Down in southern Italy, Calabria is emerging as one of the country’s best beach destinations. It has the good looks and southern flair to rival the Amalfi Coast, but with one trump card – a 500 kilometre long coast lined with white-sand beaches. If you love Italy and want a spell by the seaside, put our top 5 beaches in Calabria on your list…
Tropea is Calabria’s star resort, laid out along a stunning stretch of the region’s Tyrrhenian coast. Its lively, gelateria-lined streets have all the charm of Sorrento (but a fraction of the crowds), with fabulous white-sand beaches on its doorstep.
Tropea’s main beach lies beneath the Santa Maria dell’Isola monastery, sitting high above a dramatic promontory at the edge of the jade waters. The beach has classic Calabrian white sands, with views out to the smouldering volcano, Stromboli. It’s a well-equipped beach, with umbrellas and loungers to hire as well as pedaloes and watersports. It’s a short stroll into Tropea’s old town for ice cream or lunch in one of its many eateries. Try fileja con njuda, Calabria’s famous spicy sausage with pasta.
2. Capo Vaticano
A little south of Tropea is Capo Vaticano, a cape hugging the coast known as Costa degli Dei – the Coast of the Gods. The cape is known for its unusual cliffs of pale granite, which intrigue geologists the world over, topped with a gleaming white lighthouse.
There are numerous little sandy spots along the Capo Vaticano, and many are accessible only by the sea, keeping them beautifully unspoilt. Look out for Grotticelli di Capo Vaticano, which you can drive to. The beach has vibrant, clear waters that are fantastic for snorkelling – head towards the lighthouse for the best spot. There’s a handful of beach bars to keep you in cold drinks and gelato, but if you’re heading there in a shoulder season (May is particularly lovely) you’re likely to have good weather and the place to yourself.
Kissing distance from Sicily, Scilla is a traditional beach town near the city of Reggio Calabria. It’s a town steeped in legend, featuring in Greek mythology as the lair of sea monster Scylla. Fortunately, the reality is much pleasanter.
Scilla’s beautiful little beach is crowned with a castle, Castello Ruffo, and its ancient fortifications are well worth exploring after a spell of sunbathing. The beach is populated with a crop of restaurants frequented by locals, so it’s ideal for experiencing Calabria’s traditional side. The town has a strong fishing heritage and swordfish is on every menu – you can even watch the fishermen hauling in the catch of the day.
The appealingly-named Diamante sits further north on Calabria’s Tyrrhenian coast, towards the boarder of Basilicata. Its beach is a big draw; pale golden sand lies between dramatic, rocky outcrops, and the water here is stunning – as clear and sparkling as its name suggestions. Water sports are popular here; snorkelling, scuba diving and even sailing get big business in the beautiful waters.
The beach was nicknamed ‘The Tyrrhenian Pearl’ by Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio, with an enchanting historic centre known for its unique, Renaissance murals that cover walls and frescoes. If you’re visiting in August, prepare yourself for the Peperoncini Festival; famous in the region for celebrating Calabria’s spicy chilli.
Sandwiched between the Reggio Calabria and Vibro Valentia is a slice of shoreline known as Costa Viola (the Violet Coast); white pebbles give its waters a soft, purple flow. Here you’ll find the charming town of Palmi, where the exquisite cove of Marinella is carved into its rocky cliffs. With the Sant’Elia mountains as a backdrop, it’s one of the most picturesque spots on the coast, and the snorkelling is some of the best around. The clear water means the visibility is excellent, and its underwater life is spectacular – look out for the unique black and purple coral.