Travel from Palmi to Bova,
amidst the fragrances of bergamot and the scents of flowers.
For writer Leonida Repaci, the stretch of coastline between Palmi and Bagnara was worthy of being called a Little Paradise. Since the dawn of time, that same section has been dubbed the Costa Viola (Violet Coast) on account of the amethyst shade of its marine waters. The seabeds of Cavaianculla, Pietrosa, Chianiti, Pietragalera and Capo Barbi still conceal priceless archaeological and natural treasures.
The town of Palmi, which is bordered to the south by Mount Sant’Elia, stretches across a series of terraced hills that slope down towards the sea. It can be considered both a seaside and mountain town and offers visitors the best of both these worlds: in addition to the golden beaches of Tonnara, Pietrenera and Scinà, the town boasts fresh pinewoods, spectacular views and ancient pathways just waiting to be explored.
The town lies at the foot of Mount Sant'Elia, which gives visitors the perfect vantage point to take in the breath-taking horizon marked by the clear boundaries of the Aeolian Islands and Sicily. From the mountain, visitors can admire Stromboli and the islands: looking northwards they can observe the leafy plain of Gioia Tauro, whereas to the south they can marvel at the infinite shades of the Costa Viola. The farthest point along the coastline is the Tonnara di Palmi situated near the emblematic rock with an olive tree which acts as a natural watershed between the landscape of the stone gardens and that of the olive groves.
The entire length of Palmi’s coastline, which is home to the Marina and the Bay of Tonnara, features sea and coastal caves as well as beaches and cliffs.
Bagnara Calabra, the homeland of majestic swordfish fishing, is a glorious seaside town with stunning beaches.
This amphitheatre-shaped coastal town nestled in the heart of the Costa Viola between the hills and the Tyrrhenian Sea overlooks the coast as it rises in steps from the Marina towards the hilly districts. The highest point of the town reaches 600 metres above sea level to give a beautiful panoramic view of the sea. In this area you will find the famous natural caves, such as the Grotta del Monaco and the Grotta delle Rondini, which are popular destinations for unforgettable boat trips. Reflected in the waters of the lower Tyrrhenian Sea, Bagnara Calabra introduces us to the bewitching sight of the Strait of Messina, Stromboli, and the Aeolian Islands.
On the strait, visitors can explore the delightful settlement of Scilla which is rich in maritime history and culture and has been immortalised by Homer and Virgil’s Ulysses.
Scilla is a small village located on a high, rocky spur overlooking the sea. It is among the most charming and characteristic villages in Italy. Visitors can admire the village’s ancient Castle set against the coast, the small coloured houses standing alongside each other and the Strait that offers an enchanting panorama of Sicily. The oldest and most picturesque part of Scilla is Chianalea, which is also known as little Venice because it is practically immersed in the sea. CNN recently named it one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
The houses, packed tightly together and separated by tiny alleys, seem to rise directly from the blue sea with their foundations laid directly on the rocks.
It is the Aspromonte Massif that gives its name to the Aspromonte National Park, a protected natural area within the province of Reggio Calabria where nature truly reigns. Its highest point is almost 2000 metres.
Aspromonte National Park is the sixth national park to have been established in Italy. Its jagged landscape stretches from the Tyrrhenian to the Ionian Sea and is home to a wide variety of plant species. It boasts a rich biodiversity, which is also thanks to its favourable climatic conditions. Visitors will encounter oleanders and tamarisks, as well as black poplar, willows, black alder, beech forests and immense pine forests. The
park is also the perfect habitat for the many animal species that have made their home there. For example, wolves, wild cats, dormice, wild boars, and black squirrels, as well as foxes, hares, badgers, hedgehogs, beech martens and martens all call the Aspromonte Mountains home. Since 2011, the roe deer has been reintroduced into the park, a species which had been absent from the Aspromonte region for almost a century. The park is packed with wonderful nature trails, some of which are suitable for cycling, horse riding, skiing or canyoning.
Closer towards the sea, but still in the province of Reggio Calabria, is the must-visit strip of Ionian coastline between Riace and Locri. This stretch of coastline is known as the Costa dei Gelsomini (Jasmine Coast) because the area is renowned for its cultivation of this fragrant flower. Aromatic bergamot also thrives in this area.The capital, Reggio Calabria, is home to a considerable proportion of the world's cultural heritage and is the site of one of the most important archaeological museums dedicated to Magna Graecia. The National Archaeological Museum has recently been enlarged and houses the famous Riace Bronzes. Named by Gabriele D'Annunzio as the most beautiful kilometre in Italy, the Lungomare Falcomatà in Reggio enchants visitors with its Fata Morgana mirage. This real mirage can be seen in the narrow strip above the horizon, where the coast of Siciliy appears to be just a few metres from the Calabrian shores and the objects on the opposite shore can be clearly distinguished. This phenomenon alludes to Morgana of Celtic mythology, who made sailors have visions of fantastic castles in the air or on land in order to entice them before leading them to their death.
The final must-visit destination is Bova, an ethno-architectural jewel of Byzantine, Norman and medieval art. Bova, capital of the Greeks of Calabria, is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy: it’s a challenge to access, but your efforts will be rewarded with stunning and uplifting views. However, Bova is more than just a sight for sore eyes: visitors can sample the mouth-watering, fragrant breads that are baked there every day, including Greek bread made with iermano flour, or 'nzerada, made with the remnants of dough. These are prepared using the traditional recipes of the bakers of Bova.
In Bagnara Calabra, swordfish fishing is a particularly deep-rooted and characteristic activity. Fishing here is still performed with the traditional spadara, a special boat with a tall lookout tower and a long walkway from which the fishermen can peer into the sea. In early August, Bagnara hosts the famous Great Swordfish Gala. Every year, thousands of tourists are also attracted to Scilla by the unique swordfish fishing, which is carried out in the strait in boats which were once owned by the luntri (traditional fishermen). The luntri, used to catch their prey according to the ancient method of the Phoenicians, using a harpoon and the help of a lookout.
Bagnara Calabra is also the recognised home of the nougat that bears its name. It is still produced according to the ancient recipe of the first artisanal nougat factories built near the village and is one of the most popular Calabrian sweets in the world: what makes it stand out is the toasting of the almonds and the specific way of cooking with honey.
It is made from a mixture of sugar, toasted almonds, honey, egg white, bitter cocoa, essential oils, and powdered spices. Depending on whether it is coated with nib sugar or bitter cocoa, it is classified as either the Martiniana or Torrefatto glazed variety.
Cut into bars, the nougat is then covered with white, dark or gianduja chocolate and garnished with wafer, hazelnuts, or orange.
The essential oil of the Bergamot of Reggio Calabria PDO is extracted using a system of graters and special peelers, which remove the outermost part of the Citrus bergamia Risso fruits. Cold extraction from the skin and pulp is then carried out. The essence obtained has aromatic, light but long-lasting notes and is distinguished by its purity, its unmistakable hues and its colour which ranges from intense green for early season yields (December), to straw yellow for late season yields, and shades in-between the two for January yields. Bergamot is renowned for its many health properties: being rich in vitamins C, B1, B2, A and E, it has an effective reparative function for bone disorders caused by impaired calcium absorption, teething disorders, collagen disorders, muscular weakness or neuromuscular hyperactivity, anaemia due to reduced iron absorption, hepatic congestion and various diseases involving poor vasal permeability. It can also be used for cooking unique and flavoursome recipes.
Traditional Calabrian Greek cuisine may well be basic and down-to-earth, but in its simplicity it boasts incredible flavours that draw on a long-standing rustic tradition. The cuisine is still closely linked to religious life: for Christmas and Epiphany it is customary to have a thirteen course meal, whereas, at Carnival, macaroni, meatballs and pork are eaten.
Easter is celebrated with roast lamb and religious breads. In an economy heavily dominated by sheep farming, mutton, and goat meat
make up a large part of the staple diet. In particular, goat, which is less cultivated and less fatty than mutton, is the most prized meat in ancestral Aspromonte cuisine.
• Palmi (RC) - The legend of the Olive Tree Rock
• The Jasmine Riviera
• The Violet Coast
• Bagnara Calabra (RC) - The land of everlasting spring
• Scilla (RC) - The beauty and myth of the terrible Scylla
• Santo Stefano in Aspromonte (RC) - Skiing while surrounded by the sea
• Reggio Calabria
• Bova (RC) - The Greek spirit of the slow-paced town