As weather in northern Europe deteriorates and winter sets in, it is still a good time to go to southern Italy. Take a photography tour to Reggio Calabria and visit it's photogenic coastal towns and villages. I went in September which was great but there were a lot of people and I can imagine how lovely it would be completely off season.
It was easy-peasy taking the car across the Straits of Messina to San Giovanni as ferries leave constantly and the journey only takes around ½ hour. Our first stop was Tropea, about an hour and a half north ofthe port and labelled as the star of Calabria. We hired a studio apartment there on the outskirts of the city where we could park the car. Parking a car in summer in the old town is almost impossible but maybe easier off season.
The old town of Tropea is perched on a cliff overlooking 2 glorious beaches. During the day the town is quiet but at night it comes alive with people filling the tables of the many bars and restaurants that spill onto the narrow streets and picturesque squares. Once again, if you don’t like using a flash, and find a tripod cumbersome, a monopod comes in very handy. At sunset people gather at The Belvedere and photograph the sunset over the Santuario Maria dell’Isola. It’s all very Italian and pretty with a few Baroque buildings but not on the scale of what we saw in Sicily.
For camera enthusiasts it’s the whole coastline that steals the show. Those steep steps down to perfectly curved white sand bays dotted with colourful parasols and a magnificent sparkling sea of every shade of blue imaginable, spells photography. There are pretty little fishing villages with the boats drawn up on the sand, and the towns of pastel coloured buildings with turrets and steeples looking as though they are sculpted into the rock face with jaw dropping views behind.
There are always lots of things to take pictures of as well as landscapes. Calabria receives very few foreign visitors but is swarming in Italians from all over the country, and it is an opportunity to take some portraits of them (if they agree of course). If you wander into the back streets of the towns, life goes on, children playing in the street, people sitting outside their homes chatting, sweeping up, hanging out clothes, preparing food etc and on Saturday at least one wedding.
As the streets are very steep and narrow in most of southern Calabria be wary of the difference in light between the brightness of the sun and the shade. Make sure that you set your camera to low contrast or your photographs will either be over exposed or dark. This can be rectified in post-production of course but it isn’t a bad idea to at least be aware of it.
We drove to San Vito Lo Capo to the south, then up to Pizzo towards the north which I preferred to Tropea, it seemed a friendlier place somehow. There were local people out on the streets and I took a few street scenes that were real and not tourist orientated. The speciality of Pizzo is an ice cream called Tartufo which is just divine. There are several versions of it but I tried the original with the chocolate running out of the middle. I took several pictures of it as I ate it to remind me of its taste, certainly the best ice cream desert I have ever eaten. There were several pretty churches and at the top dominating the town, overlooking the bay is the old castle where the Frenchman Joachim Murat, then King of Naples was incarcerated then executed.
The next stop was Scilla which I thought charming and very Calabrian. Scilla is divided into 3 parts, themain town, perched above the cliffs where the shops are, Chianalea which is the old fishing port and Marina Grande which is the beach.
We chose a comfortable and well furnished studio on the 2nd floor of Sunshine Villas, a B and B on the steps just above Marina Grande which I would not hesitate to recommend. It’ balcony overlooks the sea, where we took our excellent breakfast, a very generous selection of sweet and savoury local goodies bought by Antonio, the thoughtful owner, and enjoyed a glass of wine watching the sun set over Sicily every evening.
Most foreign tourists would probably choose to stay in Chianalea, the pretty old fishermans settlement which has recently been renovated. It only has one main street and the buildings on the seaward side are right on the water so you can hear the waves crashing against them. It is quite charming and there are a couple of b and b, a hotel and some over priced restaurants but I was just as contented walking over there to take pictures at different times of the day.
We took a trip to Reggio, the capital of the region which was destroyed in the massive earthquake in 1908, and is a pretty charmless place with a total lack of urban planning. It has one jewel that merits bringing a camera to and that is it’s museum which houses the Riace bronzes and many other superb artifacts. Give yourself a couple of hours as it really is splendid.
Renting a car is absolutely essential if you want the make the most of it. The roads in Calabria are poor and getting from one place to another takes longer than anticipated. I would definitely avoid the summer months and go in the spring or the fall. Bring a telephoto lens as the views of the towns with the sea behind are spectacular from a distance and will allow you to zoom in. In fact, right now would be a great time to go!