What a wonderful Calabria
It is a wonderful land that deserves to be described in its entirety. Its natural landscape, its artistic and cultural heritage, its delectable gastronomy and its unforgettable traditions are precious jewels just waiting to be discovered.
Calling it rediscovered would not be correct, as Calabria has always been there, lying in southern Italy with all the beauty that distinguishes her. Encircled between seas and surrounded by mountains, it is left with its invaluable natural and gastronomic resources. Now that Calabria is reliving its best period, we find ourselves in a land that we really had to wait for. The columns of The New York Times and The Telegraph have elevated it to the places you should visit, for all the landscape that she has to offer, the fine wine and delicious food, for the wealth she can give back.
Calabria is a land of many faces, diverse and contrasting, which lead the traveler through powerful natural beauty ranging from the northern border with Basilicata to the sea beyond the tip that separates it from Sicily. With a territory to be explored and exuding a history that deserves to be unearthed and described, Calabria is an undiscovered land with everything to admire. Let yourself get lost in the narrow streets of traditional terrains, stop and eat at one of the restaurants by the sea or in the mountains, choose to sit and just admire the sunset colors or the landscapes that present themselves: Calabria means deciding to enjoy the experience and a whole world of scents and aromas that cannot leave you unmoved. There are places in Calabria where you should listen with your eyes and contemplate with your sense of taste: we are talking about a land that you should visit, just for the pleasure of not wanting to break away from it ever again.
CALABRIA MAGNA GRAECIA
Calabria is in the heart of the Mediterranean. On August 16, 1972, in the sea just off the coast of Riace Marina, Stefano Mariottini discovered two statues, known as the Bronzi di Riace. The news spread rapidly around the world, and the discovery was later considered as one of the most important of the last century. The statues are currently kept at the National Museum of Magna Graecia in the Italian city of Reggio Calabria, and they represent one of the major additions to the surviving examples of Ancient Greek sculpture. Several archeological sights are dotted around Calabria, including the Archaeological Museum of Sibari, where you’ll find the historically significant statue known as Toro Cozzante, and the Archaeological Park of Locri Epizefiri, with a theater from the fourth century.
A special mention should be given to the Musaba Spatari/maas Foundation, an unique example of an open-air laboratory park museum near the village of Mammola. “Nik Spatari is at the final stages of making this dream come true. This laboratory park museum in the heart of Calabria is the work in progress of a man and his companion, continually retouched by their own hand and never abandoned by their mind. It has enormous figurative freedom but total structural control. This is one of those extremely rare cases where an outsider pours the salt of architecture onto the land”. Article by Bruno Zevi, published in “L’architettura” magazine.
One of the best places to experience the natural beauty of this southern Italian region is at Capo Colonna, a promontory known in antiquity as Capo Lacinio, about 13km south of Crotone in eastern Calabria. This is the site of one of the most important sanctuaries in Magna Graecia, the area of southern Italy populated by Greek settlers from the eighth century BC. Nowadays all that remains of the temple is one single Doric column, 8.35 meters in height. Nevertheless, the surrounding land and views of the sea still reflect the sacred nature of this site, perhaps inspiring the original idea for a sanctuary here.
AN ARCHEOLOGICAL PARK SOURRANDED A SECOLAR OLIVE GROVE
One of the finest representations of Magna Graecia is an important archeological site of Greco-roman civilisation: the Archaeological Park of Scolacium. Here a huge temple is surrounded by a secular olive grove, 200 meters from the sea. Every year, the park hosts the famous festival “Harmony of Art”, a space for the soul, where music, theater, dance, legend and history combine to create beautiful art.
Calabria is known for its variety of beaches, from long sandy stretches to pebbly coves. It has about 500 miles of coastline, which takes in all the geographical variations of the Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas. A spectacular waterfront and cliffs overlook medieval castles and ancient watchtowers. Embedded in the splendid Coast of the Gods, in the province of Vibo Valentia, is a precious jewel famous around the world: a place of ancient legend, history and seaside tourism by the name of Tropea. Built entirely on an enormous tufa rock facing the sheer drop over the sea, it comprises an upper village with many noble houses of the 18th and 19th centuries, and a lower part, with the beaches and tourist-friendly harbor.
COST OF GODS
Close to Tropea is the Lighthouse of Capo Vaticano, where a selection of beaches are tucked into the curves of the Tyrrhenian coast, the final part reached by wading between the rocks. One of the most charming places in Calabria is Scilla where the sunsets seem to assume unique new characteristics. Strange scintillations occur when you admire this enchanting fishing hamlet from within its arched narrow streets and alleyways, all separated from each other by even more alleyways, and all heading straight down to the sea.
In the northern part of the Tyrrhenian coast, the Riviera dei Cedri (Cedar Riviera), is a extremely attractive area close to the massif of Pollino National Park. With significant natural value, it numbers beaches from Paola to Diamante, Scalea, Praia a Mare to San Nicola Arcella. Calabria’s only two islands of Cirella and Dino lie offshore. The Riviera dei Cedri is so called because in centuries past this was where cedars were cultivated, purchased each year for religious rites by rabbis from all over the world.
THERMAL BATH AND WELLNESS
The evocative lights, the scents, herbs and spices make Calabria an emotional experience. In that same atmosphere, we find the thermal baths of Terme Luigiane, a small village belonging to the municipality of Acquappesa. Guardia Piemontese is considered one of the oldest and most popular thermal springs of Europe’s sulfurous water resorts. At the base of Mount Pollino are two more thermal springs with hot mud and pools: Cassano allo Ionio staffed by highly qualified professionals, and the suggestive Cave of the Nymphs at Cerchiara di Calabria. On the Tyrrhenian coast, the Terme Caronte is a state-of-the-art complex, where for 2,000 years the salt waters of the Caronte spring have risen to about 39 °C. Within easy reach of the sea and the excavations of Sibari are the Terme di Spezzano, founded in 1923 around the Source of Graces. They are renowned for the therapeutic properties of its waters in the treatment of liver disease.
The Sila is the name of the mountainous plateau and historic region located in Calabria. Its ecosystem is of great scientific value and has been protected as the Sila National Park since 1997, the tenth Italian addition to the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves. Winter and summer tourism are very well developed. In winter, the Sila is the best place in the area for skiing and snowboarding, while in summer, many come to climb mountains and hike down numerous forest trails. The Aspromonte is a massif in the province of Reggio Calabria (Calabria, southern Italy). Its literal translation means “Rough Mountain”. It overlooks the Strait of Messina, constrained by the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas and by the Pietrace River. The highest peak is Montalto (1,955m). The massif is part of the Aspromonte National Park.
THE “NDUT”- NORMAN DOUGLAS ULTRA TRAIL
“NDUT” looks like a word of Calabrian dialect, but is in fact is the acronym for the Norman Douglas Ultra Trail, a route dedicated to mountain bikers and runners that traces the path of writer Norman Douglas just over a century ago in the Calabrian hinterland. Those exotic, wild landscapes and the typical vitality of the southern people, described by the British author in “Old Calabria”, form the cornerstone of this captivating experience around areas yet to be explored. The path can be used throughout the year, like the most well-known ones in Europe. There are two different circuits: one of 500km that takes in the Sila National Park and the Pollino National Park; and one of 1,144km that connects all Calabria’s parks, monasteries, and the palms overlooking the Straits of Messina.
LIDIA BASTIANICH CELEBRATES CALABRIA
For more than a year, the brand “Rosso Calabria” has been working on the international market by launching promotional and educational activities with journalists and bloggers, involving opinion shapers such as Lidia Bastianich, whose TV shows on PBS reach a worldwide audience of 196 million. Lidia Bastianich (mother of the equally famous TV star Joe Bastianich) embarked on a trip to Calabria to discover its outstanding local products. The queen of cookery shows found ancient varieties of fruit and vegetables, and lost types of vines that have been preserved in long-isolated areas of the interior, bringing us their unchanged qualities.
WINE AND FOOD
Calabria is a land of ancient flavors that have remained intact over the centuries thanks to their raw ingredients. These are created from plant varieties and livestock species that have disappeared elsewhere, swallowed by more profitable and productive demands, and tailored to the needs of large retailers. Just as the age-old isolation of some areas of the interior has preserved languages dating back to Magna Graecia, it has also handed down flavors and foods throughout the centuries, which are found in this cuisine of poverty. It was in the Calabrian town of Nicotera that in 1957, Professor Ancel Keys, promoter of a psycho-physical Wellness lifestyle, identified the diet he would call “Mediterranea”, later added to UNESCO’S Intangible Cultural Heritage list. More recently, Italian scientist Valter Longo, of the University of Southern California (USC) and the FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology (IFOM) in Milan, confirmed the virtues of the simple and straightforward nutritional habits of his childhood spent in Calabria, calling it “The Longevity Diet”. The foundation of the Mediterranean diet is the extra virgin oil produced in Calabria, which cultivates olive trees across an area of 182,000 hectares. This is roughly a quarter of the total area of organic olive-oil cultivation throughout Italy, accounting for 12% of Calabria’s overall production.
Turning the focus on this immense wealth is the task of “Rosso Calabria” a regional brand that encapsulates the history, culture, art, beauty and the flavors of this region.
During “Summer Fancy Food” in New York, Lidia Bastianich said: “Next year’s cooking trend will speak Calabrian”.
ONE OF THE OLDEST WINE IN THE WORLD
The proximity of the region to the Ionian Sea affects temperatures and makes the soil a combination of clay and sand, creating an unique enviroment for vineyards. Around 1,500 BC a tribe called the Oenotri (“vine cultivators”) settled in the region. According to Greek mythology, they were Greeks who were led to the region by their king, Oenotrus. At that time, the Oenotri grew head-trained bush vines supported by posts.
DRINKING A CUP OF THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF HISTORY
The ancient area of Kroton is the cradle of the oldest wine: Cirò DOC. A recognizable red wine among a thousand, with the elegance and structure of Gaglioppo, which becomes fresh in its unmissable rosé variety. This wine was so appreciated by the Ancient Greeks that it was offered as a prize to the winning athletes at Olympic competitions. This is a chalice with 3,000 years of history. In the Pollino National Park, we find the Slow Food Presidium of the Saracena Moscato. As many as 1,500 barrels of this wine were regularly delivered to the papal court of Pope Pius IV, who was one of its great admirers. Across a vast area, down from the slopes of the Pollino Massif and alongside the Crati Valley, grows the Magliocco, a superb grape variety able to compete on equal terms with the major wines of northern Italy. The DOP Terre di Cosenza was founded to make the most of this great resource.
The northern part of Calabria is one of the main areas of production for Calabria IGP clementine mandarins present in food markets throughout Europe. Other fine products worth mentioning are Rocca Imperiale IGP lemons. This is the area where the DOP Figs of Cosenza are grown, used in delicious preparations with fillings of almonds and walnuts or with luscious dark chocolate. Calabria also has its own black gold, not gasoline, but Calabria DOP licorice. Production is centered on the Ionian coast, in an area surrounding the Archaeological Park of Sybaris, all the way up to Rossano. There is even a museum dedicated to traditional techniques of harvesting and processing. The northern part of Calabria belongs to Sila – a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve – with massive winter snowfalls allowing the Sila plateau to be the southernmost point where you can practice dog sledding. The strong cattle breed of Podolica Calabrese, recognized by Slow Food Italy, are nomadic animals of the plateau capable of dealing with attacks by wolves and jumping two-meter-high fences. The produce Caciocavallo Silano DOP, one of the oldest cows’ milk cheeses of southern Italy. Another important product is the PDO Pecorino crotonese, from the ancient area of Kroton. Bergamot oranges have been intensively cultivated since the
18th century, exclusively in coastal areas near Reggio Calabria. Since 1704, essential oils are the key ingredient for the production of Eau de Cologne. Even today, essential oils are used in the perfume industry by famous brands such as Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana. Keeping with famous names, IGP red onions, admired by Queen Elizabeth II (it is believed she consumes up to 200kg per year), are second to none. With its unmistakable flavor, this precious product of velvet farmland has won over lovers of rich summer salads and sophisticated followers of new eating styles, from vegans to people who only eat raw food for its known beneficial properties. Together with olive oil, Bergamots and Tropea red onions, licorice best represents Calabrian identity. Another fundamental ingredient is the unofficial symbol of Calabria, the famous peperoncino (chili pepper). Different kind of chili peppers can be found here, from ones with a mild taste to the extra hot. Peperoncino is widely used in Calabrian cuisine. The seaside town of Diamante even hosts an annual festival in its honor every September. Diamante was where the world-famous Peperoncino Italian Academy was established. Another famous Calabrian product is the Tartufo di Pizzo ice-cream. This particular variety is usually composed of two or more flavors, often with either fruit syrup or frozen fruit — typically raspberry, strawberry or cherry — in the center. Bagnara Nougat is another characteristic/ traditional Calabrian dessert, dating back to 1700 and obtained by cooking and processing local products like honey and roasted almonds, and ingredients such as sugar cinnamon and cloves. The endless expanse of olive groves on the hills of the Lametini and Vibonese areas of “Carolea” give origin to Oil DOP Lamezia. DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) also applies to Calabrian cured meats throughout the region. These include capocollo (cold cut), pancetta (bacon), salsiccia (sausage) and soppressata (salami), all prepared with the best pork cuts. From Spilinga comes ‘Nduja, a sausage spread with a smoky aroma, not yet featured among the more known brands, but gaining in popularity worldwide. This is the area where Pecorino del Monte Poro (sheeps’ milk cheese) is produced. It is considered among the best in southern Italy, and is now in the recognition phase for the attribution of DOP status.