For the writer Leonida Repaci, the stretch of coastline between Palmi and Bagnara was worthy of being defined a Small Paradise: that same stretch was already baptized, since the mists of time, with the name Costa Viola, by virtue of the amethyst hue of its marine waters. The backdrops of Cavaianculla, of Pietrosa, of Chianiti, of Pietragalera and of Capo Barbi still hide archaeological and natural treasures of inestimable value.
Itinerary suitable for everyone, practicable by car, recommended in spring, summer and autumn.
In Bagnara Calabra, swordfish fishing is a particularly deep-rooted activity with a strong identity. Fishing here is still carried out with the traditional "spadara", a special boat with a high lookout tower and a long gangway, from which it is possible to scan the sea. In the first days of August, Bagnara hosts the renowned Gran Galà del Pesce Spada (swordfish gala). Also in Scilla, thousands of tourists every year are attracted by the characteristic swordfish fishing, which is carried out in the strait by means of boats heirs of the luntri, used for the capture of the prey with lookout and harpoon, according to the ancient method of the Phoenicians.
Bagnara Calabra is also the recognized homeland of the homonymous torrone. It is still produced according to the ancient recipe of the first artisan torrone factories near the village, and is one of the most appreciated Calabrian sweets in the world: what makes it different is the roasting of the almonds and the particular type of cooking with honey. It is in fact obtained by processing sugar, toasted almonds, honey, egg white, bitter cocoa, essential oils and powdered spices. Depending on the covering, of sugar grains or bitter cocoa, it is distinguished in the two varieties Martiniana or Torrefatto glazed. Cut in bars, torrone is covered with white, dark or gianduia chocolate and garnished with wafers, hazelnuts or orange.
The essential oil of Bergamot of Reggio Calabria DOP is extracted through a system of graters and special peelers, which take the most superficial part of the fruits of Citrus bergamia Risso, and then carry out the cold extraction from the peel and pulp. The essence obtained has aromatic notes, light but lasting, and is distinguished by its purity, its unmistakable reflections and its color ranging from deep green for early season productions (December), to straw yellow for late season productions, with intermediate shades for January productions. The healthy properties of bergamot are really many: thanks to the high quantity of vitamins C, B1, B2, A and E, it has an effective restorative action in bony disorders caused by altered calcium absorption, in disorders of dentition, in collagenopathies, in muscular asthenia or neuromuscular hyperexcitability, in anemias caused by reduced iron absorption, in hepatobiliary congestion and in many diseases with altered vascular permeability. Moreover, it can be used in cooking for original and tasty recipes.
The traditional cuisine of Greek Aspromonte is definitely spartan and mountainous, but it boasts, in its simplicity, a proposal of incredible flavors that draw on a long peasant tradition. Dishes are linked to religious life: at Christmas and Epiphany it is customary to put thirteen courses on the table, while at Carnival macaroni, meatballs and pork. Easter is celebrated with roast lamb and spiritual breads. In an economy where sheep farming was prominent, sheep and goat meat played a fundamental role in the diet. In particular, goat meat, wilder and less fatty than sheep, is the meat par excellence of Aspromonte's archaic cuisine.
Stop 1 - Palmi
Perched on a terrace sloping down to the sea and protected to the south by the hill of Sant'Elia, stands Palmi, a town of both sea and mountains. In addition to the golden beaches of Tonnara, Pietrenera and Scinà, the town offers visitors cool pine forests, ancient paths to explore and breathtaking views.
The town is in fact spread out at the foot of Mount Sant'Elia, which allows the visitor's gaze to sweep over a horizon delineated by the clear boundaries of the Aeolian Islands and Sicily, in an evocative spectacle. From this mountain it is possible to admire Stromboli and the islands; on the other hand, looking north, one dominates the verdant Piana di Gioia Tauro, while looking south, one appreciates the infinite nuances of the Costa Viola, which ends with the Tonnara di Palmi near the emblematic scoglio dell'ulivo (olive rock), a natural watershed between the landscape of stone gardens and the landscape of olive groves.
The entire coast of Palmi, in which the Marina and Tonnara Bay are located, is enriched by sea and coastal caves, beaches and rocks.
Stop 2 - Bagnara Calabra
Bagnara Calabra, home of the majestic swordfish fishery, is a triumph of the sea with beaches of stunning beauty.
An amphitheatre-shaped coastal centre located in the heart of the Costa Viola, between the Aspromonte hills and the Tyrrhenian Sea, the town of Bagnara rises above the sea, rising in steps from the lower part, the Marina, towards the hillside districts, which reach a height of 600 metres above sea level, forming a splendid halo that offers itself entirely to the view of the sea. The area is home to magnificent and famous natural caves, such as the Grotta del Monaco and the Grotta delle Rondini, favourite destinations for unforgettable boat trips.
Bagnara Calabra, reflected in the waters of the lower Tyrrhenian Sea, introduces us to the bewitching vision of the Strait of Messina, Stromboli and the Aeolian Islands.
Stop 3 - Scilla
On the strait we find Scilla, a delightful town rich in maritime history and culture, made immortal by Homeric and Virgilian Ulysses. Scilla is one of the prettiest and most characteristic small towns in Italy, standing on a high rocky spur overlooking the sea.
In Scilla, you can admire the ancient Castle leaning against the coast, the colourful houses juxtaposed one against the other, the Strait with the view of Sicily forming an enchanting panorama.
The oldest and most evocative part of Scilla is the locality of Chianalea, also called Little Venice due to its position almost submerged in the waters of the sea, recently included by Cnn in the list of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy. 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.
Stop 4 - Santo Stefano in Aspromonte
It is precisely from the Aspromonte Massif that the Aspromonte National Park takes its name, a protected natural area within the province of Reggio Calabria where nature is the main protagonist, with peaks touching 2,000 metres.
The sixth national park to be established in Italy, the Aspromonte National Park has a very jagged structure of the territory, from the Tyrrhenian to the Ionian Sea, and offers a great variety of plant species, generating a wide biodiversity, thanks also to the particularly favourable climatic conditions. One encounters oleanders and tamarisks, but also the black poplar, the willow and the black alder, beech forests and immense pine forests.
The park is also home to many animal species that find Aspromonte their ideal habitat. The wolf, for example, which has chosen the Aspromonte mountains as its refuge, but also wild cat, dormouse, wild boar and black squirrel, as well as foxes, hares, badgers, hedgehogs, beech martens and martens. Since 2011, a species that had been absent from the Aspromonte territories for about a century has been reintroduced into the park: the roe deer. The park is full of wonderful nature trails, some of which are suitable for cycling or horse riding, skiing and canyoning.
Stop 5 - Reggio di Calabria
Returning towards the sea, but still in the province of Reggio Calabria, the strip of Ionian coast from Riace to Locri, known as the Costa dei Gelsomini because of the cultivation of the fragrant flower, is also worth visiting. But the fragrant bergamot also grows luxuriantly in this area.
Reggio Calabria offers access to a considerable part of the world's cultural heritage, being home to one of the most important archaeological museums dedicated to Magna Graecia. The National Archaeological Museum has recently been expanded and it houses the famous Riace Bronzes. Defined by Gabriele D'Annunzio as the most beautiful kilometre in Italy, Reggio's Lungomare Falcomatà bewitches with the mirage of the Fata Morgana, a real mirage that can be glimpsed within the narrow band above the horizon, where one has the feeling that the coast of Sicily is only a few metres away from the Calabrian shores and that objects on the opposite shore are clearly distinguishable. This phenomenon refers to the Morgana of Celtic mythology, who induced visions of fantastic castles in the air or on the ground in sailors in order to lure them to their death.
Stop 6 - Bova
Finally, a stop is a must in Bova, an ethno-architectural jewel of Byzantine, Norman and medieval art. Bova, capital of the Greeks of Calabria, has been included in the circuit of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy. It is reached by an impervious route, but offers a delight to the eye and soul that repays all effort. Arriving in Bova, one does not only enjoy the beauty of the village, but also the taste of some of the fragrant breads that are baked here every day: such as the one with hermano flour, of Greek origin, or the 'nzerada, made with the leftovers of the dough, prepared according to the ancient recipes of Bova's bakers.