I am so pleased to post this guest post from Cherrye Moore, who lives in Calabria and specializes in southern Italy. Please check out her blog: My Bella Vita for more. Thank you, Cherrye!
10 Things to Love About Southern Italy
by Cherrye Moore
It is no secret I’m a tad biased when it comes to traveling in southern Italy. Oh, yes … I’ve been to-and loved!-Florence, Rome and Venice … I’ve strolled through Emilia-Romagna and “held up” that leaning tower in Pisa. But even before I moved to southern Italy in 2006, I had visited Puglia, Campania and Calabria and felt at home.
Here are just 10 of my favorite things about Italy’s southern regions.
No, no, we don’t have that year-round warm weather I’ve seen advertised by people trying to sell southern Italy real estate-but compared to our northern counterparts, I’d say it’s pretty nice. Last year we were swimming- in both the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas-through October. That’s pretty cool, I think.
Speaking of swimming, Calabria and Puglia each have 800 kilometers of coastline and feature hundreds of beaches that are under-the-radar-for international tourists. Add in the views from Campania’s Amalfi Coast and you’ve got yourself a beach vacation that will rival any seaside destination in the world.
Sunburns and gritty sand not your thing? Then head into one of southern Italy’s 13 national parks. The Pollino National Park extends more than 200,000 square kilometers from Basilicata into northern Calabria and is the largest national park in Italy, while the Parco Nazionale d'Abruzzo is home to Apennine wolf, Marsican bear, fox, mountain goats and Apennine lynx, as well as beech, pine, ash, wild oak and maple forests.
There is something calming about strolling through a Medieval village, exploring alleyways and ancient churches and being able to peer across the bluest waters in the Mediterranean. Medieval villages abound in southern Italy, from Campania’s Pisciotta to Calabria’s Gerace to Sicily’s Erice, these villages will transport you back to the Middle Ages.
Some of Italy’s most famous islands are found in southern Italy, including the Aeolian Island archipelago, with its world-famous Stromboli volcano, the trendy and chic islands of Capri and Ischia near Naples and the Tremiti Islands in Puglia.
Southern Italians are proud of their food and perhaps the most beloved ingredient of all, as well as the most versatile, is the famous chili pepper. You’ll find this spice in antipasto plates, pasta dishes, desserts, chocolate and liquor and most families keep a steady supply of it at home, for last minute peperoncino emergencies.
Figs, Citrus and Nuts
When the Greeks moved across southern Italy into the land we now call Magna Grecia, or Greater Greece, they came prepared. In addition to their olives and grapes, which produce some of the best olive oil and wine in the country, they also brought fig trees, citrus plants, chestnuts and hazelnuts … fodder for some of the fabulous festivals we celebrate in southern Italy every year.
Wine and Pasta
So, yes, we’ve already talked about wine, but did you know that every year two of Italy southernmost regions-Sicily and Puglia-battle it out for being the biggest wine producing region in the country? Well, they do and Puglia is historically the biggest pasta producing region, as well. Hmmm … dinner anyone?
I often tell people I feel like I’m living in the 1950s … we hang our clothes out to dry, shops close up for the midday nap and generations of families take time to enjoy leisurely lunches together … even on weekdays. It’s nice that there isn’t a McDonald’s on every corner and that authentic southern Italian culture is still alive and well.
Many travelers have told me the people they meet in southern Italy are among the most helpful, generous and gregarious they encounter in their travels. While I tend to think this is an “Italian” thing, rather than a specifically “southern Italian” trait, it is true the people down here generally take time to chat, especially if you approach them first, and are open and friendly to travelers they meet on vacation.
To see some beautiful photos of the region check out these links:
Medieval Villages: http://www.flickr.com/photos/missus_magik/4034546415/
Cherrye Moore is a Calabria tour planner and travel writer living in southern Italy. She writes about expat life for AffordableCallingCards.net, a site that sells-you guessed it-affordable calling cards to Italy. You can read about expat life on their site or more about traveling in Calabria and southern Italy on her site, My Bella Vita.