Nestled snugly between a castle and cliffs, and hearing much about the beauty of Scilla, Reggio Calabria’s gorgeous fishing village, finally it is time for a visit.
After an amazing nine days in and around Siracuse in Sicily, it is time to head back to Cosenza, but not without a two-day detour first to Scilla for a quick taste of its reputation.
If you’re travelling to Sicily, then check out my posts for travel tips: 9 days around Syracuse: Sicily Part 1, Syracuse’s charming Island of Ortigia: Sicily Part 2, and Day trips from Syracuse: Sicily Part 3.
Travelling from Sicily, it is only about an hour’s drive from Messina to Scilla, if you time the ferry trip right. From the Calabria’s ferry side of Villa San Giovanni, the drive to the centre of Scilla is only about eight kilometres.
Scilla also has a train line, which stops in Marina Grande. If you travel from Cosenza, the Trenitalia trip is about three hours and follows the beautiful Tyrrhenian coast south to the toe in Reggio Calabria.
An abundance of varying accommodation at varying prices is offered, which also makes Scilla popular with young people during summer.
In Greek mythology, Scylla was Poseidon’s beautiful Naiad (water nymph), which the jealous Amphitrite turned into a frightening sea monster by poisoning Scylla’s bathing spring. And so, Scilla’s promontory is the monster’s traditional site and is also known as ‘Scylla’s rock’.
If you look closely, clues of the mythical monster are dotted around this village in colourful wall tiles, signs, a fountain, and also makes a presence in tourist brochures.
The dominant outcrop on which Castello Ruffo is perched, separates Scilla’s Marina Grande to the west, and the village of Chianalea to the east of its cliff.
The village seems impossibly wedged between the castle’s rock cliff on one side, and steep hillsides flanking the sea on the other – striking.
I was told by a local in Cosenza that Scilla can only be reached by boat as there are no access roads. This isn’t entirely true as a narrow road for small cars and mopeds, runs through the back of the village.
Without previous reliable information, the decision was made to date Scilla back to the 5th Century BC. Some also state that Scilla dates back to the Trojan War: 13th or 12th Century BC.
This area is steeped in history and of the extremely skilled Tyrrhenian pirates’ domination of the Mediterranean routes, fighting local fishermen, with the pirates eventually driven out by Anassila the Young’s army.
The myriad of rocks and high fortress created an excellent natural refuge and an inaccessible place from which the pirates could conduct effective assaults along the coastline.
This stretch also proved invaluable as a protected hiding place for spoils and a stronghold, should a counterattack strike eventuate.
The ancient village of fishermen, Chianalea, is both colourful as it is enchanting and easily captivates your heart.
Undulating sleepy cobbled lanes, cascade directly into the Tyrrhenian Sea and are a delight to explore. Locals are also very accommodating and friendly.
Castello dei Ruffo
The rocky Scillèo Promontory boasts the imposing Castello dei Ruffo, an ancient fortress built by the Dukes of Calabria with the fortification commencing in the fifth century BC, and is also known as Scylla’s rock.
Part of southern Calabria and the whole area of the Strait was damaged in the 1783 earthquake. Sadly, Castello Ruffo also succumbed to this and becoming state property in 1808, was restored in 1810.
The castle lived life as a monastery and a light house, although today, it is a cultural centre for historic exhibitions, but also is a conference centre – even wedding functions.
A walk to the end of Chianalea’s picturesque harbour and through some massive concrete arches has you descending down into Marina Grande and its one-kilometre long beach: The Beach of Sirens.
This walk is around the hill that Castello dei Ruffo is perched high upon, overlooking the Strait of Messina.
Descending into Marina Grande, a tiny pretty square greets you, which seems to be a popular meeting place for locals. Why not stop here and relax before the walk along the long beach?
Villa Grazia Scilla is an amazing home on three levels with a large garden that ebbs the seashore.
With stunning sea views from most rooms, this is a gorgeous hideaway and about a half-hour walk along a rocky beach from Chianalea.
Grazia (owner) came bearing gifts of fruit (even Bergamot), vegetables, and many local things for us to try – all grown from the garden at the house. Even fresh walnuts, which are hard to come by but not from her garden; so very kind are the people from this region.
Scilla is famous for its Swordfish (pesce spada) and sadly, I didn’t see the Passarelle (village’s famous boats), working or in the harbour.
Casa Vella – Stumbled upon this B&B, which has an excellent little restaurant facing the main roadway and the only restaurant opened at around 18:00 hrs – the rest open at 20:00 hrs.
The restaurant prides itself on only serving delicious authentic Calabrese produce and wines (except the two types of Prosecco, I’m told), and offers excellent service.
Sit outside and enjoy the flow of locals, tourists, and the occasional wedding parade on a photo shoot. Chuckle as you see the bride wearing impossibly high heels, whilst walking on cobblestones – a feat in itself and very impressive.
Back to Cosenza
Although it’s sad to leave this gorgeous corner of Calabria and there hasn’t been enough time to explore, it’s back home to Cosenza. I know I will return to Scilla and soon…