Tour of the Costa Viola in Calabria

Itinerary on the Costa Viola, from sunsets over the Straits to swordfish fishing

© Regione Calabria


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The last southern stretch of Tyrrhenian Calabria, in the province of Reggio Calabria, is known as the Costa Viola because of a peculiar seaweed that, especially at sunset, tinges the surface of the water with violet hues, providing an unprecedented spectacle.

A magical place, criss-crossed by myths and legends (Scylla and Charybdis, Colapesce, etc.), the Costa Viola is the stretch of sea overlooking the Strait of Messina, where the so-called "Morgana Effect", named after the enchantress fairy, occurs. What does it consist of? On the clearest days, the shores of Calabria and Sicily are so clearly reflected on the surface of the sea that they seem to touch. 

The resorts of the Costa Viola are historically devoted to tuna and swordfish fishing, a very ancient activity linked to rituals, songs and superstitions that have always fascinated artists and filmmakers, such as the director Vittorio De Seta, who documented it in a film entitled Lu tempu di li pisci spata (1954), on board typical fishing boats (spatàre, feluche and palmitàre).

From here, you can embark for Sicily and the Aeolian Islands on hydrofoils and ferries (port of Villa San Giovanni and Reggio Calabria), or you can stop off at smaller marinas, such as Palmi, during a beautiful sailing tour of Calabria.

Stop 1 - Palmi

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First stop on the itinerary along the Costa Viola is the town of Palmi, birthplace of the writer and intellectual Leonida Repaci.

The House of Culture named after him is a place not to be missed. It houses an Antiquarium with exhibits from the Tauriani National Archaeological Park, the Art Gallery, the Plaster Gallery and the Francesco Cilea Museum, dedicated to the famous Palmian composer.

The museum also houses an area displaying some relics and sacred objects that illustrate the most heartfelt event in Palmi: the feast of the Madonna della Lettera, on the last Sunday of August, during which the procession of the Varia di Palmi takes place.

The Varia di Palmi is the most important UNESCO Intangible Heritage of the region. Borrowed from the nearby city of Messina in 1582, it depicts the Assumption of Mary into heaven through hundreds of figures. Suspended at the top of the structure is the so-called Animella, a little girl representing the Madonna. Tied to the structure, the other children represent the angels, while at the foot of the float stand the apostles and, finally, the bearers. 

Those who visit Palmi in the summer can appreciate some of the most beautiful beaches on the Costa Viola, such as the Marinella Beach, the Tonnara Beach and the characteristic Ulivarella Beach, where a centuries-old olive tree stands, solitary, atop a cliff.

The vantage point with a view of the entire Costa Viola? Mount Sant'Elia, where the Three Crosses monument stands.

Stop 2 - Seminara

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The next stop on the Costa Viola itinerary takes us to Seminara, "City of Ceramics", a title that recalls the ancient handicraft production that has made Seminara famous throughout the world.

Seminara's artistic ceramics are precious artefacts, the production technique of which has been handed down from father to son since the 18th century. Even today, the ceramists' workshops that can be visited along the streets of the town centre offer an important cross-section of the local tradition, as well as a colourful glimpse of vases, plates, vessels, masks, apotropaic animal and plant forms, which bring good luck and ward off the evil eye.

After a tour of the craft workshops, we visit the Monastery of Saints Elias and Filarete, a splendid example of Byzantine architecture in Calabria, where the monks still practise the Greek Orthodox rite.

The gem of this part of the Costa Viola? The beach of Cala Janculla, an authentic natural paradise for those who love to indulge in the relaxation of fine sand set among the rocks and diving in an emerald sea.

Stop 3 - Bagnara Calabra

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The birthplace of the "Bertè sisters", Loredana and Mia Martini, to whom a monument is dedicated at the entrance to the town, Bagnara Calabra is the town on the Costa Viola that is most linked to swordfish fishing.

It is no coincidence that the town's symbol is the typical "bagnarota", a tribute to the local women, tireless workers who, since ancient times, have maintained their families by trading swordfish and salt along the Costa Viola. The bagnarota, in traditional dress, balances the characteristic basket loaded with merchandise on her head, from which the sharp "sword" of the fish emerges.

Enjoying swordfish in these parts is a "must", but it is not the only local delicacy. The excellence is Nougat of Bagnara PGI, made by processing sugar, toasted almonds, honey, egg white, bitter cocoa, essential oils and powdered spices.

What to see in Bagnara? From the historic centre, climb up to the Marturano hill via the trekking path of the same name. At the top stands the Ruffo Castle, which offers a breathtaking view of the entire Costa Viola. Also worth visiting are the Church of the Carmine and the 15th century Aragonese Tower of Capo Rocchi, on the waterfront. 

Stop 4 - Scilla

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Also known as the "Little Venice of the South", Scilla offers its visitors the magic of the picturesque fishing village of Chianalea, one of the unmissable jewels of the Costa Viola.

Chianalea di Scilla is the seaside hamlet of the village where the old fishermen's houses are literally built on the water and crossed by the sea between one alley and the next. The original mooring piles have been transformed into renowned fish restaurants serving local specialities of swordfish and sea urchins. 

If, on the other hand, you would like to go for a swim and enjoy the splendid panorama that, from below, allows you to admire the village and the castle in all their splendour, then you can plant your umbrella at Marina Grande, the wide free pebble beach that looks out over the Straits and the entire Costa Viola

On the way up to the village, in a panoramic position, it is worth visiting the beautiful Ruffo Castle, one of Calabria's best-preserved castles, which can be visited inside. A walk allows you to admire the churches and the belvedere of Piazza San Rocco, at the centre of which stands the Statue of Scilla (or Sirenetta), the artistic symbol of the village.

Last update: Mar 13, 2024 11:11 AM