How to get to Calabria | Exploring Italys secret region

Not the most conventional way to get to Calabria but we wanted to end our holiday in Palermo so here’s what we did. We flew to Palermo on Easyjet arriving early in the morning. You can check out flights to Palermo Here We then took the train from Palermo to Messina where we boarded the ferry from Sicily to the mainland and then grabbed a train at Villa San Giovanni up to Ricardi which was the closest station to where we were staying at Capo Vaticano. A full days travelling but worth it as we wanted to finish our holiday in Palermo.

The coastline of Calabria
The coastline of Calabria

How much did the train cost from Palermo to Calabria? 

We pre-booked most of the train journey and it only cost about £50 all the way from Palermo up to the Calabrian coast. We booked it all online before we even left the UK.   You can check out the Trains Here

Where did we base ourselves in Calabria?

Capo Vaticano

If you are looking for a traditional Italian holiday hotel then look no further than Villagio Albergo da Ciccio sul Mare It really is a true Italian experience. Very little English is spoken here and the hotel, albeit, towards the end of the season was filled with Italians and the occasional Dutch or German.

The hotel was right on the beach so you literally stepped from your room onto the sand. Our room was fantastic and you stepped out onto a little balcony which had views out to sea.  The room was cleaned daily and the bathroom was ok. A sun lounger and parasol in front of the hotel was included in the cost of your room. It also has a webcam where you can see the whole stretch of the beach so check it out before you go.

We loved it here. So relaxed, quiet and peaceful, it was the perfect way to spend a week under the Italian sun. There were boat trips, snorkelling, canoeing, paddle boarding and swimming. Loads of activities to keep  you smiling. The hotel had a fairly good restaurant and gelateria/bar In the village there are other bars and restaurants to choose from including a really good pizza place and of course the coast is dotted with fantastic little seafood restaurants.

Capo Vaticano Beach Calabria
Capo Vaticano Beach Calabria

What else is there to do in Capo Vaticano? 

  • There’s a small supermarket and a bus stop with a regular bus service to take you up and down the coast.
  • Visit Tropea, the nearest largest town and sample the Tropea Onions.  Find out more about them below. 
  • There are walks to do nearby that take you through the countryside and up and over the surrounding hills to other beaches and
  • There bike and boat hire if that’s what you fancy.

Take it from us, if you don’t want the hustle and bustle then here’s the place to be. 

Great hikes in Calabria
Great hikes in Calabria

What else that’s typically Calabrian did we discover?

Nduja

Ever wondered where the spicy Italian sausage that is taking the cullenary world by storm comes from. Well its right here in Calabria, Spliniga to be exact. One of the most famous of all Calabrian foods, nduja (pronounced en-doo-ya) is a soft, sweet-spicy spreadable salami., it is made with pork meat, a little fat, salt and a lot of red pepper and is delicious.

We visited a local manufacturer and the family who ran the business showed us not only the shop but the production site and the innerworkings of the factory. It was really fantastic to see how this delicious food is made. We got some free samples of the different types of pastes and bought some more from the on site shop. The friendliness of the Calabrian people is outstanding and if you get a chance, go see how Nduja is made and remember to take some home.

Tropea

Tropea is a small town on the east coast of Calabria, in southern Italy. It’s known for its clifftop historic center, beaches and prized red onions and chillies.  The centuries-old Santa Maria dell’Isola Church is on a rock overlooking the sea. Here are a few things not to miss that made our trip to Tropea really special.

Tropea Calabria
Tropea Calabria
The onions

Cipola Rosso are the famous Red Onions of Tropea. The town holds them in such high regard and they are recognised the world over. Delicious, crunch and red but very much sweeter than the traditional red onions that most of us know. You will find these onions hanging from every grocery street vendor, in the many markets and there will be some onion addition to most dishes in cafe’s and restaurants from pizza to the meats and cheese platters and salads. If you visit Tropea you really need to try and I promise you’ll enjoy

The beaches

The beaches are really remarkable. With turquoise clear waters and smooth clean sand and the dramatic cliff tops behind make this a very unique place indeed to dip your toe in the water. There is both private and public areas. In the public areas you can just throw your towel down on the sand and plant your umbrella and away you go. The private areas are where you can hire a subbed, umbrella and have access to WC and changing facilities. Both have access to the clear blue waters and there are a selection of cafe’s where you can get a drink and snacks. Take a dip !

Centro Historic

Every Italian town boasts a Centro Storico, a historical heart that tells its story through the walls, the narrow streets, the winding lanes and the churches and other historical places of interest and Tropea is no different. You could easily spend hours wandering the enchanting maze of cobblestone, streets lined with grand 17th- and 18th-century palaces, and other beautiful buildings. Tropea’s historical centre is picture perfect.

Take a trip to the Aspromonte National Park & Pizzo 

We decided to get out and about under our own steam for the day.    We hired a car from the hotel “Kung Fu Panda” and off we went to Aspromonte National Park.  If you’re in that neck of the woods then give it a whirl.  There are hiking trails, a bob sleigh track, beautiful forest and wildlife and a fantastic place to spend the day.

Whilst having our little car we also headed further up the coast to Pizzo which was another lovely little Calabrian coastal town with complete charm.   Here there are a few things to do and see including the Castello Murat and the cave church of Piedigrotta Pizzo is famous in the area for its Tartufo, a large ball of ice cream filled with molten chocolate.

The Riace bronzes

These statues are two full-size Greek bronzes of naked bearded warriors, cast about 460–450 BC that were found in the sea in 1972 near Riace, Calabria, in southern Italy. We took the train down from Ricardi to Reggio Calabria and visited the bronzes in their temperature controlled room at the Museum.  These statues most definitely take your breath away and are a must if you’re in this area.   Go see them, you won’t be disappointed. 

Pizzo Calabria
Pizzo Calabria

Our view

Calabria may not be on everyones list but it should be. Still not over touristed like some of the more popular destinations in Italy probably as its not the easiest place to get to. Having said that you should defiantly make the effort you won’t regret it.

Booking resources for your trip

Flights

You can compare cheap flights on the Expedia platform or here on the Aviasales website.  Both will give you a good idea of how much its going to cost you to get to your chosen destination.

Accommodation

We have always tended to use Booking.com having said that if your on a tight budget another good site to try as a comparison is Hostelworld, If your looking to compare different sites you can do that on Hotellook, we tend to look on here first to make sure we are getting the best deal.

Tours & Tickets

You can book your visits as you go at the entrance to your chosen attraction or site.  Or you could use the following links to book in advance or just to find out what your choices are in the area. GetYourGuide and Tiqets are our go to choices you could try Viator to see how they compare.

For a full list check out our resources page. Don’t forget always shop around to find the best deal for you. What works for us should be good for you but it’s always reassuring to check.

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