Calabria Road Trip

9 Days in Southern Italy

Calabria, the rugged toe of Italy’s boot, is little known even to a majority of Italians. Savvy Roman and Milanese vacationers have long been aware, however, that Calabria contains many of the most beautiful beaches in Italy, along with some of the most spectacular ancient Greek ruins in the Mediterranean, plus dozens of charming villages perched on seaside cliffs and inland mountaintops.

It’s possible to have a supremely rewarding vacation focusing only on Calabria’s historic treasures and exquisite coastline. But it’s also easy to combine the region with Basilicata to the north or Sicily to the southwest. The itinerary below follows in the footsteps of my recent trip to Calabria, an under-the-radar region that I recommend exploring before it gains well-deserved popularity. 

Itinerary Highlights

Our itineraries are for your inspiration. Please contact a travel advisor to customize this itinerary to fit your needs.

  • Relax at the beach and pine-shaded pool of Praia Art Resort.
  • See the ruins of a fifth-century B.C. temple.
  • Visit Norman cathedrals and Byzantine churches.
  • Enjoy the sensationally scenic town of Tropea.
  • Take a private boat to Costa degli Dei.
  • Stop in Seminara, home to Enzo Ferraro’s ceramic studio.  
  • Sight-see in the handsome city of Reggio Calabria.

Trip Overview

Day 1 : Arrive in Calabria
Day 2 - 3 : Eastern Calabria
Day 4 : Stilo – Gerace – Tropea
Day 5 : Tropea
Day 6 : Costa degli Dei
Day 7 : Seminara – Scilla – Reggio Calabria
Day 8 : Reggio Calabria
Day 9 : Sicily or Depart
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Day 1 : Arrive in Calabria

To follow the itinerary as written below, fly into Lamezia Terme, most easily accessible via a connection in Rome or Milan, and rent a car — Calabria’s roads are well-maintained and signposted. 

If you plan on going to Basilicata first, however, follow our suggested Basilicata itinerary and on day 9, instead of heading to Naples, drive instead about three hours to the hotel recommended below.

Either way, the dramatically sited Due Mari restaurant in the town of Tiriolo, a 15-minute detour from the main E848 road, makes for an excellent stop for lunch. 

The beach at Praia Art Resort in Praialonga
Pietramare Natural Food restaurant at Praia Art Resort

Then continue on to the 30-room Praia Art Resort, 40 miles to the east. This series of whitewashed villas surrounded by immaculately tended gardens has a residents-only beach club and three restaurants, one of which has a Michelin star.

Overnight at the Praia Art Resort.

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Praia Art Resort

Situated at the edge of the spectacular Isola di Capo Rizzuto marine reserve, this resort occupies a series of whitewashed villas and is surrounded by immaculately tended gardens. 

Day 2 - 3 : Eastern Calabria

Take a full day to relax at the Praia Art Resort, enjoying its sandy beach and pine-shaded pool.

On the following day, make a day trip northeast. Drive about half an hour to Capo Colonna to see the ruins of the fifth-century B.C. temple of Hera Lacinia, which has glorious views over the sea. 

The temple of Hera Lacinia in Capo Colonna
The temple of Hera Lacinia in Capo Colonna - Roberto Lo Savio/iStock/Getty Images

Continue northwest about 20 minutes to Crotone, which has a small but very worthwhile archaeological museum. Its star piece is an intricate and well-preserved fifth-century B.C. diadem of golden leaves, discovered in excavations at Capo Colonna.

After lunch at Ristorante Da Ercole on the palm tree-shaded seafront in the heart of the old town, drive about 30 minutes back to the Praia Art Resort.

Overnight at the Praia Art Resort.

Day 4 : Stilo – Gerace – Tropea

Check out of the Praia Art Resort and drive southwest along the coast, detouring inland to visit the hillside hamlet of Stilo, known for its ninth-century five-towered Byzantine church. 

The view of the scenic town of Gerace, on top of a cliff overlooking the sea
The view of the scenic town of Gerace, on top of a cliff overlooking the sea - Jan Mach/iStock/Getty Images

Return to the coast and continue south, detouring inland again to visit the former Norman stronghold of Gerace, dramatically sited on a 1,600-foot rock. (It takes about three hours of driving time from the Praia Art Resort to Gerace, including the detour to Stilo.)

Head about two hours northwest to Calabria’s opposite coast and the sensationally scenic town of Tropea, built atop a cliff overlooking the sea. 

Villa Paola in Tropea
Villa Paola in Tropea - Photo by Hideaway Report editor

Check into the 11-room Villa Paola, a former 16th-century convent. From its clifftop location amid terraced gardens, it has mesmerizing views of the Marina di Tropea.

Have dinner at the hotel at a candlelit table in the garden (make an advance request). 

Overnight at Villa Paola.

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Villa Paola

Set amid magnificent terraced gardens that overlook the Marina di Tropea, this handsome clifftop villa was created from a 16th-century convent.

Day 5 : Tropea

Take a full day to explore Tropea, one of the best-preserved medieval towns in southern Italy. Visit the 12th-century Norman cathedral, which houses a painting of the Madonna of Romania by a pupil of Giotto. And it’s worth climbing the 300-some steps up to the Santa Maria dell’Isola monastery, which has stupendous views of the sea and Tropea. 

Have lunch in the dappled shade of La Pergola, and perhaps enjoy a gelato at Gelati Tonino, known for unusual flavors such as red onion and squid ink. 

A view of Tropea overlooking the ocean from Villa Paola
A view of Tropea overlooking the ocean from Villa Paola - Photo by Hideaway Report editor

Return to the hotel in the afternoon and relax.

Overnight at Villa Paola.

Day 6 : Costa degli Dei

The Villa Paola can arrange for a private boat and skipper to explore the Costa degli Dei, the aptly named “Coast of the Gods,” with turquoise seas lapping cliffs and sandy beaches. Our skipper pointed out local landmarks, anchored so that we could swim in the sea and poured aperitifs of Spumante as we cruised back.

Dine tonight at Al Pinturicchio, the best table in Tropea’s old town.

Overnight at Villa Paola.

Costa degli Dei, or “Coast of the Gods”
Costa degli Dei, or “Coast of the Gods” - Naeblys/iStock/Getty Images

Day 7 : Seminara – Scilla – Reggio Calabria

Depart Tropea and continue south. If ceramics are at all of interest, stop in Seminara, which is home to the studio of artist Enzo Ferraro and produces both traditional baroque-style designs, including babbuini pottery featuring grotesque figures of animals and flowers, as well as contemporary pieces. (Visits are by appointment only.)

A view of Scilla
A view of Scilla - Sirio Carnevalino/EyeEm/Getty Images

At around this point, turn onto the scenic SS18 coastal road and follow it about 40 minutes to the town of Scilla, a picturesque fishing town of pastel houses overlooked by a castle on a crag of rock jutting into the sea. Have lunch at Osteria del Centro, located high above the port.

From Scilla it’s a little less than an hour southwest to the region’s largest city, Reggio Calabria. This handsome and little-touristed place of about 200,000 inhabitants is built on slopes overlooking the Strait of Messina. An earthquake destroyed large areas of Reggio in 1908, and much of it was rebuilt in the art nouveau style. Lining the Corso Garibaldi, the principal thoroughfare, these elegant buildings give the city its singular charm.

The Corso Garibaldi in Reggio Calabria
The Corso Garibaldi in Reggio Calabria - Shutterstock

Alas, Reggio does not have a hotel of a standard to merit a Hideaway Report recommendation, but the Hotel Medinblu provides a friendly, comfortable and well-located base from which to explore. Book a Superior Room. An excellent breakfast is served on a rooftop terrace with a dramatic view of the Strait of Messina.

Check into the hotel, and in the early evening take a passeggiata along the Corso Garibaldi, joining other locals in a stroll, or watch the fashion parade from the patio of a café. 

Have dinner tonight at Lisca Bianca, an easy walk from the Medinblu.

Overnight at the Hotel Medinblu.

Day 8 : Reggio Calabria

Spend a full day exploring Reggio Calabria. Sightseeing highlights include the Castello Aragonese, a Norman fortress overlooking the city; the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, home to the Riace bronzes, two life-size ancient Greek statues of naked warriors that date from around 460 to 430 B.C.; and the Pinacoteca Civica, which houses a fine art collection.

For your passeggiata this evening, have a stroll along the Lungomare Falcomatà, with art nouveau buildings on one side and the sea on the other.

The restaurant L’A Gourmet L’Accademia offers more sea views and is an excellent choice for dinner.

Overnight at the Hotel Medinblu.

Day 9 : Sicily or Depart

Fly out of Reggio Calabria’s airport and connect to your flight home, or continue on to Sicily. It takes about two hours by car, depending on the timing of the ferry, to reach Taormina from Reggio.

Taormina ranks among Italy’s loveliest towns, with its Greco-Roman amphitheater overlooking Mount Etna and the sea. The Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo has similarly spectacular views, and a stay at this alluring 71-room resort would make a splendid finish to this itinerary. Depart then from Catania’s airport, about an hour’s drive from the hotel.

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Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo

This spectacular 1863 resort hotel features views to the Mediterranean and Mount Etna and is set in terraced gardens.

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