Episode #024: Getting to know Calabria – the Other Italy

untold italy episode 24 - calabria karen haid

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Let’s take a trip to the deep south of Italy. To the toe of the boot where not so many visitors to Italy venture. Such a shame. Calabria is the southern most region on Italy’s mainland and it has a fascinating and ancient past, incredible beaches and beautiful mountains to explore. Our guest Karen Haid lived in the region for several years and wrote a book Calabria: The Other Italy about her time there. She joins us to share her insider knowledge.

Show notes

Calabria is where the tip of Italy’s boot almost meets Sicily, divided only by the narrow Straits of Messina. Settled by the Ancient Greeks and many other civilizations, Calabria is also the place many Italian immigrants to the US, Canada, Australia and NZ left and set sail for a new life.

Most visitors rush through Calabria on their way across to Sicily or miss it all together. This means they never get to discover this beautiful region famous throughout Italy for stunning beaches, mountain ranges and a unique and very tasty food culture. In Calabria you will find some of the most important ancient sites in Italy, castles that guard watch over the coastline and a unique citrus fruit used to create many perfumes and Earl Grey tea.

Karen is one of only a handful of people who have written about Calabria in English in any detail. She shares the many unexpected sights and things to do there as well as tips for travelers who wish to add Calabria to their Italy itinerary.

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What you’ll learn in this episode

  1. What is special about the Calabria region and why you should go there
  2. Special towns and villages in Calabria to add to your itinerary
  3. What to eat in Calabria including a special fruit that is used to make Earl Grey tea
  4. The best way to get around the region
  5. Where to get a selfie with a 2,500 year old statue

About our guest – Karen Haid

karen haid calabria

Knowing the meaning of al dente before it was in vogue, Karen Haid inherited her love of Italy and its traditions from her parents. She went on to study the Italian language and culture at schools in Rome, Florence, Lucca, Sorrento, Taormina and Reggio Calabria, and earned Dante Alighieri Society’s Advanced Certification of mother tongue equivalency, as well as credentials to teach the Italian language and culture from Reggio Calabria’s University for Foreigners. Her first book Calabria: The Other Italy grew out of a four-year immersion, living, teaching and traveling throughout the beautiful Calabria region. She continues her exploration of the bel paese with her My Italian Blog and upcoming book Basilicata: Authentic Italy.

Described as “charming and refreshingly honest” by Ambassador magazine, her Calabria book is “the perfect combination of personal experiences with Calabrians, and the history and culture of the region.” Karen brings this knowledge and enthusiasm to her tours of Southern Italy with her company Karen’s Travel LLC.

You can find Karen on these channels:

Places mentioned in the show

  • Cities and towns: Reggio Calabria (airport), Tropea, Scilla, Santa Severina, Pizzo, Morano Calabro (mountain town), Altomonte, Bova, Pentedattilo, Le Castella (beach with castle), San Nicola Arcella (007 movie location), Lamezia Terme (airport)
  • Mountains in Calabria: La Sila, Aspromonte, Pollina
  • Towns with Greek heritage: Sibari, Crotone, Locri
  • Museum – Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia where you can find the Riace bronzes
  • Mammola – town famous for making the best pesce stocco (or so they say!)

Food and produce of the Calabria region mentioned in the show

  • Bergamot – unique citrus fruit used to flavor Earl Grey tea, local liqueurs and gelato
  • Nduja – spicy sausage made in the area near Tropea
  • Peperoncino – local dried chillis added to many dishes
  • Pesce stocco – dried stock fish used to make a variety of dishes

Resources from Untold Italy

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Transcript

Prefer to read along as you listen? Below is a full transcript of our episode conversation. Unfortunately it does not pick up our lovely Australian and Scottish accents however!

Click here for full episode transcript

Intro (00:05):
Ciao and ben venuti to Untold Italy. I’m Josie and I’m Katy and we’re here to help you plan your trip to Italy. Between us, we have many years of travel experience and we want to help you uncover your own as yet untold stories and adventures in Italy. Each episode you’ll hear practical advice, tips, and ideas to help you plan your own trips to the magical land of history, stunning landscapes, and a whole lot of pasta. We’ll have interviews from experts and focus on local destinations and frequently asked questions about travel in Italy. Thanks for listening and make sure to subscribe to our show. Now let’s get started on your regular dose of Bella Italia

Ciao a tutti! How are you all going?

It’s now winter here in Australia and I am craving some summer sun. Usually at this time of year Italians start thinking about their summer vacation in August when many of them head down south to the region of Calabria which is famous for its beaches,coastal towns and national parks.

Calabria is also where Josie’s family and my father in law are from. Many Italians migrated to Australia, the United States, Canada and beyond from Calabria after the second world war and

Calabrians form a big part of the story of Italian migration across the world. But while many people visit Italy to visit the cities of the north, not so many visit Calabria

Our guest today is Karen Haid, an author who spent several years living in Calabria teaching English and having adventures all over this relatively undiscovered region. Karen’s book “Calabria: The Other Italy” uncovers the culture and history of this beautiful region of Italy and is one of only a handful of books on the area ever published in English. She also runs tours exploring the region where you’ll definitely discover authentic Italy. As you’ll learn, Karen is a bonafide expert on the region and it’s a pleasure to have her on the show.

Katy (02:13):
Ben venuti welcome to Untold Italy podcast. Karen. It is so wonderful to have you on the show to talk about beautiful Calabria.

Karen Haid (02:21):
Thank you so much. I’m very happy to be here. I feel like I’m in Australia just listening to you.

Katy (02:26):
I know Australia, America, and then we’re talking about Calabria going in the middle. So Karen, before we get started talking about all things Calabria, can you tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself and how you came to be in Calabria?

Karen Haid (02:44):
Okay. let’s see. I’m American, which I suppose is clear for all listeners. And I grew up in New Jersey, quite close to New York city, actually close to Newark airport. And I, I grew up with parents who had lived in Italy in the 1950s. So they lived there for five years. And even though we weren’t Italian, there was always this affinity in the family for Italy. We ate Italian food. They both spoke Italian, even though I heard that rarely when they had a friend over. And one of my sisters actually thought she was Italian when she was growing up. And then I started studying the Italian language and I went to a number of intensive language schools. The type of school where you go and study for anywhere from a week to a month or so. And right in Italy itself, I did schools in Rome, in Florence, Taormina and Sorrento. And I really enjoyed it. There you go to classes from nine in the morning to one in the afternoon and have excursions. And I lived with families and then I decided I would really like to have even more of an immersion. And so I thought, well, how am I going to do that and teach English?

Karen Haid (04:11):
This was how I landed in Calabria and it was just happenstance. So that was how I came to be in Calabria and I lived in Locri for two years. And Locri is a good size town, of about 12,000 people but then I thought I would like to be in a little bit larger place. And so then I found another job in Reggio Calabria, which is the largest city in Calabria and it’s right at the very tip of the toe of the boot. So that is how I, how I arrived in Calabria.

Katy (04:47):
Oh, so you didn’t actually choose Calabria. It kind of chose you.

Karen Haid (04:51):
Exactly. Calabria chose me.

Katy (04:54):
As I mentioned before, in the introduction, Karen’s written a wonderful book about Calabria and it’s a great insight into the culture and the customs and all the beautiful places there. Karen, most people from America or Australia, or outside of Europe, maybe visit Calabria to learn more about their family background or even spend time at the beaches. But it’s got a really special and unique history and culture. Can you tell us a little bit about what’s special about it?

Karen Haid (05:29):
First of all, as you say, most people come or many of the people who visit, especially people from Australia, United States and Canada go to visit family. Many other people, Italian, for example, visit Calabria for the beaches as do many Germans and also many of the British who go to Calabria. But in addition to the beautiful coastline, 800 kilometers of beautiful coastline, there are mountains running down. It’s the end of the Appenine chain and they have their own name in Calabria, the Pollino mountains in the North, and the Sila mountains, the Aspromonte mountains. There’s also a coastal chain on the Tyrrhenian sea. And so there’s this wonderful juxtapositioning of the sea and the mountains. And, being where it’s situated right in the center of the Mediterranean, right at the Strait of Messina near Sicily. It’s always been the center of culture.

Karen Haid (06:29):
So there really is a wealth of Greek influence. There were many, many Greek colonies and what they call greater Greece. For example, the towns of Reggio Calabria, Sibari, Crotone, Locri just many, many Greek colonies. And there are archeological museums in many of these towns, as well as archeological sites. And the most important archeological museum is in Reggio Calabria, which is the very tip of the toe of the boot and has so many objects also pre Greek. Most of the museum does focus on the Greek period. And the jewels in the crown are the bronzi di Riace, or the Riace bronzes. There are two statues that are larger than life made out of bronze from about 500 BC. They were found in the waters off of a little town called Riace in the Ionian sea. So these are worth making a trip to Calabria just for this, just for the statutes.

Katy (07:44):
Yeah. Karen, your descriptions of those bronzes are so amazing? And I really was like, how did I miss this when I was there? Cause for the listeners who don’t know, I have been to Calabria, but didn’t get to see so much. Cause we were spending a lot of time with family, but I would definitely love to go back and see those Riace bronzes from 500 BC. So that’s two and a half thousand years old. Amazing.

Karen Haid (08:10):
Yes. And they’re two meters tall and they are just perfect. When you look at them, you can see the veins in the arms the faces, just the expressions, the way they’re standing. They’re just spectacular

Katy (08:25):
And did they, they got them from under the sea. Did they? And they bought them out of the water?

Karen Haid (08:32):
Yes. Under the sea.

Katy (08:36):
And they’re intact?.

Karen Haid (08:38):
Yes. Perfectly intact.

Katy (08:40):
Oh that’s good.

Karen Haid (08:42):
It’s just amazing how, how beautiful they are.

Katy (08:46):
Yeah. Wow. And how close can you get to them?

Karen Haid (08:49):
Well pretty close. You can get a very nice selfie.

Katy (08:52):
Yeah. Well that’s so important. That’s very important

Karen Haid (08:56):
You can’t touch them of course. But yeah, it’s just a few feet. But you can do social distancing.

Katy (09:04):
That’s also very important these days. Oh goodness Karen. So Reggio is a lovely city in its own right. Isn’t it. And it’s probably one of the places that you’d put on your list to go to apart from just to see the Riace bronzes. Also the lungo mare there is very nice too, isn’t it?

Karen Haid (09:25):
Yes. It is gorgeous because from Reggio on the Strait of Messina you look across and you can see Sicily. And on a, on a good day, if there are any clouds, you get an excellent view of Mount Etna and it’s particularly gorgeous in the winter months or in the early spring when there’s still snow on Mount Etna. As a matter of fact, Gabriele D’Annunzio is said to have said that the lungomare is the most beautiful kilometer of all of Italy.

Katy (09:58):
Wow. Yes it is. I did notice that because we came across from Messina on the ferry. Looking back and driving along that lungomare was really quite lovely. Ah, I really feel like going to Italy now. I love having these conversations because I just feel like, Oh, I need to go back. Okay. So apart from Reggio Calabria and all the history and the culture of the Greek settlements there, where else can you go in Calabria?

Karen Haid (10:33):
There are so many small towns that you can visit. And in addition to the, the Greek heritage that goes back to the time of greater Greece. So pre Roman and the Romans of course were there too. So you can also see Roman remains and things in museums, but many other peoples conquered and settled in Calabria. So for example, there are many castles in Calabria and many towers – matter of fact, about every 12 kilometers along the coast. there’s another tower. Of course, they’re in various stages of repair – they’re pristine and not pristine. But there are many castles. So for example, in the town of Santa Severina, there is a beautiful castle. Reggio has a castle, Scilla, another notable castle is on the border with Basilicata. A castle that’s also very important is Pizzo, which is near Tropea, one of the most famous tourist places.

Karen Haid (11:47):
But in that castle, Murat, who was the King of Naples for a short time – Napoleon’s, brother-in-law Murat – was actually killed in this castle in Pizzo. So there is a lot of history from many periods. And other interesting little cultural item is that, of course we know that Calabria, has many dialects. There are some dialects that are actually languages other than Latin languages. So for example, in the very South, there are a number of towns that speak an ancient Greek language in other provinces. In the province of Cosenza, Crotone and Catanzano, there are towns that have Albanian settlers from the 15, 16 hundreds. And their dialect looks so unusual because it’s basically an old Albanian language. And they’re also French. And there’s only one town that still speaks that language. But so there are many, many different languages throughout the region. And like I say, in a number of them even someone who speaks Italian would listen and say, well, that is really foreign.

Katy (13:25):
Wow. That’s so interesting. Isn’t it? I guess I knew that we’d probably need a bit of Italian when we went to Calabria, but not all these other languages. Do we need a lot of Italian when we go to Calabria Karen?

Karen Haid (13:37):
Well, it depends where you go. If you go places more towards, for example, Tropea or Scilla or Soverato. You will find people speak English. But I would say, generally speaking, there’s less English spoken there than in most places that a tourist would go.

Katy (14:06):
Yeah. We certainly found that when we visited our family. My husband had to work very hard on the translations and as a result, I’m learning myself. But they do speak the Calabrese dialect down there and it’s fascinating how there’s so many different languages. I love those types of stories, how those languages have stuck over the centuries. It’s just something that, our modern society just doesn’t really compute.

Karen Haid (14:34):
Well, yeah because to us, we think it’s really not that far, but of course for them it was the other side of a mountain. And it really was far only a hundred, 200 years ago. If you have to walk there it, all of a sudden becomes far.

Katy (14:51):
Yeah, exactly but probably they had to go there by horse if they were lucky or donkey.

Karen Haid (14:55):
But usually by foot.

Katy (14:59):
Wow. So much has changed in the world hasn’t it? And so it’s kind of nice to go to Calabria and sort of realize that, the pace of life is a little bit slower there as well. Isn’t it?

Karen Haid (15:11):
Right, exactly. And so you can get a little bit more of an authentic experience. So when I was there and if you go to the market, you could buy the cheese right from a farmer who had made the cheese. So it’s not the same experience as when you buy a product that someone is selling, who knows how many tens of thousands of rounds of cheese. It is not the same as that person who made a hundred or 200.

Katy (15:45):
No, it’s very special, isn’t it? And you can really see the care and attention that’s gone into making that product and, and the care and attention that’s gone into looking after the surrounding countryside to make sure that those techniques and production methods are maintained. It’s really a wonderful way to see a lifestyle that’s so different to our own. I think.

Karen Haid (16:10):
Yes and many people also in the country have their own olive trees have their own fruit trees, their own gardens. And so they are eating organic food. They never stopped eating organic food. We think that it’s so hip now to eat organic food.

Katy (16:32):
I know it’s true. And yes, these people have not changed their production methods at all. And it’s 100% organic. It’s beautiful. Now, Karen, we do need to talk about the beaches in Calabria because they are fairly spectacular. And if you are listeners, who’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, know that my cohost Josie loves the beach at Tropea. And Karen, you wrote an amazing article for us last year, talking about Tropea and the beaches, but did you have some other favorites of the beaches and the surrounding areas?

Karen Haid (17:06):
Well, first of all, I would just like to say that, as I mentioned before, Calabria is completely surrounded by water. So there are so many different places, so many beaches, so many places that one can go Tropea is one of the most developed beaches. But the thing about that area is it’s on a Cape. And so there are many, many towns. If you just look at the map and you put Tropea on it, and then you zoom in and you look at all the other towns around them, they all have beaches. So if you go to Tropea, you don’t just have to go there. I say, definitely go there too. But you can see so many other towns. Other popular places to go are Scilla, which is near Reggio. And then if you want to go on the Ionian side, which is the East side, the beaches are flatter.

Karen Haid (18:04):
Most of them are flatter. So they’ll have wider beaches. So a lot of people like that such as in Soverato, or once again, you just look at the map and pick a spot. Or keep going by Le Castella, which is in Crotone, it’s one of the most picturesque castles in Calabria. And there, there’s also a beach where you can just be right on the beach, looking at this amazing castle. And then another beach, that’s probably the second most photographed beach, but after the new 007 will becomes out, it might be, it might go past Tropea, is San Nicola Arcella. And you may have seen this beautiful arch – it’s the Arco Magno. They call it – the great arch. It’s a 20 meter arch of stone. And it’s really just a spectacular location and that’s in the North West of Calabria. And I mean, I haven’t seen the film, but apparently that was one of the locations.

Katy (19:22):
Oh, fantastic. Actually, when wrote that article for us, I did have my eye on San Nicola Arcello. Who can really go past a castle with a beach? I mean, it’s kind of spectacular.

Karen Haid (19:37):
You could even go on the off season, although in the off season a lot of hotels are closed. But that doesn’t mean you can’t sit on the beach or especially if it’s it’s October, it’s still perfect.

Katy (19:51):
Oh, beautiful. I really love the beach in the winter actually. It’s one of my happy places. So obviously the coastline in any time of year is a good place to visit, but what else, what else can we expect in spring or the fall time? Is there other places we can go visit?

Karen Haid (20:08):
Well, of course there are the mountains and the mountains are beautiful. There are the three large parks, the Aspromonte is in the South and then the Sila mountains are in the center. But in fact, the Sila mountains are often referred to, as the Grand Bosco d’Italia or the great Italian forest. And they’ve done studies and have shown that the air in the Sila is the cleanest in all of Europe. So that is a beautiful place to visit. They also have really incredibly tall pine trees there in some old forests. And you can ski. So in the winter, for example, there is skiing in Calabria. So in the Aspromonte and Gambarie, you can ski in La Sila. And also in the Pollino mountains – they’re in both Calabria and Basilicata the region to the North. And the Pollino National Park is actually the largest national park in Italy. So let’s say there’s hiking and whatever sport that you can imagine that would be in nature. And another thing about water sports is that there’s snorkeling and scuba diving, – apparently beautiful fish and Aqua aquatic life in, particularly in Scilla and Crotona.

Katy (22:02):
Oh, that’s good to know. We get a few questions about that on the Facebook group about where to go scuba diving in Italy. And I, even though I do have my PADI license, I do not know the answer to that. So it’s good to know.

Karen Haid (22:15):
And also wind surfing – in the town of Gizzeria near Lamezia. It’s a great place with a lot of wind and they have competitions and also Pellaro is another place for wind surfing.

Katy (22:34):
Oh, wow. And I guess where there’s mountains and hills, you can also find lots of small towns and villages to explore. Are there many of those beautiful villages of Italy, I’m not going to pronounce it. I’ll let you do that. But are there many of those that you can find in Calabria?

Karen Haid (22:53):
Yes there are. Let’s see where to start. So in the North, for example, there’s Morano Calabro – it looks like a presepe, a nativity scene in the winter when the snow is on the Pollino mountains, it’s just incredible. Because it’s built up around the peak. So this little town winds around this little peak. Another beautiful town, Altomonte is in the mountains in the South. There’s Bova and the ghost town of Pentedattilo whichi is very interesting. It sort of fills up against a mountain that at one time looked like five fingers. So the Greeks named it, Pentedattilo, it’s five fingers. And, but they’ve since then they’ve fallen a bit, but lots of people visit that town. There are just so many beautiful little towns.

Katy (24:02):
Oh, that’s the best part about Italy. Usually I think it’s just finding those little hidden secret towns and settling down for a nice long lunch. And I guess that’s probably a good segue into what we should eat in Calabria and your recommendations.

Karen Haid (24:19):
The food is really spectacular. You could just go to Calabria just for the food. You could just put blindfolds on and just go for the food. So the food is amazing. Starting with the agricultural products, they have many, many of the DOP products, the products of designated origin. So they’re from that particular area that are very important. For example, there’s the bergamot, which is something that maybe a lot of people don’t know about. But the bergamot is a fruit where the oil from the skin is what’s used to make Earl grey tea. Most of the oil for Earl Grey tea, most of bergamot oil on the world market, 90% comes from Calabria. Specifically, Reggio Calabria. So it’s in all fine perfumes also, but in food most people would know it from the tea. But of course in Calabria, they put it in gelato and other imaginative ways. There are the bergamot liqueurs too. So that is something that you definitely want to try when you’re there, because that is the only place in the world where it truly flourishes, this really incredible fruit.

Katy (25:39):
Well, it’s such a unique flavor, isn’t it?

Karen Haid (25:42):
Yes, it is. And that’s why I mentioned the flavor that most listeners would know is Earl grey tea. Because that’s really the only way that anyone outside of the region would usually have ever heard of it. They also have natural licorice which is very interesting mostly from Rossano. So you might look for that if you were in Calabria or even in the store in the United States or Australia, you could find licorice from Calabria. Of course their olive oil is excellent. They’re known for the peperoncino, so that is also very important. So there are some spicy foods there. In particular the nduja salami, which is made in the area of Tropea, but that’s something that is very popular now. In many sort of higher end restaurants all over the world, you’ll see nduja Calabrian salami.

Katy (26:49):
I think that’s really interesting element of Calabrian food. It is a little bit more spicy than what you’ll find in the North. And my father in law came out from Calabria to Australia and he was a bit naughty. He bought his pepper seeds with him, which you’re not allowed to do because Australia had very strict quarantine regulations. But peperoncino is one of those things that we have on the table at home here actually, pretty much with nearly every meal.

Karen Haid (27:23):
Yes, yes it is. Also in the United States, you can’t bring agricultural products in either. But yes, but the nduja, yeah, is special. And the thing is you can taste it in many other places in the world, but when you taste it in that area there, right near in Tropea or Capo Vaticano, in that area, there, it is really special. And of course I know there are a lot of people who don’t like spicy foods. The thing about the nduja sausage is when it’s really good, of course, yes, it’s spicy, but it’s just incredibly flavorful. So it’s not just that it’s so hot that your mouth’s on fire, but you just get this incredible flavor. But just as a caveat, everybody who lives in Calabria does not eat spicy food. There are because some people might worry and they might say, Oh, no, I can’t go there because everything’s spicy. It’s not the case at all. There are also people there who don’t eat anything with peperoncino. So but there are, as you say, people who bring their own peperoncino from their garden. And in the restaurant, they take it out of their pocket. Even at a restaurant, cut it up on food, even though the restaurant serves their own, but they know what they grew. They know what they like. Yes,

Katy (28:48):
Exactly. And I know there’s a lot of fish dishes there in Calabria as well, obviously the bounty of the sea.

Karen Haid (28:56):
Yes of course but you know, more along the coast line, because when you think about the mountains and the difficulty of going from the coast into the mountains the cuisine was different from the coast into the mountains. Because I’d say you couldn’t just get in your car and go down and get your fish and then drive back home. What is very popular is the swordfish, particularly in the South of the region. And around Scilla, Bagnaro and the straits of Messina, lots of sword fish. And tuna also used be bigger. I think because of banning and fish netting and all that kind of thing, they aren’t able to catch the tuna right near near the coast, like they used to. But they still produce it, I guess, from, from what they catch further off.

Katy (30:05):
Yeah. So it’s not line fishing. It’s more, it’s more farming, it’s more industrial. It’s a shame. But what about the favorite dish in Calabria? The pescestocco?

Karen Haid (30:19):
Well so of course the idea of the dry fish whether it’s the salted cod with the baccala or the air-dry, which is pesce stocco that is very popular there. The pesce stocco is eaten more in the Southern half of the region. All of these recipes and ways of making is very traditional. On Fridays, everyone would eat the pesce stocco in the mountains. And there are certain mountain towns that apparently had excellent water. That’s what they say. That’s how they somehow got the reputation of being the best place to eat pescestocco and one of them was Mammola. And so they have all of these recipes using this sotckfish – it’s dried cod basically.

Katy (31:14):
And I can vividly remember your description of that lunch in Mammola. It aas a huge one, wasn’t it?

Karen Haid (31:22):
Yes,. Because most lunches are huge.

Katy (31:26):
You have to prepare yourself and pack your stretchy pants.

Karen Haid (31:30):
Yes. You wouldn’t want to walk away and then say, you know, I didn’t try that.

Katy (31:36):
I know that’s my trouble, Karen. I can’t say no, but you don’t want to, because they’ve put so much love and care and attention into these dishes that people just want to try them. Oh, I miss all that actually. And in Karen’s book she has some great stories about random invitations to lunch and very long lunches that I very much enjoyed. Now, Karen, if people are interested in visiting Calabria, what are some of the things they need to know about getting around? Do you think we need a car or can you get around by train?

Karen Haid (32:17):
It depends what you want to do, where you want to go and what type of vacation you want to have. If, if you want just a beach vacation and you don’t want to travel too far afield, you could probably get by with your hotel picking you up and not renting a car. And perhaps if you’re in a high season, find excursions. For example, from Tropea they have an excursion to Stromboli, for example, or the other Aeolian islands or a boat trip off the coast. But generally speaking, you do need a car to get around. The train goes along the coast. And so if you want to be able to get to a smaller village or a castle or something a little bit more inland then you would need a car to get there. So there are two airports. One is in Lamezia Terme, that’s the larger airport and it’s in the center of the region. And then there’s another airport in Reggio Calabria. There are two airports. And again, you can rent cars at both of the airports. Of course you can drive in, and you can take the train in also, and then rent a car when you arrive. So, but if you want to go to smaller places, you need a car.

Katy (33:41):
When we drove through there, we found it pretty easy. And when you go north there is a big, new highway there that’s very easy to drive on.

Karen Haid (33:53):
Yes. The highway is easy, especially in the North, because it seems empty at a certain point. You almost feel like you’re by yourself north of Cosenza.

Katy (34:02):
Yeah, totally. It’s exactly how we felt. We were like, where is everyone? We were used to Italy being quite populous. So it was quite a shock too. And we had just come from Sicily as well. We saw lots more cars on the road there., But I found that that drive really pleasant. It’s through the mountains there. It was really nice.

Karen Haid (34:23):
In the South it’s a lot more crowded because people live closer to the highway. It’s, it’s more of a populated corridor. But in the North you start getting into that mountainous area and it’s a really clear road north of Cosenza.

Katy (34:40):
Yeah, it really is. And so I think to do Calabria justice, you really need to stay at least a week, which I know is hard for many people. But I think you need to state at least a week to do some exploring, you know, even if you just wanted to explore the western coastline, I think you just need a week. So what do you think, Karen, how long do you think you should stay?

Karen Haid (35:04):
I would say absolutely. Most people use Calabria simplly to pass through, which is a shame, like you said, from Sicily. Or they just stay overnight. But it’s kind of sad. It would be better, even if you’re going to do that to stay for three nights, let’s say minimum. And even if you’re going to use it as a pass through, because as you know, the driving distances are further and Italy than they look really. You look at the map and you think, “Oh yeah, that’s so far from here to there”. And then you actually do it. And you’re taking a lot of time just to arrive. So I would say a minimum of a week to get a first, really good flavor of the region.

Katy (35:50):
Exactly. And what would you do? You’d probably include Reggio Calabria in that in that in that itinerary, and Tropea. Is there anywhere else that you just absolutely shouldn’t miss?

Karen Haid (36:02):
It depends on what people’s interests are, because the mountains are also beautiful. And so someone might want to just spend time in the mountains. But, as far as the well known places that are on lists, of course, Tropea Scilla and Reggio. And Scilla is just right near Reggio.

Katy (36:25):
Yeah. That’s such a cute fishing village vibe with the castle on the Hill. We did see that.

Karen Haid (36:31):
Yeah. You might’ve also visited Gerace, that’s another town that’s just across from Scilla. If you go east of Scilla and it’s really a quaint town.

Katy (36:47):
Oh, that sounds lovely. So Karen knows, as I mentioned before, I spent several days in Calabria, but we didn’t see very much, but I’ve been very inspired by Karen’s book and chatting with her today. And I’ve already vowed to return. But I think this time we might need to do a surprise visit to the family. So he So we don’t get caught up in all the family visits. Karen. I’m so inspired by this chat about Calabria. I really want to go back and explore some more. But before we sign off, how can our listeners stay in touch with you and find a bit more out about your tours and your books?

Karen Haid (37:26):
Yes. Thank you. I was just thinking about your relatives though, that how are they going to, how are you going to keep it a secret with your Facebook page and blog? Okay, that was just an aside, so I have a website and blog and my website is www.calabriatheotheritaly.com. And on my website, you can learn about my book Calabria – the Other Italy. And that’s available in paperback and in all the electronic versions. And there’s also my blog, which has over 100 posts about Calabria. So lots of very specific information about Calabria and lots of photos. The book will give you a really good overview of the region, and a good feel for what it’s like to visit the most important places. And the blog is a lot of specifics of the specific museums, places to visit. So, of course I have social media pages. I have a Calabria the Other Italy Facebook page. And there I post every day, one article or a photo, something about Calabria specifically, and I also have a Twitter. And what else is there? Twitter? I forgot Instagram. Yes. I think they’re both in my name, Karen Haid.

Katy (39:08):
And they are absolutely amazing resources. If you want to know anything about Calabria, I can’t recommend them enough. Now. Karen’s also got a new book coming out soon on the Basilicata region. So we’ll have to have you back on, on the show to talk about that too. Because that’s another fascinating region of Italy that’s not as well known as some of the other ones that people talk about.

Karen Haid (39:30):
So, you know, I think the little known places are my specialty.

Katy (39:33):
Oh, there’s nothing better than that. Grazie, Karen for joining us on Untold Italy. I can’t wait to read your new book and I’m sure it’s going to be as full of the interesting details and cultural observations that you uncovered in Calabria the other Italy. Thanks again for joining us.

Karen Haid (39:51):
Thanks very much.

Katy (39:52):
I hope everyone enjoyed hearing about Calabria from Karen as much as I did. This is definitely one region to watch as visitors look to discover the areas of Italy off the well worn path. I’ve put all Karen’s details, including links to her book about Calabria, her blog and Facebook page on the website at untolditaly/24. We hope you join us next week for more adventures in Italy. If you want to know when the episodes go live, please make sure to subscribe to Untold Italy on your favorite podcast player. Ciao for now.

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