A region of southern Italy, Calabria is considered by some to be the Caribbean of Europe with its unadulterated beaches, brilliant landscape, and homespun charm. Historically one of the poorest regions in Italy, Calabria is quite undeveloped and not well-known by tourists. With the hidden treasures of Praia a Mare and Dino Island along with hillside towns and ancient Greek temples dotting the countryside, Calabria just may be Italy’s best kept secret.
With only a few hotels Praia a Mare is an undiscovered gem and the perfect place for travelers looking to get off the beaten track. This village of Praia stands in front of Dino Island and is surrounded by the lovely Policastro gulf. The water surrounding Dino Island is that amazing crystal blue color that many travelers dream of. Dino Island is home to three cool caves that are ripe for exploration: the Waterfalls cave, the Lion Cave and the largest and most popular Blu Grotto where the water within the cave appears to be lit from under the water.
With lots of adventure travel activities, Praia offers the best of both worlds. Visitors can sit back and relax on the beach and enjoy the soft breeze or try something extreme. Cliff jumping is the highlight for many travelers who enjoy a good adrenaline rush. Try jumping off Arcomagno Rock, a 22 meter natural bridge over a hidden crystal bay, or, if you’re not so brave, try one of the lower jumps that are found along the coast of Dino Island. There is also plenty for scuba divers to explore with stunning coral gardens and ancient relics lying not far from Dino Island.
Some of the things to do:
The tandem paragliding is definitely the easiest, fun and “ecologically correct” to fly. No engines, so no noise and no pollution. Only you, the air, and paragliding instructor who guides you in the element AIR safely. Praia a Mare is a unique and coveted, by most paraglider pilots, to fly. A portion of the coast with high mountains that fall on the great beaches and rocky cliffs of volcanic origin. An undiscovered paradise dominated by the mighty from Dino Island. If you like adventure and discover new emotions paragliding is definitely for you.
- Isola Di Dino
The Isola di Dino (once known as the Isola dei Conigli or “Rabbit Island”) is a small tongue of land, just 4 kilometers in perimeter and reaching a height of maximum 65 meters, which represents a veritable natural treasure, famous for the lush Mediterranean vegetation which grows here and its spectacular sea.No sandy beaches, but rather a series of stunning sea caves such as the “Cascate”, “Frontone”, “Sardine” and the marvellous “Grotta Azzurra”, this latter similar to the cave of the same name found on the island of Capri. In the “Grotta del Leone” the most impressive stalagmites, of the most curious shapes and forms, can be seen.
- Statue of Christ the Redeemer
It is definitely worth ascending the hill above town, Monte San Biagio, to visit the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer, Il Redentore. The 22-metre-high statue faces inland, arms outstretched to bless this historically impoverished part of southern Italy. More immediately blessed is the big church at the opposite end of the ridge dedicated to Maratea’s patron saint, the Basilica di San Biagio. This church is thought to stand on the site of a Greek or Roman temple; the Greek settlement which was the precursor of Maratea was on the slopes just below the summit. The hilltop can be reached on foot or by car. As well as religious benefits, the statue was probably intended to bring some prestige to the region when it was erected in the 1960s, and the dramatically-engineered road on stilts which zig-zags to the top was perhaps a source of as much pride as the statue. Between the church and the statue there is a tacky souvenir shop and a bar. Just below the summit is something more evocative than either statue or church; an abandoned village. This would have been the site of the Greek settlement, and it continued as an earlier incarnation of Maratea, until the town’s main hub shifted to its current, more accessible location. The castle by the hilltop was destroyed in the nineteenth century. Nowadays this village, called Maratea Superiore, is a little ghost town, having been gradually abandoned. You can peer into crumbling buildings where paint peels from the walls, and walk down the silent main street. At the lower end, near the road, a couple of inhabited buildings sit side-by-side with ruins.If you are walking back down to Maratea, join the road at the foot of the ruins, and follow it for a few bends. Turn off onto a a path to the right as you approach the hamlet of Santa Caterina. A historic connecting route between the old settlement and the current one, this is a very pretty path curving below the summit of the hill, through slopes alive with flowers and butterflies. It passes several extremely intriguing old caves, fenced off and with no official access. Caves in this area have been the source of interesting artefacts and one or two – including the Grotta dell’Angelo near the summit – contained faded religous wallpaintings. The footpath joins the road above Maratea and a few yards further on another lane cuts through the oldest part of the present settlement, where some buildings aren’t in much better shape than the ruins on the hill above. This is an interesting and attractive walk, and an easy one, though you will need good-soled shoes. We saw wild boar in the woodland above town.There is an alternative footpath between Maratea and Monte San Biagio, which ascends the other flank of the hill, and passes another church dedicated to Mary, the Chiesa della Madonna degli Ulivi (Madonna of the Olives).