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Friday, June 6, 2008

Calabria: Europe's best value destination

What makes a destination great value? For me, it's great hotels at good prices, excellent cafes, restaurants and bars that are inexpensive, and lots of cool stuff to see and do that costs little if anything, interesting streets to explore, gorgeous architecture to admire, fascinating people to watch from a park bench. During the weeks we recently spent crisscrossing Calabria to research a new guidebook we were relieved to find the southern Italian region to be such terrific value. Calabria is one of Europe's best value destinations. So what makes it so?
1. Alluring hotels at equally attractive prices: you can check in to elegant palazzos, old-world manor houses, chic apartments, and charming 3-5 star hotels from €60-120 a night.
Of the many atmospheric places we stayed at we loved Torre Camigliati at Camigliatello, Palazzo delle Clarisse at Amantea, and Residenza Il Barone in Tropea. Alternatively, you could pay €30-50 for a B&B. See the BB-Reggio site for starters. also has a great selection of Calabrian hotels, B&Bs and apartments.
2. Flavorsome and refined local cuisine at fabulous prices: we often found the Michelin-listed restaurants with their chi-chi decor and fussy food to be the most disappointing (more on that later) while the most memorable meals were to be had at vibrant, family-run places where the emphasis was on the freshest ingredients simply cooked. Prices ranged from €40 for a 2-course meal for two with a couple of glasses of wine to around €120 for a 5- or 6-course degustation menu for two and a fantastic bottle of wine. Our favorites included La Tavernetta at Camigliatello, Palazzo Altomonte in Altomonte, Il Fiore del Cappero at Reggio Calabria, Tropea's Ristorante Da Cece, and Albergo Ristorante Villa San Domenico at Morano Calabro (pictured). In simple pizzerias you can find enormous pizzas starting from €6 and in basic trattorias a 3-course set lunch menu for as little as €12.
3. Eye candy wherever you look and as far as you can see and an endless array of things to do (all free or inexpensive): exquisite art and sculpture in historic churches, fascinating Greek and Roman finds in archaeological museums, elegant old town architecture, medieval villages sprawled across hilltops with atmospheric alleyways, pretty piazas and seaside promenades where you can sit back and watch the world go by or join the evening passagietta, spectacular mountain scenery and lush countryside to drive or hike, stunning coastline with attractive beaches (although definitely not the world's best), crystal clear azure waters to swim, and splendid sea vistas with sublime sunsets to savour.


Nomadic Matt said...

of course I'm going back to rome! The if was because with my current travels, I have no idea where I'll be for a long time!

My blog today is about Rome! Enjoy it!

- Susan - said...

I am excited to see that you checked out some of our favorites (Da Cece in Tropea) and that we could support somehow your work. Good luck with the travel guide! I will order one as soon as it is out!

Lara Dunston said...

Oh, I'm glad to know Da Cece is a favorite of yours. I didn't know that. Do you have a list somewhere on your blog? I'll have to look.

It was our hotel in Tropea - Residenza Il Barone (do you know it? Gorgeous!) who sent us to Cece's the first night we arrived. We loved it so much we returned the next day to do a photo shoot for a story.

In Pizzo, we liked Le Castellane - we would not normally eat at a restaurant on the main piazza (have a drink yes, but not eat as they're generally not very good at all and over-priced) but as we walked by the aromas of their staff lunch called us in! Also Toscano, which had some interesting dishes on their menu and was very stylish, with lots of atmosphere. Do you like them?