About The far south – highlands of Calabria
When tourists penetrate Italy’s ‘boot’ they normally follow two coast roads, the Ionian (see Discovering Countries, Italy, The Ionian Shore) or the Tyrrhenian (Discovering Countries, Italy, The Deep South); or they speed through on the autostrada. This section explores the bony interior structure of Italy’s foot, between the two seas. Here the Apennines have their last fling, throwing up summits and ridges of 2,000 m or so, walling off – until modern times – one of the least-known mountainlands in Europe. Along the central spine you can see two coastlines at once, east and west. From hill-top cottages at Tiriolo the snow melts off one roof into the Ionian Sea, from another into the Tyrrhenian.
Many of the roads connecting the best places to visit are daunting but rarely difficult. Yesteryear’s problems for motorists – petrol and repairs – have largely disappeared with the arrival of skiers and tourists. Some roads are blocked with snow, or passable only with chains, between November and mid-April: signboards in foothill villages advise on conditions. In that period accommodation is hard to find outside the largest towns.
Spring is flowery with almond, Judas, peach and pear; upland meadows are dense with clover. In the blazing summer months the cool lakes and tall trees of the Calabrian Sila come into their own and a thousand species of wild flowers are in bloom. Much of the best scenery is protected by the Calabrian National Park.
Townships and hamlets of the old Calabria where brigands with blunderbusses and pointed hats once held sway still exist: dusty, dispirited, depopulated, devoid of culture, cracked with earth tremors.
The railway map of Calabria looks like the physical map: the main lines trace the outline of the coast. You may cross the peninsula between Paola and Sibari and between Sant’ Eufemia Lamezia and Catanzaro Marina but you cannot follow our tour by rail. See also Little Trains of Calabria, below.
Check Calabrian station names against the places on the map, to avoid being stranded. Acri, for example, is 23 km from the station which bears its name.
All towns marked on the map are accessible by bus. Reggio and Catanzaro have flat-fare city buses. Bus tours, to Sicily, are generally confined in Calabria to the autostrada. Information for Cosenza region, including Sila Grande: Autolinee Scura, www.iasautolinee.it