Calabria might be better known for the 500 miles of coastline that skirt its borders, but inside the region is imploding with three national parks. In fact, 91% of Calabria is mountainous, creating a dramatic landscape for those green and blue sea beaches, molding centuries old Medieval villages and making for some pretty adventurous outdoor sports.

I’ve written about some of the activities you can do in Calabria’s mountains, namely mountain climbing, rafting, canyoneering and trekking, but if you plan to visit the mountains in Calabria, you might be thirsty for me. All of the national parks are home to wild boar, back bears and rare birds, as well as vibrant flora, grottoes and waterfalls. Depending on your activity level, walking, biking or driving are all good ways to see the parks and guides can be hired for trips ranging from a few hours to three days.

Il Parco Nazionale dell’Aspromonte (The Aspromonte National Park)
The Aspromonte Mountains are Calabria’s southernmost national park and are located in the province of Reggio Calabria. Although they have a bad reputation for the influx of ‘Ndrangheta activity in the area, most of that negativity dates back to the 1970s when organized crime families used the areas as a hideaway. I personally think it’s irresponsible for guide books to label the area “the kidnap capital of the world,” because in doing so, they are deterring travelers from visiting this unspoiled area of southern Italy.

In addition to cascading waterfalls, visitor’s will find Pentedattilo, the “five-fingered” ghost town, Bagaladi, with its Greek monasteries and the Gambarie ski resort. The Aspromonte Mountains are also home to the world-famous bergamot citrus fruit.

Parco Nazionale della Sila (La Sila National Park)
Ok, ok … so you caught me. La Sila is my favorite of the three national parks and yes, I’ve already written about Catanzaro’s Sila Piccola and the best little family-owned restaurant, where you can buy typical Silan products and why it is a good day trip from Catanzaro. But there is always more to say.

In addition to Catanzaro, La Sila overflows into two more of Calabria’s five provinces-Cosenza and Crotone-and is the greenest of Calabria’s national parks. Each province claims to be “the best of La Sila,” and in all fairness, each makes an equally compelling argument for the title.

Cosenza’s Sila Grande is filled with the enticing Arvo, Ampollino and Cecita lakes and is home to villages, such as Lorica and Camigliatello, home to La Sila’s ski range, while Crotone’s Sila Greco features Albanian villages that date back to the 1500s.

Parco Nazionale del Pollino (The Pollino National Park)
Stretching from Basilicata into northern Calabria, the Pollino Mountains are one of Italy’s newest-and it’s largest-national park. The highest peak, Serra Dolcedorme, stands at 2,267 meters and overlooks the plain of Sibari. The Pollino Mountains are home to some of Calabria’s most interesting and beautiful villages, many of which are clustered together, making it easy to visit several of them in one day.

Europe’s deepest gorge, as well as the Grotta del Romito, where prehistoric skeletons and a cave drawing date back more than 10,000 years are located deep inside this national park.

In addition to strolling through the mountains after a big lunch, I also enjoy rafting and would love to go trekking. What are your favorite mountain activities?

Traveling to Calabria? Click here to see how I can help you create a custom itinerary with visits to any of these national parks.

Photos: Papasidero Altavista

** Congratulations to ***
Mary Kaltenbach
Laurel Conran
Food Lover Kathy
for winning a free copy of My Calabria cookbook. If you didn’t win, don’t worry. You can either pick up your own copy here or listen to the Eye on Italy podcast this week for another chance to win a free copy!

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