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Scilla and Chianalea 
One of Italy's Loveliest Small Towns

Scilla and Chianalea are both essentially the same place and yet they are completely different.

You arrive in Chianalea, via the tunnel from Scilla beach or down from Scilla old town and you are suddenly in "Little Venice" - that's what the locals call it... for me it is like falling into Wonderland.

Girl running in Chianalea, Calabria

That is one of the things that is so wonderful about visiting Scilla, it's like unwrapping a present and finding two completely unique gifts... Scilla AND Chianalea... when you were expecting only one.

My first morning here, I woke early, headed down to the fishing harbor and started chatting to local fisherman.

I remembered an old story of a businessman and fisherman: in the story a businessman asks a fisherman why he doesn't fish more, make more money, buy more boats. The businessman tells the fisherman that after 25 years of hard work he could become rich, retire to a seaside village, fish and enjoy life with his family.

The fisherman answers he already leads that life now.  

I asked the local fisherman in Chianalea if they would be tempted to run off to Wall Street in that situation.

All of them said they wouldn't change their lifestyle for anything.

They love their little town, love their life and love their sea. After a few days on these shores I understood them and envied their lives - they truly are the fisherman in that story.

So, if you'd like a taste of that idyllic life then read on... let's start with where to stay and then we go exploring.

Where to Stay: in Scilla or Chianalea?

Scilla & Chianalea can be easily done as a day trip from Tropea; however, I would suggest spending at least a night or two in Chianalea.

Why?

For the pleasure of dining at one of the restaurants in Chianalea, I mention a few I like further down. There are few greater pleasures than sipping a delicious glass of local wine while watching the sunset and the twinkling lights, like a thousand stars, sparkle to life upon the hills and along the coastline.

So where to stay? 

In Chianalea of course and at the B&B Veduta.

Scilla

Lush forest covered hills, a long beach and azure seas. You'd be forgiven for thinking you were in some sub-tropical paradise and you wouldn't be far wrong; the climate in Scilla is about as close as you can get to a tropical climate in mainland Europe.

Only, here it is better. You get an Italian flavor added: ancient castles, pretty piazze and delicious Italian food.

You also get to visit the home of Scilla, the once beautiful nymph turned into a terrible six headed monster by a sorcerer. The ancient legend has it that her call drives ships to their destruction upon these shores. 

What to See in Scilla

Castello Ruffo and the Church of Maria Santissima ImmacolataCastello Ruffo and the Church of Maria Santissima Immacolata
  • Castello Ruffo: great views and a small museum inside make the few Euros it costs to enter worthwhile (those over 70, disabled or under 10 enter free). The castle is open from 9.00 to 13.00 and 14.00 to 18.00. 
  • Church of Maria Santissima Immacolata: one of the very symbols of the town and visible from just about everywhere. The original church was destroyed in the early 1700s and replaced with this one. Inside it offers a peaceful and moving respite from the summer heat and a chance to reflect and pray.
Marina Grande Beach in Scilla, CalabriaMarina Grande Beach
  • Marina Grande Beach:  a spotlessly clean beach and a limpid blue sea. Lining the beach are plenty of beach bars offering snacks, lunch or an aperitivo. Some parts of the beach are reserved for paying guests, however, there are plenty of free sections.
  • Enjoy the stunning view of Scilla below from the Belvedere of Piazza San Rocco: to get here you walk up a very steep climb from the beach area, involving hundreds of stairs... or you could take the free elevator! The elevator leaves from right behind Bar Zanzibar and you step out into Piazza San Rocco. So which one would you prefer: walk or elevator? I chose the elevator.
view of Scilla below from the Belvedere of Piazza San RoccoView of Scilla below from the Belvedere of Piazza San Rocco

Chianalea

Chianalea - a lane leading to the sea.Chianalea

"The Venice of the South" or "Little Venice" is what locals call Chianalea and it is a little like that: houses lapped by the sea, small canals, fishing boats etc.

Like Venice, simply wondering the narrow streets and making your own discoveries is one of the greatest of pleasures. 

We've always recommended getting lost in Venice and I'd advise you to do the same here. Well, you can't really get lost... Chianalea is tiny but wander about without your phone, with no map and no rush; simply savor the sights and enjoy being a part of the magic, part of a seaside town filled with passionate people who still mostly live the way they have for centuries.

Whichever wrong turn you take there is always another amazing discovery awaiting you.

street scene in Chianalea

While wandering the lanes you'll likely come across the Church of Santa Maria di Portosalvo and San Giuseppe, both pretty little churches that symbolizes the resilient spirit of the locals: both were destroyed twice by earthquakes (in the 1700s and in 1908) but restored faithfully each time.

Drink too of the crystal clear spring water from the 17th century Fontana Tre Canali or from the 16th century Fontana Ruffo.

Eating in Scilla & Chianalea

Restaurant in Scilla with the castle on the hill behind.

Scilla is famous throughout Italy for the swordfish they catch and April to September is the season. Swordfish panini are one of the great street foods of Calabria so do try it while you are here - the best place, the place that claims to have "invented" this street food, is Civico 5 and they still serve the very best swordfish panini in all of southern Calabria.

Ristorante Antrois, is my choice for dinner, their seafood dishes are mouth-wateringly superb; everything they serve came off the local fishing boats you'll see nearby... and often only minutes before.

If you'd like to eat right over the sea then try the Ristorante Glauco. This is the type of place I mentioned earlier, a place to sip wine, eat endless plates of great pasta and enjoy the freshest seafood, while watching the sun slowly slip below the horizon.

Getting Here

The nearest airport is Reggio Calabria, but most lot of low cost airlines fly into Lamezia Terme. Either airport is a short bus or taxi ride to the nearest station where you can get a train to Scilla. Alternatively, pick up a car at the airport. Important: reserve your car before you leave otherwise expect a hefty fee - these are the guys I always book with.

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