Calabria, in Southern Italy, is a fantastic place to visit. Admittedly, we may be slightly biased, as all our food and wines are produced in the area! But there are nonetheless many wonderful sights to see, from gorgeous beaches to fascinating historical sites. Calabria is a great destination for family trips, romantic getaways, or a holiday with friends.
So if you’ve already fallen in love with our outstanding wines and delicious food, and wish to visit their place of origin, why not visit Calabria? We’ve put together a list of five top attractions in Calabria, to help you start planning your trip!
1. Tropea Beach
Want to visit a beach with golden sand, clear aquamarine waters, and stunning scenery? Look no further than Tropea Beach , a stretch of coastline on the Tyrrhenian Sea. This part of the coast is referred to as Costa degli Dei, or the ‘Coast of the Gods’ – Heracles was said to have made the town one of his ports. While not known by a lot of tourists, this beach is a popular holiday destination for Italians.
There are beaches on either side of the town, as well as plenty more to choose from along the coast, each boasting soft sand and invitingly clear waters. The town itself can be found on the cliffs above the sea, and is well worth visiting along with the beach. One of the most popular sites is the Norman cathedral, the Duomo, as well as a small museum, the Museo Diocesano, in the Bishop’s Palace nearby.
Set high above the beaches, you can also spot the Santa Maria dell’Isola Monastery, which is another place we’d highly recommend visiting!
2. The Sanctuary of Santa Maria dell’Isola
The church of Santa Maria dell’Isola is a former medieval Benedictine sanctuary, much of which has been rebuilt after several fierce earthquakes. It’s quite a trek to reach the monastery – the staircase built into the rock around the year 1810 consists of approximately 300 steps. But this does mean you’ll get some spectacular views when you reach the top!
Inside the monastery, you’ll find a number of holy artifacts, including a 12th century Byzantine portrait of the Virgin Mary. According to the locals, this painting protects the area, such as during an earthquake in 1638. It is said that the Madonna, as depicted in the painting, appeared to the Bishop in Calabria, warning him of an impending earthquake. The Bishop marched the local residents out of the town, and when the earthquake struck that same day, the people all remained safe outside the town.
You can also opt to visit the gardens of Santa Maria dell’Isola for a small fee, which are well worth seeing. They offer a beautiful and relaxing space, to take in the scenery and prepare yourself for the walk back down the cliff!
3. Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Reggio Calabria
The National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria is one of the most prestigious museums of its kind in Italy. Originally dating back to 1882, and then moved to its current location in 1932, the museum houses an extensive collection of archeological remains. These originate from numerous Italian coastal sites, known as Magna Graecia, or ‘Great Greece’, as these regions were colonised by ancient Greek city-states between 800 BCE and 400 BCE.
Inside the museum, you will find displays that show the history of the area, such as coins, ceramics, jewellery, weapons and tools. One of the highlights also includes the Bronzi di Riace, which are two Greek bronze warriors, dating from around the 5th century BCE.
The Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Reggio Calabria furthermore contains one of the oldest known examples of Greek portraiture, the bronze Philosopher’s Head. This is the perfect place to soak up the region’s history and culture, and should definitely be included on your itinerary!
4. Church of Piedigrotta
The Chiesa di Piedigrotta , or the Church of Piedigrotta, can be found in Pizzo, a seaport in the province of Vibo Valentia. The town is situated on a steep cliff, which overlooks the Gulf of Saint Euphemia. Pizzo is a traditional fishing town, primarily for tuna and coral, and has a beautiful stretch of beach you can stroll down, perhaps enjoying a magnificent sunset.
The church itself has a long history, spanning back from the 17th century. According to legend, a ship crewed by Neapolitan sailors was caught in a violent storm. The sailors began to pray, directing their prayers to the painting of the Madonna di Piedigrotta, which was kept in the captain’s cabin. They vowed that if their lives were spared, they would erect a chapel and dedicate it to the Madonna. While the ship sank, the sailors were able to swim to shore, where they dug a small chapel in the rock, and placed the painting of the Madonna there.
Although there is no real evidence to prove this story, it’s believed that there is probably at least some truth in it. What we do know is that around 1880, a local artist decided to dedicate his life to the church, travelling there every day to enlarge the cave and fill the rooms with statues. His son did the same, and together, they helped shape the beautiful carvings you see today.
The Chiesa di Piedigrotta is one of the most visited monuments in Calabria, and is a wonderful place to see if you’re in the area. At the time of writing, a
standard ticket costs just €3.00, with discounted rates for groups.
5. Island Dino
Island Dino is located just off Cape Arena, close to Praia a Mare. The name ‘Dino’ may come from the same word in Greek, which means a storm, or might derive from the Italian word ‘aedina’, which means a temple.
The island is one of only two Calabrian islands, though the other, Cirella, is little more than a large rock! Island Dino is roughly oval shaped, with an area of about fifty hectares, and approximately 1km in length. It’s almost completely covered in Mediterranean scrub, though you can also visit various hidden grottos, exploring the caves and watching fish swim in the clear blue waters.
There are a number of boat tours that will take you out to see this gorgeous hidden gem, many of which will offer additional activities. For instance, you may wish to go snorkeling, or rent a pedalo to get a closer look at the cliffs and caves.