When people say they are interested in visiting Italy, what they often mean is they’re interested in visiting Tuscany. This is usually followed by exclamations about how scenic and beautiful Tuscany is and how good the food is. This is all very true. But as the popularity of Tuscany has increased, so have the commercialization and the cost of visiting there. What is proposed here is an alternative that is just as beautiful and more affordable: southern Italy, or more specifically, Calabria.
Calabria is the southernmost state in Italy. It is bordered on the southeast by the Ionian Sea and on the northwest by the Tyrrhenian Sea. The island of Sicily is just 2km from the mainland and can be reached via a ferry. Calabria has the longest and most pristine beaches in Italy, which makes it a destination for people seeking to enjoy the sun and its clear turquoise oceans. Those who prefer hiking and camping will find Calabria perfectly suited for these recreational activities. Calabria is 90% hilly or mountainous and the landscape contains lakes, valleys, and ancient forests. In the national park at Sila, the multitude of trails is perfectly suited for hiking or cross-country skiing in the winter.
During its 2500 years of history, Calabria has been conquered and governed by several different civilizations, including the Romans, the Visigoths, the Saracens, and the Normans. Each of these cultures left their mark on both the culture of Calabria and the architecture. In addition, because the ancient Calabrians rightly feared attack, they established many villages in the mountains, surrounded by stone walls for protection. Today most of these villages are still inhabited and visitors can tour them and visit the many beautiful churches, convents, and monasteries.
If a visitor wants to take a day trip to Sicily from Calabria, it is a short 20-minute ferry ride from the mainland. Here a visitor can tour the beautiful mountain town of Taoramina and view the world’s most active volcano, Mt. Etna, from a 3000 year old Greek theater.
Whether a person’s interests lie with recreational activities or touring archeological and historical sites, Calabria has plenty of each to offer. When planning the next vacation, travelers should definitely consider the opportunities to be found in this undiscovered part of Italy.