Riviera dei Cedri in Calabria, between beaches and unique spots

Tour of the Riviera dei Cedri

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The name, "Riviera dei Cedri", is an entire concept. It evokes the scent of orange blossom and the golden yellow of a sun-kissed fruit, which on this stretch of sea in the Cosenza area offers splendid sunsets.

This is the ideal habitat for the prized Cedar of Calabria PDO, an indigenous citrus fruit with unique characteristics: smooth and shiny skin, large size, autumn blossom, used in confectionery and cosmetics. Thanks to the presence of this fruit, every year the Riviera dei Cedri hosts rabbis from all over the world, who come here to choose the best fruit for the Jewish festival of Sukkot (or Feast of the Huts), which involves the use of etrog (the citron) in its most prized variant.

The Riviera dei Cedri (or Cedar Coast) is renowned for its beaches, from which one can reach the two small Calabrian islands: the Dino Island (Praia a Mare) and the Cirella Island (Diamante), two true naturalistic paradises and an integral part of the "Riviera dei Cedri" Regional Marine Park.

Ready to set off on an itinerary to discover the Riviera dei Cedri?

Stop 1 - Praia a Mare

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The first stop on the itinerary starting from the north is Praia a Mare, one of the Blue Flags of this stretch of coastline.

Founded as a fishing and farming village between the course of the Noce and Lao rivers, Praia a Mare boasts one of the region's most important naturalistic jewels: Dino Island, the largest island in Calabria.

Dino Island is one of the pearls of the Riviera dei Cedri, an oasis rich in species of marine flora and fauna, some of them very rare. Criss-crossed by caves and coves, such as the Sardine Cave, rich in stalagmites, and the suggestive Blue Cave, the island is a paradise for cave divers and true nature lovers.

In the historical centre, the Church of the Sacro Cuore, the Church of San Paolo Apostolo and the Shrine of the Madonna della Grotta are worth a visit. The Praia Fortress, on the other hand, is the 14th century Norman complex that, together with the so-called Fortino (16th century) and the Fiuzzi Tower, best represents the medieval and Saracen periods.

Do you love an active holiday and are you looking for adrenalin sports? Seize the opportunity to paraglide in Praia a Mare.

Other places to visit nearby? Don't miss Tortora and its Blue Flag beach!

Stop 2 - San Nicola Arcella

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Among the unmissable stops along the Riviera dei Cedri, the village of San Nicola Arcella (Blue Flag) offers one of the region's most striking naturalistic gems.

Have you ever heard of the Arcomagno Beach? It is a little corner of paradise: a cove carved into the rock that can be reached on foot, via a flight of steps in the cliff, or by boat. Formerly known as "Saracen Cave" or "Aeneas's Arch", this little beach is sheltered by a large natural cavity inside which fresh water flows. The rocky arch that frames it and gives it its name is one of the most photographed places in Calabria.

What to see in the village? A walk through the streets reveals colourful murals that tell its story; don't miss the Church of San Nicola da Tolentino, the Palace of Princes Lanza di Trabia and the famous Saracen tower known as the Crawford Tower.

The American writer Lord Francis Marion Crawford fell in love with this watchtower. In the 19th century, he spent a long time inside it, composing some of his works set along the Riviera dei Cedri, which he also described in his short story "For the Blood is the life".

Stop 3 - Scalea

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Third stop on the tour along the Cedar Coast is Scalea, one of the oldest towns in Calabria, positioned between the hills and the valley of the Lao river.

Its dark pebble beaches create a fascinating contrast with the blue of the sea and the green of the hinterland. The name recalls the presence of the traditional stone stairs that criss-cross the historic centre.

The architectural symbol of Scalea is Talao Tower, one of Calabria's 16th century coastal towers, now a panoramic terrace overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Ajnella cliffs below. The Ajnella is among the most popular free beaches on the Riviera dei Cedri.  

The hill on which the old town stands is dominated by the ruins of the Norman Castle. It was here that Ruggiero di Lauria was born in 1250, a great admiral of the Aragonese fleet, whose exploits inspired Giovanni Boccaccio, who recalls his figure and birthplace in the Decameron.

Around the castle ruins, it is worth visiting the archaeological Antiquarium and the numerous noble palaces, with their staircases and granite portals: the Princes' Palace, seat of the Municipal Library, Episcopio Palace (12th century), a real Angevin military fortress, and Pallamolla Palace, home of the maritime merchants of the same name.

Stop 4 - Santa Maria del Cedro

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Continuing south along the Riviera dei Cedri, we encounter its small "capital": Santa Maria del Cedro (Blue Flag), named after the citrus fruit prince of this coastline.

The "home" of the prized Cedar of Calabria PDO is the Cedar Museum, housed in the monumental Gabriele Marino Palace. Created to promote and enhance knowledge of this ancient citrus fruit, the museum houses didactic panels and multimedia stations that tell its history, the harvesting and processing phases and the folk traditions linked to its ritual use in Judaism.

After a stroll through the old town, we discover the must-see sights in the immediate vicinity: from the Laos Archaeological Park to the medieval San Michele Complex.

The first, on Colle San Bartolo in the hamlet of Marcellina, documents the ancient settlement of the city of Laos (510 B.C.) through the excavation of the settlement ("House of the Ramp", "House of the Mint", etc.) and the artefacts on display at the nearby Antiquarium of Scalea; the second, includes the ruins of the Castle of San Michele (or of Abatemarco) and the Basilian church of the same name, entirely frescoed.

Stop 5 - Diamante

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A stop dedicated to typical gastronomy and art, as well as the wonderful beaches of the Cedar Coast, with a visit to Diamante, "City of Murals and Chilli Pepper".

The best time to visit this location? During the much-awaited Diamante Peperoncino Festival, which every year in September offers entertainment, tastings, exhibitions, conferences and screenings dedicated to the spice that is the symbol of Calabria, as well as the "Italian Championship of Peperoncino Eaters", the "hottest" competition in Italy.

After strolling through the streets of the historic centre to discover the famous Diamante Murals, a veritable open-air museum depicting scenes of everyday life with over 200 works by international artists, we reach the seafront and beaches to discover another gem of the Riviera dei Cedri, the Cirella Island.

Cirella is the second largest island in Calabria after Dino Island. Covered in Mediterranean maquis and characterised by sea caves, it is an uncontaminated habitat of Posidonia Oceanica with specimens of Pinna Nobilis, the largest bivalve in the Mediterranean. Archaeological finds from Greek and Roman times as well as the Middle Ages have been found among its rocks, as evidenced by the presence of a Saracen turret.

The hamlet of the same name known as Cirella Vecchia or Ruderi di Cirella, on the other hand, constitutes the ancient settlement of Diamante, or the walled city in whose setting a modern open-air theatre now stands, the site of a summer festival of concerts and shows.

Stop 6 - Belvedere Marittimo

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The last stop on the itinerary to discover the Riviera dei Cedri is the medieval village of Belvedere Marittimo, also known as the "Lovers' Village".

It is right here, in the Capuchin Convent, that the relics of St Valentine, patron saint of lovers, are kept: the Porziuncola Chapel holds the wooden urn with the blood and bone fragments that came from the Cyprian cemetery, and every year, on 14 February, it is a pilgrimage destination for many couples.

The historical centre is identified with the Aragonese Castle, renovated in 1490 by King Ferdinand of Aragon. The bastions and towers with typical battlements and brackets are still visible.

The hamlet of Belvedere Marina, Blue Flag, offers a naturalistic scenery characterised by a beautiful beach but above all, in a northerly direction, by the presence of marine terraces and yellow sands alternating with clayey gullies.

The best time to visit Belvedere Marittimo? The month of July, when the famous three-day fireworks display on the sea, "Note di Fuoco - Fireworks Art Festival", takes place.

Also not to be missed in the immediate vicinity is the Capo Bonifati Beach (in the municipality of the same name), one of the pearls of the Riviera dei Cedri.

Last update: Mar 11, 2024 8:19 AM