Among the many scenic highlights of Calabria, the Coast of the Gods (Costa degli Dei) is perhaps one of the most famous. The area in question refers to the 55 km of very varied southern Tyrrhenian coastline which extends from Pizzo Calabro to Nicotera and marks the so-called Corno di Calabria (horn of Calabria).
It was named on account of the stunning, other-worldly qualities of the coastline...and visitors will certainly not be disappointed. Its white beaches, crystal clear sea and seabed full of magnificent living creatures will captivate even the most discerning diver.
Following the coastal road from north to south, you will encounter places that deserve more than one visit, such as Pizzo Calabro, Tropea, Capo Vaticano and Nicotera. Don't forget to make a trip to the wonderful Natural Regional Park of Serre. It’s well worth the detour.
Pizzo Calabro is one of the most picturesque and well-known small towns in the Vibonese area. It boasts one of the most charming coastal villages which is perched on the slope of an enchanting promontory overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, right in the middle of the Gulf of Sant'Eufemia.
The whole village is a treasure chest of fascinating, historically-rich places just waiting to be discovered, one of which is the small church of Piedigrotta. This marvellous work of art where myths and legends intertwine lays claim to a rather special record: in terms of visitor numbers, it exceeds even the more well-known Bronzes of Riace.
Another famous site is the Castle of Joachim Murat. In terms of gastronomy, the ice-cream created in the area, known as Tartufo di Pizzo, is a decadent local treat.
As you travel further south you will encounter the town of Tropea, also known as the Pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea, which is one of the most visited places in Calabria by both national and international tourists. The highest part of the town offers visitors a vibrant, yet romantic old town with restaurants, craft shops and narrow streets bursting with history. The lower part is close to the sea and has a small port from which you can admire the nearby Aeolian Islands and the volcanic Stromboli. With their crystal clear sea, the beaches of Tropea are simply enchanting. In July, the town hosts the Festival of Red Onions and Bluefish, two of the region’s most famous food products. As you stroll through the narrow streets of Tropea, you are sure to come across strings of onions which adorn the walls and the doorways with vibrant flashes of purplish red.
Further south in the municipality of Ricadi is the promontory of Capo Vaticano which, at its tallest, reaches 124 metres. It is made of a special white-grey granite which is studied all over the world for its geological specificities. The picturesque coastline and the crystal clear sea with its rich sea beds make Capo Vaticano a must-visit attraction for divers and tourists alike. Make sure you also explore further inland where you can sample typical produce from the region such as 'nduja of Spilinga and the pecorino cheese of Monte Poro.
Located at the southern end of the Coast of the Gods, Nicotera beach is one of the most popular on the coast. Nicotera is also the home of the Mediterranean Diet: it is here that, between 1957 and 1969, the pioneering American professor, Ancel Keys, studied the characteristic long life expectancy of the local population and connected it to their daily consumption of local produce. The Mediterranean Diet has been listed as an element of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2010, a cultural heritage that Calabria has decided to protect with a special law passed at the end of 2017.
The Red Onion of Tropea Calabria PGI is one of the region’s most famous products and is a staple ingredient in many traditional recipes. However, it is also consumed in various homemade remedies as it is considered by many to be an aphrodisiac, antiseptic, anaesthetic, diuretic and a cure for rheumatism, colds, flus, and many other illnesses. It exists in three shapes: the “spinning top” (round Tropea onion) which has a sweet flavour, a bright red outer casing and a pomace-red coloured interior; the truncated cone variety, which has a sweet and sour taste; and the oval-shaped variety, which has a strong flavour. In the local cuisine, as well as further afield, it is now used in so many recipes that it has almost become more indispensable than parsley. It can be added to soups, omelettes, and jams and also raw in salads where it is enjoyed in all its crunchiness.
One of the delicacies that best embodies the fiery soul of Calabria is 'nduja, which is named after the French andouille (offal) sausages since, in ancient times, it was made with pork offal and chilli pepper to taste. It is a soft, spreadable and, above all, very spicy sausage, originating from a specific and well-defined geographical area, though it is said to have been created in the town of Spilinga, which is nestled on the slopes of Mount Poro. Much loved by those who enjoy strong flavours, historically the 'nduja was made from the offcuts of Calabrian cold cuts. Some people still produce it this way, whereas others use the lard obtained from the underbelly combined with the meat from the shoulder and thigh. It is then flavoured with naturally dried Calabrian chilli pepper, which gives it its typical fiery red colour and unmistakable aroma. It is delicious when eaten simply, either spread on bread or pizza, as an appetiser or on toast or bruschetta. However, it can also be added to pasta sauces to give them a boost of flavour.
The Tartufo di Pizzo PGI is the first ice-cream in Europe to have obtained the PGI mark thanks to the traditional, high quality way in which it is produced. There are many industrially-made versions of this dessert on the market, but they can't compare to the original one: to taste the real Tartufo di Pizzo PGI you must pay a visit Pizzo Calabro, where this sweet delicacy was created in 1952 in the Gran Bar Excelsior. The dessert was created on the occasion of an important wedding when ice-cream maker, Giuseppe De Maria, was left without moulds and shapes to make the ice-cream for the many guests. So, he placed a portion of hazelnut ice-cream onto a layer of chocolate ice-cream, filled it with melted chocolate and wrapped it in a sheet of food-grade sugar paper to give it the shape of a truffle. This improvised creation was a huge success and put the bar, as well as the whole town of Pizzo Calabro, on the map. This artisanal production method has not changed and the tartufo is still made in the same way today. But what makes it unique and inimitable are the quality of the ingredients and the use of traditional machinery.
Mount Poro is a small plateau located between the towns of Ricadi and Nicotera and ends to the west with the tall promontory of Capo Vaticano, thus making up part of the coastal area of the Coast of the Gods. It is in this area that, since ancient times, one of the best sheep's milk cheeses of Southern Italy, Pecorino del Monte Poro, has been produced. This particular cheese is manufactured by processing the milk of Comisana, Sardinian and sometimes malvizza sheep which are fed on natural pastures on the slopes of the plateau. Before the cheese is matured, the rind is treated with olive oil and chilli pepper, which gives the surface a characteristic orange colour.
Pecorino di Monte Poro can be consumed after just three months of ageing,
but has a better flavour after the average ageing period (five to six months). Like all Calabrian sheep's milk cheeses, this product is fairly versatile and has conquered palates from all over the world.
• Vibo Valentia (VV) - The ancient Greek colony beloved by the gods
• Pizzo (VV)
• Tropea (VV) - The Pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea
• Capo Vaticano(VV) - The mythical charm of Capo Vaticano
• Nicotera (VV) - The town of the Mediterranean Diet
• Serra San Bruno (VV) - A spiritual heart hidden from the world
• Serra San Bruno (VV) - Charterhouse of Serra San Bruno