Calabria’s enticing Scalea in Southern Italy is always a great treat to enjoy with family and friends, especially when they’ve travelled from England. But Scalea is not just about the Gelato…
And, also about the remarkable history that envelops this town including its gorgeous Old Town.
From Cosenza, it’s almost a two-hour drive until you reach Scalea.
But first, the drive to Paola sees you swerving around steep hills for an hour, before descending down to Paola and the beautiful Tyrrhenian coast, then on to Scalea. This last part of the drive really does offer a pleasant coastal seascape, which always seems to be becalmed when I visit.
As I’ve published another post on Scalea, I’ve included a little history but mostly photos for your delectation in this post.
A little background
Scalea’s history is colourful as is Calabria’s history.
For centuries, merchants from around the world stopped in Scalea to trade their goods in the Byzantine port.
Latin Philosophers also used Scalea as their stomping ground as did the Greeks, which didn’t stop at only colonising Sicily, but instead continued to filter throughout southern Italy.
What to see
Scalea offers many cool monuments and museums for a visitor that are also free entry, although, this time we’re not visiting any museums.
Pristine kilometres of sparkling seafront, extremely popular with local and international tourists during summer months, boasts numerous modern hotels, villas, and bathing areas.
You can also explore grottos on your visit, which I’m still yet to see…maybe on the next visit.
Scalea’s Old Town is a must to experience its elegant aged architecture, but first, seeing as we’re at the water’s edge, then you only need to look up and spy the imposing Torre Talao.
Built in 1563, this impressive example of Aragonese military architecture sits almost on the water’s edge.
Originally, the tower was on the Torre Talao rock, which was an island, but over time this became a peninsula and is now completely dry, and an integral part of the mainland. Prehistoric man inhabited the caves of Torre Talao rock.
As one of 337 towers and in view of one another, the Torre Talao was part of the coastal defence system against attacks from the Turks.
Cannons in the towers were dismantled towards the end of the 17th century.
Locals had to build the commanding Torre Talao by either providing money or their free services towards its construction.
Scalea’s modern side
Level with the seafront is where you’ll discover a modern Scalea with many upmarket boutiques, restaurants, bars, cafes, and numerous gelato shops, along a paved pedestrian road. Locals are very friendly.
From the main carpark, the Centro Storico (Old Town) gradually swells – ascending towards the terraced hill – until you can just make out the remains of the Norman castle, perched high on Scalea’s rock spur.
Take a hike inland from the seafront and climb up the steep cobbled steps of the Medieval old town, which throws you back in time with its mesh of antiquated steps and stone-arched lanes. The Centro Storico is one of my very favourites spots in Scalea.
Today, we are lucky enough to spy an artist creating a masterpiece and although a little shy, he allows me to indulge in a couple of photos.
Alluring alleyways drenched in history are wonderful to explore…
…and the fresh washing hanging across buildings just adds to the character of the old town – reminding visitors that locals do still live here, and the old town is not just for show.
Wandering down winding narrow passages reveal even more history’s secrets to a visitor.
Intricate stone sculptures are dotted throughout the old town and I only wish that I knew what their significance is – can anyone shed some light on these?
As you climb even higher, you glimpse the crumbling remains of the Norman castle, sprucing above hundred-year-old cacti.
Claimed as the oldest castle in Calabria and dating back to the 11th century, Normans built this castle on a Lombard fortress, in which divisions of Calabria’s lands were agreed upon by conquerors: Ruggero and Robero il Guiscardo.
Sadly, not much is left of this legacy…
…which is still a great vantage point for taking photos…
…and surveying the expansive vistas out to the Tyrrhenian horizon.
A crazy photographer trying various cameras for effects…
A brief video to give you a taste of the sweeping views you’ll see from this hill – I’m still learning the art of making videos, so please be patient. I’ve taken this one a little fast perhaps?
Whilst you’re walking up to the castle, you pass the Giò Pub, which never seems to be open. I hear the food is good here and you can also absorb stunning views, whilst unwinding.
Glance above the pub to see the circular structure that looks similar to a castle but isn’t.
Originally, this tower was erected back in the 15th century to guard one of the four access gates of Scalea. Later the building was used as a prison although these days, the tower hosts permanent exhibitions.
Where to snack
Usually heading for an excellent home-made gelato at Il Gelato, gave this a miss today as it’s a tad chilly.
This bar come Gelataria, come gastronomia, come Tavola Calda on Via Lido 7/11, offers great friendly service and delicious savouries.
Tucked away from the main drag, prices here are a little cheaper. The usual panini of various sorts of delicious local goodness is on offer. Many chocolates and scrumptious cakes grace every corner of this bakery, tempting even the strongest of willpower.
Lido Ragno Doc
A wonderful spot right on the beach on Via Lungomare R di Lauria, with a great comfortable outside seating area.
Excellent service is provided in this tranquil venue in which to relax, whilst watching the serene Mediterranean, but also Italians parading along the beach – it’s always a fashion show.
All good things must come to an end, so off we set with our visitors for the drive back to Cosenza, but not before we’re stuck in peak-hour heavy traffic for over an hour in Paola – it’s easy to overstay in enticing Scalea…