Calabria, in the southernmost region of Italy, is a hidden gem that is often missed by visitors who instead focus on Rome, Venice, and Sicily.
We’ve always been attracted to this area of Italy for its natural beauty and rustic charm. For as long as we can remember, ever since we saw it on Globe Trekker in the early 2000s. We were immediately taken with its raw beauty, fascinating ancient history, and mouthwatering food. Years later, when we finally got to explore its charming villages, it didn’t let us down at all.
The best places to visit in Calabria have something for everyone, and they offer a genuine Italian experience that is hard to find elsewhere. Especially its alluring atmosphere and beautiful shoreline.
Best Places to Visit in Calabria
Will your next trip to Italy include a stop in Calabria? Keep reading to learn about the must-see destinations in the world.
The town’s main square, Piazza Buraglia, is surrounded by narrow streets lined with cafes and restaurants, making it a picture-perfect hillside village.
The Christ the Redeemer statue offers spectacular vistas of the city and the coastline beyond. Even though it’s only 21 meters high, the view from the top is breathtaking, especially at sunset in Rio.
2. Envision a Tiny Pebble Beach
A little piece of paradise can be found just outside of San Nicola Arcella. Envision a tiny pebble beach, partially hidden by a cave and surrounded by cliffs, opposite a stunning natural rock arch over clear turquoise water. That’s exactly what you’ll get when you visit Grotto dell’Arco Magno and its eponymous beach.
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The only ways to get here are by boat tour or pedalo, or by walking over the cliff from the main beach in town (there is a clear path with steps and handrails). It’s not as well-known in Calabria as it should be and would be in other parts of the world, but that only makes it more spectacular.
The tiny town of Diamante, known as the city of murals, is essentially an open-air art gallery with murals covering every available surface. The paintings here are works of art, not the typical graffiti or street art you might find elsewhere. They often depict scenes from the daily lives of the local fishermen and other residents.
Diamante is the ideal place to spend a day or more because of its proximity to the water, its long stretch of beach, and its quaint old town. When you’re out and about, you can’t help but stop and snap photos of the colorful murals that adorn the walls of doorways and old buildings. It’s a beautiful and unusual place to live.
The city of Cosenza is perfect for those who want to get away from the seaside. It’s worth spending a couple of days in this city, which is neatly divided into an old town and a new part by a river.
Follow the cathedral up the narrow streets of the old town to the Norman Castle. The uphill trek is worth it for the breathtaking panoramas of the city below.
In the modern area, explore the extensive pedestrian-only Corso G. Mazzini. Numerous artists, including Salvador Dal, have donated sculptures to decorate Cosenza’s main shopping street. In other words, you can get some free culture while you shop!
For good reason, Tropea is the most visited city in all of Calabria. It’s an idyllic Italian village, complete with a gorgeous beach and clear blue water. Exactly what else could you want, right?
You can get breathtaking views of the sea from the rocky outcrop where the monastery of Santuario di Santa Maria dell’Isola is located. Towards the end of the day, join the locals at the outskirts of town for a group viewing of the sunset over the water.
Pizzo is a charming coastal town with historic buildings and a small beach below. People primarily come for the food, though.
Tartufo, a typical dessert from Calabria, can be found at nearly every meal out. Tartufo Di Pizzo is the proper name for the chocolate-filled ice cream ball that was invented in this town. You can have a lot of fun trying out the various cafes in town that sell it, as there are many different varieties available (from the classic with chocolate and hazelnut ice cream to variations including pistachio or fruits).
Tropea may be the most well-known destination along the Calabrian coast, but we find Scilla to be the more stunning of the two. Located to the south, it shares Tropea’s beauty without the throngs of tourists.
It, like most of the towns in the area, is situated on a hill, but unlike most of the others, an elevator will take you up and down the hill for the low, low price of just €1. The town’s main square is backed by the Duomo and a castle, and the town itself is quite compact.
8. The Region of Calabria, or Reggio
The southernmost city in Italy is Reggio Calabria. A long pedestrian shopping street and seaside promenade make this city convenient for strolling. As night falls, the long promenade becomes a hive of activity.
The pubs get packed, and there are frequently several bands playing at once. Get some gelato at the well-known Gelateria Cesare and stroll the streets like a local.
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Ferries run frequently between Reggio and the Sicilian city of Messina for only €6 return (as of July 2022). This makes it easy to extend your Italian vacation by exploring Sicily or taking a day trip there.
9. Asserting the Rocella Jonica
As many Italians flock here for the summer, the population of this small town nearly triples as they take advantage of the town’s reputation for having some of the best beaches in all of Calabria. There’s plenty of room for everyone on the long, wide beach, and the atmosphere picks up as night falls.
Don’t miss the beach festival if you’re in the area in the month of August. For three days, the sleepy town becomes the epicenter of nonstop celebration as tens of thousands of revelers flood the beach for nonstop dancing.
Soverato is the best place to spend a few days because it is the most well-known city on the western coast of the region. It’s easy to spend a lot of time here because of the wide sandy beach, long promenade, pedestrianized area, abundance of cafes, bars, and restaurants, and laid-back atmosphere. The only real activities are sunbathing, swimming, and lounging on the beach.
If you’re looking to get away from it all, the Caminia and Copanello beaches to the north of Soverato are some of the best on the entire west coast.
It’s not surprising, considering the area has miles of coastline and some of the best beaches on the Italian peninsula. When you bring up Calabria in conversation with an Italian, they will likely remark on the region’s delicious (and unexpectedly fiery) cuisine. It’s the birthplace of nduja, the spicy pork sausage used in cooking, on pizza, and even as a spread for bread.