There are many fantastic holiday destinations in Italy, but if you’re searching for somewhere a little further off the beaten tourist track, I think it’s worth looking into what Calabria in the south of the country has to offer.
This province is the ‘toe of the boot’ of Italy, with the Ionian Sea lapping its shores on one side and the Tyrrhenian Sea rolling in on the other. As you can imagine, this means the region is excellent for coastal breaks, as it’s home to some beautiful beaches.
But this is far from the only reason to choose Calabria for your getaway, as its interior is an unspoilt picture of rolling hills and quaint villages, while the cities and towns are home to many fascinating historical sites – so there’s something for everyone.
In case you need more convincing, I’ve singled out a few of the region’s top attractions to visit.
National Museum of Reggio Calabria
If you love history, you should make sure Reggio Calabria is on your itinerary, as the city is home to some famous historical exhibits. The most well known are the Riace Bronzes, statues that were discovered completely by chance on the seabed off the coast of Calabria in 1972.
These impressive artworks are thought to date from the 5th century BC and are an unusual example of classical Greek sculpture. Since their discovery, they have been restored and are on display in the city’s National Museum, where you’ll also find a host of archaeological exhibitions relating to the sites in Magna Grecia.
One of the best things about paying a visit to this attraction is that it’s totally free to enter, making it ideal if you’re aiming for a cheap holiday in Italy.
Sila National Park
The Sila National Park is located in the centre of Calabria and is a high plain that spans over 2,000 sq km. Within this area you’ll find everything from mountains and swathes of forest to lakes and grassland – perfect if you want to get back to nature on your holiday.
There are many ways you can get around the reserve, including on foot, horseback or by bike. In the winter, it’s also possible to ski in the national park, so there are plenty of reasons to visit no matter what time of year you’re travelling.
One of the main reasons I’d love to explore Sila is to have the chance to see some of the wildlife that calls the park home. Among the creatures that are found in the area are wolves, wild boars, deer, spotted salamanders and tawny owls.
Crotone is a province – and also the name of its main city – towards the north of Calabria. This region is well worth visiting for its stunning beaches, as well as its interesting heritage. If it’s the former you’re most keen to see, head to the Marine Reserve of Capo Rizzuto, where you’ll find 42 km of protected coastline and some beautiful, unspoilt sandy beaches.
The city of Crotone itself, meanwhile, has many fascinating legends, as it was allegedly founded by Hercules in memory of one of his friends, and is also said to be where Pythagoras set up his school.
Wander around in the old city and you’ll see the 16th century walls that protected the settlement, as well as have the chance to visit the cathedral and Castle of Charles V, which is now home to a museum.