Southern Italy: Lavish Calabrese BBQs

Ever indulged in a lavish Calabrese BBQ and one in southern Italy?

Unlike BBQs that I’ve been a part of in Australia or other countries, a Calabrese BBQ is unique – you’ll be surprised at the amount and the type of food served up.

Food in Calabria

The freshness and amazing flavours of wholesome food in Calabria is attributed to produce being seasonal.

Typically in the south, if it’s not in season, it’s not in the shop – apart from imported bananas.

Sounds like the good old days when food tasted so much better? Well, maybe for some of us older folk…

Remember the taste of a vine-ripened juicy tomato bursting an explosion of flavours in your mouth? Hard to replicate these days. Tasted freshly home-made pasta that melts in your mouth? Unlike dry packet pasta, which is good although never the same, fresh pasta is wonderful.

What you can expect at a Calabrese BBQ

If you’re ever lucky enough to be invited to a Calabrese BBQ, you’re in for the long haul and many hours of sampling wonderful delights as the food leaves the BBQ plate. I’m not talking about just meat and sausages as the BBQ’s staple.

A steady procession of traditional Calabrese dishes including, wait for it…pasta cooked over a wood-fire in rustic conditions in the middle of a forest, is also served. Believe me?

Family and guests get together whilst stoking the fire…

Hang Loose Beach, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy
Photo credit: Neil Lintern

…in this communal ritual to create the most delicious food that’s just as good, if not more so, than in any restaurant.

Of course, someone always brings a boom box as music plays a huge part in the Calabrese psyche. Festivities are typically associated with music.

You may also catch a dance group practising the Tarantella or a folk dance of long ago, in another BBQ spot close by.

If you’re lucky enough, you may even get to sample the Cuddrurieddri – traditional Calabrese potato doughnut that’s sure to win your heart whilst it hits your stomach hard…

Hang loose Beach BBQ

The first invitation to a Calabrese BBQ from our good friends in Rogliano resulted in a food coma.

Sublime Tropea red onion fried with sugar and pickled in thick olive oil – totally addictive – is served up with home-preserved olives, hard cheeses, home-made Soppressata, and many delightful salamis.

salami, Sopressa, Hang Loose Beach, Calabria, Italy

Long tables are laid in anticipation and everyone waits patiently for the cooking and feast to commence…

Hang Loose Beach, Calabria, Italy
Famous renown potatoes from the Sila are thrown on the sizzling hot plate together with Cuti bread – crusty outside and doughy soft inside – until cooked and golden brown.

BBQ, Hang Loose Beach, Calabria, Italy
Traditional Calabrese Polpette – delectable meatballs made from fragrant double-minced veal and pork then fried to crispy perfection – are lovingly prepared by hand…

Polpette, Hang Loose Beach, Calabria, Italy

…and these are just my favourite BBQ morsels on the menu today.

Sila National Park BBQ

Stretching across 74,000-hectares, the majestic Sila National Park sees many local tourists flock to its wonderful mountains, enchanting forests, pristine lakes, and magnificent scenery. And, is also a popular picnic and BBQ haunt with locals.

Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy

The customary long table is heavily laden once more, with a banquet amongst the beautiful natural Sila forest.

BBQ, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy
The Master Chef sets to work creating masterpieces and this time it’s the very traditional Calabrese Cuddrurieddri.

Transporting ingredients to the forest, potatoes are boiled, mashed and preparation of the dough with yeast takes place in the open, then left to rise under a blanket for an hour before cooking.

BBQ, making Cuddrurieddri, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy
Cooking in the freshness of the outdoors is rustic but everyone helps and always obliging when this is required.

Juicy thick Calabrese sausages are thrown on the grill…

BBQ, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy

…whilst a pot of oil is brought to the boil to cook the Cuddrurieddri.

BBQ, making Cuddrurieddri, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy

Today’s menu also includes an endless stream of freshly-made heavenly Panzerotti – a small Calzone best described as a savoury doughy turnover, stuffed with Passata and Mozzarella before deep frying. Spicy Anchovy stuffed Panzerotti made with Calabrese love also arrive.

More chunky sausages are thrown on the grill in this continual feast.

BBQ, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy
The first of the Cuddrurieddri is dropped in boiling oil until golden brown and piping hot inside…

BBQ, making Cuddrurieddri, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy
…another Master Chef in action – cooking in the woods is relaxing.

One Cuddrurieddri is more than enough for some…but of course, in true Calabrese style, everything needs sampling – no point declining.

BBQ, making Cuddrurieddri, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy

Freshy-made Vecchiareddre – a variation of the Cuddrurieddri minus the hole but stuffed with spicy anchovy and Passata – is even more pesante (heavy), but scrumptious.

After the deep food coma, an obligatory walk through the park is a welcomed break.

BBQ, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy

Hoping to catch a glimpse of the park’s symbol – the ever-elusive wolf amongst the towering Beech and Pine trees – today is not the day.

BBQ, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy

Stumbling on a dance group practising traditional dance moves, decide to stop for a while and absorb this Calabrese fun moment. Music and dancing are intrinsic to the Calabrese culture.

Where is Calabria?

Calabria, Southern Italy, EuropeDeep in the south of Italy lies the picturesque region of Calabria.

In case you haven’t heard of Calabria, this map gives you an idea of Calabria’s position in the boot – at the toe.

Long shores kiss the sparkling Tyrrhenian Sea, stunning mountains capture the Sila National Park, imposing ancient castles, and with a plethora of tumultuous history, Calabria is Italy’s hidden gem.

The gorgeous Sila National Park is a favourite skiing destination for locals. And, this 74,000-hectare expansive park is great for BBQs, picnics, hiking, and trekking.

Getting to Hang Loose Beach

Rogliano to Hang Loose Beach, Calabria, ItalyJust under an hour’s easy drive on the highway from Rogliano you reach Hang Loose Beach, which lays along the shimmering Tyrrhenian Sea.

Finding a suitable clearing in the sparse tall-treed forest close to the beach, everyone goes about setting up the BBQ and starting a fire.

Picnic tables and chairs emerge as do the home-made appetising starters to nibble on whilst the BBQ’s fire heats up enough.

Getting to the Sila National Park

Rogliano to Sila National Park, Calabria, ItalyThe BBQ spot in the Sila takes a little longer to reach from Rogliano than the Hang Loose Beach venue so over an hour’s drive, but worth it when we arrive.

Love coming to this part of Calabria. And, had a fantastic time deep in the park on a snow trek last winter with a bunch of friends last year.

Although this time there isn’t any snow around, this peaceful park still offers loads of spots for a lovely long stroll following the BBQ coma.

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts on Italy.

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58 responses to “Southern Italy: Lavish Calabrese BBQs”

  1. pam@ichoosethis Avatar

    this looks like A LOT of fun!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Pam, both BBQs were loads of fun. Love watching everyone get in and help with creating these delicious feasts, it really is a communal gathering. Although I have to say, my waistline is expanding at a rapid rate!

      Many thanks for your comment, cheers, Nilla

  2. LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia Avatar

    They went all out on this BBQ! I’ve done many a Calabrese BBQ but this one is over the top!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      These were 2 BBQs Lulu but yes, on both occasions they “went all out” and we had a wonderful time – there’s always too much food though… 😉

  3. nicolialia pizzeria Avatar

    You ought to take part in a contest for one of the greatest blogs on the internet.

    I will highly recommend this blog!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for your kind feedback!

  4. gillmorris Avatar

    That looks delicious and what a perfect setting – BBQ in the woods x

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Yes and the air is so fresh in these woods Gill. x

  5. J.D. Riso Avatar

    This is exactly the kind of cultural experience that I crave: Overindulgence in local food with the locals. I love how it conveniently took place in a forest, so that you can walk it off in nature.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Well you need to come to southern Italy for this experience. 😉
      Yes, the national park is gorgeous and offers loads of walking trails to work off the food!
      Many thanks for your comment.

  6. Dave Ply Avatar

    Looks tasty. I’m assuming pot luck, those usually are. I’d never considered Calzone might be deep fried, but then hauling an oven out into the woods might be a bit of a reach.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Very tasty Dave and yes, a pot luck type of BBQ but it all seems to go well together.
      Yes, the bars here in southern Italy sell both types of Calzone – deep fried and oven-baked. It’s amazing how almost anything is cooked in the woods and such a treat. The locals say the food tastes better when made out in the woods on a BBQ – think it’s the fire’s fumes enveloping the food (and BBQ-goers). 😉

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Many thanks for re-blog!



    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Si, grazie!

  8. equinoxio21 Avatar

    OMG. Just had lunch and your post made me hungry…

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      I was hungry writing this post!
      The Calabrese really do go to a lot of trouble at BBQs, but then again, a lot of trouble when any food is concerned.

      1. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Food is an important social bond. (On top of taste and pleasure)

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Absolutely, especially here in southern Italy. Lunches are the best and I’ve been to one at my cousin’s place that lasted 5 hours!

      3. equinoxio21 Avatar

        5 hours! That’s how my mother recalled the sunday lunches at her farmer uncle’s in Brittany in the 30’s. 🙂

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Yes! It’s a wonderful social experience and typically a lunch is around 3 hours. My cousin starts at 6am making fresh pasta or Gnocchi and amazing cakes.
        Reminds me a lot of when I was growing up as we always had dinner together or Sunday lunches, yes, even in Australia. Cooking was with mum, aunts and grandmothers to learn the craft of certain regional dishes, which doesn’t happen much these days, and I’ve forgotten most!

        I’m thankful that some cultural experiences didn’t die off with time.

      5. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Cultures are more resilient than one thinks. I have witnessed that over and over again.

      6. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Hope so, I’ve almost finished watching the documentary “The West” – tragic how Americans were ruthless and relentless forcing American Indians to give up their cultures and land.

      7. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Between us, that was the fist major genocide… 🙁

      8. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        The series is heart-wrenching – slash wrist material. Most people know about this ugly history, but I didn’t know to this extent. And, it wasn’t just the American Indians that lost all their land and cultures, the Chinese and Mormons were also targeted relentlessly, and of course African Americans – it never seemed to stop, guess it’s still going. 🙁

        We’ve gone from eating Italian lavish feasts in the woods to genocide – how extraordinary!

      9. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Haha! That’s lateral thinking for you. Guilty as charged. But very enjoyable. 🙂

      10. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Very true and always great to go off on a tangent. I believe they’re known as “brown onion stories” as we grow older. 😉

      11. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Brown onion? Never heard of that. Though the concept is understandable. (And makes for good cooking)

      12. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Think I first heard this term on the Simpsons back in the ’90s – makes me laugh each time. 🙂

        Left you a couple of comments on your blog, but not sure if they’ve come through.

      13. equinoxio21 Avatar

        I’ll remember the brown onion. 🙂
        About the comments, sorry for the delay, I tend to not do much Internet or blogging on week-ends, better to do things with people in person. 😉 But I’m on it. Buona settimana amica mia.

      14. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Don’t apologise and fully understand about doing things in person. We’ve just spent the weekend in the mountains with friends, too much food and wine and not much internet so great!

      15. equinoxio21 Avatar


  9. the eternal traveller Avatar

    It looks like a great day was had by everyone!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      True, a great couple of days was had by everyone and you don’t need dinner after one of these lunches!

  10. Suzanne Avatar

    Ummm, no is the answer to your questions. “I wanna” is my next words 🙂 Lovely to read more about an area that is a part of your world, Nilla.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Suzanne, they’re quite different to BBQs in Australia (and possibly New Zealand?).
      Thanks I have a few UK posts scheduled as was there in the summer, but also trying to catch up on digitising past travels…I have 20-plus years to go yet! 😉

  11. Mizou Avatar

    All of the BBQ look so yummy! Thanks for sharing !😊

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      They are and a Calabrese BBQ is such a food fest!

      1. Mizou Avatar

        You ‘re so lucky !😊

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Ha, ha, guess I am… 😉

  12. Retirement Reflections Avatar

    OMG! This barbeque sounds absolutely amazing!
    I am now drooling!!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Yes, I was also whilst writing up this post! These BBQs are really scrumptious – everything is so fresh and tasty.

  13. Keith J Avatar
    Keith J

    A great day with so much yummy food 😋 and the odd glass of 🍷🍷🙄

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      They’re always great days Keith! 😉

  14. writingroma Avatar

    Calabrese, no but I’d like to. The closest I’ve gotten is mountain woods of Molise where as you move about you’re never sure (at least I’m not) if You’ve crossed into Campagna and back again. I love those high windy places where in the tree cover the bad parts of summer – the heat – is never a torment.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      I hope you get to try one soon as they’re so much fun.
      Totally agree with you…the tall trees are wonderful and locals do head to the park as it’s much cooler than on the coast.
      Many thanks for leaving me your comment. 🙂

  15. frejatravels Avatar

    Looks like a pretty intersting BBQ.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Both were pretty interesting but there’s so much food and wine flowing that you need a detox afterwards.

      1. frejatravels Avatar

        I know italy can do that to you

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Tell me about it…I’ve put on quite a bit of weight in Italy.

      3. frejatravels Avatar

        It is a big risk – sometimes you end up doing enough walking in the historic towns to make up for eating a bit much.

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Hmmm…I never seem to walk enough to counteract the amount of food I eat but know what you mean. Is it the same for you when in Italy?

      5. frejatravels Avatar

        Depends where I am. In Rome I might do enough walking – but in some of the smaller cities I am probably not doing enough when you take the food into account.

      6. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Ha, ha, I walk loads everywhere, but it still isn’t enough for the carb-loaded diet. 😉

      7. frejatravels Avatar

        I guess pasta can do that to you.

      8. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Pasta, pizza, pastries, pane (bread)…

      9. frejatravels Avatar

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