My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

Off Season Calabria: Walking My Italian Roots

2012/06/07by Donna Hull

Is the idea of exploring your family’s heritage inspiring your boomer travel plans? Today, Monica Surfaro Spigelman offers boomer travel tips for visiting Calabria, Italy, from a journey that found her Italian roots.


It was a new universe for us – this province of Italy called Calabria. Driven by a desire to research my grandparents’ hometowns, my husband Leigh and I were ready to explore, despite claims that weather and lack of services would detract from our vacation. Now I’m glad we ignored the tourist books.

Calabria is the most southern province of Italy, just across the Straits of Messina from Sicily. It is the region where Italians go for their summer seaside vacations. Dotted with lovely historic villages set in rolling hills and rocky cliffs, Calabria is a very different Italy. This past April, Leigh and I landed in Reggio di Calabria airport, and in three long days we travelled along the Autostrada coastal road that stretches around “the toe of the boot,” from the tiny fishing village of Scilla to my ancestral home in Melito di Porto Salvo.

If you choose to follow my footsteps, be aware:

  • Very little English is spoken in the region. If you bring along a dictionary of key phrases and a translator app for your mobile when wi-fi is available, you will be fine and you’ll be rewarded with more authentic experiences than if you travelled tourist routes.
  • This won’t be beach weather if you visit in April. Bring a jacket and sweater for layers, plus a hat and umbrella for possible rain.

With caveats out of the way, here are three quick boomer travel tips for visiting Calabria that will fill your hearts and minds with the distinct charm of my ancestral home:

View from Bed and Breakfast La Veduta

Bed and beauty by the sea

Our home base for this trip was the small fishing village of Scilla, in an old seaside district characteristically full of narrow charming lanes and alleys winding down directly to the sea. Pretty Bed and Breakfast La Veduta is situated in the oldest area and directly on the Straits of Messina. Our spotless seaside room had a lovely terrace and was equipped with comforts of wi-fi and television. Hosts Nela and Michael were warm and friendly, offering delicious homemade pastries, cereals and fruits accompanied by coffees and teas for fabulous breakfasts. Although they spoke very little English, we communicated through phrases and smiles.  After rambling through nooks and crannies of Scilla one afternoon, we returned to this romantic inn to sit on our terrace and watch the fishing boats return with their catch. It was a magical place that felt like home to us. If you prefer more tourism comforts, just north of Scilla is a more famous resort town called Tropea.

Eat traditional foods

This region pays homage to traditional Italian foods that include fresh local fishes as well as local meats, antipasti, stuffed vegetables and homemade pastas. For lunch we enjoyed spaghetti with freshly caught seafood, chopped chili and tomato sauce at Boccaccio2 in Villa San Giovanni. We also enjoyed agriturismo at MILLE SAPORI in a peaceful farmhouse set within the hills outside Melito di Porto Slavo. Here, with views of the sea and sounds of an organetti accordion at a nearby table, we enjoyed Calabria cuisine including local wine and olive oil, lamb, stuffed peppers, fresh tomatoes, fritters and creamy risotto.

Pendetatillo

Enjoy history

There are many ancient towns filled with lore, but perhaps my most favorite is Pentedattilo a ghost town of mythological architecture in the hills above Melito. It has a colorful history dating back to Greek and Roman times, with stories of Norman conquests and barons in the bones of its old buildings. The town is now being revived by artists who are restoring the architecture, conducting cultural tours and practicing traditional arts.

So this was a glorious little trip for us. Yes, we visited my grandparents’ birthplace—but that’s another story. In just a few days the bustle of tourism slipped away, replaced by relaxed appreciation of local routines and scenery. We shared smiles with fisherman on the docks and with shepherds on rocky hillsides.  We walked town squares with breathtaking views, particularly in Scila, and enjoyed people-watching and freshly baked “dolci” at the neighborhood panetteria.

We hope you find a reason to appreciate the wonder of Calabria, where all streets welcome you and lead to an endless horizon and crystal-clear sea.

Monica Surfaro Spigelman moved to the Southwest in 2005 after a successful, 25-year career in NYC-based corporate communications and non-profit management. Today Monica writes for Tucson arts and business publications, and develops branding programs and social media strategies for businesses, non-profits and local folkarts festivals.

All photos courtesy Leigh Spigelman and Monica Surfaro Spigelman.

Have you visited this off-the-beaten-path in Italy? Post a comment to share your boomer travel tips for visting Calabria. Alan and I want to go!

New here? Like what you see? Subscribe to our monthly travel newsletter for boomers for travel specials, news and fun.


 


A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of My Itchy Travel Feet: Breathtaking Adventure Vacation Ideas.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

lee laurino June 7, 2012 at 4:29 pm

i explored Puglia last year and am working my way around the boot. I have been collecting names of small towns to visit and as a solo traveler I have to find places that solo travelers feel comfortable in, so your mention of a few restaurants will be helpful.
lee laurino recently posted..Say NO to hotels, stay in an Italian apartmentMy Profile

Reply

Monica Surfaro Spigelman
Twitter:
June 10, 2012 at 10:48 am

Lee- If you need more restaurant suggestions, and if Donna lets me post again, I will have resources noted for you, particularly on an authentic and friendly Italian food tour. Next time I visit I hope to have a grip on at least the basics of the Italian language….important!
Monica Surfaro Spigelman recently posted..Random Writing, 2008, True TodayMy Profile

Reply

Monica Surfaro Spigelman
Twitter:
June 10, 2012 at 10:55 am

Lee- I think you may know the food tour I speak about — run by Cherrye Moore!
Monica Surfaro Spigelman recently posted..Random Writing, 2008, True TodayMy Profile

Donna Hull
Twitter:
July 9, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Lee, I’m glad this post was helpful to you.

Reply

Carlo
Twitter:
June 8, 2012 at 1:56 am

What a great story of your trip to Calabria. There is so much to explore off the beaten track here you just have to scrape the surface, which is what many people don’t manage to do. Did you go to Capo Vaticano, this is one of my favorite areas and also Gerace on the east coast is a fantastic medieval town well worth visiting.

Reply

Monica Surfaro Spigelman
Twitter:
June 10, 2012 at 10:40 am

Carlo!
Only focused my three days in a small area of Southern Calabria. I will return….and will look into your suggestions.for the east coast, for sure. Thank you!
Monica Surfaro Spigelman recently posted..Random Writing, 2008, True TodayMy Profile

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
July 9, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Carlo, thanks for the Calabria tips.

Reply

Brett
Twitter:
June 8, 2012 at 7:58 am

Great story and photos. Hope to one day make a similar trip.

Reply

Monica Surfaro Spigelman
Twitter:
June 10, 2012 at 10:42 am

Thank you, Brett. Disclosure to all: @Neon_Turbine is my fantastic son, non-profit manager and musician!
Monica Surfaro Spigelman recently posted..Random Writing, 2008, True TodayMy Profile

Reply

AnneMarie June 8, 2012 at 4:20 pm

So proud of famila roots-bella Italia and the rich history it has for all of us!
A beautiful journey into life in Calabria!

Reply

Monica Surfaro Spigelman
Twitter:
June 10, 2012 at 10:43 am

That’s my sis. We plan to visit Italy again, as a family, hopefully in 2013.
Monica Surfaro Spigelman recently posted..Random Writing, 2008, True TodayMy Profile

Reply

jenny June 8, 2012 at 10:57 pm

I enjoyed your post on Calabria. I love getting off the beaten track when travelling. Having spent 5 weeks in Sicily last year and time in Puglia a couple of years ago, Calabria is next on our list! I’ll certainly be adding Scilla to the places to visit – it looks perfect!
jenny recently posted..Postcard from……..ParisMy Profile

Reply

Monica Surfaro Spigelman
Twitter:
June 10, 2012 at 10:45 am

Jenny:
If you like off the beaten paths then certainly Calabria is for you. I’ll watch for more posts from you about nook-and-cranny travel treasures. Thank you!
Monica Surfaro Spigelman recently posted..Random Writing, 2008, True TodayMy Profile

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
July 9, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Hi Jenny, let us know how your trip to Scilla and Calabria goes.

Reply

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

This blog uses premium CommentLuv which allows you to put your keywords with your name if you have had 3 approved comments. Use your real name and then @ your keywords (maximum of 3)

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post:

About Us

We're Donna & Alan Hull. We KNOW boomer travel.

Since 2008, we've published articles and photographs focusing solely on boomer travel: where to go, what to do and how to do it.

Partner with us

Did you know that baby boomers purchase 80% of luxury vacations and adults aged 55 + account for one-third of all trips in the U.S.? We can help you to reach an audience of active boomer travelers.

Learn more:


Have questions? Get in touch.

The fine print:

Media Mentions

We're the undeniable experts on boomer travel.


Need a boomer expert for your publication? Get in touch.