CALABRIA SMALL GROUP TOURS
Holidays in Calabria
In the last century, the battered landscape of the earthquake-riven deforested province of Basilicata became known through Carlo Levi’s book ‘Christ Stopped at Eboli’ (Cristo si è fermato a Eboli). In this book he talks of the treeless slopes ‘eroded into a pattern of holes and hillocks like a landscape of the moon’.The Unesco site, Matera is an extraordinary example of ancient and modern where people and their animals lived literally in ‘sassi’, cave-dwellings hewn into the rock, until quite recently.
Thought to resemble ancient Jerusalem, this remarkable troglodyte town, perched over a high ravine, has starred as a location for many films, including Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’. Estimated to have been occupied by human beings for 9,000 years, several of the sassi have been transformed into rock chic hotels – fascinating, spacious and hugely atmospheric, set in a stunning location.
In the southwest corner, the Pollino National Park is Italy’s largest protected area where mountains soar above 2,200 metres, the highest peaks of southern Italy. Set among unspoiled forest and countryside and sprinkled with traditional little villages, the area is covered with beech, chestnut and oak trees and the ancient pino loricato trees which only grow here and in the Balkans. It’s also home to a wealth of exotic wild flowers and animals including golden eagles that circle in the sky over the ridges. From the summits you can see the western Tyrrhenian coast and the beaches around Maratea – not to be confused with Matera.
On the Tyrrehenian side, a stretch of glorious coastline along the Policastro Gulf, only 25km long, rivals the Amalfi coast for its unblemished loveliness. There is a spectacular coastal road overlooking unspoiled hidden coves and bays, very little in the way of development and fascinating villages that comprise Maratea, guarded by a huge figure of Christ ‘Il Redentore’ perched on the hillside and visible from miles away. The historic centre with its tangle of narrow streets clings to the hillside, while the pretty little harbour, far below, is full of both working fishing boats and sleek yachts. The little beaches Acquafredda, Fiumicello, Santavenere, Marina and Castrocucco are paradise found.
Near to the border with Puglia are reminders of the area’s Greek past in the temple at Metaponto by the Ionian Sea, excavated archaeological sites and museums. Its 6th century BC Doric Temple (Tavole Palatine) still has 15 standing columns. This long coastline has fine, golden sand backed by the fertile Metapontina Plain where cherry orchards and citrus groves flourish in the mild climate. Metaponto and Policoro are the two best-known and most popular beach resorts and Policoro is especially noted for its crystal clear, clean waters, which are the breeding grounds of endangered sea turtles.
A wonderful introduction to the unspoilt mountains and hills of the ‘toe and instep’ of Southern Italy – much favored by ancient colonists though little-visited by tourists today. Journeying along the coast, we travel through more than 2000 years of an immemorial story.
Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Norman and Spanish invaders not only ‘came and conquered’ but stayed – producing cities, castles and churches from the Classical period onwards. This abundance of sites includes some real treasures: the Codex Purpureus at Rossano, the Byzantine church at Stilo and the 5th century BC Greek bronze warriors rescued from the sea at Riace – two of the finest sculptures to have survived from the Greek world. Come to discover the treasures of Southern Italy, discovering Basilicata and Calabria regions.