So you want to visit Calabria? Great … I think everyone should. But where do you want to go? What do you want to see? What do you want to experience? If you are Calabrese, chances are you’ll stop by your ancestral villages … maybe you’ll want to see some of the highlights or visit some of the area’s medieval towns. But then what?
If you need a little help narrowing it down, you might want a custom itinerary or some in-depth travel consulting, but if finances don’t allow or you’re one of those travelers who wants to research her own trip, then keep on reading.
As you can imagine, narrowing down my favorite mountain villages to just three was not an easy task. Still, these three made the cut for their authentic feel, cleanliness and friendly locals, so without delay, here are three of my all-time favorite mountain villages in bella Calabria.
Civita (pronounced cee-VEE-ta) houses the largest Albanian community in the region. Travelers flock to this pint-sized town for a glimpse of Albanian culture, where locals still speak-and teach to their children through the local school system-their native language and where indigenous costumes and traditions are carried on through festivals and celebrations. In addition to the unique heritage of Civita, the town is also home to the Ragnanello Gorge, the deepest gorge in Europe and the Devil’s Bridge, which is easily seen from the Belvedere lookout point on the edge of town.
Cortale (pronounced CORE tall ee) is a little closer to my adopted hometown of Catanzaro and was one of the first mountain villages I fell in love with when I started visiting the area in the early 2000s.
Home to about 2,000 people, Cortale is large enough to have an active main street and busy piazza, but still offers that small, tight-knit community you’d expect in a Calabrese village.
Several of our B&B guests have had origins in Cortale and like me, they enjoy strolling through the town, breathing the clean, fresh mountain air and visiting the Calabria water source just north of town in nearby Monte Covello.
The village also has some amazing views of the mountains and valleys below …
… and who doesn’t love a good view now and then?
San Fili (CS)
I’ve written before about San Fili, (pronounced Sayn FEE Lee) my mother-in-law’s pint-sized village that is located near Cosenza in northern Calabria. In fact, we have a small house there (see “For Sale: San Fili” below), one that sadly is badly in need of repair and thus, limits the time we can spend there.
Still, this village, like Civita and Cortale features that fresh, clean mountain air and offers travelers a glimpse into the traditional Calabrese lifestyle. In addition to the Chiesa Madre church, visitors should plan time to stroll through the main street, have coffee in the main piazza and relax on any of the broad, open terraces that surround the village.
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Photo: My Bella Vita, My Bella Vita, Panoramio, My Bella Vita