My top 16 excursions/trips in Calabria
I have spent 6 months in Calabria and can only recommend to everyone who loves the original Italy to visit this beautiful and colourful place with its countless possibilites for excursions. In my opinion Calabria is the most beautiful corner in Italy with the most delicious Italian cuisine.
At first still a bit unsure about mafia and crime, I fell in love with Italy even more than before during my time in Calabria. For those who not only want to get to know the beautiful beaches of Calabria, but also the country and its people, I recommend to discover the interior of the country on your own with a rental car. But also at the coast you find many great sights that should not be missed.
16. Serra San Bruno – the interior of the country and silent monks
About halfway between the west and east coast you find Serra San Bruno, a small town in the mountains with about 7,000 inhabitants. Already the journey there is an experience and a great opportunity to discover the interior of Calabria. The village is situated near a forest, which can be explored by a walk or a short hike.
The highlight: The highlight of the village is the Charterhouse Serra San Bruno where the Silent Monks live. The monks have dedicated their lives to prayer and work in the monastery. The small museum in the monastery tells the story of the founder, St. Bruno from Cologne and brings the life and work of the monastery brothers a little closer.
How do you get there? By rental car in around 1h20 from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the holiday rep. It can be combined with an excursion to the east coast of Calabria or if you want to get to know the interior of the country in general.
15. Gerace – the city of a hundred churches
On the south-east coast of Calabria in the Aspromonte National Park is Gerace, a municipality with about 2600 inhabitants. This medieval community is a bishop’s seat and is one of the most beautiful places in Italy. The town is characterized by many sacred buildings and is perfect for holidaymakers who are particularly interested in the history and culture of Calabria.
The highlight: is the largest church in Calabria with 73 metres in length and 26 metres width and whose interior consists of 3 naves.
How to get there? With a rental car in approximately 1h40 from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the holiday rep. It can be easily combined with a visit to the small city of Locri and the east coast of Calabria.
14. Locri – the pearl of the Ionian Sea
Only 3 km from Gerace is the town of Locri. The city, which was founded by the Greeks in 680 B.C., is in possession of numerous archaeological finds and impresses with its beautiful old town. The ruins of the ancient walls and temples don’t only inspire those, interested in Italian history.
The highlight: is the greek-roman theatre. In the 4th century BC up to 4500 people found place there.
How to get there? With the rental car in approximately 1h35 from Tropea or with an excursion booked in the hotel or with the holiday rep. Can be combined with a visit to the town of Gerace and the east coast of Calabria.
13. Stilo – the UNESCO world heritage site
Stilo is a small town in the region of Reggio di Calabria with about 2500 inhabitants and a popular destination for fans of art and Italian history. The village is situated on a hillside, idyllically between vines and olive groves and like Gerace belongs to the “I borghi più belli d’Italia” – the most beautiful places in Italy.
The highlight: is the very well preserved Byzantine church, which was built in the 10th century. It is a sacred building with a square floor plan and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2006.
How to get there? By rental car in about 2 hrs. from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the holiday rep. Can be easily combined if you want to visit the east coast of Calabria or in combination with a visit of Serra San Bruno.
12. Pentedattilo – The ghost town
Picturesquely situated under a large rock, which looks like a giant hand with five fingers reaching up into the sky, this ghost village fascinates by its mysterious atmosphere. The village was abandoned by its inhabitants due to an earthquake and has hardly any touristic infrastructure. The village centre consists of ruins and a few houses that have been renovated.
The highlight: is the view up to the town from the parking lot. A beautiful and very special photo motif.
How to get there? With a rental car in about 2h15 from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the holiday rep. Can be easily combined if you want to explore the south of Calabria around Reggio di Calabria.
11. Farò – the most beautiful viewpoint in Calabria
The Farò is the lighthouse at the Capo Vaticano that stands on a rock overlooking the sea. But the most spectacular thing is the view at the rocky coast and the beautiful beaches and the sea, which shines in a variety of blue and turquoise tones.
The highlight: the view at the rugged coast is the most popular photo motif in Calabria.
How to get there: by rental car in approximately 20 minutes from Tropea. From some hotels at the Capo Vaticano, the Farò view point is also easily accessible on foot.
10. Reggio di Calabria – Antiquity meets modernity
Reggio di Calabria is located in the south of Calabria, directly on the Strait of Messina. It is the birthplace of Gianni Versace and one of the most modern cities in Calabria. The city is ideal for shopping. In the archaeological museum you can see the bronze statues “Bronzi di Riace – the most beautiful men of Calabria”. Many other finds and artefacts such as Greek coins and prehistoric burial objects can be seen in the museum, which extends over 4 floors.
The highlight: At the “Lungomare”, the promenade by the sea, you can enjoy a great view at the Strait of Messina and Sicily, which at its narrowest point is only 3 km away from Calabria.
How to get there: By rental car in approximately 1h45 from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the holiday rep. It can be easily combined with a visit to the ghost town Pentedattilo or a day trip to Sicily.
9. Zungri – the ancient cave dwellings
In the interior of the country you find the small village of Zungri, which lies in a dreamlike location on the slopes of Monto Poro. (at 571 m) The cave dwellings, some of which have several rooms, were once used as homes for humans and animals. The dwellings were cut directly into the tuff and served as shelters for the population of the time from Saracen attacks. The caves have been homogeneously integrated into nature and are still very well preserved today.
The highlight: for me the beautiful nature of this corner in the middle of olive trees and streams. Zungri gives a great insight into the traditional way of life in Calabria and the agricultural life.
How to get there: By rental car in about 25 minutes from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the holiday rep. Can be well combined with a visit to Spilinga.
8. Spilinga – country, people and culinary highlights
At an altitude of 430 meters lies the small village of Spilinga with about 1458 inhabitants. In Spilinga the “‘Nduja” was invented, a smoked pork sausage, which is quite piquant due to the addition of a lot of peperoncino. If you would like to buy one of these delicaties, I recommend one of the many small shops in Spilinga which sell homemade products.
The highlight: the grotto of Madonna delle Fonti is an open-air church, embedded in gorgeous nature and located at a beautiful pond, where it is quiet and pleasantly cool even in midsummer.
How to get there: By rental car in approximately 20 minutes from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the holiday rep. It can be easily combined with a visit to the cave village Zungri.
7. Scilla – narrow alleys, steep stairs, delicious swordfish
Scilla is a fishing village in the south of Calabria and lies idyllically on a rock above the sea. Known mainly because of Greek mythology, Ulysses fought against the multi-headed sea monster “Scylla”, which devoured six of his companions. From the entrance of the village to the fishing port you walk along beautiful, narrow alleys.
The highlight: The picturesque village is famous for swordfish fishing and every restaurant in Scilla offers delicious and freshly caught swordfish specialties.
How to get there? By rental car in about 1h20 from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the holiday rep. Can be easily combined with a visit to Reggio di Calabria.
6. Capo Vaticano – Coastal area and beautiful beaches
Beautiful sand, pebble and stone beaches and many hidden bathing bays, Capo Vaticano is the most popular bathing area in the region. This place has absolutely nothing to do with the roman Vatican! According to legend, the name refers to an oracle which the Greeks visited during their occupation of Calabria. Turquoise blue, clear water shimmers in all blue facets and conveys real Caribbean flair.
The highlight: the most beautiful and secluded bays can be reached by boat. Some beaches can only be reached from the seaside. With a boat license, you can rent a boat or book a private tour in an excursion office in Tropea.
How to get there? With a rented car in approximately 15 minutes from Tropea or with an excursion booked in the hotel or with the holiday rep.
5. Pizzo – old town, culture and legendary ice cream
A must for every visitor of Calabria. This picturesque fishing village sparkles with Italian „Dolce Vita“! Bars, restaurants, boutiques, cafés and numerous ice cream parlours, which are mainly lined up around the marketplace. It seems that the famous “tartufo ice cream” was invented in Pizzo. This sweet calorie bomb is still prepared by hand and consists of a scoop of vanilla or hazelnut ice cream and is filled with a liquid chocolate centre. The scoop is strewn with cocoa. Napoleon’s brother was imprisoned and executed in the “Castello Murat” in Pizzo.
The highlight: is the cave church Chiesetta di Piedigrotta, which was carved by hand into the cliffs by shipwrecked people in thanks for their salvation. 142 steps lead to this church grotto carved in tuff stone directly by the sea.
How to get there: By rental car in about 40 minutes from Tropea or with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the holiday rep.
4. Day trip Sicily – the largest island in Europe
Although Sicily, of course, is not a destination in Calabria, I think this trip belongs on the list. During the tour from Tropea to Reggio di Calabria, you can see a lot of the landscape of Calabria and learn interesting facts about the country and the people. The crossing by ferry takes approximately 25 minutes. In Messina you should definitely try the sweet speciality of Sicily – a delicious Cannoli. This is a roll of dough filled with a sweet cream of ricotta, vanilla and chocolate chips.
The highlight: the view at the mostly snow-covered volcano Etna and the town of Taormina. Probably the most visited holiday resort in Sicily lies on a rock terrace above the sea. The world-famous Greco-Roman amphitheatre and the picturesque alleys with numerous cafés and souvenir shops already enchanted Goethe, Thomas Mann and Oscar Wilde.
How to get there: By rental car in about 1h20 from Tropea to the ferry port of Villa San Giovanni and then crossing by ferry to Messina in about 20 minutes. The ferry leaves around every 40 minutes. You should first check with the car rental company whether you are allowed to cross over to Sicily with the rented car. Alternatively, with an excursion booked in the hotel or with the holiday rep.
3. Lipari and Vulcano – the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean Sea
The Aeolian (Liparian) islands are all of volcanic origin, are inhabited all year round and are among the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Most shipping companies offer boat trips to the three most beautiful or interesting islands: Stromboli, Lipari and Vulcano.
The island of Lipari is the most populated and largest island and is considered the cultural centre of these islands. Here, I recommend a walk through the narrow alleyways, a little shopping tour through the numerous souvenir shops or an espresso with cornetto in one of the numerous cafés.
Due to the sulphur springs, at first the island Vulcano is a little challenge for the olfactory nerves. Nevertheless, try a bath in one of the springs; the sulphur mud is said to have healing powers and is especially good against skin diseases but also healing for intervertebral discs, rheumatism and muscle inflammations. Shower facilities are available.
How to get there? By boat trip. The crossing to the first island takes about 2 hours (depending on weather conditions).
Good to know: the Aeolian islands belong to Sicily; Calabrian guides are not allowed to guide and explain anything on the islands. For this reason, the most important things will get explained during the boat trip; you explore the island by yourself. The stay per island is between 40 minutes and 1h30.
2. Stromboli – Europe’s most active volcano
My favourite island of the 7 Aeolian Islands off the coast of Calabria is Stromboli, the only permanently active volcano in Europe. Every 15 minutes the 924-meter-high volcano spews out small or large amounts of lava from its crater. The volcano is inhabited by about 500 people all year round. The black sandy beach in contrast to the white seagulls and the fishermen catching their nets is a very special photo motif.
The highlight: A special experience is a boat trip to Stromboli at night. There are no fire fountains and lava rivers flowing out of the crater, but you can see some small red lava rocks rolling down the mountain. A very special natural spectacle.
How to get there? By boat trip. The crossing takes about 2 hours (depending on weather conditions).
1. Tropea – the Pearl of Southern Italy
The absolute highlight and a must for every stay in Calabria. This beautiful, historic old town with its picturesque alleys was built on a cliff of sandstone that slopes steeply towards the sea. Winding alleys, narrow stairs and historic buildings enchant every visitor. In the cute cafés you can sit and watch the hustle and bustle on the pedestrian zone. In the evening you will find a great, romantic restaurant in every corner where you can dine under lanterns or with candlelight.
The highlight: the best thing of Tropea is located at the end of the pedestrian zone where you can stand at the railing and have a dream view to the Stromboli, the beautiful beach, the turquoise blue water and the pilgrimage church Santa Maria dell’Isola that is located on a rock spur. This view is especially beautiful at sunset.
How to get there? By rental car in about 15 minutes from Capo Vaticano or 20 minutes from Zambrone. Alternatively, with an excursion booked at the hotel or with the holiday rep. Many hotels also offer shuttle buses to Tropea several times a day.
My favourite hotels in Calabria: