Italy is a country that life is not enough to explore. And if you have already seen its main cities – Venice, Florence, Milan, Rome, Naples, then it’s time to get acquainted with its lesser-known regions. In addition, this year one of the most unexplored corners of Italy – Calabria is available with a direct flight from Odessa! We tell you what is interesting about this region and what you should definitely visit.
Santa Maria dell’Isola (Santa Maria dell’Isola)
Santa Maria dell’Isola – a very impressive sight – on the seashore in the city of Tropea (Tropea), on top of a hill surrounded by sandy beaches, rises a snow-white church, to which a staircase carved into the rock leads. According to legend, it was built by sailors who were wrecked off the coast of Calabria and escaped thanks to the statue of St. Mary, which was later installed in the temple. Unfortunately, the entrance to the church is prohibited, but you can enjoy the beautiful views to your heart’s content, including from a specially equipped observation deck.
Piedigrotta (Chiesetta di Piedigrotta)
Piedigrotta (Chiesetta di Piedigrotta) is a very peculiar rock-cut church in the town of Pizzo. Church halls, located in the thickness of the rock, contain many statues of saints and whole compositions on religious themes “antique”. Although they were actually made in the 19th-20th centuries, they fit very organically into the gloomy color of the room. A very unusual place.
The city of Pizzo is also famous for its tartufo truffle ice cream.
For the first time ice cream was made in 1943 especially for the visit of Prince Umberto I of Savoy. Tartufo is a small scoop of ice cream with a filling inside. According to the classic recipe, tartufo is made from nut ice cream, then the ball is rolled in cocoa to give a rich dark brown color, and liquid dark chocolate is used as a filling.
There is also Tartuffo based on lemon ice cream with limoncello inside. Now every ice cream parlor in Pizzo has its own special Tartuffo recipe, with its own unique taste.
Enjoy a refreshing delicacy, and at the same time enjoy the sights, best of all in the gelateria on the central Republic Square overlooking the Murat castle.
City promenade of Reggio Calabria
The city promenade of Reggio di Calabria – it is called “the most beautiful kilometer of Italy.” The embankment is 2 parallel roads – Corso Matteotti and Via Falcomata, separated by a beautiful botanical garden.
On the waterfront, a red building, built in the 14th century in the Venetian style, attracts attention. This is Villa Dzerbi. It still belongs to the descendants of Dzerbi from Genoa. Today Villa Zerbi hosts the main events of the Venice Art Biennale in Southern Italy. In front of the Villa Dzerbi, there are 3 very peculiar modern sculptures, according to some, they represent 3 stages of human development.
And they also say that sometimes you can see an unusual mirage. It appears at certain moments in the Messinian Gulf, and you can only see it from the side of Reggio di Calabria.
Pentedattilo is a ghost town. 40 km from Reggio di Calabria is the oldest settlement in the region, which existed for more than two thousand years, but was abandoned by the inhabitants two centuries ago due to a devastating earthquake.
And in the twentieth century, a group of European enthusiasts began to restore the abandoned city. Nobody still lives here, but the city is waiting for tourists – a museum and a restaurant, craft shops and a shop are open.
Nearby is the town of Melita di Porto Salvo (Melito di Porto Salvo), where you can stay if you decide to stay in this place longer.
Ruffo Castle (Castello Ruffo)
Ruffo Castle (Castello Ruffo) – in the town of Scilla. The ancient building of the XIII century used to house the residence of the rulers of Calabria, now there is a museum, which you can get inside for only 1.5 euros.
City of Gerace
The city of Gerace is known to everyone as the city of 100 churches, but in reality there are only 20 of them left.
There are many interesting places here:
Church of Ottimati or Santa Maria Annunziata (Ottimati, Santa Maria Annunziata)
– the church was built in the Byzantine-Arabic style in the 10th century, during the time of the Saracens. It is worth paying attention to the mosaic floor, lined with Byzantine mosaics.
Madonna del Carmelo is a church in the middle of a chestnut forest at the very top of the Monte Poro mountain plateau, towering at an altitude of 711 m above sea level. Locals near the church sell fresh homemade products at prices well below those in the supermarket.
The Grotto of the Madonna (Grotta delle Fonti) – in the village of Spilinga – a very beautiful place with lush vegetation. In the grotto there is a statue of the Madonna (Madonna della Fontana), next to a very picturesque reservoir. A path leads up, decorated with bas-reliefs on biblical themes. By the way, the famous Calabrian sausage, nduja di Spilinga, is produced in Spilinga.
Also, in many towns, ancient castles and cathedrals have been preserved, which have already celebrated their millennium. In one of these cathedrals in the city of Cosenza, an ancient relic is kept: a wooden crucifix of the 15th century, installed in memory of Isabella of Aragon, the wife of King Philip III of France, who died here, returning with her husband from another crusade.
The Cathedral of the XI century – Maria Santissima Assunta in Cielo (Maria Santissima Assunta in Cielo) is the largest church in Calabria. Inside the cathedral are the sarcophagi of local bishops of the 5th-6th centuries. Particular attention should be paid to works of art: two fonts of the Concesso Barca, a marble altar with bronze bas-reliefs by Antonio Berti, paintings from the 19th century and a medallion by Francesco Gerace. Near the square in front of the cathedral, there is a staircase that will lead you to the statue of the first bishop, Stefano di Nicea, and the apostle Paul.
City of Vibo Valentia
The city of Vibo Valentia (Vibo Valentia) – “famous” which brought the Ndrangheta (Ndrangheta), an organized crime group that arose here at the end of the 19th century, is less famous than the Sicilian Cosa Nostra or Camorra, but more powerful (with an annual income of 35-40 billion euro, which is equal to 3.5% of Italy’s GDP). They say that the ‘Ndrangheta has long ceased to be a local group and has reached the level of international criminal corporations.
However, tourists should not worry about this – the interests of the organization affect completely different areas of life.
In addition to the “mafia” history, there are many churches, old villas, and parks in the Old City. Many tourists also come to Vibo Valentia for shopping.
Another interesting place in the province of Vibo Valentia is the Abbey of Serra San Bruno. There is a functioning monastery here, and the mountainous terrain and deciduous forests surrounding the abbey create a special healing microclimate.
Aragonese castle in Pizzo (Murata fortress / Castello Aragonese Pizzo)
The Aragonese castle in Pizzo was built at the beginning of the 11th century by the Normans, but became famous thanks to the tragic fate of Joachim Murat, who was Napoleon’s marshal and married to his sister Caroline.
Until now, the walls of the castle are so strong that they remained unscathed during the devastating earthquake of the early 20th century, which destroyed many buildings.