Excursions in the southern Tyrrhenian coast of Calabria

Our tour of the south of the Tyrrhenian coast of Calabria begins in the town of Pizzo Calabro with a ride through its narrow streets and a visit to the Aragonese Castle, before a well-deserved break to enjoy the famous truffle ice-cream. We move on from this area, steeped in history and where once maritime activities and handicraft production flourished. Down at the sea, we make a stop at the Church of Piedigrotta or, as the locals call it, the “Madonnella”. Down dozens of steps, we come to a cave carved into the rock and facing the beach, where the stalagmites have been carved and transformed into statues.

From the port of Vibo Valentia you can sail to the Aeolian Islands, a mini-cruise between Vulcano, Lipari and Stromboli. Or you can continue on south for a few kilometers towards the most popular tourist destinations in the area: Tropea. Here, in addition to the traces of the viitality of these places throughout history, you can stop to enjoy the beautiful sea, repeatedly recognized as one of the most beautiful in Italy. The welcoming narrow streets protect churches and palaces, as well as squares that overlook the sea, and make Tropea well worth a visit. And if the Hawaiian-style welcome includes a necklace for the tourist, be prepared! It could well be of sweet red onions, a typical product of the area of ​​Tropea.

Tropea - photo by flickr user simo0082

Tropea – photo by flickr user simo0082

A few kilometers to the south and here we are in the area that Skyscanner has recently selected as “destination of the year” for 2015. Capo Vaticano and its sandy beaches, protected behind a high rocky coastline. Here, nature still has a dominant role and in August finding a corner to spread out your towel can be arduous. But don your mask and enjoy all the beauty of the beautiful seabed. No wonder this stretch of coastline is known as the “Coast of the Gods”, and is indicated by many as one of the most charming places to visit.

Excursions on the Ionian coast of Calabria

The Ionian coast of Calabria is a treasure of interesting places and its beaches are particularly attractive. Crossing Calabria and heading towards Catanzaro, a few kilometers north we reach the promontory of Isola Capo Rizzuto, a Marine Protected Area with beaches of fine. red sand. Here the soil is rich in clay, so that clay pools form where you can swim or where you can daub on the beneficial mud. The San Paolo beach, red and sandy, and Fratte beach are two typical examples of this stretch of the Ionian coast. It is characterized by the clear sea and wide, sandy beaches so that even in high season it’s not difficult to find one’s own little corner of paradise.

An outing not to be missed is the Aragonese castle of Le Castella, the remains of a very old settlement that extended into the sea and served as an outpost of protection against attacks from the sea. And once you’ve enjoyed a taste of histroy, we suggest a visit to the nearby resort at Sovereto, which has a backdrop of thick pine forest, called the Bosco Sovereto. Here you can enjoy unspoiled nature from the coastal vegetation to the inviting Mediterranean waters. Sovereto beach is halfway between Punta Le Castella and Capo Piccolo.

Le Castella - photo by flickr user lorraine

Le Castella – photo by flickr user lorraine

Continuing south along the Ionian coast of Calabria, you’ll be spoiled for choice in selecting where to stop and admire crystal clear seas and beautiful beaches If traveling with your family let the children play on the beach in Botricello, or go on to to Lido di Pietragrande, where in addition to a swim in the clear waters you can find child entertainment facilities. Here, the beauty and variety of the seabed is such that we strongly recommend an underwater immersion. Two other resorts near Pietragrande are also worth a visit: Copanello beach, with the high cliff on which stands the town that stretches to the sea, andCaminia, with its long beach nestled between the rocks. And on a final note, the nearby ruins of the Cassiodoro Tanks where the ancient Romans bred moray eels are of archaeological interest.

Further south you reach the “pearl of the Ionian Sea” – Soverato. In addition to the natural beauty of the area, well organised tourist facilities offer the visitor many ways to have fun, especially for the younger age group. The pleasant climate and fine pebble beaches make up the rest and confirm Soverato as a favorite with tourists from around the world who appreciate both the heritage of the ancient past and the vibrancy of the present, all in the context of good accommodation, recreation and culture.

Before Personal Travels

It was a bold man who ate the first oyster” – Jonathan Swift

Gulliver breaks free

When I left my full-time job at booking-dot-com to start a project of my own, it did feel a bit like being the first person to ever try oyster. I still don’t know if it’s really my thing, but I will never forget that flavor. The idea is to make the world of travel easier and smoother, more democratic even, by bringing together those who travel and those who host travelers for a living.

On this blog we will discuss traveling under different perspectives and points of view. What do people who travel experience and feel during their trips? What do hoteliers or other hosts have to say about it? The aim is to try and define best practices and useful tips to enjoy at best on of the great gifts of humanity, however it involves you.

Before I further introduce the features of the blog, let me tell you more about myself and how I defined my own way of traveling. Being born in Italy in 1976, I’m old enough to remember what it was like when households did not have any form of personal computer. But thanks to my father the first such machine to enter our home was a Sinclair ZX Spectrum, and that was early in 1983.

Around 10 years later it was time for dad’s first ever-so-bulky mobile phone. In those same years I was already becoming a frequent flier, mainly to visit my mother’s side of the family in the ‘Ole Country, every given summer. Back then the No-Smoking sign would go off while airborne and you could happily light up on your regular Aer Lingus or Alitalia flights.

Of course traveling is always the same, magic experience that expands the lives of millions of people today as it was at the time. Only we had to deal with a totally different way to organize, enjoy, and remember our trips. Let me just hint at what I mean by crucial differences by recalling some aspects of the one trip that forever defined my way of traveling: the InterRail trip of summer 1998 with the girl who was to become my lifetime companion.

Photos:

At the time not every hand-held device had an incorporated 12 megapixel digital lens. There was no such thing as a digital camera, at least not at consumer level. People had compact cameras that required actual film to deliver photos, like Serena’s Pentax camera we had with us.

souvenir shop in Granada

You brought tons of film with you from home, bought from trusted shops where you hoped they wouldn’t give you expired stuff. When you ran out of it, it was time to retort to souvenir shops like this one in Granada, where you could buy your Kodak Gold films and pay for them like they were actually made of the precious metal. During the trip, you shot blindly at your subjects, hoping to have pressed the button at the right moment. The adrenaline kick when you came back home and sent the film to develop hoping to have at least a few good photos in the batch is something still unsurpassed. As is the disappointment of finding out that you had completely burnt the film by accidentally exposing it to light, and would have to do with no visual memories for that particular vacation.

Calling home

As I said, mobile phones weren’t exactly portable back then, nor were they very affordable. Needless to say, we didn’t have one with us while travelling through Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. When you had a chance you called the old folks from a public phone booth and reassure them that all was well, like I was doing from this cabin in Barcelona’s famous Barceloneta.

calling home from a phone box in Barceloneta

Another option was to inform your relatives of the phone number of the place you were staying, but this meant that your mother-in-law would have had to find out how to overcome the language barriers of the case and get the clerk of a dusty old posada to get her daughter on the phone ASAP.  She didn’t really use that word.

Accommodation:

Booking a stay somewhere before you actually got there was almost impossible during youth travels. Business and leisure travelers succeeded by calling days in advance, and providing a credit card number or a bank instalment as a guarantee. But generally the rule was: Reach a destination, find a place to stay.

sleeping out in Faro train station

A trail of youngsters following a hotel owner to an available alternative nearby was a typical sight in many European cities. Sometimes though the task was unsuccessful. You could spend most of the day wandering from one to another place on your list, only to find them fully booked or unavailable.

That’s when you retorted to literally anything, like the night we spent on the hard stone floor outside a godforsaken train station in Portugal with a bunch of German youths.

Friends:

Those guys were the funniest bunch of kraut aficionados I’ve ever met, and together we spent a couple of fantastic days. My memories of the time spent with them include a sick joke on Lady D, and the weirdest ever train journey. Between the stops I had to pick out the thorns of juicy cactuses from the unexperienced hands of those who had obviously never seen what the Italians call Indian figs.

dinner in Portugal (why pizza?)

Needless to say we did not have social media back then. If you wanted to keep in touch you had to commit to becoming pen pals. Provided you never lost the addresses scribbled on random sheets of paper or at the back of your phone book.

I always lost them. That’s why none of these beautiful people are my facebook friends today. I wish they could recognize themselves in the photo and contact me, to share more memories of that fantastic summer traveling around Europe.

Rome, the secret of pizza and mortazza

When in Rome, do as the Romans, goes the saying. And what do the Romans do when they are in a hurry and want to have a roadside snack? Simple, choose “pizza and mortazza”, pizza bread with bologna in other words. You can delight with this particular street food while wandering between a monument and the next one because in Rome every self-respecting bakery serves this specialty.

PIZZA-CO-LA-MORTAZZA1

photo by Guido Sansoni

A piece of pizza that is very crisp, split in two to make room for fresh cut bologna. It’s cheap and it is very good, especially if accompanied by a well-chilled beer.

Those who visit the historic center must call in to the Antico Forno Roscioli for a gourmet-style pizza and mortazza. Or you can enjoy the thrill of following the three-wheeled pick-up truck Pizza and Mortazza, which moves to a different part of the city every day.

To find out if it is in your area take check out their website or simply follow their movements on twitter.

If it is evening and you have been dragged into the nightlife of San Lorenzo, the neighborhood a short walk from Termini station where the students crawl between pubs and clubs) go straight to the Piazzetta, opposite the market. It’s a pizzeria take-away open until late which also serves cocktails at popular prices.

Eye on the time, however, on weekends pizza and mortazza always comes around midnight…