Calabria, the toe of the boot, is a hauntingly beautiful region that is just starting to be discovered by tourists.
Where to Go
Calabria is a long, narrow region with about 800 kilometers (500 miles) of the coast, bordering both the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas. It's known for its many clean beaches and seaside towns. The region is bounded on the north by the Pollino National Park, which it shares with the neighboring Basilicata region the instep of the boot.
- Tropea is probably the best-known town on the coast and one of the prettiest.
- Squillace is a well-known resort along a beautiful stretch of the Ionian coastline with good beaches in nearby Copanello and Staletti.
- Gerace is sometimes called "the Florence of the South" because of all its churches.
Inland Calabria has four mountain ranges with national parks. Some of Italy's highest peaks are in these mountains. The mountains are never more than 40 kilometers from the sea.
Our Calabria map, on the next page, shows the national parks and the top towns to visit in the region and has information about the towns.
- By car: The A3 or Autostrada del Sol, shown on the map, runs from Salerno, south of Naples, to Reggio Calabria.
- By train: The Rome - Naples - Reggio di Calabria rail line follows the autostrada route. Other lines include the eastern line of Taranto-Sibari-Crotone-Catanzaro Lido - Reggio Calabria and connectors Lamezia-Catanzaro, and Paola-Cosenza.
- Airports: Lamezia is Calabria's largest airport, with connections to the main Italian cities and to some European destinations. Minniti Airport in Reggio di Calabria offers flights to Rome and Milan as well as Malta and Madrid in summer. Sant' Anna airport in Crotone is relatively new and offers some international connections like Istanbul, Copenhagen, Berlin, and Monaco.
- Ferries: To cross the Strait of Messina to Sicily, you'll take a ferry out of Villa San Giovanni, a little north of Reggio Calabria. There are also ferries from here to Malta.
Map - Plan Your Southern Italy Vacation
Our Calabria map shows the main towns of interest to tourists and the four national parks with the protected areas around them are shown in green.
Cities and Towns
Calabria is a bit unique in that the larger towns are perhaps the least interesting. The four regional capitals are Cosenza, Catanzaro, Vibo Valentia, and Reggio Calabria.
- Civita - Inside the Polino National Park are 34 villages, many of which have an Albanian heritage. Civita, occupying the Raganello gorge, has the Etnico Arbëresch museum which documents the history of the Albanian migrations that have occurred here since the 1400s. It's a small but very interesting museum. Nearby is Castrovillari, where medieval Albanian is still the local language.
- San Mango d'Aquino is a charming Calabrian village spilling down a hillside between Cosenza and Lamezia Terme and just off the A3 Autostrada.
- Pizzo Calabro is a seaside resort and fishing village.
- Squillace had 28 churches before the earthquake in 1783. There are still many churches and convents to visit, as well as a Norman castle. Squillace is known for its terracotta, and the Squillace College of Art was founded in 1980 to make sure traditions were passed on and artists had a place to work.
- Tropea is famous for its sweet red onions but is quite an interesting coastal resort village in itself. The historic center with its narrow lanes and old port are pretty compelling as a travel destination.
- Gerace stands on a 500-meter rock hill formed out of sea fossils from long ago. The 13th century Church of St. Francis has a Baroque altar and the Norman cathedral is the largest religious building in Calabria.
- Scilla is a fabled fishing village, the toenail on Italy's toe. See the dramatic Castello dei Ruffo, built to fend off attacks from the sea.
The Magna Grecia, or what was known in antiquity as "greater Greece" because of Greek colonization of the area, begins along the Ionian coast around Crotone and extends northward. In this area, you'll see Greek and Byzantine influences in art and architecture. Around Pollino National Park and extending to the south, there are settlement areas of Albanians who fled the Ottoman invasions after the death of Albanian national hero Skanderbeg in 1468.