Scilla is a picturesque fishing village located in the province of Reggio Calabria on the western Tyrrhenian Coast. Within Scilla, you’ll find the seafront neighborhood called Chianalea. Built directly on the seafront, its narrow streets and pastel-colored houses are so charming. And as the sun sets, the village’s lights reflect in the nearby water making it utterly enchanting.
Chianalea prides itself on its fishing traditions and culture and it’s certainly not unusual to see local fisherman throughout the day caring for their boats or mending their nets, which just adds to this village’s charm.
When visiting Chianalea, you’ll most likely notice an interesting looking fishing boat called a passarella. These boats have a very distinctive design: a tall watchtower and a long plank that juts out from the side of the boat. These boats have a very special purpose, to hunt swordfish. And hunt, is the perfect word to describe the technique these fisherman use to catch the prized swordfish, a delicacy that is appreciated by many in Calabria and southern Italy.
Even with improvements thanks to modern technology, the tradition of hunting swordfish has essentially remained the same over generations. In order to catch a swordfish you must have “spotters” who climb to the top of the very tall watchtower in order to get a broader view of the waters. Once a fish is spotted, they call down to the fishermen below who carefully guide the boat close enough for a harpooner to launch his harpoon into the waters capturing the coveted prey.
The “hunting” season for swordfish takes place between the beginning of May and the end of September when large groups of swordfish pass through the strait of Messina. During this time, it’s easy to find fresh swordfish in Calabrian seafood restaurants whether it’s grilled (pesce spada alla griglia), served in pasta (pesce spada alla ghiotto), or made into stuffed rolls (involtini di pesce spada).
We visit this wonderful fishing village during our Southern Calabian and Eastern Sicily tour in September. You can join us for a guided walk of Chianalea where you may see one of these antique sword-fishing boats in the port. You’ll also have time on your own for dinner and to enjoy the unique atmosphere of Scilla “by night.”
For more information, visit our website or contact us directly and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.