[ October 18, 2004 ]
Calabria: a true jewel
Calabria region
Fact Sheet

Location: Southwest of Italy, between Basilicata and Sicily
Population: 2 million inhabitants
Surface area: 15,080 km2
Capital: Catanzaro
The region of Calabria is composed of 5 provinces: Catanzaro, Cosenza, Crotone, Reggio Calabria, Vibo Valenzia

Among Italy’s many jewels, Calabria is one that still needs some polishing, awaiting to reveal its beauty and treasures at some later time. Compare it to a precious stone one discovers in a rock—a stone that is rather crude but appears beautiful and rich in promise to the eye of a connoisseur. It is a region that once attracted and captured the hearts of the world’s greatest civilisations but appears to be in a momentary state of slumber—an authentic and untouched corner of the world.

Emerald forests, aqua-marine sea and sky, topaz or diamond sands and iridescent snowy peaks—truly nature at its luxurious best! 800 km of beaches along the pure crystal waters of the Ionian and Tyrian seas; the Mélèzes—age-old mountains with picturesque gorges; a luxurious nature; traces of great history in abundance; lively traditions; a gastronomy at once simple and savoury … there is something for everyone to do, see and taste in Calabria.

A land which opened its arms to the Greek civilization, Calabria was—in antiquity— one of Magna Grecia’s showplaces, as is witnessed by the Bronzes of Riace (preserved at the National Museum of Reggio Calabria) and cities such as Locri or Sibari where one can admire incredible relics of days past. But the Greeks are not the only ones who had a hand in sculpting this region—the Romans, the Goths-Lombards, the Byzantines, the Normans, the Swabs, the Angevins, the Aragonese, all the way through to the Bourbons left their architectural mark of deeply cultural and artistic value.

Calabria has always been a meeting place for the different cultures that have been part of it. Today, it is still inhabited by the ethnic minorities of yesteryear such as the Greeks and the Albanians, who have preserved their languages and their traditions—traditions that nourish a rich folklore that is deeply religious and still very much alive. It is precisely this blend of history, traditions and landscapes that make Calabria the jewel that it is.

Culinary delights… all fired up!

One cannot help but notice how important a role “His Majesty The Pepper” (peperoncino in Italian; pipi vruscente, pipazzu or pipariellu in Calabrian!) plays in various Calabrian recipes. In fact, in 1994, the Italian Pepper Academy was established in Calabria—homeland of the pepper—and set its objective as that of expanding the “pepper” culture in Italy. Visit the Web site of this fascinating movement at: www.peperoncino.org!

But, over and above peperoncino, Calabrian cuisine also celebrates a multitude of fragrances: notably those of spices and herbs (cumin, bay, fennel, pepper, garlic…), which stem from the influence and invasions of both the Mediterranean and the Orient, which marked this region and hub of the peninsula. As such, many of the region’s dishes boast delightful sweet-and-sour flavours. And let’s not forget the ancestral culture of the bergamot orange from the region of Reggio Calabria, used notably in making refined perfumes and in flavouring a variety of culinary treats such as jams, jellies, teas and candies.

On the seafood side of things, fish—in sauce, grilled or fried—is a much-loved dish in Calabria, where swordfish, tuna and sardines are included among the fishermen’s bounty. From the hills, the undeniable king in this corner of Italy is pork. Cold cuts such as capocollo, ndugliea o ndugghie (sausage), soppressate (soubressade), prosciutti salati e affumicati (salted and smoked ham) are abundant. And, of course, there is one of Calabria’s most celebrated dishes—murseddu, also called mursiellu or suffrittu, pork tripe cooked with tomatoes, peperoncino, oregano and red wine.

In the Calabrian vegetable world there are many popular varieties, but the undisputable star of the show is eggplant. For this particular vegetable, Calabria boasts a particularly inviting soil and a climate that is ideal for its growth. It is prepared with care and imagination in countless ways—fried, stuffed, with oil, with vinegar, sweet-and-sour flavoured, Parmigiana style, Reggitana style (from the region of Reggio-Calabria), and so much more. Citrus fruits such as mandarins and oranges are often used in salads as well as desserts, and lemons are often candied. Olives—pressed for their renowned and sought-after oil—are also enjoyed dried, stuffed or prepared in brine.

Cheeses are a perfect reflection of the land. On the high plateau of the Sila, cheese is produced with richness and diversity as a result of the still archaic fabrication methods that are used. Once can therefore enjoy furmaggiu du quagghiu, an aged ewe cheese, and the renowned Butirro, made from cow’s milk and boasting the consistency of butter, Musulupu, a cheese of Greco-Albanian origin that combines cow’s milk and goat’s milk and which is often enjoyed in celebration of Easter, Pecorino di Crotone, a firm cheese made with cow’s and goat’s milk and flavoured with peppercorns and, last but not least, Caciocavallo Silano (DOP), semi-firm cow’s milk cheese, are among the most popular.

Many of these cheeses are used in preparing various Calabrian desserts such as chinulille, ricotta-stuffed ravioli. Of course, the desserts of this region also include a variety of sweeter selections—cannariculi, small Christmas cakes that are fried and dipped in honey; crucette, oven-baked figs stuffed in a variety of ways; dried fruit, notably Grisolia peaches; mandorlati, almond paste cookies; mostaccioli, small animal-shaped cakes; pistilli, oven-roasted chestnuts… the list is rather long, and proves the extent to which Calabrians enjoy preparing delicious meals inspired by the region’s magnificent nature.

Bacchus did not forget how perfectly this region grows the Gaglioppo, a dominant red variety that is partial to its soil’s dryness and the region’s strong sun. This variety is at the heart of the Cirò, one of Italy’s most ancient wines and one which represents close to 85% of the production of all appellation contrôlée wines. Calabria is also known for its whites and rosés—the Greco di Bianco appellation, a mild white wine made with raisined grapes and enjoyed as an aperitif or with dessert. The Calabrian vineyard boasts a total of 12 DOC wines (Donnici, Pollino, San Vito di Luzzi, Verbicaro, Cirò, Melissa, Sant’Anna di Isola Capo Rizzuto, Savuto, Scavigna, Lamezia, Bivongi and Greco di Bianco) and 13 IGT wines.

Starting off one’s trip to Calabria… in Montréal!

With everything it has to offer, Calabria certainly is not for lack of attractions that make for a highly sought-after tourist destination. A little tidbit for those who are contemplating making Calabria their next vacation destination—did you know that many of the Italians who settled in Québec starting at the end of the XIXth century are of Calabrian origin? What better reason to start discovering this culture in your own home and preparing for a wonderful trip to this region!

print article


back to articles

©2007 All rights reserved. Italian Trade Commission
Trade Promotion Section of the Consulate General of Italy