Scilla’s most ancient and impresive part is the hamlet of Chianalea, also called little Venice due to its position almost immersed in the sea. Houses, close to one another and separated by tiny alleys, seem to emerge directly from the blue sea, resting their foundations precisely on the rocks. The “antico borgo” or old town is a succession of streets that feature churches and fountains, overlooked from above by the austere Castello dei Ruffo (Ruffo Castle).
Full of history and mystery, the town of Scilla has ancient origins that relate mainly to the period of the destruction of Troy and invokes the myths and legends of Ulysses with Scylla and Charybdis, of Homer and Dante Alighieri.
The town’s name derives from the mythological figure of Scylla, a young nymph who refused Glauco’s love He thus went to the sorceress Circe, who was in love with him, and ask her to help him win Scylla’s heart. The offended sorceress poisoned the sea-pool where the nymph used to bathe, turning her into a horrific six dog-headed monster who destroyed every ship crossing the Strait of Messina.
In Scilla, the trip from the sea to the mountains is very short. In just a few kilometres, crossing the various heights of Melia, we arrive at Gambarie, in the area of Santo Stefano d'Aspromonte; a famous ski resort in the south of Italy, especially known for offering skiing with the sea as a backdrop.
The coastline near Scilla offers small secluded beaches and of difficult access but also more spacious beaches equipped with every modern comfort.
The most famous and visited beach throughout Scilla is undoubtedly that of Marina Grande; a long sandy beach with spa establishments as well as sun umbrellas, sunbeds, but also bars, restaurants and many typical meeting points. The beach is bordered by imposing cliffs that plunge deep into the sea, creating quite an impressive landscape.
Near Marina Grande we also find the beach of Punta Pacì, especially suitable for scuba-diving enthusiasts. In this area the seabed has quite a drop and its pristine waters are particularly rich in flora and fauna; a true paradise for all those who enjoy swimming, also simply by snorkelling.
Cala delle Rondini is a beach surrounded by an unspoilt environment, relatively quiet which allows to soak up the sun amidst a wonderful natural setting. This small cove is difficult to access and that is what makes it unique.
One of the most beautiful beaches of Scilla, with the cleanest and most transparent water, is spiaggia delle Sirene; very busy during the summer period, especially by those who love who love exceptional tide peaks and an enchanting seabed rich in marine life.
The imposing Castello dei Ruffo is located on the "Rocca di Scilla" which overlooks the southern part of the district of "Marina Grande" and to the north, the picturesque old fishing district of Chianalea with houses built on the rocks. Of Norman or Swabian origins, it is without doubt one of Scilla’s most important monuments.
Originally, it was built for defensive purposes, until in 1532 when the Count Paolo Ruffo decided to transform this austere castle into a residence.
Today the castle houses conferences, exhibitions and fairs, and also allows to enjoy wonderful views, allowing our gaze to drift out to the coast of Sicily and the Aeolian Islands.
Chianalea, that has been described as a small “Venice of the South", is a picturesque fishing village where houses seem to be emerging directly from the sea, alleys are caressed by the breeze and the air is filled with the sound of waves crashing on the rocks.
Worthy of a visit is Chiesa di San Giuseppe (Church of San Giuseppe), a tiny chuch with its 100 seats which was once the chapel of the Convento dei Crociferi. The rite to the Saint dates back to the Eighteenth Century, when the priest Giuseppe Bova built an altar dedicated to St Joseph. Still today the rite is celebrated every year in the stretch of sea between the port of Scilla and the beach with a boat race, the "riatta", which ends in opposite the church.
Along the alleys that lead to the sea, visitors can admire the Palazzo Scategna and Palazzo Zagari, ancient aristocratic buildings of great worth. Typical of Chianalea are the apotropaic masks hung above the house doors. Today these masks are mostly ornamental, but once upon a time had the function of turning away evil spirits.
Sights to see also include the ancient fountains and the churches of San Giuseppe and S.Maria di Porto Salvo.
Scilla is in fact one of the last bastions in Calabria where the fishing tradition survives, in the kingdom of swordfish. A visit to Scilla without a doubt implies tasting dishes based on this fish, such as the “panino con il pescespada” (swordfish panini).
The regional varieties of the Costa Viola allow visitors to enjoy even the peculiarities of the seafaring tradition as well as that of the hilly pre-aspromonte area: cheese, delicatessen, mushrooms and vegetables in oil, grilled aubergines and tomatoes, olives in oil, fried pumpkin flowers, ragout and sauces based on goat meat and pork to dress home-made pasta such as the "maccarrùni i casa”.
The main gastronomic sea specialities are based on typical fish such as swordfish, billfish, garfish, sunfish, saury, various crustaceans and octopus. Ancient recipes with billfish (“spatola alla" scigghitàna"), with vinegar in specific doses and aromatic herbs produced amidst the rows of vines along the terroirs, confirm the agricultural vocation and nautical image of the population. Typical sweets are produced throughout the area during the various holidays and include "mustacciòli"or "'nzuddhi", "piparèlle", "susumèlle” and "petrali" made with honey and almonds as well as dried flavoured figs. Creams, cakes and liqueurs made from lemon, orange, Bergamot, never fail to disappoint at the end of a meal.