Discovering Calabria

May 8th, 2008 | by Ainsley |

Calabria is commonly known as the toe of Italy, the portion of the country on the southernmost tip of the boot-shaped mainland.

And for far too long it has been the down-at-heel, trodden underfoot region of Italy, ignored not just by foreign visitors but even by Italians themselves, it seemed. Little wonder that over the course of the 20th century some one million Calabrese left their home to forge a better life elsewhere.

Properties in Calabria

Now that is all changing, as tourists in their tens of thousands flock here. For many, it’s about buying property in Calabria: a beach apartment in Scalea, a villa in Tropea, a holiday home in Amantea, an investment nest egg in Parghelia. Real estate in Calabria has never seen such a boom.

Houses, villas and apartments in Calabria are probably more affordable than in any other part of Italy and a two-bedroom apartment 100 yards from the beach can be yours for just €55,000. But it is not just the prospect of finding cheap properties in Calabria that has people coming here in their droves. The world seems to have belatedly woken up to the region and its outstanding beauty.

For Calabria boasts a stunning range of landscapes. Its near 500-mile coastline has spectacular scenery ranging from awe-inspiring rocky cliffs hanging over scenic bays, welcoming, white sand beaches lapped by sparkling blue seas.
Tropea, for instance, in the opinion of the Sunday Times newspaper, has the best beach in all of Europe. Perhaps it is no surprise its shores throw up such variety given that Calabria has 20 per cent of Italy’s total coastline.

On the west, its beaches run into the Tyrrhenian Sea, on the east into the Ionian Sea, and in between Calabria boasts some of Europe’s most beautifully rugged and varied landscape. There are three mountain ranges. Sila, beloved of trekkers for its woods and lakes; Aspromonte, full of vineyards and groves; and then, to the north, the magnificent Pollino National Park.

Calabria is also blessed with almost year-round sunshine in which summer temperatures in summer frequently go over 35C. It is why this part of Italy is referred to as its mezzogiorno, Italian for midday. It is not just the climate that is warm here. So are the people and the hospitality they extend to visitors.

The land is in many ways like its people: Italy at its most welcoming and unspoilt. Shepherds negotiate the narrow roads that criss-cross the mountains, below, the open fields of wheat and olive groves, in the fertile valleys that also grow the raisins, peppers, chillis and aubergines that help make Calabria’s distinctive cuisine.

And in the towns’ piazzas, the women sit on doorsteps as they weave and knit while their men argue amicably over games of cards. They smile, as Calabria smiles again: it knows it’s been dealt a winning hand.

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