A couple of weeks ago I took a trip to Calabria to visit some friends. I hadn’t been there for quite a while but during my childhood and teenage years I would spend long periods of time in this beautiful region of Southern Italy, especially in the summertime, because my father is a native of Calabria and my maternal grandparents are from the region as well ( they all emigrated to Milan when they were young).
I traveled by plane to Lamezia Terme, a city on the Tyrrhenian coast that is home to the region’s main international airport. If you enjoy flying as I do, the flight to Lamezia is an experience in itself; on a clear day you get amazing views of the coast and it almost feels like landing on the water, as the airport is very close to the seaside.
While most of my family comes from the Northern part of Calabria (mainly from the province of Cosenza), I spent a few days in Lamezia Terme to visit a dear friend of mine who was born and raised there and we had not seen each other for years.
Lamezia Terme is an Italian city in the province of Catanzaro. The municipality of Lamezia has a large territory that includes the former municipalities of Nicastro, Sambiase and Sant’Eufemia Lamezia. The origins of Nicastro, which is now considered the center of the city, trace back to the 9th century, when Calabria was part of the Byzantine Empire; this brought to the creation of a fortress called Neo Castrum (“New Castle”); it was built by the Normans and enlarged by Emperor Frederick II, but it was destroyed after an earthquake in 1638.
Once home to the thermal baths, the area of Sambiase became an exporter of farm products in the 7th century, when Byzantine monks were teaching the farmers to read and write. They also built numerous monasteries and churches, and five of them still exist to this day. Sambiase was a very important place for the economy, since it was exporting its own products (mainly olives, grapes and wheat) to the whole Byzantine Empire and it was allied with other major Byzantine cities like Taranto and Naples.
Sant’Eufemia Lamezia, where the international airport is located (some of you travelers may have noticed that the airport code SUF stands for Sant’Eufemia), is the most ancient part of the city. The territory of the municipality of Lamezia, near Gizzeria Lido, is home to the bastion of the Knights of Malta, called so because it was assigned to the Knights of Malta, who owned a fiefdom in the Gulf of Sant’Eufemia. Along with Nocera and Gizzeria, Sant’Eufemia is still devoted today to the figure of St. John the Baptist, protector of the Order of the Knights of Malta.
When in Lamezia, I stayed in the area of Nicastro, right in the city centre, at a beautiful facility located less than a minute from the main street, home to various boutiques and commercial activities; the location is pretty great because it allows you to move around on foot and in the evening you can easily reach bars and restaurants for dinner or an aperitif.
The hotel has a variety of rooms to choose from; I stayed in a single room with a large French bed because I was traveling on my own, but there are also twin rooms, classic double rooms and large rooms with a King-size bed.
The rooms are equipped with all amenities, which include in-room breakfast, hotel bed system (they have Dorelan mattresses, which are my absolute favorite), ergonomic double pillows with different textures, bathrooms with side hydro-massage shower columns and separate hand shower, double-speed hair dryer, crystal shower stall, magnifying mirror for make-up, lighting technology, wood floors and soundproof security doors. The rooms also have a safe and a mini-bar, Full HD LED TVs with informative thematic channels and a telephone with unlimited local and mobile calls. Some rooms also have balconies and double closets.
All the rooms are equipped with USB sockets on bedside tables, LAN connection up to 100 mega (I work for my own company and high-speed internet is a priority for me whenever I am traveling, so I was very happy with the hotel’s Wi-Fi quality) and the facility is managed through centralized home automation, so it is accessed through a personal key card provided upon arrival.
Mariano, the owner, is very kind and helpful; he gives frequent advice on what to see and how to move around the territory and he is the perfect example of someone who knows how to do their job and is great at dealing with customers. I highly recommend this place if you choose to stay in Lamezia to visit the city and other places in Calabria because I had a great stay! Plus, the breakfast offer was pretty amazing and it included orange juice, coffee, croissants, American nuts and Calabrian bocconotti, which are sweet pastry tartlets very typical of the region.
The old town of Lamezia is very beautiful and there are many places worth visiting around the area. The San Teodoro district is located in the heart of Nicastro’s historic centre; its alleys lead to the remains of the Norman Castle, in what is probably the highest part of the town. The view from the ruins is magnificent and you can see the whole city below down to the sea; there is also a new river park called Parco della Piedichiusa which connects very easily with the neighborhood of San Teodoro. The park was opened about a year ago and it is a very quiet and peaceful place, where you can bring a book to read or simply sit there and enjoy being surrounded by nature. When my friend was at work, I spent some time walking around the city and exploring the streets while looking at historical places like the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul and the old buildings in the historic centre… I even came across some Fiat vintage cars!
There are still a few places that I didn’t get to see because I was there for three days only, but I hope to visit them next time I’m in the city. The Lametino Archaeological Museum has a collection of different archaeological finds from excavations that were carried out in the area of Lamezia; it has a Prehistoric, Classical and Medieval section.
The Bastion of the Knights of Malta is an immense watchtower built in 1550 and assigned to the Knights; there are also other numerous watchtowers in the same area.
I also plan to see the thermal baths (called Terme di Caronte), which are located inland but are only a few kilometers from the sea, looking towards the Gulf of St. Euphemia; the valley that hosts the thermal baths is located in the context of the Mitoio Park, so it sounds like a great place to relax and unwind.
In the days I spent in Calabria I got to taste some really delicious food; Il Merlo Rosso is one of the typical restaurants located in the center of Nicastro and it offers specialties of grilled meat and seafood, excellent dishes rich in simplicity and tradition. I ate typical bruschetta, trofie pasta with scampi and pistachio cream and fried anchovies and squid; I recommend this restaurant to people who are visiting Lamezia and want to eat like the locals!
In Lamezia there is also a great place called Burgeriaa – The Irreverent Street Food, where you can taste the city’s best burgers. It is where we had dinner with some other friends on the last night I was there and it is perfect if you want to share a beer in good company.
One of the highlights of my trip to Calabria was eating at a very special place that is pretty popular on social media; it was included in the Gambero Rosso food guide for the Italian Pizza section and it was also ranked among the 100 Best Pizza Places Worldwide. The restaurant is called Bob Alchimia a Spicchi and the peculiarity of this place is that you have to eat pizza with your hands because they don’t bring you cutlery. This idea was realized by two entrepreneurs back in 2016; they opened as a very small take-away pizzeria and within a few years the place has become one of the most famous not only in Calabria but also nationally and internationally. It won several food awards and it is the perfect example of entrepreneurship done right. It also shows that no matter where you come from, you can do great things if you have the right intuition and spirit of enterprise. It uses local and fresh ingredients, so you really get a taste of Calabria when you eat there! I had a Bob Margherita and Pistachio Pizza for dessert; I couldn’t finish it all because the portions are quite large but it was indeed an immersive experience and I hope to visit the restaurant again in the future.
If you want to grab a coffee in Nicastro, I can easily recommend Gelateria Torteria Caffetteria 21-12 because they specialize in baking mirror glazed cakes, which are all the rage nowadays.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to visit some places around Lamezia as well; we spent an evening in the city of Catanzaro, which is the regional capital of Calabria and home to the prestigious Magna Græcia University. It is a city where you can really breathe history; architecture lovers will surely appreciate Teatro Politeama’s architectural structure, the city’s main theatre, which has a capacity of about 900 people.
There are also the coastal towns of Catanzaro Lido and Soverato Marina, that are located on the Ionian coast and are very much alive in the summertime, with plenty of restaurants, clubs and hotels that are great for families and friend groups alike.
I also got to see the town of Pizzo, which is on the Tyrrhenian coast and about 40 minutes from Lamezia; Pizzo is renowned for the production of the Pizzo truffle (“Tartufo”) and the borgo is very ancient and beautiful, with wonderful glimpses of alleyways and breathtaking views of what is known as the Coast of the Gods (“Costa degli Dei”), including the harbor of Vibo Valentia. The day we visited Pizzo the weather was a bit rainy, but the beauty of this town is nonetheless remarkable. There are numerous churches to see in Pizzo, but its most popular attraction is probably the old Castle that was built by the Aragonese in the 15th century; this is where Joachim Murat, former king of Naples, was held prisoner and shot in 1815. The Castle has been turned into a museum, which we got to visit by the end of the morning. Inside the manor, a historical reconstruction reproduces the last days of Murat’s life, depicting the different moments of the King and his men’s imprisonment; the reconstructed scenes were very emotional to see. The entire structure is partly overlooking the sea, so the views are spectacular, especially on a sunny day. In the upper part of the city there is also the Church of San Francesco di Paola, to whom my grandmother was very devoted; it has recently been renovated and repainted and it’s a beautiful church both internally and externally.
The plain of Lamezia, along with its neighboring municipalities, is famous for the breathtakingly beautiful sunsets you get to see from Falerna, Gizzeria and Sant’Eufemia; on clear days you can even see Mount Stromboli and the Aeolian Islands. I didn’t get to take any sunset pictures while I was there because of the cloudy weather but I hope I get the chance to do it someday because the Tyrrhenian Riviera is one of the best places for sunset photography.
The municipality of Gizzeria is also home to numerous vineyards and olive groves; the tower of Capo Suvero is located in the same area, with wonderful views over the Capo Suvero Lighthouse as well. It is really one of the most peaceful, beautiful places I have ever seen, allowing you to live in the moment and enjoy the beauty of nature.
This article is dedicated to my beloved grandparents who were originally from the wonderful Southern Italy region of Calabria; they have conveyed to me the same warm spirit of the South, they have helped make me who I am today, and for that I will always be thankful.
Thank you to my friend Simone for being so generous and making me discover places in Calabria I didn’t know about, and most of all thank you for being a great friend. I am very grateful for these days!
Thank you to Mariano and the whole team at Residenze Cassoli for their hospitable welcome and kindness, it is one of the best places to stay in Lamezia Terme and I will definitely recommend the hotel to anyone traveling to Calabria.
All pictures are my own, except the ones from the hotel that are courtesy of Residenze Cassoli.
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