Scilla is a small village in the province of Reggio Calabria, one of the prettiest and most characteristic in Italy, standing on a high rocky spur overlooking the sea. An important tourist centre on the Costa Viola, defined as such because of the colour the waters take on at certain times of the day, Scilla presents itself with the ancient Castle leaning against the coast, the colourful little houses juxtaposed one against the other, the Strait with the view of Sicily forming an enchanting panorama.
Scilla was recently included by Cnn in the list of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy with the village of Chianalea.
The magic of this place, especially at sunset, when the light begins to be soft and the first lights come on, is an enchanting and bewitching sight to behold.
The oldest and most picturesque part of Scilla is the locality of Chianalea, also called Little Venice because of its position almost submerged in the waters of the sea. The houses, close to each other and separated by tiny lanes, seem to rise directly from the blue sea, resting their foundations right on the rocks. The ancient village is a succession of characteristic streets where you can appreciate churches and fountains, while the austere Ruffo Castle dominates from above.
Rich in history and mystery, the village of Scilla has ancient origins dating back to the period of the destruction of Troy and it recalls the myths and legends of Ulysses with Scylla and Charybdis, Homer and Dante Alighieri. The name is linked to the mythological figure of Scylla, a young nymph who rejected the love of Glaucus.
The latter turned to the sorceress Circe, who was in love with him, to make the young girl fall into his arms; the sorceress, offended by the insult suffered, poisoned the waters, where the nymph used to bathe, transforming them into a hideous monster with six dogs' heads, which destroyed all ships passing through the Strait of Messina.
In Scilla, the passage from the sea to the mountains is really short. In just a few kilometres, crossing the plains of the hamlet of Melia, one arrives at Gambarie, in the territory of Santo Stefano d'Aspromonte, a renowned ski resort in the south, known above all for the possibility of skiing with a view of the sea.
The beaches of Scilla
The coast around Scilla offers small, secluded beaches that are difficult to access, but also larger beaches with every comfort.
The most famous and popular beach in the whole of Scilla is undoubtedly that of Marina Grande, a long sandy shore where it is possible to find bathing establishments with umbrellas and sunbeds, but also bars, restaurants and many typical small places. The beach is bordered by imposing rocks that plunge steeply into the sea, making the landscape quite picturesque.
Near Marina Grande there is also the beach of Punta Pacì, especially suitable for scuba diving enthusiasts. In this area, the seabed is immediately high and the crystal-clear waters are particularly rich in flora and fauna, a true paradise for all those who love to swim, even if only by snorkelling.
Cala delle Rondini is a beach surrounded by unspoilt surroundings, where one can enjoy the sun amidst little confusion and beautiful nature. This small cove is difficult to access, which makes it exclusive.
One of the most beautiful beaches in Scilla, the one with the cleanest and clearest waters, is the Sirene beach, very popular in the summer, especially with those who love high water and enchanting seabed rich in life.
The imposing Ruffo Castle stands on the "Rock of Scilla" overlooking the Marina Grande district to the south and the picturesque fishermen's quarter of Chianalea with its houses built on the rocks to the north. Of Norman or Swabian origin, it is, without doubt, Scilla's most important monument.
Originally, this building was intended for defensive purposes, until Count Paolo Ruffo decided to turn this austere castle into a residence in 1532.
Today, the castle hosts conventions, exhibitions and conferences, and offers a wonderful panorama, sweeping the eye as far as the Sicilian coast and the Aeolian Islands.
The village of Chianalea
Chianalea, called "Little Venice of the South", is a picturesque fishing village where the houses seem to emerge directly from the sea, the alleyways are caressed by the sea breeze and the air is filled with the sound of waves breaking on the rocks.
The Church of St Joseph is worth a visit, very small with its 100 seats, which was once the chapel of the Convent of the Cruciferous. The rite to the Saint dates back to the 18th century, when the priest Giuseppe Bova had an altar dedicated to St Joseph built. To this day, the rite is still celebrated every year in the stretch of sea between the port of Scilla and the beach with a boat race, the "riatta", which ends in front of the church.
Along the alleys leading to the sea, you can admire Palazzo Scategna and Palazzo Zagari, ancient noble buildings of great value. Characteristic of Chianalea are the apotropaic masks hung above the doors of the houses. Today, these masks are mostly ornamental, but they once had the function of warding off evil spirits.
Other sights to see are the ancient fountains and the churches of San Giuseppe and S.Maria di Porto Salvo.
Scilla is in fact one of the last bastions in Calabria where the fishing tradition survives, in the realm of the swordfish. Visiting Scilla certainly means tasting dishes based on this fish, such as the swordfish sandwich.
The territorial variety of the Costa Viola also makes it possible to taste peculiarities of the Calabrian maritime and hillside tradition: cheeses, cold cuts, mushrooms and vegetables in oil, grilled aubergines and sun-dried tomatoes, olives in oil, squash flower fritters, ragùs and sauces made with goat meat and pork to season homemade pasta "maccarrùni i casa". The main seafood specialities are based on characteristic fish such as swordfish, garfish, various crustaceans and octopus.
Throughout the area, the characteristic "mustacciòli" or "nzuddhi", "piparèlle", "susumèlle", "petrali" made with honey, almonds and dried flavoured figs are produced during the various festivities. Creams, sweets and liqueurs made with lemon, orange and bergamot are never lacking at the end of a meal.