Archive for the Vibo Valentia Province Category

Calabria – peaceful Parghelia

Posted in Calabria, Italy, Parghelia, Vibo Valentia Province with tags , , , on March 17, 2019 by gannet39

Rather than pay over the odds by staying in pricey Tropea, I got a place in Parghelia, the next station down the line. From here it’s about thirty minutes on foot if you’re going to the main beach, or fifty if you’re walking up to the old town in Tropea.

I stayed for two nights in May in a flat I rented from a friendly family via AirBnB. It was about £35 a night, which is very reasonable.

You could of course pay an extra tenner for an AirBnB in the old town and save yourself some walking. Hotels are £100 plus a night in Tropea, although I did find somewhere a bit out of town for £50. No idea what it’s like though.

What sealed it for me though is that Parghelia has two stunning little beaches right next to each other, just a few metres from where I was staying.

Not sure what the southernmost one is called but the slightly larger of the two is Spiaggia Michelino. Video here.

The water here is super clear so you can see shoals of small fish really well.

There were only about ten people on the beach when I went, a far cry from the much larger beaches which get busier and busier as you get nearer to Tropea.

Every morning I walked the short distance to the main street in Parghelia…

Bar Pepe (Intermediate B+), 51 Corso Vittorio Emanuele

This was my spot for my breakfast cappuchino and cornetto. The coffee is decent (B) and there’s lots of space with two seating areas outside, front and back. A friendly lady who speaks good English works here too.

I ate out a couple of times as well…

Pizzeria da Antonio (Intermediate B+), 10 Via Principe di Piemonte

Had a perfectly decent Pizza Margarita here. Enjoyed the atmosphere as well because you could sit outside and the young servers were friendly and helpful.

It was with heavy heart I had to move on to Cosenza on Sunday but I had a fair bit of time to kill after check out but before my train, so I went to this place on the main street in Parghelia and coincidentally ended up having one of the best meals of the entire trip.

Il Portale (Intermediate A), Piazza Ruffa but effectively on Corso Vittorio Emanuele,

The Antipasto di Mare is really good here (A/B+) and beautifully presented.

The pacchieri with langoustine was also very good (A).

I was less impressed by the bottle of Madre Goccia But it was okay (B).

Friendly service was provided by a nice girl from Transylvania who had lived in London for seven years, so her English was very good.

With a draught beer and a limoncello the bill was around 50€, a bit pricey but good value given the quality.

Weekend over! Back to work in gritty Cosenza next!


Calabria – places to eat and drink in Tropea

Posted in Calabria, Italy, Tropea, Vibo Valentia Province with tags , , , on March 16, 2019 by gannet39

After breakfast in Parghelia (see next post) I’d walk about twenty minutes to the main beach which is about two thirds of the way to Tropea. Map here.

You can hire sun loungers and other kit here, and also eat at a beach restaurant, which you can’t do at the secluded beaches in Parghelia.

The best food I ate in Tropea was at this place on the beach…

Lido la Grazie (Intermediate B+), Contrada Marina La Grazia

I ate lunch here twice and was very well taken care of by the mother and son team on the bar who run the place and their friendly waiters.

I also rented the lido’s sun loungers (a lattina with an ombrello) which cost 5€ for half a day or 9€ for a full day.

On one occasion I had the Spaghetti alla Vongole con Zenzero, Buccia di Lime, Aglio e Clorofilla di Prezzemolo, or spaghetti and clams with ginger, lime zest, garlic and a ‘chlorophyll’ paste of parsley, which was really good (B+).

I couldn’t argue with the Grigliata Mista di Pesce either (B+).

For dessert I continued to make the most of Calabria’s cherry season (A).

On the second visit I had the Antipasto della Casa; from top left going clockwise; Cipolla in Agrodolce (sweet and sour onion), Polpette di Melanzane (aubergine balls), Zucchina Gratinata (courgette au gratin), Frittelle di Fiori di Zucca e Acchiughe (pumpkin flower and sardine fritter), Peperoni Grigliati (grilled peppers), Sformatino di Parmagiana (parmagiana flan), all of which were fine (B).

I followed up with a primo of Fettucine allo Scoglio e Pesto alle Alghe; pasta ribbons with mussels and two kinds of clams (vongole and fasolari) in a seaweed pesto (A).

With this, the best bottle of white I’d had in Calabria on this trip, a Chardonnay from Tenuta Iuzzilini (B+).

The bill for this came to 42€ which was very fair I felt. So, no hesitations in recommending this place. Great food and lovely service from waiters who were my friends by the end of the two visits.

Speaking of friends, my mate Nicole, who is Calabrese and comes to Tropea nearly every year, recommends Lido de Nonno next door to Lido la Grazie for its good, cheap seafood. However it hadn’t opened yet when I was there as it was only May which isn’t officially summer as far as the Italians are concerned, although the temperatures were in the high twenties which is quite hot enough for me! She loves good grub so it must be a good place to try as well.

On my first day in the old town I did a walk round of all the restaurants I had on my hit list (map here). There were a lot that supposedly had good food so I tried to be quite strict with my choices.

More recent 2019 research indicates that Osteria Del Pescatore at 7 Via del Monte may well have the best food in town.

Not knowing that in 2017, I chose this next romantic restaurant purely because their best table was up for grabs…

Pimm’s (High Intermediate A), 2 Largo Migliarese,

Not sure why this lovely restaurant has the same name as an awful English amaro (perhaps comparable to Campari but not nearly as nice) but once you forget about that it’s lovely.

Earlier in the day I had snagged the table with the best view.

Although I do like a vista, I suffer slightly from acrophobia so when gazing out through the open window I had to avoid looking straight down the sheer cliff face and peer instead at the sun going down behind Santuaria Santa Maria dell’Isola.

I didn’t grade this meal as I was too busy chatting with the friendly young waiter (probably lost my notes) but I remember that seafood is the thing here. I kicked off with the Crudo de Pesce, raw fish, tuna I think, which I thought was more of a Puglian thing but maybe they like it here too.

Spigola (sea bass) were the catch of the day and they were brought to my table so I could choose.

The Spaghetti alla Spigola looks wonderful and I’m sure it was very good.

I remember being happy with the Contessa Emburgo white wine from Lento, a Malvasia Chardonnay combo from Lamezia Terme.

I did have a second fish course but the photo is to blurry to show, a bit like me at this point!

Cocktail Bar Tropea (Intermediate B), 1 Largo Migliarese

After eating I wanted to watch the Champion’s League final which fortunately was being shown here on a big screen in the square right next to Pimm’s.

They had a new amaro that I hadn’t tried before, Petrus Boonekamp. A great name, but it didn’t impress me that much (B).

I saw Real Madrid beat Juventus 4-1 in the company of a friendly Swedish couple. Madrid deserved to win but I did feel for the Italians, some of whom were over optimistically expecting a win. Still, they went home with flags flying high.

Not all my evenings out were good though…

Pinturicchio (Intermediate C) 2 Via Dardano

Pinturicchio is a modern restaurant located in a bright white cellar but they also have candlelit tables on the street which is where I sat. There’s no view to be had as it’s down an alley but it’s still a very atmospheric spot.

When I do my research, I do look at every resource available, so I know Lonely Planet, Conde Naste and CNT all like Pinturicchio. When using Tripadvisor, I’m more interested in the number of reviews a place gets rather than its ranking. So as Pinturicchio was the most reviewed place in May 2017, and had a #7 ranking (#28 now in 2019), I thought I had the odds on my side when I rolled the dice on this one, but sadly I lost badly.

There were two problems, the food and the service. The usual array of Antipasti was fine (B), but I had to send back the Fileja alla Tropeana con Cipolla Rossa, the town’s signature dish (more of which in the next post). The combination of insipid pasta and thick slimy slices of onion was actually inedible for me (D) which in Italy is highly unusual. I’d lost my appetite and couldn’t manage anything else except a semi-freddo and a limoncello for dessert (both B) which went a little way to cheering me up.

The second problem was the waiting staff who were very young and completely untrained. I got brusque service from the start from one young woman and finally exploded and asked her what her problem was when she literally threw a knife onto my table as she was rushing past. To her credit she came back to apologise and shake my hand but then I got very similar treatment from a different young guy and so my angry mood just continued and I left feeling very discontented. The contrast with the older professionals down at the beach was striking! I suppose approaching peak season there must be a local waiter shortage and all the best ones choose the nicer places to work.

Anyway, enough moaning, despite the odd restaurant blip, I love Tropea! I suppose any touristy place is going to have some restaurants that are all hype and no substance.

To avoid paying over the odds in slightly pricey Tropea I stayed in the next town instead…

Calabria – a golden weekend in Tropea

Posted in Calabria, Italy, Tropea, Vibo Valentia Province on March 15, 2019 by gannet39

Tropea is a gem. My favourite town in Calabria and one of my most favourite places in the whole of Italy. My map is here.

Of course, it’s not just me that thinks that, so in the summer it becomes one of Calabria’s most important resort towns as thousands of holidaymakers, many from the north of Italy, flock to its long expanses of golden sand. Thankfully I was there in May before the main season had started. I’ll write more about the beach and also restaurants in the following posts.

The old town sits on high cliffs overlooking the sea so the views are stunning.

Especially around sunset. Videos here and here.

At this time of the evening you can just make out the volcanic island of Stromboli on the horizon.

The town’s most famous landmark is the Santuaria Santa Maria dell’Isola Church which is perched on its own separate rock.

It makes for a good walk as you can get even better views of the old town. Video here.

The old town itself is very pleasant to stroll around.

There are many cosy restaurants tucked down side streets, of which more in the next post.

And a few more snaps from walking around. Click on them to make them bigger if you’re on a computer.

As well as its locations, Tropea is famous for a special ingredient, a red onion called la Cipolla Rossa di Tropea that I mentioned above. It was first introduced by the Phoenicians over two thousand years ago. You’ll see it in all the veg shops.

The onion is renowned amongst Italian chefs for two reasons, firstly because it doesn’t make them cry when they cut it and secondly because of its sweet flavour. The particular taste of the onions is attributed to the silty soils, the influence of the sea and an unusual microclimate of nearly constant temperatures all year round. The official website has some recipes here.

Now I think it’s time to eat…

Calabria – Sleepless in Vibo Valentia

Posted in Calabria, Italy, Vibo Valentia, Vibo Valentia Province with tags , , , , , on September 18, 2010 by gannet39

Vibo ValentiaThis provincial capital is split into two parts, Vibo Pizzo at the bottom of the hill (where the station and the marina are) and Vibo Valentia at the top.

People doing my job usually use the Hotel 501 which is most of the way up the hill, about ten minutes walk up to the town. It would take about an hour to walk down the hill to the marina and there are no pavements.

The 501’s location isn’t ideal but bear in mind it has a pool and free internet. The only other options are a more centrally located 3 star without those facilities or the noisy Locanda (see review below).

La Locanda di Daffina (Intermediate B), 160 Corso Umberto I (entrance at the side), Vibo Valentia,

Had a pleasant meal on the terrace here. To start, some fresh young pecorino with some red onion chutney (both local specialities) followed by Tagliolino con Gambero Rosso e Pachino ((excellent red prawns (A) and cherry tomatoes (B+)) and my friend the Tagliate di Filletto con Tartar di Verdure di Stagione (strips of steak with seasonal veg with tartar sauce (B+))

This was washed down with another Ciro from Tenuto Iuzzolino (B+) which was good, but not a patch on the classico version by the same cantina.

Three of us stayed here for one night, thankfully not longer. The level of disorganisation was such that we got the feeling they had only just opened. The attractive double rooms were quirky, (eg bunk bed over the bathroom!) and had beautiful vaulted ceilings, lovely bathroom tiles and tasteful period decor, but weren’t particularly practical (old creaky beds and floors, no shower curtains etc).

The biggest problem however was the scraping chairs upstairs in the restaurant keeping us awake till past midnight, and then a piano recital at 2am from the owner’s son! By all means come to eat but it’s probably best to stay at the 501 if you want a decent night’s sleep and modern facilities.

L’Approdo (Advanced A+), 22 Via Roma, Vibo Pizzo, Tel. 0963 572640, open every day.


Don’t come to this formal place if you are on a budget, three of us spent €25 each way in a taxi from the top of the hill to Vibo Marina and another €55 each on food and wine, but it was worth it! It’s the kind of posh place that has individual cotton hand towels in the loo. The wine list was a 34 page book with an index.

We started with the Antipasti di Mare (€22) (A) which included Alici Ripiene (stuffed anchovies), Mazzancolle Merosta di Lardo di Colonnata (king prawns with Tuscan fatty pork), Spiedino di Pesce Spada (chunks of swordfish on a skewer), Totuni e Pomodorini al Basilico (a type of squid with cherry toms and basil), Insalata di Pesce Castagna (fish, egg, cheese, chestnuts) and Gratin di Bianchetto (whitebait baked with cheese). Due to the nouvelle cuisine presentation, we couldn’t work out what was what on the plate, but it was all delicious!

My main was Capretto del Monte Puro alla Brace, Timo, Menta e Balsimico (grilled goat from Mount Puro with a local red onion chutney) (B+), and Alison’s Trancio di Pescatrice all Arancia con Lenticchie dei Pollino was very nice (A), but the best main course was Nicky’s Medaglione di Filetto ‘Chianina’ Gratinato ai Funghi Porcini, Radicchio Brasto al Vino Rosso (chianina is beef from highly pampered cattle, similar to Kobe beef) (A+).

The highlight for all of us were the white and red wines, both Ciro Classico (€18) (A++) from Tenuta Iuzzolini (the red was 2006), startlingly unique, and some of the most delicious wine I have ever tasted. (NB although difficult to prove, Ciro is believed to be the oldest wine still being produced in the world.)

I finished with a local grappa (Ronco dei Quattroventi) (B+) but coveted my neighbour’s Cognac Park (cigar blend 40 vielle fine champ). You can also get set course menus for €30 to €45 and a tasting menu for €90.

Fillipo’s (Intermediate B), 128 corso Umberto I, Vibo Valentia, 0963 44870

Had an ok ;ate lunch here that started very well but the quantities seemed to tail off towards the end. Starters included bull salami, mortadella, local sautéed Tropea red onions, stewed pumpkin with cumin, cheese and potato soufflé, vegetable omelette/frittata, pasta with cream, rocket and grana, pasta in tomato sauce and fried fish with raw fennel (all B +/-). The Cauro IGT red (Statti ’05) (B+) and Mantanico white (B) were both from nearby Lamezia Terme. Mentioned in Gambero Rosso and owned by the brother of the Locanda above, it is principally a wine bar that sells food.

Specialities of Vibo Valentia province:

According to legend, pecorino cheese-making originated during the Greek period in a small village called Zaccanos (now Zaccanapoli) which literally means sheep corral, and later spread to the Poro, a mountainous area of VV. When it is young and fresh (‘green’) it has a sweet flavour with a sour aftertaste and can be served in slabs as antipasti. The older version (aged 6-8 months) tastes salty and spicy and is grated on to pasta. It is sometimes also used in desserts.

‘Nduja is a huge sausage with a sweet, peppery taste, made from a mix of pork meat including fat, bacon and cheek, blended with salt and red chilli, which is then smoked and hung. It can be spread on fresh bread or bruschetta, or combined with fileja, (the local handmade pasta which is formed by rolling around a small stick), and topped with grated pecorino. The DOP for ‘nduja is around the village of Spillinga where they celebrate the “sagra della ‘ndjua” festival every August.

The coastal town of Tropea is famous for ‘la cipolla rosa di Tropea’, which looks rather like a red spring onion with a white centre. This unique onion has its own DOP from the E.U. which takes in the Tyrrhenian coastal area from Nicotera to Pizzo Calabria. It has a strong and sweet aroma which makes it good for chutneys, omelettes and salads. The flavour can be made stronger by storing. You might see plaits of onions decorating shops and houses in the summer.

Mostaccioli (“pupazzo” in dialect) are hard biscuits formed into decorative shapes with symbolic meanings. They are made by expert artisans called ‘mastazzolari’ from flour, water and honey and originate from the small village of Soriano Calabro. They are considered a symbol of love in Calabria and heart-shaped biscuits are traditionally given as presents to celebrate engagements and weddings. They can also be shaped in the form of saints for religious days or as animals, such as a horse, goat, cock or fish, to celebrate the beauty of nature.

Olive oil production is important throughout the province. One of the most famous extra virgin oils is made from cold pressing the ‘ottobratica’ variety. Other famous varieties include ‘cecerello’ and ‘miseo’.

The villages of Joppolo, Maierato, Soriano Calabro and Piscopio are also famous for honey which comes in acacia, orange blossom and chestnut varieties.

The Serre highlands in the east of the province are known for mushrooms, primarily Porcini, but also the Gallinacci, Pratioli and ‘Drum and Nail’ varieties.

A famous dessert is ‘il tartufo di Pizzo’, an icecream with chocolate inside.

Written November 2009

%d bloggers like this: