From the sandy coloured buildings to the details of the door handles, Scilla Chianalea is a tiny hidden treasure that exists right on the edge of the sea, far South of Calabria.
Scilla is located on the toe of Italy’s boot that is split in two by a tiny port. To the North, the quaint fishing district of Scilla Chianalea harbours narrow lanes (one main lane) of restaurants terraced on top of the aquamarine Tyrrhenian sea that is a slice of heaven. Searched beforehand via pinterest, I was excited to see the picture-esq views that I drooled over back home. With the cacti lined pathways and white laundry hanging from the window, every cobblestone pathway guides you to the water with its seawater-smoothed stone stairs. The place is tiny, making it a perfect spot for a walk around and seafood lunch. As we arrived to Scilla Chianalea, it was exactly as imagined. The houses cramp right at sea with waves crashing up the walls and tiny colourful boats pulled up at their feet. The aqua coloured doors are as photogenic as their marine-style handles and the colourful window shutters are tremendously inviting against the pale cracked facades.
Tiny slipways lead you to the waterfront as if you are intertwined with the water, so no wonder it is listed as ‘Borghi più belli d’Italia’ one of the most beautiful villages of Italy. The region is known for seafood and typically swordfish and in the mornings, fishermen head to sea with their spears. The romantic town reminds me a bit of Greece, perhaps due to its mythical background, the blue hues or the style of the tavernas on top of the water just like in Thirasia (small fishing village from Santorini). Hardly no one spoke english, which made it an even more exciting adventure, portraying its tourisim-amount. Most visitors were Italians and you could tell they were on holiday as their camera’s were as busy as ours.
The village lies directly in front of Sicily and you can see the silhouette of Mount Etna in the horizon. Calabria is known for its steep coastal villages, the dramatic landscape and a dark past that involved corruption, wars and natural disasters. Its far different from the rich north or elegant Amalfi, from abandoned fishing villages to raw beauty, tourism is slowly making its way here to explore the more unknown. Local culture and culinary traditions have roots from Scilla, where chili and onions play a large role. We were told that onion is so sweet here that it is used for making jam and peperoncino is so fiery but earthy. They like it spicy here, more spicy than in the North. Chili and onion are found all over Calabria hanging from windows and sold in laurels along roadside.
We decided to have lunch at Il Principe di Scilla and sampled different seafood overlooking the beautiful blue sea. Naturally we had to try some swordfish carpaccio that melted in the mouth, fresh fragrant clam pasta and delicious grilled scampi with sweet pistachio crusting. We watched the fishing boats rock with the waves that glistened as much as the prosecco in my glass and enjoyed the untainted atmosphere that was all new to us.
I did some research about Calabria and if you are first timers like we were, I would suggest staying in Tropea and visiting Scilla as it is only an hour drive away. If you are traveling for a few weeks by car down south, I would primarily locate in Apulia and come for three days or so to the Calabria region to get a feel for it. It was interesting to drive through the landscape that is rich in agriculture and explore Italy’s all sides, both rich and poor.