Nestled in the slopes of the Vibo Valentia province in Southern Italy, gorgeous Pizzo Calabro is an easy day trip from Cosenza. Why not stop for Pizzo’s famous Tartufo on your visit?
Evocative Pizzo Calabro offers more than the delectable Calabrese ice-cream truffle – the Tartufo…
From Cosenza, it’s an easy hour’s drive south on the Autostrada to Pizzo – it usually takes a good 10-15 minutes to get out of Cosenza city.
If you’re driving from Lamezia Terme airport, it’s only a short drive of under half an hour, or you can catch a train to Pizzo.
Leaving the highway and parking along the top part of Pizzo is easier than getting your car in and out of the town’s narrow depths. Along the SS18 Tirrena Inferiore is a good place to park not just for the stunning sea views, but also for the walk down through the old town (Centro Storico).
Strolling down the narrow alleyways along via M. Salmone, this height surrenders views of the lovely Centro Storico…
…and Pizzo before flowing down to an expansive panorama of the impressive Tyrrhenian Sea.
Calming vistas are breathtaking along the 8-kilometre-long coastline, with tiny piazzas and balconies overlooking the sea.
Descending along via Bella Vista you finally reach cobbled Corso Garibaldi, where pot plants from shop owners spill out onto the street, a fishmonger’s cabinet full of fresh fish sits on the footpath, and many fancy shops line this street.
A little background on Pizzo
This small medieval town started its beginnings as a fort, fishing village, and a community of Basilian monks back in 1300.
During previous centuries and until the 1970s, fishermen spread nets along Pizzo’s beaches to capture tuna fish – a practice which is now banned. Modern tuna fishing is practised today during certain months of the year.
Through the ages pirates used sea caves dotting this coastline, with one in particular “the cave of the Saracen” believed to be used to store booty and captured people following raids along the Calabrian coast.
Pizzo’s origins date back to Ancient Greek and famed as one of the resorts in which Cicero stayed. On his journey to Rome this is where St Peter rested, but also where Ulysses stopped for supplies as reported by Pliny the Elder – Roman author.
Behind the name
Pronounced just like pizza but with an ‘o’ – except for in the local dialect it’s “pizzu” – the word Pizzo translates as a bird’s peak or a protruding point.
Close to the mouth of the Angitola River, the tuffa (limestone) promontory does protrude out to sea in beak-like fashion.
What to see?
Visiting picturesque Pizzo in Autumn sees a welcomed lack of tourists to this renown resort town, so it’s lovely and peaceful along the Costa degli Dei (Coast of the Gods).
Dating back to the 15th century and built by Ferdinand I of Aragon, ironically the castle is named after Napoleon’s brother-in-law Joachim Murat – also King of Naples for seven years.
After trying to regain power, Murat was tried for treason, imprisoned in the castle for a few days before meeting his fate by firing squad in the castle’s main hall, in 1815.
The castle also houses the Provincial Museum Murat.
A large life-like mural graces one wall close to the castle…
Piazza Della Repubblica
Whilst at the castle, stop in for a Tartufo and a coffee in this main piazza, which is a popular meeting point for locals that boats many restaurants, gelaterias, and bars.
S. Francesco di Paola
Along via Marcello Salomone, another pleasant square hosts the dazzling S. Francesco di Paola church that overlooks another part of the fabulous Tyrrhenian.
Dating back to the 16th century, this church was built as a thank you for escaping an awful plague epidemic that struck the city.
Near the church’s entrance an engraved stone plaque weathers on the facade. Depicting a scene from years gone by during Calabria’s famine – during this time, many Calabrese migrated to other parts of the world for a better life just as my father went to Australia.
An old poster from 2013 still graces the church’s laneway…
…whilst a bronze tribute to the Italian politician Pasquale Ferrara, peers through the foliage making its statement.
Chiesetta di Piedigrotta
When visiting Pizzo, you must see this underground cave – the Chiesetta di Piedigrotta.
Neapolitan shipwreck survivors carved the church and a chapel into the tufa (limestone) rock back in the 17th century as promised for their survival from the violent storm. The sailors also hung the effigy of the Madonna of Piedigrotta from the ship’s cabin in the cave’s chapel.
Angelo Barone a local artist started to make the cave larger using a pickaxe in 1880 and sculpting religious statues into the rock – dedicating his life to this task until his final days.
Sadly, we ran out of time to see the cave today but I’m told that the best time to visit is when the sun sets, as the rays cast a glow over the cave and said to be wonderfully captivating.
Weaving up and down the narrow cobbled lanes open to quaint piazzas with commanding views…
…revealing vantage points of enchanted cosy coves below.
You may come across this more modern marble carving…does anyone know its significance?
If you’re staying in Pizzo at around sunset, then the view from “U Spuntuni” is also fantastic…
Now for the Tartufo…
What is a Tartufo? An ice-cream truffle – a large ball of wonderfully smooth gelato filled with molten chocolate to ignite your senses.
Pizzo is world-famous for its Tartufo, which originated in this town.
Two ice-cream flavours are sculptured together by hand, then a hole is poked in the centre to push frozen fruit, a syrup, both, or pure chocolate syrup into, before forming a ball or log – then rolled in cocoa (resembling a truffle) and frozen once more.
History of the Tartufo
So now, perhaps you’re wondering how the sublime Tartufo was born?
Dating back to around 1952, the shape was created in the Bar Dante by sheer chance, when Don Pippo De Maria was shaping ice-cream for many wedding guests and ran out of molds. This triggered De Maria to place a portion of chocolate ice-cream and Heizel ice-cream in his hand, adding a little melted chocolate before wrapping this creation in sugar paper, and leaving this to cool.
When the maestro of the Tartufo De Maria retired, Giorgio Di Lorgi took over the business as he worked in Dante making ice-cream since 1950, then some 15 years later opened the Bar Ercole.
In search of the best Tartufo
Today we hunt for the Bar Gelateria Ercole – Pizzo Calabro. The Bar Ercole is closed, so make sure that you don’t visit on a Wednesday.
At around 2 minutes into this video by DIIORGI shows how the Tartufo is made at Ercole.
Desperate to try a Tartufo, we head for the Gelateria Belvedere in Piazza della Repubblica.
This bar provides excellent service, a wonderfully rich Tartufo (€5.50+) and great coffee (€1.50+). Relax in one of the comfortable outdoor chairs in true Italian style, whilst watching the world stroll by before leaving this delightful town…