Awarded a blue flag in 2019, the beach is a true natural paradise surrounded by dense vegetation. It was formed by an opening in the rock that led to the creation of a small sandy bay.
The shore is mainly stony but has a number of beaches nestled between the rocks. San Nicola Arcella marks the beginning of the stretch of coastline known as Riviera dei Cedri (Cedar Coast), which is named after the characteristic fruit that grows in the area. The expanse of sea that hugs the coastline is brimming with life underneath the surface.
San Nicola Arcella owes its foundation to the nearby town of Scalea, which was established by the Lavinium people, inhabitants of an ancient Roman city. In order to defend themselves against Saracen attacks, they took refuge on the nearby hills where they founded a settlement initially known as San Nicola dei Bulgari whose name was later changed to San Nicola Arcella in reference to the village’s fortress (“Arx” in Latin).
From the cliffs, which reach a height of 96 metres, the view spans a wide panorama including the Calabrian, Lucanian, and Campanian coasts. From the top, you have a perfect view of the island of Dino and, to the south, the whole stretch of the Riviera dei Cedri's coastline.
In addition to its natural beauty, San Nicola Arcella is also home to numerous historical and artistic treasures which can all be found in the historic centre. The centre itself is almost entirely paved in stone and contains a myriad of alleys that all lead towards the Mother Church.
Walking through its streets is like venturing into the past as you witness the traditional way of life of this small ancient village. The journey is made even more captivating thanks to an extraordinary artistic project aimed at promoting and helping visitors discover the Village. Horus river vitae is the name of this project which has seen the entire historic centre decorated with bas-relief paintings depicting the thousand-year history of this town known as the cradle of Magna Graecia.
In the alleys of San Nicola Arcella you will encounter a number of small squares bustling with tourists and passers-by which feature craft shops, cafés, restaurants, and various places to chat or have a bite to eat. The shopkeepers of the old bottegas will be pleased to invite you in to take a look at their work, all of which is handmade. You may even be able to catch a glimpse of the tools of the trade and the colour palettes and brushes.
The most panoramic place in San Nicola has to be the Belvedere on Corso Umberto I. From its terrace you can take in the most picturesque views of the Gulf of Policastro up to the coast of Maratea . In a sweeping glance you can admire the beautiful and imposing Island of Dino, then the beach of Marinella and the beach by the port of San Nicola Arcella with its fascinating Saracen tower.
In the heart of the centre you will find the Church of San Nicola da Tolentino, dedicated to the patron saint of Saint Nicholas who is celebrated every year on 9 and 10 September. Busts of the saint can be seen on the facade and also inside the church, together with the wooden statues of Saint Vincent Ferrer, and Saint Joseph. This single-naved church with its simple facade and side chapels was built by local architects in the 17th century. It was originally built as a chapel before being extended to give it the typical basilican appearance it has today.
The famous American writer, Lord Francis Marion Crawford, fell in love with this fortress and during the 19th century he lived in the ancient Saracen tower that was named after him.
The tower, which was built during the Spanish period as a defence against pirate attacks, is split over two floors with a terrace on top. From the terrace it was easy to sound the alarm in case of an attack.
Crawford's work was greatly inspired by this centuries-old tower, and some of his stories are actually set in the village of San Nicola Arcella.
“The tower stands alone on this hooked spur of the rock, and there is not a house to be seen within three miles of it. When I go there I take a couple of sailors, one of whom is a fair cook, and when I am away it is in charge of a gnome-like little being who was once a miner and who attached himself to me long ago.”
This is how Crawford describes the tower in his novel, For the Blood is the life, whose protagonist is a woman turned vampire.
The Riviera dei Cedri has always attracted discerning tourists who seek beautiful natural scenery, uncontaminated landscapes, and wild beaches.
The beach of Arcomagno is certainly among the most popular destinations along the high Tyrrhenian coastline and is also one of the most beautiful beaches in Calabria. A spur of rock about 100 metres above sea level offers breath-taking views over the enchanting Calabrian coastline, which embraces the nearby island of Dino, and the surrounding area, including the entire Gulf of Policastro.
The path leading to the small beach of Arcomagno is carved into the rock and, although short, is somewhat steep. The small beach of Arco Magno, also known as Enea beach, is a small piece of heaven on earth, with a natural half-moon shaped lagoon that extends for about 25 metres. It is named after the large rock arch that protects it from the sea and makes it completely unique. This small corner of Calabria was once a docking point for Saracens heading for Italy and is also known as Grotta del Saraceno (cave of the Saracens). The Cave is very damp because of a fresh water source inside.
Beyond the great arch, you can admire the Scoglio dello Scorzone, a natural rock that, seen from above, contrasts with the famous island of Dino. This enormous limestone rock is about 12 metres wide and consists mainly of rock and vegetation in its most central part. According to popular tradition, the rock is named after the whip snake, a harmless viper that preys on chickens which, in the local Calabrian dialect, is known as u scurzun.
Must-try dishes in San Nicola Arcella include fresh pasta, which is so deeply-rooted in ancient tradition that it will never go out of fashion.
Completely home-made, the pasta is prepared by the expert hands of old housewives who make a simple dough using the best durum wheat semolina, water, and salt.
The way these pastas are made is very particular and uses traditional methods. For example, the fusilli is wrapped in a type of iron sock known as a u signriettu in the local dialect. This gives it its classic long hollow shape. The pasta can be accompanied by a fresh tomato sauce or a pork ragout and served with grated pecorino or seasoned ricotta cheese (naturally, from Calabria).