A travel guide to the Calabria region of Italy

If Italy is shaped like a boot, Calabria is its long, pointy toe about to kick Sicily across the Med like a misshapen soccer ball.

Calabria is overlooked by the vast majority of interntational visitors (some Italians do come to spend time on the beaches of the eastern, Ionian coast—though for my money the best of the beach towns is clifftop Tropea on the rockier Tyrrhenian coast).

At best, most people just drive straight through Calabria en route to the towns of Reggio and Villa San Giovanni at its tip, where you can catch the ferries over to Sicily.

Because of this, much of Calabria is wonderfuly unspoiled by mass tourism—a few ill-advised beach resort developments aside—and much of it feels like visiting the Italy of 30 or 40 years ago (which can be both a plus and a minus).

Sure, you can skip the Calabrian capital city of Catanzaro—but the historical center of Cosenza is a wonderful medieval tangle of alleys and ancient houses.

Of Calabria's impressive trio of national parks, the best is La Silla, more than 130 km sq (50 square miles) of hiking trails and villages in the forested hills and mountains of central Calabria.

Affincionados of ancient sites will find beautifully-sited (if poorly repaired) Greek ruins amid the beaches of the Capo Colonna headland south of Crotone. Crotone keeps more ancient artefacts in its National Archeaology Museum—the city itself was founded by the Greeks as "Kroton," once a mighty city of Magna Gracia (ancient Greater Greece) where Pythagoras made his home and made up theorems we still force kids to study in math class to this day.

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