The Calabrian Paradise of Vibo Valentia
In the middle of the southern heart of the region of Calabria, Vibo Valentia is a tiny peninsula on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Though its roots are lost in antiquity, this province is bursting with culture and offers beautiful, untamed places alive with history.
Vibo Valentia extends over the Tyrrhenian coast and through the Serre Mountains, including the great farm district of the Poro Plateau. Vibo Valentia was originally the Greek colony of Hypponion until 192 AD. The province was established in 1992 and owes its charm to the cobalt blue sea and the verdant plateaus back dropped by the Serre Mountains.
The pure natural landscape of Vibo Valentia has been cultivated only by the hands of local farmers. Spectacular panoramic views span from olive groves and scented cornfields to orange and lemon groves offering their aromatic fruits all year long. Imagine hillside vineyards, cane fields blown by the sea breeze and the amazing scent of flowering orange blossoms during hot summer nights.
Vibo Valentia’s historic center has been maintained in excellent condition, with yellow tuff monumental buildings and streets paved with big lava rocks. The bell tower of San Michele stands out in the city and is entirely dominated by a Norman Castle, most likely erected on the site of the Hypponion acropolis. The castle houses the State Archaeological Museum, with one of the most precious finds from the Hellenic past: the Laminetta Aurea, a golden lamina bearing the oldest Orpheus text found in Italy.
Going down the coast one reaches Pizzo, a small Medieval city situated right on the sea. Its historical center is a maze of alleyways running into its main piazza, a meeting place during the summer nights. The little Church of Piedigrotta, dug into the tuff, is also a local attraction. Pizzo is one of the most famous seaside resorts in Catanzaro Province, along with Tropea and Capo Vaticano.
Further south is Briatico, an ancient settlement dotted with Medieval finds and certainly one of the most interesting archaeological sites in the Province.
Tropea is one of the most beautiful towns on the area. As myth recounts, it was settled by Hercules, who reached these shores from Spain. Atop a hill near one of Tropea’s many beaches is the church and monastery of Santa Maria della Isola which glistens on a rocky promontory above an aquamarine sea. The interior boasts an 18th century nativity and fragments of Medieval tombs.
Further inland, Filadelfia draws many visitors heading for the nearby Angitola Lake. The Certosa di Serra San Bruno is a very important and renowned monumental monastic settlement founded by Bruno of Cologne at the end of the 1100s. It is an authentic oasis marked by peace, nature, art and religious quiet and is one of the favorite destinations of local tourists. Finally, Mileto is another town with strong signs of religious devotion, particularly its Benedictine Abbey della Trinità and its cathedral.
The wonderful Costa degli Dei is a paradise for water sports. Underwater excursions offer the chance to see unique seafloors and beautiful sea fauna. Kite surfing and wind surfing are often practiced here, thanks to the local seawater and winds.
Vibo Valentia’s inland, with its thick woods and its beautiful nature, is a perfect destination for trekking lovers. One of the best known villages is Capo Vaticano, with a typical Calabrese torrent surrounded by lush, rich vegetation including over 300 plant species.
Grottoes and what are known as “friars’ paths” in nearby Tropea are also worth a visit. It is possible to explore them either on horseback or by way of bicycling. Varying landscapes offer unique locations to observe the flora and fauna and the area ecotourism valorizes and celebrates Tropea’s natural endowments, especially the parks and wildlife reserves. Vibo Valentia also attracts birdwatchers year-round.
History and culture condition the province’s traditional gastronomic delights, rich in tastes referring to agriculture, sheep farming and fishing. The main products are marmalade, tuna, olive oil, chestnuts, mushrooms and sweets. Delicacies include ’Nduja of Spilinga (a tender salami), the fileja (handmade, fresh egg pasta rolled in long braids) and the gelato of Pizzo.