Calabria: Home to Italy’s “Other Coast”

If you’ve been following me for a bit, you know I love offering our Amalfi Coast and Italian Riviera tours. These seaside destinations get most of the attention in print or media, and most of the American tourism as well. But did you know that there’s another “coast,” or dare I say it, even another Riviera? With summer approaching, I’d love to introduce you to Italy’s “other” Riviera and coast in my native region of Calabria, Italy’s least explored region.  

Riviera dei Cedri 

The Riviera dei Cedri (Citron Riviera) offers panoramic views, extraordinary beauty, enchanting beaches, and the incredible beauty of green mountains. The boardwalks are the most beautiful of all of Calabria and Italy. While the sea offers ample opportunity to relax, there’s lots to do in nature, such as trekking, mountain climbing, and biking opportunities. The Pollino National Park is a delight for anyone wishing to step away from the sea for a mountain experience. With ample towers and castles to be explored, the Riviera dei Cedri offers visitors abundant opportunity not only to have a relaxing experience but an educational one as well. Should one wish to learn the history. As a bonus, one can actually smell the citron growing in this area.   

Sunsetting over the Pollino National Park in Calabria. Photo credit: Dario Ruta.

Towns to Discover on the Riviera dei Cedri

Praia a Mare

Besides stunning, cobalt blue waters, Praia a Mare is also historical, welcoming, and clean, and it has many pedestrian-only streets, making it easy to navigate on one’s own. The coast is under 2 miles, so it is easy to walk from one end to the other on your own. Although local transportation is available and reliable, which isn’t always the case in Calabria! It’s also home to Dino Island, and home to three grottos or natural caves. Reachable only by boat, the caves alone are worth the trip. The Blue Grotto, appropriately named for its color, gives the optical illusion that it’s lit from the bottom.

For more adventurous folks, Praia is the ideal location for cliff diving or whitewater rafting. I would rather just sit on the soft, velvety sand and people-watch. It also boasts beautiful architecture. The Sanctuary of the Madonna Della Grotta, considered the town’s protector, is worth a visit.  

The cobalt blue waters of Praia a Mare. Photo credit: Trovaspiaggia.

San Nicola Arcella 

If you’re looking to cool off from the sun’s scorching blaze, than head to San Nicola Arcella. Here inevitably it always feels cooler due to the lovely breeze that is always present. Because the small town is basically on the edge of a cliff, it offers a nice breeze and incredible views. It’s less known than Praia a Mare, and only locals usually frequent the beaches, which gives it an authentic feel. The air feels light, refreshing, and unpolluted in San Nicola Arcella. The days are breezy, and the evenings cool. Whereas in other areas, it can feel overwhelmingly hot in the summer months. 


If you, like me, enjoy some shopping, than Diamante offers excellent opportunities for it, with many shops selling both high-end items (which I am personally less interested in), as well as locally made crafts that are unique and more appealing to me. It’s nice to walk around this small fishing village, as one of the unusual aspects here are the painted murals. Many homes, owned mainly by fishermen, have distinctive artwork painted on the outside, making it prime photo opportunities. Diamante offers just 5 miles of coastline, so the beaches are sometimes crowded. An excellent opportunity to go shopping instead and support the local economy.       

Shops line up a lovely and colorful street in Diamante, a popular resort town for summer holidays. Photo credit: Font83.

Costa degli Dei

They don’t call it the Coast of the Gods for nothing. The water is pristine and entirely see-through, the sand is pure, and the caves are breathtaking, many of which can only be reached by boat. Tropea’s square, this coast’s main spot, offers many craft shops and opportunities to purchase locally made knick-knacks. The Aeolian Islands are easily reached from Tropea, and you can undoubtedly see Stromboli nearby. The Costa degli Dei is picturesque and authentic, an ancient place with only hints of modern life, or attempts at modern life anyway. While beaches are stunning, all the towns on this coast are worth exploring, should a visitor consider doing more than just sunbathing. However, the main objective of most visitors is to do just that. The tight alleys, many pedestrian-only, offer visitors an accurate view of everyday life. 

Towns to Discover on The Costa degli Dei


It’s become a bit of a tourist destination lately, but for good reasons. Tropea is stunning! Most tourists are other Italians traveling south for the summer or other Europeans. The rest of the world hasn’t yet figured out how beautiful Tropea is. The beach is striking and resembles what you’d find in the Caribbean. The pedestrian-only historic center is perfect for strolling for an evening passeggiata. The increase in popularity brought with it some wonderful restaurants serving delicious local seafood. It does get crowded in July & August, so May, early June, and late September are better options if one does not like the crowds. The beach is only a few miles, mostly reserved for private beaches with a few select ‘strips’ open to the public, but the water is pristine and some of the cleanest in all of Italy.  

The Sanctuary of Santa Maria dell Isola in Tropea is just one of the main attractions of this stunning city. Photo credit: A. Antanovich.

Pizzo Calabro

With nine miles of coastline, Pizzo Calabro, or simply Pizzo as it’s known to the locals, offers many beaches to delight every water lover. It’s less crowded and touristy than Tropea, although still visited by other Calabrese. It feels a bit more “authentic Italian” than Tropea. The marina offers a great view of local life, as you’ll likely run into fishermen setting off or returning from a day at sea.   

Capo Vaticano 

It can appear that the waters of Capo Vaticano change colors depending on location, this offers an impressive view if looking from the hills. Some of the beaches are isolated, making it ideal for folks who don’t like the crowds of Tropea. The sand is fine, clean, and white, a more attractive option than other areas, which can be rocky. Walking on the sandy beaches is much easier than on the rocky ones! It’s only about 6 miles of coastline and a major attraction for scuba divers. 

Costa Viola

This is the smallest of the coasts, and one could easily visit the entire coast in one day and get a taste of this area. Of the three, this is the least explored or visited area, making it tranquil and calm and an ideal destination for families and young children. It begs to be discovered. The Costa Viola is enchanting, with marvelous natural finds throughout. Tourism certainly hasn’t made its way here yet. The hues of the water at sunset offer an incomparable reflection of the water, making the ocean appear violet in color, hence the name Violet Coast. No two sunsets are the same here. Like the other areas mentioned, one can easily view the mountains from the coast. Stand on the cliffs, and you’ll have a great view of the Strait of Messina.   

Towns to Discover on Costa Viola


The most recognized marina of the Violet Coast, the warm waters of Scilla are what has many visitors returning. Scilla Marina, like Tropea, has become a relatively known location, thus increasing the attraction of visitors. As such, visitors will have a wide selection of new restaurants to pick from. The hillside in Scilla reveals some of the best views from all over Calabria. Scilla’s atmosphere is vibrant, and the marina offers excellent shopping opportunities. The boardwalk is lively and very enjoyable to take an evening stroll. The view of the castle at nighttime is particularly beautiful. 


Several earthquakes caused the distraction of Palmi, thus the rebuilding of it gives it a more modern appeal than other local areas, despite the attempt to rebuild with an ancient style. Like a balcony to the Tyrrhenian Sea, Palmi is a small jewel with long boardwalks and seaside sidewalks that call a visitor to sit down and wait for the sunset. It’s less crowded than Scilla, and many, like myself, enjoy watching the fishermen return in the evening with their daily catch of swordfish.   

Bagnara Calabra

Under the sun’s rays, the waters of Bagnara Calabra appear to be violet in color, hence again the name of this coast. This area is currently enjoying some tourist recognition, so the town is getting some updates with new shops to accommodate the visitors. The caves are stunning but get reasonably crowded in the peak summer months. Standing on the hillside here offers some of the nicest views of the Aeolian Islands and the Straight of Messina. 

Scilla just begs to be photographed. An opportunity at every corner. Photo credit: Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures.

Calabrian Coastal Cooking – Foods to Try


The pitticelli di melangiani (fried eggplant “meatballs”) in Cetraro are delicious, especially hot and served right out of the oil. In Tropea, you’ll be served dishes with their famous Cipolle di Tropea, sweet red onions used in countless dishes, often sautéed as a topping to locally caught swordfish. Be sure to try the ‘nduja when visiting Capo Vaticano; it’s a prized delicacy in this area and has its own annual festival. The very spicy spreadable pork is not for the faint of heart, however!

Wine, Fruits and Sweets

Local wine made from sweet Zibibbo grapes is delicious in Scilla and is my favorite type of wine. Prickle pears are famous in Palmi, and you can find vendors selling them already peeled, saving you the hardship of peeling those pesky but delicious fruits. The torrone, a sweet and nutty nougat, is particularly tasty in Bagnara Calabra and what they are known for world-wide.  You can’t visit Pizzo Calabro and not enjoy their famous tartufo. Invented in Pizzo, it’s a delicious ball of hazelnut gelato filled with chocolate cream and dusted with a generous amount of cacao to resemble a real truffle.

The 2022 Calabria travel group enjoying a tarfuto tasting in Pizzo. Photo credit: Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures.
The famous nougat of Bagnara Calabra makes the perfect foodie souvenir. Photo credit: Regione Calabria.


As for seafood, swordfish is king in all of the above areas, especially in the Costa Viola, and you will find it on every restaurant menu. Fresh tuna is also readily available, especially in Palmi and Pizzo Calabro. Comb fish, known in Calabrian dialect as surici is also widely found on the Coast of the Gods and typically served floured and fried, delicious served hot with just a squeeze of lemon. You will also be well served in ordering Barracuda, mahi-mahi (lampuga in Italian), yellow tail fish (ricciola) and mussels (cozze) while visiting the coasts of Calabria. Don’t be surprised to see spaghetti prepared with squid ink on the menus on the Costa degli Dei.  

Ready to Head to Calabria?

Calabria is where land and sea blend as one. Calabria is known for “Mare e montagna” – beach as well as the mountains. You could be standing on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and still have spectacular views of the mountains. Taking natural beauty aside, what differentiates the Calabrian Coast from its more famous counterparts is tourism. Yes, Tropea, Pizzo and Scilla are certainly gaining popularity. In August, they are busy with locals, northern Italians who have come south for their vacations. Or ex-pats such as myself who have migrated to the US or Canada. Yet you rarely hear English spoken, and restaurant menus aren’t in English. The locals aren’t out to impress anyone, and anyone visiting these areas will be treated as a local instead of a tourist. 


  • Dick and I would be interested. When are the dates? Pricing? Would it be possible to arrive a day or two earlier and perhaps stay a few days after?

    • Hi Barbara and Dick, you’re on my list to notify as soon as I can announce it. Hope to be able to do so within a few weeks!

    • I will be running it next year Richard! I’ll notify you!

  • Calabria in 2025 sounds perfect. We’re interested! Please keep us posted as to dates.

  • Hi Francesca, I’d be interested in a Calabrian tour in ’25. Thank you.

  • Hi Francesca I have not been on any of your trips but read newsletter. I would be very interested in Calabria and have friend also who would go. Please let me k ow dates. My family is from Puglia and Calabria
    Suzanne Rocklin

    • Hi Suzanne, most definitely you will be notified when I can announce the Calabria tour!

  • Yes, I would be interested Francesca. Two people it would be. Please send me some information if you get the tour together in 25.’

  • Greetings Francesca, if it’s back to back, (before or after) with our May 11-18 Almalfi, please add us to this Calabria list. Thank you!

    • Hi Shannon, actually my plan is to run it right after Amalfi!

      • Perfect, we’d like to add Calabria to our Amalfi!! Cool beans! Thank you Francesca!


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