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If the idea of warm sand rubbing your toes and a fresh Mediterranean breeze blowing in the background makes you dream of warmer days, then it is time to start planning your summer vacation … in Calabria!
With more than 500 miles of coastline, wrapping around seaside villages and swooping cliffs, Calabria is packed with beaches in every shape, size, and color and choosing which ones to visit is tough.
As a certifiable beach bum and Calabria connoisseur, I’ve made the rounds. And here, in no particular order, are the five best beaches in Calabria.
Praia a Mare
Located on the northwest coast of Calabria just south of the Basilicata border, Praia a Mare’s two kilometer-long sand and pebble beach is among the best in the country.
But even that’s not the main attraction.
Jutting from beneath the shimmering blue waters just off of the shore is Isola di Dino. Once called “Rabbit Island,” Isola di Dino is four kilometers in perimeter and reaches 65 meters into the sky.
There are no beaches on the island, so travelers spend the day exploring the island’s sea caves. The most notable of these sea caves are the Lion’s Grotto, where stalagmites jut from the limestone floor, and the Blue Grotto, where lights magically glimmer from beneath the cave.
Continuing south along the Tyhrranian Coast, Diamante’s sparkling waters and glistening coastline beacon travelers to stop. And once they do, they are hooked.
Although Diamante’s beach overflows with bright white sand, the real attraction is just off of the coast. Diamante is famous with foodies throughout Italy for its annual Peperoncino Festival where local vendors spice things up by creating dishes such as chili pepper shrimp, chili pepper chocolate, even chili pepper liquor.
The 150 hand-painted murals in Diamante’s historical center have earned it the nickname “The City of Art.”
Tropea is by far the most touristy name in Calabrian beaches. And with a strip of coast that is only 500 meters long and 30 meters wide, it is often brimming with beach-goers anxious to bask in the Mezzogiorno sun.
The sand is soft, the cliffs are steep and the water on the edge is a bright Easter egg turquoise-green that slowly fades into light green, then azure blue, and finally sapphire.
In peak season, the beach is packed with wooden bungalows selling sandwiches, gelato, and drinks. There are also dozens of pizzerias, seafood restaurants, and bars lining the beach front.
The mystical village of Scilla is plucked from Greek mythology and was one of the locations featured in The Odyssey.
According to Homer, a six-headed sea monster named Scylla slept on the shores of this town and attacked sailors as they attempted to pass the Straits of Messina. She eventually attacked Ulysses’s crew, capturing six of his men. But he escaped her grasp.
Located just 22 kilometers north of Reggio Calabria on Calabria’s west coast, Scilla is still guarded by Ruffo Castle, the 11th Century fortress that sits on the cape that once overshadowed the slumbering Scylla. The soft-sand beach is one kilometer long and 60 meters wide and on a clear day offers easy views of nearby Sicily.
Located on Calabria’s east coast near Catanzaro, Caminia is one in a string of beaches that make the Ionian Coast one of the most beautiful-and untouched-stretches of land in Italy.
Caminia, along with neighboring Pietragrande and Copanello beaches, rivals Calabria’s west coast beaches in terms of dramatic cliffs, panoramic views and warm, clean water. But they are much less developed in terms of tourism and services.
The main attraction at Caminia is the beach itself, which features fine, light tan sand, bright sun, and relaxation.
Map of Calabria’s Best Beaches
Cherrye Moore is a southern Italy travel consultant who has written about travel in Calabria since 2006. She organizes tours of the region with her team at My Bella Vita.