Visit Calabria

Eight Things You Should Know Before You Visit Calabria

Street Art in Diamante (CS)

Street Art in Diamante (CS)

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.

Marinella Beach in Palmi

Marinella Beach in Palmi

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.

Different Types of Calabrian Salami.

Different Types of Calabrian Salami.

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.

Food in Italy outside the well-traveled regions.
Some of the best meals in Italy aren’t found in Rome or Tuscany, but from the southern region of Calabria. The toe of Italy’s boot is making a name for itself in food and wine circles, led by places like Ristorante Dattilo, Ristorante Ruris in Isola Capo Rizzuto and Antonio Abbruzzino in Catanzaro. Known for spicy dishes and much of the world’s supply of bergamot, Calabria is pivoting toward lighter fare, organic farming and wine made from local grapes.
— Danielle Pergament. New York Times

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?

The Hidden Gem of Pentedattilo in the Toe of the Boot

pentedattilo.jpg

Driving down the SS106, along the coast a little bit south of Reggio Calabria, in the Melito Porto Salvo area, you can see the unusal peak of Monte Calvario sticking out like a sore thumb. In English its name is Mount Calvary, this is in reference to the place where Jesus was crucified. The suggestive aspect of this place doesn’t end here.

Continuing in the direction of the torrent Annà and going up the hill, the road narrows to a single winding ribbon of asphalt and a spectacular vista reveals itself: an enigmatic village built into the fingers of a giant stone hand at the edge of the breathtaking panorama of the Strait of Messina.  The village looks towards Sicily, it seems as if it is supported on the palm of a hand erupting from the ground to protect it while presenting the village to the gaze of the world. The magical appearance of Pentedattilo is such that the Dutch artist Escher depicts it in a number of lithography when he journeyed in Calabria.

Five Stone Fingers

It is a picture-perfect postcard. Anyone with a good camera can take suggestive photos of this village that capture the poetic imagery. Its charm is already in the name: Pentedattilo, from the Greek penta daktilos, which means five fingers. You will enjoy the scenery, but once you set foot on one of the cobblestone alleyways and find yourself surrounded by empty houses nestled between sandstone rock and lush vegetation, you might overwhelmed by the sense of mystery that permeates this place. Pentedattilo is a tiny ghost town. Abandoned since the nineteenth century, yet it still retains its magic.

A Tiny Ghost Town with a Long History

But what is most striking is the quantity of prickly pears and unusual rocks that stick out everywhere and include some houses. While it is uninhabited today, Pentedattilo has a long history, in fact ithas Greek origins not only in its name. Founded in 640 BC, it had been a Calcidese colony, then a Fort controlling access to the upper part of Aspromonte. From 1660, it became part of a noble family estate. During the years, its property was transferred from a family to another as part of trades or legacies.

The Devil’s Hand

In the 18th century, a bloody story known as The Massacre of The Alberti caused great distress in the town. The massacre was the cruel end of the clash between two noble families. Brides and missed marriage are involved in a messy romance that was finally resolved with the use of violence. According to the legend, the five stone fingers are often named the Devil’s Hand because the rocks flow with blood.

Further misfortune befell the town, as with the earthquake of 1783 depopulation and desertion of the town continued until no one was leftNow only the Castle, the Church of SS. Peter and Paul and the Church of Candlemas remain to preserve records of its glory days. Moreover, who come here will fall in love with the incredible panorama. From the place in front of the Church of SS. Peter and Paul, you can see the valley with the riverbed, the Strait of Messina, and finally Sicily and Mount Etna.

pentedattilo church ss peter and paul.jpg
pentedattilo church.jpg

Rediscovering the Ghost Town

Nowadays Pentadattilo relives for tourists and filmmakers. In the town there is an International Short Film Festival that attracts here young and master directors (for more information visit www.pentedattilofilmfestival.net/en/). The narrow streets and the evocative places during the summer are the perfect location for concerts planned by the “Paleariza”, an itinerant music festival with events in many towns of the Greek Calabria (www.paleariza.it).