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    Amazing Calabria - The Region

    Calabria is a region in the south of Italy, forming the toe of Italy. It is often referred to as the “Caribbean of Europe” by most due to its sunny climate. This beautiful region is bordered on three sides by the sea: the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Ionian Sea, the Gulf of Taranto and the Straits of Messina (separating Calabria from Sicily). The predominance of the sea beautifully contrasts with sun kissed, rocky mountains creating a magnificent feast for the eyes. The warm Mediterranean sea on hot November days is an experience unique to Calabria.

    Most Italians on the other hand, spend August swarming around Calabria’s Tyrrhenian and Ionian coasts. As September arrives, even though schools wouldn’t be open until the middle of the month, the 28C heat and the clear blue sea attract most to the beaches. Late September and October, even though considered out-of-season is an excellent time to explore this underrated and often misunderstood region - and savour some of the spiciest cuisine in Italy, thanks to the ubiquitous Red Peperoncino (chilli). 

    History hasn’t been particularly kind to Calabria, which the ancient Greeks colonised in the eighth century BC. Others followed - Romans, Saracens, Byzantines, Normans, Spanish and French among them - who were rather less benign than the Greeks. Feudalism was officially abolished in 1806, but a form of it lasted until well into the 20th century. Mass emigration has been a problem for generations, and the region is still among the very poorest in Italy. 


    Calabria’s economy is still based mainly on agriculture. The chief agricultural products include oil, onions, mushrooms, wheat and other cereal grains, wine, eggplant, figs, chestnuts, and citrus fruit. Calabria is the largest producer of bergamot oranges in Italy. The rinds of bergamot oranges are used to manufacture perfumes, teas, and other aromatic creations. Despite its small size and low population Calabria is responsible for producing a third of all the olive oil produced in Italy.

    Calabria as in most of Italy is filled with the most amazing warm-hearted people you may find anywhere. They are more traditional in Calabria than it may be in other regions but taking time to appreciate the local way of things can help you feel a profound connection to this region. Almost all of the towns have some form of weekly local market, which seem to simply pop-up out of nowhere on streets with many local vendors selling everything from produce to household items. These local markets provide an adventure to many visitors as they are able to see and taste what it means to be “local”.

    The two most attractive towns in Calabria are Pizzo and Tropea. Pizzo is world famous for its “Tartufo” (handmade ice-cream) and Tropea on the other hand is situated on a cliff where the houses seem to blend into the rock face. One of Tropea’s beaches catches the sun between the cliff and the rocky promontory where the church of Santa Maria dell’Isola sits in a lofty grove of olive trees.

    Calabria’s backbone is the southern stretch of the Apennine mountain range that curves down to the tip of Sicily. You can’t escape the hills here: only 10% of the region is flat. The mountains gave refuge to people fleeing Saracen attacks and the malarial marshes that used to cover the coasts. Now much of the thickly forested range has been designated as national parks, from Pollino in the north via Sila near the centre and Aspromonte in the south.

    Near the southernmost tip is the strange ghost village of Pentedattilo, which was abandoned in the 1960s and is slowly coming back to life. Craftspeople are buying some of the empty stone houses; someday, perhaps, the village’s sole year-round resident - a woman in her 80s - might have a permanent neighbour. Since 2006 Pentedattilo has hosted an annual film festival, its organisers say to people “whose talent is screaming to be recognised” - rather like Calabria itself.

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