Discovering Calabria: Exploring the Land of Two Seas, Catanzaro

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 11:42

Known as the Land of Two Seas, Catanzaro offers scenic vistas over the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west and the Ionian Sea to the east, while its Michelin-starred dining takes farm-to-table dining to new heights with its inventive twist on traditional dishes.  

The Province of Catanzaro is bordered by Cosenza in the north, Crotone in the northeast, Reggio Calabria in the south and Vibo Valentia in the southwest. It was once the largest province in Calabria until the 1990s when its territory was divided to form the new provinces of Vibo Valentia and Crotone. The province currently has 76 municipalities and is home to the Viadotto Morandi Bridge, one of the tallest in Europe, and the Isthmus of Catanzaro, the narrowest point on the entire Italian peninsula, as well as immaculate beaches and historic architecture. 

Aerial map of Isthmus of Catanzaro[The Isthmus of Catanzaro, By Igea via Wikimedia Commons]

Like the rest of Calabria, Catanzaro was part of Magna Graecia and has evidence of Roman, Saracen, Byzantine and Norman rule. You may be surprised to discover that the name Italia was first attributed to the inhabitants of Catanzaro who the Greeks called ”Italoi“, referring to King Italo. Under the Emperor Augustus the entire region of Calabria was called Italia, a name eventually given to the rest of the Peninsula. 

Catanzaro’s picturesque landscape is surrounded by the Sila Mountains in the north and the Serre Calabresi Mountains in the south. In the Sila National Park, you can enjoy skiing, trekking, mountain-biking and climbing according to the season, as well as visits to the lovely villages of Cortale, Taverna, and Tiriolo that boasts a medieval castle and scenic views over both the Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas. 

View of a small town

[View of Taverna in Calabria, Photo credit: Francesco Fratto via wikimedia commons [CC BY 3.0]

The central part of the province is formed by the Isthmus of Catanzaro, a narrow strip of land that runs across the land joining two coasts, the Gulf of Squillace and of Sant'Eufemia. It is the narrowest part of the entire Italian peninsula. On the higher ground around the town of Marcellinara, you can take in the scenic view of both seas simultaneously. 

Rising on a cliff overlooking the Gulf of Squillace is the city of Catanzaro, the capital of Catanzaro Province, as well as all of Calabria. The city is divided into two parts by the Fiumarella Valley. The two sections are connected by the Viadotto Morandi Bridge. This massive concrete steel bridge has become a famous landmark as it is one of the tallest bridges in Europe. Photography and architecture enthusiasts should not miss it!

The capital is famed for its production of fine silk, velvet and brocade worn by Popes and noble families across Europe for generations. Sights to see include the Catanzaro Cathedral that houses a beautiful painting of the Madonna and Child, the Norman Tower, the wonderful gardens of Villa Trieste, and the Provincial Museum in Villa Comunale where you can view an important collection of antique coins from Magna Graecia, as well as archaeological remains.

Garden[Villa Trieste (Catanzaro) Di Igea di Wikipedia in italiano - Trasferito da it.wikipedia su Commons., Pubblico dominio]

At the end of Corso Massini, you will find the viewpoint "Belvedere" that offers panoramic vistas that sweep across the Fiumarella Valley and the Gulf of Squillace.

Cathedral of Catanzaro

The most famous area of the province is situated between Catanzaro and Soverato, in the centre of the Gulf of Squillace. Here, spectacular granite cliffs alternate with long, white sandy beaches overlooking a brilliant sea. In the summer months, these seaside villages are filled with tourists and locals who come to lounge on the gorgeous beaches by day and go dancing by night.

History-lovers should not miss the Scolacium Archaeological Park in Roccelletta di Borgia, facing the Gulf of Squillace. Here lay the remains of the pre-Roman settlement of Skylletion which consists of ancient streets, aqueducts, a mausoleum, a theatre and an amphitheatre, evidence of this ancient coastal city’s rich and prosperous past.

Scolacium Amphitheater[Scolacium Amphitheater, Photo credit: Michelvincenzo via Wikimedia Commons]

Catanzaro is also home to Lamezia Terme International Airport, located in the Sant'Eufemia district of the same name. The airport is situated within a stone’s throw of the Tyrrhenian coast; an area filled with lovely villages and magnificent beaches.

Promenade of Soverato

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When it comes to dining, Catanzaro’s cuisine is making a mark thanks to Michelin-starred Ristorante Abbruzzino that has been at the forefront of the Calabrian food scene with its inventive, creative approach. 

The region’s food is characterized by basic ingredients like olive oil, pepperoncino (hot chilli pepper) and whole wheat bread. Specialties include the pasta chyna (pasta filled with provolone cheese, boiled eggs, soppressata, meat sauce and grated cheese); the ciambrotta (pasta dressed with fried eggs and pecorino cheese); the popular u murzeddhu (tripe cooked in a spicy sauce and served in a pitta, a typical local round-shaped focaccia bread); and the stigghiole (entrails of kid, veal or pork cooked with tomatoes, vegetables and chili peppers).


For dessert try the delicious crocette (dry figs filled with nuts, cinnamon and candied cedar cooked in the oven). Accompany that with a glass of local Malvasia wine and your taste buds will thank you!