Most Italians, like little sea turtles, flee their homes and head to the sea in August as if by instinct. Not wanting to deviate from this tradition, I have also fled the hustle and bustle of Firenze this month and am currently living in Calabria. Here, my father’s family lives in a villa with four separate apartments. Two brothers and one sister live here, along with my Nonna and six first cousins.
Let’s start with the obvious. Calabria is beautiful, and I’m not just saying that out of bias. Beauty is everywhere here. In the old buildings of the town centers, in the cobblestone roads, the beaches, the castles and the mountains. What makes it even more beautiful is the opportunity to explore this area with my cousins, who are now more like siblings. My first week here started off with a breathtaking trip south with my cousin Giuseppe. We headed all the way south to Reggio Calabria where the boardwalk (or lungomare, as they call it here) continues for kilometers.
The sea is at your fingertips and what made it extra special for me was that I got my first glimpse of Sicilia across the sea. I doubt I can find the words to describe what I felt. The coastline of Sicilia is a marvel and a wonder to behold. You get the sensation that you can reach out and touch it from the beaches of Reggio Calabria. One of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in the course of my little adventure here in Italy. After a visit to the museum in Reggio to look at the famous bronze statues and a walk along the boardwalk, my cousin and I continued on our road trip heading north now.
Next stop, Scilla: A place, like Firenze, that stole a piece of my heart. You know those Sunwing commercials showing crystal clear beaches, white sand and palm trees? Scilla makes those places look like the slums. Pictures do not do this place justice. Scilla boasts one of the most beautiful beaches in Italy, it is like a private cove, surrounded by a mountainous backdrop. Overlooking the cove is a historic castle on the mountain at the water’s edge…insert scene of Jack standing at the front of the Titanic screaming, “I’m the king of the world!” That’s what Scilla does to you. You feel like you are on top of the world and the beauty you are seeing is almost too beautiful to even be real. We enjoyed an incredible lunch at a restaurant on a terrace that extended onto the sea, waves crashing inches underneath our feet. Scilla left such an impressionable mark on me, that I have already made plans to visit again when my parents come to visit (!!! More on that later….) If you find yourself in the south of Italy, run, don’t walk to Scilla, see for yourself.
Moving up the coast, we stopped in Pizzo. Another coastal town with a small but quaint downtown area where people flock by the hundreds for one thing only….Tartufo. Going to Pizzo means having a Tartufo….and no, I’m not talking about the tartufo you get at the end of your cousin Ciccio’s wedding in some hall in Vaughan. These Tartufos are on a different level, taste, quality and size wise. More or less the size of a grapefruit, this ball of ice cream (depending of course which one you get) has one flavour on the outside and another one on the inside. Mine was nocciola and caffe’ (hazelnut and coffee). The exterior of the Tartufo was rolled in what I can only describe as the topping of the gods. Nuts, bits of meringue, who knows…but it was magical. I’ve been pretty good at moderating my intake of sweets here, but all was lost here in Pizzo. I finished every last spoonful and even kept an eye on my cousin to see if he would finish his. Yes, it took every ounce of strength not to go back for more after we strolled around the town. Go to Pizzo. Eat a Tartufo. Go now.
Backtracking a bit after Pizzo, we headed to Tropea. Another very well known beach town in Italy. Here, the beach is surrounded by a rock cliff with buildings built INTO it. Yep, into the rock face. A basilica sits atop a mountain and overlooks both sides of the beach.
What’s special about Tropea, in my opinion, is the downtown area. Wandering those streets was incredible. Old houses and buildings, some abandoned but still magnificent to behold, cobblestone pathways and stairs. Tropea is like taking a walk in the past, hundreds of years ago, and for me, was simply gorgeous to behold. Countless stores selling typical Calabrese meats, peppers, cheese, bread, spices, and fruit line the main road of Tropea’s downtown area. The icing on the cake, however, is that at the end of this street there is a panoramic view of the beach, the basilica and the vast waterfront. We must have returned at least five times to that panoramic view…and as evening came, we were gifted with an incredible view of the illuminated basilica with the sky splashed with colours of the sunset.
Reggio Calabria, Scilla, Pizzo and Tropea. Four of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life. Giving a simple thank you to my cousin for taking me to such places seems like a mediocre gesture. Grazie di cuore Giu! ❤
I’ve been told there are more beaches here in the south that will even surpass the beauty of Scilla. I have my doubts about that, but the prospect of seeing something even more beautiful is sort of humbling.
Back in Cosenza, bonding with my family has been incredible. Way too much food (as per the usual) and amazing nights spent out with my cousins. Plans are continuously in the works to visit other beaches and places I’ve never seen here in the south. My parents will be joining me here soon as well which is incredible…
I can’t wait to see what else my second home has to offer. Until the next blog…baci.