Southwest Italy’s Calabria region is located at the “toe” of Italy’s boot-shaped peninsula. In this sunkissed region of rocky mountains, quaint villages, and stunning coastlines, there are also a number of gorgeous beaches.
The region, however, is known for its Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Reggio Calabria, which houses the Riace Bronzes, a famous pair of Greek warriors from the 5th century BCE.
10 Best Things To Do in Calabria, Italy
There is so much to do and see that a trip here is sure to be jam-packed. Check out our guide to the best things to do in Calabria to get a better sense of the region.
1. Visit Stilo’s Byzantine Church and Norman Castle
Calabria’s Stilo is one of just 13 towns in the region to receive a special Italian Tourism Council designation. Without a visit to Stilo in Reggio Calabria’s province, your journey across Calabria will be incomplete.
The little town of Tommaso Campanella, a renowned philosopher, remains impervious to the passage of time. The town’s medieval core, along with the Byzantine settlement of Cattolica di Stilo, is the town’s main draw.
A superb example of a Byzantine church can be found at Stilo. Some believe that the young women who carried the church’s four Greek columns did it as a result of heavenly intervention. An 11th-century Norman castle whose remnants can still be seen in Stilo serves as a reminder that Southern Italy was formerly ruled by the Saxons.
This is one of the best things to do in Calabria that should be on top of your itinerary.
2. Visit the classical sites along the Ionian shore
The Calabria Region was profoundly influenced by Greece in the ancient period. The Ionian Sea coast of Calabria was home to the majority of its largest colonies.
Antiquity can be seen in the form of ancient ruins and artifacts on display at various museums and archaeological sites. In the south, the city of Locri can be found, while in the north, Caulonia and Scylletium can be found near Borgia.
At the top of the list of ancient cities along the Ionian coast are Crotone, which is known for its doctors, Olympic athletes, and Pythagorean mathematicians.
Sybaris, the wealthiest settlement, is located in the north. In English, the word “sybaritic” refers to “opulent luxury” which originates from this city’s name.
These sites are among the top attractions in Calabria that will make your visit worthwhile.
3. Relax on the white-sand beach at Tropea
Calabria’s Tropea (Vibo Valentia) is one of the most intriguing cities and popular attractions in Calabria.
While here, don’t pass up the opportunity to swim in the crystal-clear waters of its pristine beaches. The Sanctuary of Santa Maria dell’Isola, erected on a cliff, is of significant historical significance. You may even spot Stromboli in the distance from this vantage point.
Hotels, restaurants, guesthouses, and campgrounds are all within walking distance of Tropea’s historic center. Located beneath a stunning cliff and an island sanctuary, Tropea’s beaches have also been named among Europe’s most beautiful.
4. Explore Scolacium Archaeological Park
A must-visit in the Roccelletta di Borgia is the fascinating Scolacium Archaeological Park. Sites like this one are extremely valuable because they contain the remains of ancient Roman towns, including roads, waterways, mausoleums, amphitheaters, and other structures of cultural significance.
A former Magna Graecia colony, “Skylletion” was later renamed “Minervia Scolacium” by the Romans, as the name “Scolacium” refers to this ancient settlement.
The most prominent monuments include paved streets, aqueducts, mausoleums, and sepulchers, as well as a thermal plant. There is also a 5,000-seat theatre established in the first century and afterward restored on the natural slope of the hill.
The remains of an amphitheater can be found not far from the theater. At the park’s entrance are the ruins of an abbey church known as “Roccelletta.” Although it was probably never completed by the Normans, the structure here has been referred to as “the castle” ever since it was built in the 12th century and acted as a fortification over the years.
5. See the Riace Statues in Reggio’s Museo Archeologico Nazionale
The Magna Graecia (Greater Greece) era, which spanned from the 4th to the 8th centuries BC, is represented in Calabria’s main museum. A must-see here is the two bronze statues, with a height of 1.98 m. and a weight of 160 kg. each. They were discovered by a diver at Riace Marina, the Ionian Sea, in 1972.
These statues at the Reggio Calabria’s National Archaeological Museum are considered the epitome of masculine beauty.
While in the area, you may also visit the Aragonese castle, cathedral, theatre, and villas – also known as the “city of bergamot.”
6. Climb the Rocca di Pentedattilo
Originally constructed by Greek settlers around 640 BC, the abandoned village of Pentedattilo is now a ghost town. Earthquakes forced the villagers to leave the settlement in the 1800s, while it was continuously inhabited until that time. Now, it stands as a haunting reminder of an earlier time, with the ancient buildings still visible at the mountain’s edge.
Rocks called “Pentedattilo” rise up behind the settlement, creating a unique natural landmark that can be explored. This area is quite photogenic, a definite must in your list of things to do in Calabria, and there’s also the opportunity to climb the rocks for the more daring.
7. Hike Aspromonte National Park
If you prefer hiking and spending time outdoors, Aspromonte is a great place to visit in this part of Italy where there are few national parks. To the east of Reggio Calabria you will find the stunning Aspromonte National Park and its breathtaking mountain scenery.
Although there are other beech forests to explore, Montalto’s is the park’s highest peak, standing at 1,955 meters above sea level.
Hiking this part of the region is one of the best things to do in Calabria, especially for nature lovers. The peregrine falcon, wolves, eagle owl, and goshawk are just a few of the many animals that call this area home.
8. Spend a day in Scilla
Located approximately 1.5 hours from Tropea on the road to Reggio Calabria, Scilla is an extraordinarily beautiful fishing community. Castello Ruffo, a medieval fortress, and Chianalea, Scilla’s most picturesque and romantic neighborhood, are all located on the island’s coast.
Castello Ruffo is easily on top of the list of attractions in Calabria, an absolute must-see for its breathtaking views of the beach and its turquoise waves as well as the fishing village of Chianalea.
One of the most beautiful villages in Italy, Chianalea has been dubbed the “Venice of the South.” The houses here are all situated very close to the water; and its narrow, winding lanes offer a pleasant and tranquil environment for locals and tourists alike.
Spend the morning or afternoon exploring Chianalea’s pedestrian lanes. These paths lead to short slipways with brightly colored fishing boats and little cafés and restaurants situated at the water’s edge. Most of these restaurants serve swordfish, the local specialty. Swordfish are also frequently featured in Scillan dishes.
9. Eat Calabrian food
Porcini mushrooms, bergamot oranges, and olive oil are some of Calabria’s best-known exports. Swordfish, cod, eggplant, and olive oil-preserved pork are some of the typical ingredients of Calabrian cuisine.
In Calabria, you should try the following foods, whether you buy them fresh from the market or order them from a restaurant:
Seafood plays a prominent role in Calabrian cuisine. An excellent local delicacy is pesce spada (swordfish). With clams and mussels (con le cozze) on pasta, you’ll be wishing for more!
• Oven-fried Pizza
Some of the best wood-fired pizza is found in Calabria. Take a chance and order the dish with regional toppings if you can!
Red onions from Tropea are prized around the world for their gentle sweetness. They are only found in Calabria. You will also find cipolle in a number of forms on menus, even as onion gelato! Be sure to buy some cipolle marmalade to take back home.
• Peperoncino Calabrese
Peperoncino, the spicy chili pepper, grows abundantly in Calabria and is used in many regional dishes. Dried, fresh, or oil-soaked versions of the herb are all available to enhance your meal’s flavor. This is another great Calabria product to bring home.
When dining in Calabria, why not sample one of the various local “digestifs”? When it comes to Calabrian Amaro, the most famous one is Vecchio Amaro del Capo. Serve it in an ice-cold glass to avoid melting the ice. When it’s frozen, the flavors of mint and aniseed come out in full force.
In Calabria, Tartufo is a common dish on the menu. Pizzo, Calabria, is the home of this delicious frozen delicacy. In addition to the cocoa powder-dusted hazelnut and vanilla ice cream ball, the melted chocolate hiding inside makes this frozen delicacy one for the books!
10. Go skiing at Lorica in the Sila Mountains in winter
Lorica is one of the attractions in Calabria that you shouldn’t miss when you’re in the area, especially during winter.
There are four ski resorts in the Sila Mountains and the Aspromonte in the region.
Cosenza is a little over an hour’s journey east to Lorica, a hilltop hamlet with a stunning view of Lake Arvo. The four highest slopes range in elevation from 1,405 to 1,877 meters over a distance of 12 kilometers, making them suitable for skiers of all skill levels and one of the most exciting things to do in Calabria.
Resorts like these offer an Alpine-style setting in the summertime, complete with wildflowers, grazing animals, and clean drinking water.