Sprawling down rugged mountain slopes to the sea, Calabria has nourished rich cultures in dramatic settings for nearly 3,000 years. From mysterious megaliths pre-dating the Greeks to buffalo farms still making prized cheeses today, explore local gems spanning the millennia. As you hike Raganello Gorge, make local cuisine, and soak in views from the First Pearl of the Amalfi, you’ll find it easy to fall in love with Calabria.
- It's Included:
- Ferry to Calabria
- Accommodations for 3 nights in Monterosso, 2 nights in Civita, 2 nights in Vietri sul Mare
- 15 meals—7 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 5 dinners
- 13 small group activities
- Services of a resident, English-speaking OAT Trip Leader
- NEW for 2015: Gratuities for local guides, drivers, and luggage porters
We depart this morning for Calabria, on the toe of the Italian peninsula, crossing the Strait of Messina by ferry boat. After our ferry arrives in Villa San Giovanni, we travel overland to Reggio di Calabria, the oldest city in the region and Calabria’s most populous. We’ll enjoy a walking tour and a visit to the Bronzes of Riace, two life-size Greek warrior statues dating back to the 5th-century Greek era here but not discovered until 1971. It took a decade to restore them and present them to the public, and we’ll get to see them up close in a visit to the city’s main building, the Palazzo Campanella.
After time here for lunch on your own, we continue on to Monterosso, our home base for the next two nights, stopping for a discovery walk of Tropea en route. Tropea is a popular swimming destination, but is just as well known for its allegiance to the Virgin Mary, immortalized in the local cathedral. Local lore says the Virgin has protected the city from earthquakes and even bombing (including a World War II raid that dropped on Tropea six bombs that never exploded).
We arrive late this afternoon and settle into our hotel. Tonight, we enjoy dinner together.
Monterosso spills from the hillside down to the waters of the sea, a bucolic town where people grow and pick much of their own food, where mealtimes are important parts of communal life, and where the sound of church bells still tells the time. After breakfast this morning, we walk through the village, appreciating not just the charm of the brick and stone houses hugging the steep lanes, but greeting the local people we meet and witnessing their daily routines.
We’ll have a chance to experience the local lifestyle firsthand this morning as we pick vegetables in a garden (or, depending on season, try our hands at olive-picking or wine-pressing). Then, we’ll enjoy lunch together, perhaps more fully appreciating the connection between field and table in this agriculturally-rich region.
Later today, we enjoy a frank discussion of the history and influence of the 'Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia that became, at the end of the 20th century, Italy’s most powerful crime syndicate (outpacing the Sicilian Mafia and Cosa Nostra both). Responsible for 3% of the nation’s gross domestic income, the 'Ndrangheta counts as both the number one target of Italian law enforcement and as an inarguable economic engine, which complicates attempts to weaken its hold.
Enjoy an included dinner with your fellow travelers tonight in Monterosso.
Enjoy your morning at leisure in charming Monterosso. Or join us for an optional Ionian Coast of Calabria tour.
Our optional tour brings us visit to witness the Pelasgi megaliths near Monte Stella. In the forest, we find eons-old stones grouped together. This handiwork of the Pelasgians, who settled the region and established their culture here the Greeks, is considered to date back several thousand years. We’ll continue onward to the Hermitage Santa Maria Stella, a Christian pilgrimage site built into a natural grotto since at least the 6th century. We enjoy a picnic lunch on the site before our return to Monterosso.
Later this afternoon, enjoy true tastes of Calabria during an included cooking lesson and olive oil tasting, followed by an included dinner together as we savor the fruits of our labors.
After breakfast, we depart overland for the Monte Pollino National Park, pausing en route in Pizzo Calabro. Named after a variation on the word for bird’s beak, Pizzo projects over the sea on a promontory. Home to a 15th-century castle and a 17th century baroque church, Pizzo is nonetheless best known as the birthplace of Tartufo, a popular dessert of ice cream filled with molten chocolate.
After time to enjoy lunch on your own (perhaps including a taste of Tartufo), we continue on to Civita, where we’ll enjoy the next two nights. Occupying a bluff of volcanic rock on the slopes of Mount Pollino, Civita has survived 2,500 years since it was first recorded by the Etruscans. In the 15th century it became an enclave for Albanian refugees from the Ottoman invasion, and it has retained its heritage ever since, with its Italo-Albanians now recognized as an ethnic minority in Italy. We’ll learn more about this culture in a visit to the Arberesh Museum of traditional Albanian costumes.
This evening, enjoy dinner together in one of the charming local restaurants in this medieval town.
After breakfast, you might enjoy time at leisure to stroll the centuries-old lanes of this town, or join us today for two included walking excursions. This morning, we hike to the Devil’s Bridge in the Raganello Gorges, a rocky landscape that is home to eagles, peregrine falcons, kestrels, weasels, and foxes. Soaring 75-feet about the river below, the arch-like Devil’s bridge connects two stone cliffs and affords a bird-eye view of the canyon floor. We’ll descend for a walk along the riverbed before returning to the village in time for lunch on our own.
This afternoon, we depart for Sibari to enjoy a walk across land studded with excavated 8th–century ruins of the Sybarites, at one time the wealthiest and most self-indulgent Greek community. Our hike continues through Rossano, known for its marble and alabaster mining, and home to the licorice empire of the Amarelli family. We’ll visit a museum that charts the history of the family’s handiwork, which has been made here since 1731.
This evening, enjoy dinner on your own in Civita.
We bid Civita farewell after breakfast and depart for the province of Salerno, stopping en route for visits to the coastal towns of Palinuro, known for its seaside caves and placid waters, and Agropoli, home to medieval ruins, a Byzantine castle, and lovely bay beaches. We’ll enjoy lunch together in a local restaurant along the way.
We arrive in Vietri sul Mare (Vietri on the Sea). Nicknamed “the first pearl of the Amalfi,” the seaside village is the beginning of the Amalfi Coast road. Known throughout the region for its ceramics, Vietri sul Mar has been turning out vividly-colored housewares since the 15th century, and its bright wares have come to define the decorative aesthetic of the Amalfi region.
After we’ve settled in and gotten to know our environs in a brief vicinity walk, you’ll enjoy an evening at leisure. Dinner is on your own tonight.
After breakfast, we visit nearby Paestum, enjoying a guided tour of this 7th-century BCE Greek outpost. Paestum, in its 2600 years, has experienced great upheaval: it was wrested from Greek control into Roman hands, abandoned during the Middle Ages, and restored after the 19th century, then made familiar to Americans when Allied Forces used the beaches here for the successful World War II invasion which drove back German forces. Today, Paestum is best known for the three Doric temples to Hera and Poseidon which remain here.
We’ll witness a treasure of less ancient provenance when we continue to visit a farm that produces buffalo mozzarella. The main highway through this region is lined with domestic water buffalo farms and locals consider the resulting cheese the only true mozzarella. Today, we’ll witness how this local delicacy is made, before time for lunch on your own.
We return to Vietri sul Mare this afternoon. Tonight we celebrate our Calabria sojourn with dinner together in a local restaurant.
After breakfast, transfer overland to the airport in Naples for your flight home.