The Best Things to do in Calabria and Calabria Itinerary

If quaint mountain villages, undeveloped beaches and charming fishing villages are your thing, head over to southern Italy and follow our Calabria itinerary to experience all the best things to do in Calabria.

The traditional motorino is a common sighting in calabria - The Best Things to do in Calabria and Calabria Itinerary
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Related: Beaches in Tropea, Calabria

Where is Calabria?

Whilst Italy’s most popular destinations are widely known and admired, the southwestern region of Calabria is incredibly underrated and rarely makes it on a list of places to visit in Italy.

Calabria is one of Italy’s poorest southern regions, commonly referred to as the toe of Italy, neighbour to (but very distinct from) Basilicata, Puglia (Apulia) and Sicila (Sicily). The area is rich in natural beauty and some of the places to visit in Calabria are truly unique!

Sunset over Santuario di Santa Maria dell’Isola di Tropea in Calabria

Why Calabria?

Calabria’s terrain is varied, which is one of the reasons that makes the destination so special. Calabria is home to one of the longest coastlines in mainland Italy, as well as three mountain ranges. Pristine beaches and medieval hilltop villages are among some of the best Calabria attractions, whilst several other things to do in Calabria make the region a destination worth visiting.

True, Calabria does not offer the endless collections of the rich art, fashion and the spectacular cities which Italy is so well-known for, but it is steeped in authentic character, natural beauty and a simple, yet rich cuisine which is sure to delight you into wanting to come back, time and time again.

Our Calabria itinerary will take you through the best Calabria beaches as well as the most unique Calabria villages to experience one of Italy’s loveliest regions.

Le Castella was one of our favourite places to visit in Crotone

Getting to Calabria

There are several ways of getting to Calabria, depending on where you intend departing from. Let us show you some of the most convenient ways of getting to Calabria, and also, from where to start off your Calabria itinerary:

By Air

Calabria is home to one international airport located at Lamezia Terme (SUF), and two domestic airports in Reggio Calabria and in Crotone. If you’re coming from outside of Italy, you can either consider flying directly to Lamezia Terme as we did (very affordable direct flights with Ryan Air from Malta, our home country), or fly to other major airport hubs in Italy, followed by taking the train or domestic flight into Calabria. You can check the latest flights and prices here.

By Train

Calabria is serviced by long-distance trains from other towns and cities in Italy, many of which stop at the Reggio Calabria Centrale. Although you can travel to Calabria by train, traveling around Calabria by train is a far more difficult feat, and if you want to access many of the places to visit in Calabria, the best way of doing so is by car.

By Boat

If you’re in Sicily, a fun way of getting to Calabria is by taking the affordable ferries from the very close Messina or from the Aeolian islands to Reggio Calabria.

Related: Best Things to do in Crotone

Tourist boats taking tourists around the lovely seas around the best tropea beaches

Driving in Calabria

Certainly, the best way of getting around Calabria is most definitely by car, if you want to get to many of the places to visit in Calabria. Public transport around Calabria is mediocre, at best, and we really do not advise you to try getting around the region by bus.

Many areas are very poorly serviced, and getting to and from the more remote areas, particularly the small hilltop villages, is simply not realistic. You will miss out on many of the things to do in Calabria, unless you’re driving your own vehicle.

We had actually read horror stories about how dangerous driving in Calabria is, so we were a little wary about renting a car to cover our 12-day Calabria itinerary. Turns out we need not have worried so much. We found many of the roads in reasonably good condition, easy to drive along, and nobody messed with our car, even when we parked in some dodgy-looking areas.

Car rental in Calabria - Calabria itinerary

The roads in Calabria are better on the west coast, than they are on the east coast, but even so, driving in Calabria did not feel very different to driving in many other parts of Europe. We had been told that rental car theft is very common throughout the region, so we made sure to get full insurance on the car and also ensured that it was not a new, flashy type of car. Many users recommend against renting Fiat vehicles, which are apparently attract much unwanted interest, and are easier for thieves to ‘borrow’

Perhaps our precautions worked, because nobody seemed to be interested in our Ford Fiesta, which turned out to be a great vehicle with which to experience our Calabria itinerary.

Renting a scooter would also work (would you expect anything differently from Italy?), although be aware of some pretty steep inclines in the interior. Make sure you are properly licensed and insured if you do so.

Roads of Calabria - Best things to do in calabria

Calabria Itinerary (12 days)

Follow our 12-day Calabria itinerary around the region to make the most of the best things to do in Calabria! Of course, this can easily be experienced over a longer period by staying longer in some of the places and enjoying even more Calabria attractions or just relaxing for a while in the same place.

Calabria Itinerary Day 1 – Arrival in Calabria & head to Tropea

We decided to start off our Calabria itinerary from Lamezia Terme which is conveniently connected to Malta via direct flights. As soon as we landed, we went straight to the rental car pickup point located just outside the terminal.

We planned on spending the first few days in the Tropea area, so we did a quick tour of Lamezia Terme before heading to our small rental villa.

Lamezia Terme

Lamezia terme is not one of the best Calabria attractions, and we do not recommend that you base yourself in Lamezia Terme proper, since there are many other better places to visit in Calabria.

If you are not tight with time, you may consider driving to the hot spring at Terme di Caronte, with a spa treatment facility nearby. You can get into the hot spring for free!

We thought that the most interesting part of Lamezia Terme was the San Teodoro district, an ancient district steeped with character and home to narrow roads leading up to the ruins of an ancient Norman castle, which sadly were closed due to renovation during our visit.

A majestic Cattedrale dei Santi Pietro e Paolo (cathedral), the Museo Archeologico Lametino (archaeological museum) as well as a large statue of Fredrick II can be found in Lamezia Terme, but we do not really consider them to be amongst the most interesting things to do in Calabria.

Capo Vaticano

Find it on a map! – Capo Vaticano

Before stopping in Tropea, you might want to make a quick detour to Capo Vaticano to enjoy a fantastic coastal view – you should put this on your list of things to do in Calabria if you enjoy scenic panoramas!

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Capo Vaticano Calabria

Tropea

Tropea is Calabria’s gem, offering beautiful beaches, a wide range of accommodation and a selection of delicious regional food. We really recommend that you spend a few days soaking in Tropea and the surrounding area’s beach vibe and easy living, if you have the time.

Tropea is located on the Costa Degli Dei (Coast of the Gods), a name which is not surprising at all, given the abundance of pretty little beaches and crystal-clear waters found on this side of Calabria.

In the evening you can walk down to Tropea’s Centro Storico, enjoy the sunset over the Santuario di Santa Maria dell’Isola di Tropea, sample an aperitivo followed by the fantastic Calabrian pasta dish Fileja with Nduja.

We have written an extensive post about all the things to do in Tropea to help you navigate the region.

Find it on a map! – Santuario di Santa Maria Dell’Isola
Chiesa di Santa Maria dell isola, things to do in tropea

Where to stay in Tropea

Budget

Hotel Virgilio – great value for money and very centrally located, making this hotel one of the best budget options in Tropea. Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Hotel Virgilio here.

Salva House – another centrally located hotel in Tropea with very comfortable-looking private rooms, making this a great budget option! Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Salva House here.

Mid-Range

Aether Suits Tropea – this bright and clean property is located just a short walk away from Tropea centre. Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Aether Suits Tropea here.

Tropea Boutique Hotel – With some of the best coastal views in Tropea, this boutique hotel is truly one of a kind! Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Tropea Boutique Hotel here.

High-End

Villa Paola – if you’re looking to stay in a unique property with a gorgeous pool, look no further! This 16th-century convent villa also boasts spectacular views and an elegant finish. Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Villa Paola here.

Hotel Rocca Della Sena – with a private stairway connecting the hotel directly to the beach, this is one of the best picks in Tropea! Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Hotel Rocca Della Sena here.

Tall buildings on the ledge of Tropea

Calabria Itinerary Day 2 – Drive to Towns outside Tropea

On Day 2 of your Calabria itinerary, we suggest that you move out of Tropea proper and visit some of the surrounding towns, so as to experience more of the top places to visit in Calabria.

Nicotera

Find it on a map! – Nicotera

The town of Nicotera, west of Tropea, is home to an 18th century Norman castle which houses three different museums. We suggest checking the opening hours as unfortunately they were closed on our visit. The drive from Tropea to Nicotera along the coastal cliffs is superb, and we think that the drive itself was worth going to Nicotera for! If you are tight on time though, you can skip Nicotera and head out immediately to the towns and villages on the eastern side of Tropea.

Pizzo and Chiesetta di Piedigrotta

Find it on a map! – Chiesetta di Piedigrotta

When you’re on the Costa Degli Dei, you definitely need to put Pizzo on your Calabria itinerary, if only to sample the deliciously decadent tartufo ice-cream, which can only be produced in Pizzo, having been recognised as a regional product and has gained a protected status.

The ice-cream blend is shaped into a ball, and usually includes a fluidy filling (think gianduia) in its centre, whilst being covered with chocolate or chopped nuts. We tried different varieties, and honestly couldn’t decide which was best.

Chiesetta di Piedigrotta in Calabria

Although the seaside town of Pizzo, is worth a look around, the best attraction is definitely the Chiesetta di Piedigrotta, located a 5 minutes’ drive away from town. The grotto, subject of various ancient legends, is full of religious statues and carvings which can be explored for a fee of €3.

The beach, right in front of the cave, makes for a great swimming spot too! We really recommend that you include a visit to Piedigrotta on your list of things to do in Calabria!

Briatico

Find it on a map! – Briatico

On your way back from Pizzo to Tropea, consider making a short stop to Briatico, to take a look at the very picturesque ruins of the Rochetta tower. Briatico is a scenic seaside fishing village with a very local character, which we were very happy to have randomly included on our places to visit in Calabria!

If you prefer sleeping in Pizzo, rather than in Tropea, the following are some of the best rated accommodation options!

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The tower of Briatico - things to do in calabria

Where to stay in Pizzo

Budget

PuertoSeguro B&B TartufoExperience – this B&B, is located close to the beach and seems to offer great service. One of the best budget options in Pizzo! Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book PuertoSeguro B&B TartufoExperience here.

Mid-range

Le Petit B&B – set in Pizzo centre, this cute B&B includes a suite with a private spa bath inside a beautiful room. Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Le Petit B&B here.

The beaches just off Pizzo

Calabria Itinerary Day 3 – Enjoy the Beaches in Tropea

On your last full day in Tropea, we highly recommend exploring some of Tropea’s beaches, especially during the summer time! During our visit in June, we absolutely loved spending time on the local Santa Maria beach, but the Costa Degli Dei is full of pretty little beaches to explore!

Read our dedicated post about the Beaches in Tropea, to get an idea of which beaches are best suited to you!

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Piedigrotta Beach, top tropea beaches

Calabria Itinerary Day 4 – Tropea to Reggio Calabria

Time to leave Tropea and to head further south to discover the remote Calabria villages as well as other places to visit in Calabria.

Scilla

The incrediblly picturesque seaside fishing village of Scilla is located just 1.5 hours’ drive away from Tropea on the way to Reggio Calabria. Scilla is split up into three different parts – the beachy resort area, the Castello Ruffo castle and Chianalea, by far, the most charming and romantic part of Scilla.

Castello Ruffo is worth visiting for its spectacular views across the beach area and its turquoise waters on one side, and the fishing settlement of Chianalea on the other. The interior of the castle itself is not particularly special but, with an entrance fee of just €2, still worth your while.

Find it on a map! – Scilla
Castello Dei Ruffo di Scilla

A walk down the pedestrian lane of Chianalea, will take you to narrow slipways with colourful fishing boats, and little cafes and restaurants set at the water’s edge, most of which serve swordfish, the local speciality. Indeed, swordfish is a recurring theme across all of Scilla.

We recommend that you include a visit to Scilla on your list of things to do in Calabria – it is easily one of the prettiest Calabria attractions! 

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The seaside town of Scilla in Calabria

Reggio Calabria

We very wrongly assumed that Reggio Calabria was a crowded dirty city, rather than the very sleepy destination it turned out to be. The main (and probably only) draw for stopping by, was to take a look at the famous Bronzi Di Riace statues in the Museo Nazionale Della Magna Greca, however we also decided that it was a convenient sleeping spot, before we moved further south on to Pentedattilo, our next destination.

The streets of Reggio Calabria were completely dead the whole time we were there, whereas the Lungomare was relatively crowded later in the evening. Once we checked into our booked apartment, conveniently located at a walking distance to the centro storico (historical centre) we set off towards the museum, but decided to stop at the Castello Aragonese (Aragonese castle) on the way.

Castello Aragonese - Top things to do in Calabria

This turned out to be a great decision, not because the castle itself was especially beautiful, but because a local guy on the ground floor of the reception area took us aside, and spent a while explaining all about the castle’s history with great passion and detail, in that we found the whole experience rather fascinating. Entrance fee – €2. Don’t miss the great view of Sicily from the top floor!

The large Museo Nazionale Della Magna Greca, with items on display on four separate floors, was extremely informative, but the main attraction here are the two, full-size, naked Greek Bronzes from the 5th century, found at sea near the town of Riace, also in Calabria. Entrance fee to the museum – €8 each.

Bronzi di Riace - Top things to do in Calabria

A walk on the lungomare proved to be a refreshing end to a very history-filled day. We had the most fabulous hearty dinner at U pilu ‘nta ll’ ovu, a family restaurant, at which we had a fantastic local antipasto followed by huge plates of pasta which we couldn’t finish. Do yourselves a favour and check this place out.

Where to stay in Reggio Calabria

Budget

Nel Cuore di Reggio – great little apartment which we loved staying at, with a gracious host who gave us some great tips about the area and also suggested a fantastic local restaurant! Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Nel Cuore di Reggio here.

Mid-Range

Albanuova Hotel – this centrally located hotel offers comfort and reportedly a very professional service! Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Albanuova Hotel here.

Grand Hotel Excelsior – located near the archaeological museum, Grand Hotel Excelsior offers large, comfortable rooms and modern facilities. Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Grand Hotel Excelsior Hotel here.

Buildings of Reggio Calabria - Things to do in Calabria

Where to stay in Scilla

Budget

La Bastia – this family-run B&B is only 5 minutes’ drive away from the sandy beach with some of the rooms having access to a sea-view too. Great budget option in Scilla!  Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book La Bastia here.

Mid-range

BB Oasis – Located next to the beach front and with many restaurants close by, this lovely property is highly rated for its cleanliness!  Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book BB Oasis here.

Il Borgo – this B&B features suites with sea views and a very friendly host!  Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Il Borgo here.

Calabria Itinerary Day 5 – Reggio Calabria to Crotone

This was our longest driving day on the whole length of our Calabria itinerary. If you have time, we suggest that you split it up, especially since there are many worthy places to visit in Calabria located on this route! We did however manage to see and do everything we wanted in one day, so it is anyway perfectly possible!

Pentedattilo

Visiting the ghost village of Pentedattilo is easily one of the best things to do in Calabria. The village is situated at the top of a mountain shaped like five fingers, hence the name.

The village was declared uninhabitable in the 1960’s and consequently abandoned, but in recent years, artisans have been opening little shops amid the ruins. When we visited, on a rainy day, we were completely struck by the silent vibe of a ghost village taken over by dozens of cats, who it seems, are taken care of by the local artisans. We were the only tourists there during our visit, and the little lanes were eeringly silent.

There isn’t a whole lot to do in Pentedattilo besides walking and exploring the ruins of an ancient village and imagining what life here could have been like. However, Pentedattilo is truly unique in its dramatic location and charm, so we definitely recommend that you include it in your Calabria itinerary!

Find it on a map! – Pentadattilo
The ancient hamlet of Pentadattilo - Things to do in Calabria

Bova

The ancient village of Bova is situated at the top of a hill right at the edge of a precipice. There are many such mountain villages in Calabria, all having a slightly similar character, but at the same time having particular features, distinct from one another.

Bova is about a 10-km drive from Bova Marina, the corresponding seaside village in the same area. You will notice that many mountainside villages in Calabria will have a corresponding seaside village a few km away. In fact, one of the most beautiful aspects of Calabria is the proximity of the mountains to the coast, where seaside villages, typically lead up directly to the mountains via a single lane or road.

Bova is home to the ruins of a Norman castle from where the views of the surrounding area are just spectacular – do put Bova on your list of places to visit in Calabria!

Find it on a map! – Bova
View of the Calabrian coast from Bova - things to do in calabria

Archaeological site of Locri

If you’re interested in archaeology, ancient remains and ruins, you’re in for a treat! Calabria has a rich antiquities heritage, particularly from some of the earliest Greek colonies, captured in its different archaeological sites and findings. These archaeological parks are some of the most fascinating Calabria attractions.

Indeed, one of the best things to do in Calabria, is visiting the Museo e Parco Archeologico Nazionale di Locri (Locri Museum and Archaeological Park). The site is rather large so be sure to allocate enough time to take a good walk around it. The Museum was closed for refurbishment at the time we visited, but the park was open.

We thought that the park was a little dilapidated which actually added more character to the ancient site, however do be aware that part of the park (Casino Macri, an old farmhouse build on the ruins of an ancient bathhouse) closes early afternoon, so make sure to get there on time. Entrance fee – €5. Also remember to take supplies of water with you if you intend visiting in the summer – it’s an open air park, and the only vending machine on site was not working.

Find it on a map! – Archaeological site of Locri
The archaeological site of Locri - Calabria

Gerace

Gerace is yet another small ancient hill-top town with very narrow lanes and pretty stone buildings, around which we enjoyed a very leisurely stroll in complete peace and solitude, since we did not encounter a single person.

The town is really immensely quiet, and a haven from those looking to get away from it all! There’s an entry fee to access the cathedral, but we were short on time and decided to skip it.

Find it on a map! – Gerace
The view from the town of Gerace - Calabria Itinerary

Where to stay in Gerace

Casale Della Rocca – this pretty property is in a very isolated location close to Gerace, surrounding by green hills, with views of the sea and town on either side. It also features a seasonal outdoor swimming pool.  Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Casale della Rocca here.

B&B Bellavista – this accommodation option features a lovely outdoor terrace with stunning views, as well as comfortable rooms. Gerace is close by. Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book B&B Bellavista here.

The quaint detail of Gerace - Calabria Itinerary

Badolato

Another well-maintained medieval village, so typical of Calabria, Badolato is home to some renovated typical houses giving a very atmospheric touch to the village. A clowder of cats seems to have been the only semblance of life in town. Badolato was a sleepy as any of the other hill-top villages we visited, although everything I read beforehand seemed to indicate that this was a livelier place.

Possibly this was due to the fact that it was a Sunday afternoon, and locals were occupied with their siesta. Still, we couldn’t imagine, any sort of bustling vibe in any of the villages, which indeed is what makes them pleasant and unique, a far cry from the effects of mass tourism other Italian villages have become infamous for. 

Find it on a map! – Badolato
The town of Badolato on your Calabria Itinerary

Where to stay in Badolato

Casa Vacanze Fontanelle – self-catered units with an equipped kitchen in a highly-rated location.  Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Casa Vacanze Fontanelle here.

The Cats of Badolato

Crotone

The lovely Crotone was our final destination on Day 5 of our Calabria itinerary, and indeed, we decided to base ourselves here for a couple of days, to have a rest from long drives, and also to explore the area around Crotone, since quite a few of the places to visit in Calabria, were located close by.

We explored many of the Crotone attractions the following day, on Day 6.

Where to stay in Crotone

Budget

Alma B&B – we highly recommend staying at this little guesthouse with comfortable rooms and shared kitchen, we thoroughly enjoyed our budget stay here! Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Alma B&B here.

Mid-Range

Palazzo Barrocco Lodge is very highly rated and we would probably consider staying here on our next visit! Check prices and availability for Palazzo Barrocco Lodge here.

Carafa Castle - top things to do in Calabria

Calabria Itinerary Day 6 – Crotone

The area around Crotone is home to beaches, archaeological remains and ancient villages. We have written a dedicated post about the things to do in Crotone but below is a quick recap at what you can do on Day 6 of your Calabria itinerary.

Santa Severina on the Calabria Itinerary

Santa Severina

The ancient village of Santa Severina is about 30-minutes’ drive away from Crotone, accessed through a very rural road and home to the lovely, well-maintained Norman Carafa Castle. We also recommend that you take a look at the Battistero (an old Byzantine baptistry) decorated with original frescoes!

Find it on a map! – Santa Severina

Le Castella

Easily one of the best things to do in Calabria, the very pretty Le Castella fortress sits on its own little islet (connected to the mainland). Be sure to make a point of including it on your Calabria itinerary!

Find it on a map! – Le Castella

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Le Castella was one of our favourite places to visit in Crotone

Isola do capo Rizzuto

The town centre of Isola di Capo Rizzuto was quite lifeless when we visited, and we feel that you can skip this if you’re tight on time. It is very likely that you may have to drive through the town centre anyway to get to other parts of the area though.

Le Cannella Beach

There are several beaches in the Crotone area, and we only had time to visit Le Cannella beach, but we were very pleased with the almost-empty golden sands that greeted us, and the views from the top! This beach probably gets popular during the peak season in summer, but was almost empty at the end of June.

Find it on a map! – Le Cannella Beach
Le Cannella Beach in Calabria

Capo Colonna Park

The archaeological park, home to the remains of a Greek temple dedicated to the goddess Juno was closed during our visit on a Monday, so we were rather disappointed that we would not get to see the ancient column on the coast. Be sure to plan your visit accordingly if this is one of Calabria attractions you would like to visit!

Find it on a map! – Capo Colonna Beach
Capo Colonna Park

Calabria Itinerary Day 7 – Crotone to Praia a Mare

It was now time for a pleasant drive on day 7 of our Calabria itinerary, this time crossing right through Calabria’s interior to arrive on the western coast once again.

Melissa

Melissa is located about 45 minutes away from Crotone and is a good place for your first break from driving. The ancient, charming town is full of character, whilst Torre Melissa (on the coastal side) is pretty enough!

Find it on a map! – Torre Melissa
Torre Pignatelli in Torre Melissa

Ciro

Ciro is famous for producing Ciro wine, Calabria’s most well-known wine. Besides being noteworthy for this particular enterprise, it is also pretty enough to warrant a short stop to explore its narrow lanes and alleyways.

Find it on a map! – Ciro
Ciro - Top things to visit in Calabria
Ciro' famous in Calabria for its wines

Frascineto

We included the village of Frascineto, in front of Parco Nazionale del Pollino on our Calabria itinerary without knowing much about it and were quite surprised to discover that it is more of a hamlet rather than an actual village. It was really so much tinier than we expected it to be!

Frascineto is known for being home to an Albanian minority (the Arbëreshë), descendants of Albanian refugees. This heritage is still preserved in Frascineto in its language, costumes and tradition.

Find it on a map! – Frascineto
Church of Frascineto

Praia a Mare

Praia a mare is actually a beach resort town, which is not our favourite sort of place, however we figured that it would be relatively quiet at the end of June just before the start of peak season.

Indeed, this turned out to be correct, and we could enjoy the town without being too overwhelmed by resort tourists. It was also the perfect place to stop on our Calabria itinerary, and a good base from where to explore some of the best things to do in Calabria.

Praia a Mare

Where to stay in Praia al Mare

Budget

B&B Umballa – situated less than 1km from the beach, our stay at B&B Umballa was simply perfect! The most accommodating owners who even drove us to hospital when Nikki needed his ear checked out! Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book B&B Umballa here.

B&B Villa Degli Ulivi – the location of this B&B is a little outside town, but guests have commented that the hospitality here is really top-notch! Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book B&B Villa Degli Ulivi here.

Mid-Range

Castello di Praia – A stay in a real castle with awesome views. Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Castello di Praia here.

Villa Armonia – fantastic location in Praia a Mare, with very welcoming facilities.  Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Villa Armonia here.

High-End

Borgo di Fiuzzi Resort and Spa – this beautiful resort offers great views over Dino Island and is home to swimming pools and large grounds. Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Borgo di Fiuzzi Resort and Spa here.

Calabria Itinerary Day 8 – Praia a Mare

Praia a Mare is very much a typical resort town by the beach, so there are plenty of beachy and marine activities to keep you occupied. Many tourists decide to spend their full holiday at Praia a Mare!

We however preferred to spend our time exploring other hillside and seaside villages located close to Praia a Mare. If you’re staying in Praia a Mare, a visit to Dino’s Island and its grotto and the Arco Magno (a natural arch, located near San Nicola Arcella) would make for a great day. Boat tours to visit the attractions can be organised in Praia a Mare.

Aieta

We’ve introduced you to a bunch of Calabrian hillside villages and towns, but honestly this is one of the best places to visit in Calabria. Aieta is actually within Pollino National Park, yet located very close to the coast.

Aieta is truly charming, enough to make it onto your Calabria itinerary, no matter how many other typical villages in Calabria you might have come across on the trip. It is home to a renaissance palace (which was closed on our visit) and cute little lanes including one of the narrowest in Italy at 52cm. Nikki only ‘just’ made it through!

Find it on a map! – Aieta
Tight alleyways of Aieta
Vico dei baci in Aieta

Aieta in Calabria

Scalea

The town of Scalea was easily one of our favourite places to visit in Calabria. Although located by the seaside, not inside the mountainous region of Calabria, the historical centre of Scalea is still full of pretty winding lanes, piazzas and alleyways leading up a hillside to some Norman castle ruins with spectacular coastal views.

Find it on a map! – Scalea
Scalea - top things to visit in Calabria

Torre Talao Scalea, at coastal level, is a little tower with commanding views which can also be visited. There’s a tourist kiosk at the corner of the parking area just besides it, and a guy sitting there happily gave us a totally informative tour of the tower against a donation. He only spoke Italian (which was fine with us), and the passion and detail with which he described the tower’s ancient history was truly fascinating.

Torre Talao Scalea

Diamante

The pretty seaside town of Diamante is characterised by wildly colourful murals, which were started in the last century by various artists, and the town has hence been nicknamed ‘the city of murals’. Pretty coves and little beaches line Diamante’s coastal area, whilst the town is also known for its pepperoncino, the hot red pepper typically spicing up Calabria’s regional dishes.

Diamante is located on Calabria’s Riviera dei Cedri, also home to Praia a Mare and Scalea (described above), known for its cultivation of Calabria’s citron, a fragrant citrus fruit used to make candied fruit and sweet liquors. The citron is apparently important in Jewish festivals, and was probably introduced in Calabria by Jewish settlers.

Find it on a map! – Diamante

Where to stay in Diamante

Mid-Range

Hotel La Cometa – set about 1.5km from Diamante beach, this hotel offers a great from the terrace! Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Hotel La Cometa here.

Le Quattro Rose – this B&B is both close to the seaside and to the centre, and also boasts some great views! Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Le Quattro Rose here.

Pietra Rossa B&B – situated close to the beach, with very welcoming staff, this B&B seems to be a perfect place where to spend a vacation! Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book Pietra Rossa B&B here.

Pottery and other handmade traditional goods at Aieta

Calabria Itinerary Day 9 – Praia a Mare to Cosenza

Day 9 of our Calabria itinerary focuses on more hillside villages on the west side of the region, including some of the best places to visit in Calabria.

Morano Calabro

The village of Morano Calabro, is also situated in Pollino National Park. Castle ruins lie proudly at the top of the village, although we thought they were not the most interesting around. The ruins are closed to visitors on Mondays, and open late mornings and late afternoons on other days. Admission price is €1 per person.

Find it on a map! – Morano Calabro
Morano Calabro Castle Ruins

Saracena

We didn’t stop at this ancient village, but contented ourselves with driving through, since we did not notice anything worth stopping for. On the other hand. We greatly enjoyed the beautiful countryside connecting the ancient towns and villages on this side of Calabria!

Beautiful Countryside of Calabria

Altomonte

The medieval town of Altomonte is situated among rolling hills and lush countryside and is popular for being ‘the village of weddings’ since many are celebrated here because of the beautiful landscapes the village is graced with. The church, located on the highest part of the village is an important attraction in the historical centre.

The view of Altomonte from afar, is truly stunning, so whether you’re approaching or driving away from town, be sure to stop and savour the view for a while!

Altomonte - Calabria Itinerary
Altomonte as seen fro mthe road leading to it

Paola

The main attraction in Paola and one of the most important things to do in Calabria for religious visitors, is the Santuario di San Francesco (Saint Francis Sanctuary). Although not particularly religious ourselves, we enjoyed visiting the very tranquil sanctuary especially the older parts and the ancient frescoes.

Find it on a map! – Santuario di San Francesco
Santuario di San Francesco in Paola Calabria

The old town square of Paola is especially delightful with lots of character and a pretty fountain. We did not spend time exploring Paola’s long lungomare (seafront), but it seemed to be the perfect place for a pleasant walk.

Paola Town square

Cosenza

Cosenza is both a province and a city, with a charming centro storico (historical centre). Our final days in our Calabria itinerary were spent in Cosenza, both because we wanted to spend a day exploring Sila National Park, and also because the historical centre of Cosenza sounded fascinating.

More on exploring Cosenza on day 11 of our Calabria itinerary.

Old town of Cosenza - Calabria Itinerary

Where to stay in Cosenza

Budget

We stayed at a fantastic apartment which unfortunately does not seem to be accepting guests any longer. Instead, we’ve singled out some pretty awesome-looking places to stay for you:

L’Albero do Giuggiole – this cozy, welcoming property is located in the heart of the old town! Check the latest prices, guest reviews or book L’Albero do Giuggiole here.

B&B Inn Centro – ideally situated, this B&B seems to be a guest favourite in terms of budget accommodation! Check the latest prices, guest reviews or B&B Inn Centro here.

Mid-Range

Le Sculture B&B – situated in the shopping area of Cosenza, this B&B is tastefully furnished with attentive hosts! Check the latest prices, guest reviews or Le Sculture B&B here.

Link Hotel – located a couple of km away from the centre of Cosenza, the property features bright modern rooms in a comfortable environment! Check the latest prices, guest reviews or Link Hotel here.

Old town of Cosenza - Top places to visit in Calabria

Calabria Itinerary Day 10 – Sila National Park

If you want a break from the quant hillside villages and pristine beaches, Calabria’s Sila National Park provides diverse, rugged landscapes. We spent a full day driving around the park, stopping at different lakeside villages from where we took walks along little paths in the park.

The landscape in the park was truly gorgeous, whilst the driving was easy and relaxing, considering that we barely met any other cars on the roads. Easily one of favourite things to do in Calabria!

Sila National Park pathway - Calabria Itinierary

We recommend following this itinerary for exploring Sila National Park in one day. If your aim is to go on longer hikes and spend more time exploring the park on foot, we recommend that you spend more than one day, basing yourself within the park itself.

If you’re in Calabria during the winter, be aware that Sila National Park is often covered in snow and skiing is very much practiced within the park.

Sila National Park near Cosenza - Top places to visit in Calabria

Pedace

The gateway to Sila National Park is Pedace, a sleepy town with a remarkable bell tower (opposite the Church of Chiesa SS Apostoli Pietro e Paolo) where elderly men chatted and snoozed in turn. A walk around Pedace revealed a very urban town, surrounded by dense green forests, which gave us a glimpse to the natural beauty of Sila National Park.

The town of Pedace - top things to visit in Calabria

Lago Arvo/Lorica

Our next stop was the large Lago Arvo, a very beautiful lake where we stopped to take a relatively long walk (as time would allow) around some of the paths surrounding the lake. Although Lorica, the village on the banks of Lago Arvo seemed deserted, probably because the summer season was not yet in full swing, we observed some boats which we imagine would be used for water sports later on in the season.

Lago Arvo at the Sila National Park - Calabria Itinerary

Lago Ampollina

The pretty Lago Ampollino is surrounded by small sandy beaches, and dense forests which make do a very scenic place! In fact, this is where we stopped to share a picnic and enjoy the cool breeze on the lakeside for a while!

Lago Ampollina - Calabria Itinerary

San Giovanni in Fiore

Sila’s largest mountain village is home to a pretty centro storico with winding roads and a large church in which we cooled off from the intense mountain heat. The town is renowned for its traditions which have remained unchanged, although, as was the case with most of the Calabrian villages we visited, was more or less deserted when we were there!

Find it on a map! – San Giovanni in Fiore
San Giovanni in Fiore - Sila National Park

Calabria Itinerary Day 11 – Cosenza

Cosenza is divided into the ancient centro storico and the new part of town, divided by a bridge. Besides being interested in exploring the city, we also wanted this to be our ‘reserve’ day, which we could have ‘used’ earlier in case our plans didn’t quite work out, or if we got caught up somewhere. Luckily, all went to plan and we could use our last full day to explore Cosenza.

The old part of town of Cosenza feels as though time has stood still, with laundry hanging outside colourful buildings with narrow alleyways. On our last full day of our Calabria itinerary, we didn’t bother with historical monuments, castles and churches (of which there are several), but took the time to amble slowly around the little charming roads and alleys, enjoying their authentic character with every step.

Centro Storico of Cosenza
Cosenza old town

The newer part of town on the other hand, is full of modern boutiques and high-street shops. Corso Mazzini, a wide shopping street, is home to an open-air museum (MAB/Museo all’ Aperto Bilotti) with monuments and works of art along the middle of the street or the side of it, flanked by ice-cream shops, cafes and shopping stores.

Cosenza is really a very easy city to enjoy and we really recommend that you spend some time here when travelling around Calabria!

Cosenza as an open air museum - top places to visit in Calabria

Calabria Itinerary Day 12 – Cosenza to Lamezia Terme

On the final day of our Calabria itinerary, we decided to drive back to the airport at Lamezia Terme casually, stopping at a couple of villages on the way, whilst keeping the time of our flight in mind.

Fiumefreddo Bruzio

The small charming town with fantastic coastal views especially from the castle ruins, standing dominantly at the top. We would have loved to sample the frittata di patate (potato omelette) which the town is also known for, but sadly, we did not find any when we were there early morning! No entry fee to the castle.

Find it on a map! – Fiumefreddo Bruzio
Fiumefreddo Bruzio in Calabria - top things to do in Calabria

Cleto

What we loved most about Cleto, were the castle ruins (yes more of them!) in the incredibly scenic, rural location, which yet is only a few kilometres away from the sea. There are also some church ruins on the very steep way up to the castle!

This is where our Calabria itinerary came to an end as we headed back to the Lameiza Terme airport for our flight home. The many places to visit in Calabria were truly a lot more beautiful than we had expected them to be, and the region oozes southern Italian charm. The allure of Calabria really lies within its coast, beaches, food, people and the pretty little villages in Calabria!

Ruins of the castle of Cleto in Calabria

The Best beaches in Calabria

Calabria has one of the longest coastlines in all of Italy, so it is little wonder that it is home to some rather spectacular beaches! We feel that the best beaches in Calabria are those in the Tropea, Capo Vaticano and Scilla areas, on the Costa degli Dei, however there are several other places to visit in Calabria with lovely little beaches.

We thought that the beaches in the Crotone area, overlooking the Ionian sea, were also beautiful, whilst the Riviera dei Cedri on the west side, where Praia a Mare and Diamante are located, has a mix of little beaches and larger ones with resorts and beach activities.

We loved our time on the beaches of Calabria and would definitely consider going back to some of them, if we’re ever looking for a beach holiday in Italy!

Mare Piccolo di Tropea, one of the best tropea beaches

Mountain Villages in Calabria

The dazzling beaches in Calabria are not the only attraction which make the region such a great destination. The ancient medieval villages in Calabria, many of them located at the top of hills and mountains, surrounded by countryside are some of the most charming we have been to, despite their lack of grandeur and or splendid monuments.

The villages in Calabria tend to be simple and untouched with small narrow roads, sometimes leading to dark alleyways, steeped in history and often topped by a ruined castle. In many cases, their ancient origins are evident, yet they stand lonely, all but forgotten, and sometimes abandoned.

Dazzling natural landscapes of Calabria

In some cases, migrants have taken over and revived abandoned, sleepy villages, yet we thought there was not a life going on anyway. Although we absolutely loved walking through the steep narrow roads, observing churches, chapels and ruins, looking back we find it easy to confuse one village with the next, although they all retained some sort of individual characteristics.

The beauty of Calabria lies in these tiny villages and hamlets, but if you only want to explore a couple of them, we really recommend Santa Severina, Aieta and Scalea.

Religion and Calabria

The Food in Calabria

There are few things in life which conjure the same excitement as food, for the both of us, and this shared passion means that discovering the local food plays a big part in our travels!

Calabria is home to lots of fresh produce, among which are fresh fish and some amazing looking vegetables which are used in the simple, yet tasty dishes that characterise the region. The ‘nduja is probably the most characteristic ingredient in Calabria. The soft, spreadable sausage is made from pig ‘scraps’, to which pig fat, Calabria’s fiery chilies and other spices are added. Not the healthiest of ingredients, but definitely one of the tastiest!

Fileja with Nduja. Best things to try in Calabria

Fileja is a thick, heavy type of pasta typical of the region which goes down a treat with meaty sauce, (or an ‘nduja sauce) and a glass of red wine. Ciro wine, originates in Ciro, at the foothills of the Sila region. Three different types are produced, of which red is the most popular (and also our favourite).

Swordfish is very popular on the coast, especially in the fishing village of Scilla, where hunting swordfish is an important tradition to this day. It is very easy to find a range of delicious fish served up in Calabria’s coastal restaurants!

Trattoria A Raa Gghjazza ia among the best things to do in crotone

The cipolla rossa di Tropea, is found on the west coast of the region, in and around Tropea. The sweet red onion is added to many dishes, and you will find many chutneys and condiments made from it. Lagane e Ciccari is a pasta dish made with chickpeas, oil and garlic which highlights Calabria’s typically simple and homely cuisine, whilst Ciambotta is a hearty vegetable stew which should not be missed!

Satisfying your sweet tooth is the tartufo of Pizzo, whilst an ample selection of artisan gelato and granita is available at most coastal towns!  

If you love to eat, you’re going to have a pretty exciting time sampling all the local food in Calabria!

Pizza Calabrese, top things to do in tropea

The People of Calabria

Unless you speak Italian, you might find it a little hard to get around to interacting with the local people in Calabria, since not many people speak English or other languages for that matter. In fact, although we are fluent in Italian, communicating with older generations who mostly spoke old dialects wasn’t very easy either, even for us.

The people of Calabria might come across as a little gruff, sometimes even unfriendly. Although the younger people were friendly, warm and welcoming enough, we thought that the older people in the more remote villages, initially seemed rather suspicious of us when we tried to strike up a conversation.

In most cases, this only lasted for a few minutes until they actually confirmed that we were just genuinely curious about their hometowns, after which they put their reservations aside and made us feel welcome with stories about their villages and way of life, skilfully omitting any references to the ‘Ndrangheta, the criminal organization based in Calabria. Perhaps the fact that we hailed from Malta, an island which shared some rural similarities with Calabria, long before development in our country set in, softened their tone.

Religious Mural

Although it is perfectly possible to get by and enjoy the dramatic landscapes, lush scenery and glistening beaches in Calabria, we feel that the people of Calabria are really its beating heart, and provided immensely interesting perspectives about the region, which greatly added to our experience in Calabria.

Spiaggia della rotunda in tropea, calabria

Cost of Travelling in Calabria

We felt that Calabria was a more affordable destination when compared to the larger Italian cities and richer regions of the country. Budget accommodation (always with private bathroom) cost on average €40/night for the both of us, whilst dinner (which we often did not finish, due to the huge portions) with wine, cost on average €15 to €20 each.

For lunch we would often snack on a panino, with cheese, salumi or ‘nduja which cost anywhere between €1.50 and €2.50 whilst entrance fees to the various Calabria attractions normally cost anywhere between €1 and €5, with €8 for the Museo Nazionale Della Magna Greca where the Riace Bronzes are held, being by far, the most expensive. The Ford Fiesta car rental with full insurance cost €26.50/day.

Bronzi di Riace

On average we spent around €64 per person, per day, throughout the length of our Calabria itinerary, including car rental and insurance for every day we were there, accommodation, all our meals, snack and drinks, fuel, entry cost to attractions (we visited all the ones we could!). There are several ways of making your vacation more affordable by visiting less attractions, eating out less (or in more affordable restaurants), taking it easy on the alcoholic drinks and staying in cheaper accommodation. We do not suggest you try to use public transport, or you might not get very far!

We have nothing but admiration for the strong people of Calabria, love for the beautiful sandy beaches and rocky coast, and a fascination for the ancient, medieval, sleepy hillside villages. Having travelled to many of Italy’s richer and more fashionable regions, we feel that Calabria provides an overall experience of an underdeveloped area which is still authentic. It evokes a certain nostalgia of the past, a warm feeling which is hard to come by, not only in Italy itself but also in other regions of south Europe.

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If undeveloped #beaches and quaint #villages are your thing, head over to Italy and follow our Calabria #itinerary for all the best things to do in #Calabria. #italy #ilbellodelitalia #iborgipiubelli #travelawesome #foodie #italian
If undeveloped beaches and quaint villages are your thing, head over to Italy and follow our Calabria itinerary for all the best things to do in Calabria.
If undeveloped beaches and quaint villages are your thing, head over to Italy and follow our Calabria itinerary for all the best things to do in Calabria.

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