Are you planning to visit the toe of the boot? That sounds like a great plan! This region is one of Italy’s hidden treasures. There isn’t a lot of information about Calabria available on the internet. In addition, the most popular guides only mention The Sila, Tropea, the Riace Bronzes in Reggio Calabria, and just a few other places. In spite of that, Calabria desire’s to be discovered. New York Times has noticed it and included Calabria among its selection of must-see locations. Don't be discouraged by very little information: great food, great beaches and wild nature await you.
Not Where But How
I’m planning to give you lots of travel tips in this blog, but today I don’t want to tell you where to go but “how”. I’ll share with you some interesting things about Calabrian culture and people that you should know before you come here.
1. Calabria isn’t touristy, so don't expect all the usual tourist amenities. You'll live like a local!
2. Learn some basic Italian phrases. You’ll need them because in Calabria just a few people speak English. In small towns and between older people, Italian is also rarely spoken. Dialect is, often, the mother tongue. In spite of that people are very friendly and try to understand and help you in any way possible.
3. Do not worry if people stare at you. It’s very likely that you aren’t doing anything wrong. Calabrians are quite inquisitive. They tend to stare at things or at people, especially at strangers. It’s an odd aspect of the Calabrian culture and it’s more common with older people. So, if you make eye-contact with someone, and they continue to stare at you, just look away and act like nothing happened.
4. Greetings are important. It is a common expectation and practice of courtesy saying Buongiorno (Good morning) or Buonasera (Good evening) to others when you come in a shop, a café, an elevator, or anywhere. Similarly, it’s polite to say something like Arrivederci (Goodbye) when you are leaving. Read this post if you want to know more.
5. If people talk in a loud voice, don’t be frightened! They aren’t angry. This is a stereotype but it is quite true. Italians, especially people from Southern Italy, scream and gesture a lot. It is a way to emphasise emotions and to display the musicality of the language. Violent behaviour here is unusual though it may seem like the whole country is full of angry people, but don’t worry and have fun!
6. Public transportation isn't very good. You can use the train to move from town to town but the best way to discover Calabria is by car. There are a lot of places such as beaches, trekking paths, and historical villages that are reachable only by car. So, prepare your drivers licence and credit card. You’ll need them to rent a car.
7. Calabrian cuisine uses many varieties of vegetables, especially eggplants and bell peppers. However if you are vegetarian, some people could look at you with surprise. This is because Calabrians love fish like stockfish and swordfish and are addicted to meat, especially the pork that is cooked and preserved in a lot of different ways: ‘nduia, soppressate, salsiccie, etc.
8. Make sure you have money to pay cash. You can use your debit or credit cards at the supermarket, but not for your shopping in the local street market. Calabria is full of little shops, botteghe, where you can find every kind of thing. Here you have to pay cash as in the bar or in the rosticcerie, typical italian takeaway where you can taste pizza, calzoni, arancini, etc.
Having said that, there are different travel itineraries you can follow. The New York Times has underlined the quality of Calabrian food but if it’s an interesting place to visit you are looking for, you won’t be disappointed. The region of Calabria is an area rich in history, traditions and natural beauty. What are you waiting for?