning views across to Sicily and Mount Etna.


- Susan - said...

Cara Lara,

I am glad to see Pizzo on your top 10 list. But don't tell me that you missed the tartuffo ice cream. Did you? You must come back!
It sounds like you could'nt get a table at the Bar Belvedere.... Pecato! Or do you plan a post of its own for this famous ice cream to die for?! Let me know! I am curious.

Lara Dunston said...


We did try it, but do you know what, I'm not a fan of ice cream - never have been - not even Italian gelato or even tartuffo. I keep forcing myself to try it so I can try to understand some people's addiction. And of course especially if it is a popular gelateria that we're going to include in the book, but I eat it more because I should rather than because I want to. So not even your Pizzo tartuffo persuaded me to cross over to the ice cream side, I'm afraid. I definitely prefer savoury and spicy foods... now, as for that 'nduja! YUM!