Calabria Itineraries – How to Explore this Undiscovered Italian Region
Our Calabria itineraries cover everything from a long weekend in the provincial capital of Reggio di Calabria to a month-long grand tour of the entire off the beaten track Southern Italian region. Whether you’re just looking for a taste of Calabria, or you want to do it all, we’ve got an itinerary for you.
As you know, we have a fondness for Calabria, quite possibly Italy’s most undiscovered and under-appreciated region. Since we wrote the first English language guidebook to Calabria some years ago we’ve been saying Calabria will be the new Puglia, Italy’s next ‘it’ destination.
Calabria’s still, surprisingly, not on the map yet for foreign travellers, although it’s hugely popular with Italian holidaymakers over summer. If you’re keen to find out why, follow one of a handful of Calabria itineraries – all tried and tested.
Calabria Itineraries – How to Explore this Undiscovered Italian Region
Long Weekend in Calabria
If you’re lucky enough to live in Europe and be able to take advantage of the cheap airfares offered by low cost airlines then a long weekend is enough to give you a taste of this under-appreciated region.
A perfect four-day weekend, starting from the airports of Reggio di Calabria or Lamezia Terme, should focus on Calabria’s postcard pretty towns of Tropea and Pizzo and the stunning scenery and surrounding beaches of the Violet Coast.
Base yourself in either of the two towns and do a day-trip to the other, visiting Vibo Valentia’s historic centre and experiencing its lively passegiatta one evening. Spend a day in Reggio Calabria taking in the treasures of the Museo Nazionale in the morning, then do a road trip through the Aspromonte National Park to enjoy the fresh air and breathtaking landscapes.
One Week in Calabria
A Calabria Road Trip for Foodies and Wine Lovers
Of all our Calabria itineraries, this is the most delicious and is a must for food enthusiasts and wine buffs. Of course, a week is not nearly long enough to undertake a food and wine tour of Calabria, but it will certainly give you a taste of the region’s fiery cuisine and robust wines.
Start with a night in Reggio di Calabria, dining at one of the city’s excellent restaurants and trying the inventive gelato flavours from the gelaterias on Corso Garibaldi.
Next day, drive up to Scilla for the night. Renowned for its swordfish, you can watch the tall mast boats bring the day’s catch in then spend the afternoon feasting on fresh seafood at one of its many seaside trattorias.
Continue north along the coast, spending a night at Tropea. Famous for its sweet red onions, Tropea is Calabria’s dining capital with scores of superb restaurants secreted away on its cobblestone lanes.
Next should be a night each in Pizzo, for its celebrated chocolate tartufo icecream, Amantea for its marinated anchovies, and Camigliatello for its gastronomic shops (buy some peperoncino) and dinner at one of Calabria’s finest restaurants. With each meal, ask your waiter to recommend local wines with which to wash them down
An Art and Architecture Themed Road Trip
Alternatively, you could easily spend a week appreciating the art and architecture of Calabria’s exquisite churches, cathedrals, monasteries and museums. This is definitely to most cultured of our Calabria itineraries.
At Reggio di Calabria, begin with the elegant Duomo, an imposing imitation of the original dating to 1453, destroyed in the 1908 earthquake, and Il Piccolo Museo San Paolo, home to an impressive collection of icons and religious relics.
Aside from its culinary delights, Tropea requires a day to explore its handsome churches, particularly its Romanesque and Norman cathedral. Further north, the town of Paola boasts several beautiful Baroque churches, although most pilgrims come for the Sanctuary of St Francis of Assissi dating to 1435.
Returning south, head inland for a scenic drive to La Certosa di Serra San Bruno, an extravagant Carthusian Monastery, and to the east coast to Stilo, to admire Calabria’s most photographed church, the charming Byzantine-era Cattolica di Stilo.
Further south, Gerace is legendary for once having 128 churches; its Norman cathedral is the largest in Calabria. You can drive south along the coast to Reggio di Calabria or north skirting the sea via Catanzaro to La Lamezia Terme. Either way you’ll pass a number of small towns boasting attractive squares dominated by lovely churches.
Two weeks in Calabria
With two weeks, you can take in many of the region’s highlights but you’ll be moving at a fairly fast pace. Beginning at Reggio di Calabria, spend a day each at Reggio, Scilla, Tropea, Pizzo and Vibo Valentia, before driving north.
On the coast, elegant Amantea warrants an afternoon to appreciate its pretty old town, and inland, the mountain villages east of Amantea are worth a look on the scenic drive to Cosenza, whose labyrinthine old town is a delight to wander.
From here, drive north to the atmospheric hilltop towns of Altomonte and Morano Calabro, both of which sprawl dramatically across their hills, providing spectacular sights in themselves while also offering up stunning vistas of the surrounding country.
Returning south and inland to the Sila National Park, you can base yourself at Alpine-like Camigliatello and spend a day exploring the area’s alluring lakes and idyllic countryside
If you’re here in winter, you can hit the slopes for a day’s skiing, while the rest of the year you can walk, trek, fish and ride horses. Head east via the dramatically set San Giovanni in Fiore and San Severina to the seaside town of Crotone, which boasts a lively beachfront promenade and an attractive town with elegant shopping arcades.
On your way south, call in to see the extraordinary sight of Le Castella (above), a Norman castle that, from the right vantage point, appears to float at sea. It’s an easy drive along the flat coastal plain, although in summer the going can be slow.
Stop at Squillace for a quick visit to admire it attractive square, on your way to Stilo where you should stay the night. Visit Stilo’s bewitching Byzantine cathedral in the morning when the light is at its best and the church won’t be in shadow, as it is in the afternoon.
Take the picturesque road inland under the leafy canopies of trees to the Serra San Bruno and its magical monastery before returning to the west coast.
One Month – a Grand Tour of Calabria
Of all our Calabria itineraries, this one is my favourite. In one month you can do a grand tour of Calabria and slow your pace down to something more closely resembling the slower Southern Italian way of life. Do the two-week itinerary above, but spend longer at places such as Scilla and Tropea so you can schedule in some beach time for swimming, sunbathing and watersports, and perhaps a cruise to the Aeoli Islands and Stromboli.
Extend your stay at Camigliatello to more fully explore the Sila National Park and spend a few days doing some leisurely walking, fishing or horseriding. Add a couple of days at the Pollino National Park in the far north, where you should also visit the fascinating Albanian-speaking villages of Frascineto and Civita.
From there drive to Sybaris to see the excellent archaeological museum with finds from the nearby ruins, and Rossano to get a glimpse of the purple codex, take in the impressive Duomo and elegant city buildings, and tour the delightful Amarelli liquorice factory and museum.
On the southeast coast add a night at Gerace and a day or two to drive or hike the Aspromonte National Park.