Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Un Giro di Calabria al Sud

Two summers ago, we set out to drive through a piece of the Region of Calabria we were curious about. We started in the northeast corner and drove south along the northeast coast which, it turns out, is not the prettiest part of Calabria (north of Crotone) although they do make good wine in that zone around Ciro’. That trip did meet our goal of finding out what’s out there!

This time, we prepared carefully using the maps on the iPad to locate nice looking places to stay and to explore. Some Doug and Di trips have been a bit on the unplanned side as we have noted before. This one benefitted from the best planning we have ever done for our road trips around home.

The 625 km trip took us to Lamezia Terme to catch roads east to Catanzaro Marina. We stuck to the mountain roads to see the landscape and to avoid driving through the regional capital of Catanzaro. We were rewarded with beautiful country, few towns and lots of serious agriculture. There is a “notch” in the earth between the west coast and east that creates steady winds and therefore is a natural place to locate wind farms for power generation. Doug guesses that the local farmers augment their income by leasing land to the wind generator companies like they do in the US.

Olive Farms and Wind Farms Live Together

We reached the quiet town of Stalleti’ (Stal-let-TEE) perched on the mountain above the beach hotel at Copanello where we stayed for two nights. 

Ionian Coast 
Catanzaro Marina from Il Gabbiano
Il Gabbiano Hotel had our reservation. We prayed it would work out because it was just a 3 star facility and we have had bad luck in the past with poor quality hotels. This one turned out to be a nice surprise. The room and bath were small and not fancy, but the business made up for that with fantastic food and hospitality. They even gave us free umbrella and sun beds on the beach and it was a nice golden sandy beach.

The Beach where we snorkeled in suprisingly cold water--must be the result of the cool summer!
The beach was very busy Sunday when we arrived with day users from Catanzaro, but slow and peaceful Monday. Like most holiday areas of Calabria, their “high season” is about 6 weeks long from mid-July to late August. Now is when many Europeans and Americans can find good deals without crowds at seaside. We heard Germans and one American family near us in the dining room. This off-season visit for us was under €300 for two nights with plenty of excellent food and drink.

We headed south again down the coast on Tuesday and took a quick look at the town of Badolato that is about 8 km up the mountain from the coast. It is similar to our town with older homes and apartments being renovated by both Italians and foreigners.

The dry country along the eastern and southern coast reminded us of Central Oregon and Colorado where we lived. The Aspromonte National Park, from a distance, appeared to have a lot of shrubby vegetation, but it might be different in the central higher elevation areas.

We'd name this part of the coast, the Oleander Coast
Driving this coast route is not fast because the highway goes thru the middle of many towns with their constrictions and traffic. In between, there are many kilometers of empty, undeveloped sandy beaches. We were surprised how large some of the towns were including Locri. We managed to pass thru Reggio Calabria, the largest city in the Region at 184,000 population, without issues and headed for our next destination – Scilla across from Messina PointFor those not familiar with Sicily, this is the point north of Messina at the most narrow part of the strait. A powerline runs overhead from the mainland close to Scilla. We watched cruise ships, container ships and tankers all headed into the Mare Tirreno from the Mediterranean.

Scilla (sounds like the girl’s name Sheila) was a wonderful surprise. We’ve driven past it before on the way to the Sicily ferry and never new what a pearl we missed. The population is 5,000. We stayed in the Centro Storico (historic district).

It is a tourist town that, like Tropea, seems to attract a lot of Germans. Our hostess at the B&B La Veduta said that she has also had Americans stay at her fantastic 3- room facility. Without a doubt, this was the best place we have ever stayed in Italy and it probably tied with the fancy resort we stayed at in Sri Lanka! A warning to foreign speakers – our hostess speaks no English and her Italian is fast! You need some Italian skills, or at least have a phrase book handy. Like many towns in southern Calabria, Scilla was heavily damaged by the earthquake of 1783. The B&B is just 5 years old and you can see the high quality doors, windows and furnishings at their website. The word veduta means view in English.

From our Balcone at La Veduta--Sublime is the word
The odd boat with the crow’s nest and bow boom is used for locating and catching Swordfish

We decided to spend the morning - before driving 3 hours home - at one of the lidi on the beach. Crystal clear water for snorkeling. It is a rocky beach and sandals are needed for sure. The lido costs of €12 were similar to our neighborhood.

Once again, we asked ourselves if we missed an opportunity to live elsewhere in Italy and, again, decided we were very fortunate to find our niche in Santa Domenica Talao. We have a lively little town with shops, bars, etc. and as nice as Scilla is, being literally right on top of the sea means you don’t see the mountains like we do--and our hostess told us some very scary stories about winter storms sweeping through her hotel when she was a child and her Mom ran the place (she lives higher up now because of the winter storms). But – these are our fears and values. Bottom line – the Region of Calabria offers a great variety of things and it is truly beautiful. We have seen most of it now and continue to wonder why it doesn’t get more good press.


  1. Nice! My friend, Michelle lives in Badolato so we were there in 2011 and will stop by again in the fall. We have a couple nights between Puglia and your place that we have not figured out yet, so I will check out Il Gabbiano. These photos are so lovely! Now I want to fit Scilla into our itinerary.

  2. Laura,
    You sound like you are having a wonderful time planning your trip, I love that part, too.

  3. There is a townhouse we like in Santa Domenica Talao. We are coming in fall to view properties in Calabria. Are there many Americans in this town? Do you live there year round? We are planning on spending 6 months in Italy and winters in Florida. We have our favorite towns on our list and plan to purchase a retirement apartment or townhouse.

    1. Jersey Girl,

      Please send inquiries to 14viacapella@gmail.com Diana died last month and I have no clue how to work the blog. Yes I live here full-time. There is one Canadian and a Brit couple. All others are holiday homes. If you are serious about 6 months, you must consider residency which is a big process. doug



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