Everybody knows about Italy’s countless charms, from architecture, culture and cuisine to art and enchanting landscapes. How could anyone resist? However, while Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, and Naples are still favorites among tourists, the south of the peninsula also offers a vast range of exciting opportunities. Travelers have already started venturing to Apulia located in the heel of the “boot,” but today we would like to take you to an even lesser-known region, Calabria, found at the very tip of the renowned stivale*.
Calabria is known for its authenticity and the variety of its landscapes. Bordered on all sides by the sea, the region also features the Tyrrhenian Coast on one side and the Ionian Coast on the other. Both stretches are scattered with small resorts, long, white-sand beaches, and charming fishing villages. The ensemble is punctuated by dizzying cliffs and headlands, coves and caves, all brimming with innumerable mysteries and legends.
The center is home to areas of lush vegetation that reinforce the region’s inimitable charm. Several national parks offer nature buffs a whole host of valleys and vast forests filled with an incredible variety of trees. This may be one reason Calabrian cuisine is resolutely surf ‘n’ turf, characterized by an abundance of fish – swordfish in particular – and vegetables such as the renowned little, red pepperoncino peppers.
Bergamot and citron, two prized citrus fruits grown in Calabria
Bergamot seems to be a lime-orange hybrid, and its essential oil is used to flavor teas and make perfumes. Citrons look like big, lumpy lemons, and are especially popular for their zest which is candied and used in pastries. Just like bergamot, citron essence is also used in the world of perfumery. The bergamot and citron fields make for a spectacular backdrop to the Calabrian vistas, particularly around Reggio di Calabria, the town facing Sicily on the other side of the Strait of Messina.
Reggio has been razed and rebuilt untold times throughout its 3,000-year history.
But from warring invaders to natural disasters, the city has always bounced back, driven by unflinching willpower and optimism. When standing at dusk on the lungomare (which really is very lungo**), visitors can admire the wonderful lightshow on the Sicilian coast. One by one, streetlamps, homes, and restaurants illuminate the darkness, dancing and glittering below Mount Etna.
And with a bit of luck, you will see the magical, jaw-dropping phenomenon of Fata Morgana. Those fortunate enough catch it, generally in summer, will see the lines of the land beyond the Strait of Messina twist, expand, and float in the air! The optical illusion is created by a layer of hot air moving up the strait above a layer of colder air with different optical properties.
Rays of light are altered as they pass through the layers of varying temperatures, which deforms the original image and lends the landscape a surreal aura.