How to spend our time in Italy was something that we debated about for months. What is normally an easy decision for us, and one that I typically have a strong feeling about, was anything but. Beach or mountains? New cities, favorite cities, or a mix of new and old? Go to school, or don’t go to school? Rent a car, don’t rent a car? The list of possibilities that we worked through went on for far longer than either one of us would like to relive. But in the end, everything ended up just as it should.
We both agreed that we wanted to enjoy the beach and the sea, to go somewhere that we had never been before, to travel without a car, and to go to school for a week. And once we made those decisions, we both knew exactly where we wanted to go – Calabria.
The funny thing is, if you Google search “Calabria without a Car,” you’ll find a wide range of travel horror stories about why it is absolutely imperative to rent a car in Calabria. You will read that your vacation will basically be a waste of time and money if you don’t have a car to explore the region. And that you can’t possibly get a sense for what Calabria has to offer. That you should just heed all of this advice, and go somewhere else or stay home. Yikes.
Well, I am here to tell you to ignore all of this advice. Yes, for some people I am sure that it makes perfect sense to rent a car. And for others, it might be a necessity. But for us, I can confidently share that we explored Calabria without a car (just as we have done so in all of Italy), and we wouldn’t have changed a single thing.
Exploring Calabria without a car was absolutely perfect in every way. In fact, it was even better than either one of us had expected. No, we did not make our way into a mountain town or to a vineyard for a wine tasting. We did not explore towns untouched by tourism. And we did not find ourselves to be the only people lying on a stretch of beach.
But here’s what we did do – we split our time between two breathtaking towns that were easily reachable by train and completely walkable (Tropea and Scilla). We ate delicious regional cuisine and enjoyed a plethora of local wines. We laid along the white sandy beach, and swam in the most warm turquoise waters that either one of us has ever seen. We enjoyed getting to know the people of Southern Italy, and the charm that comes with smaller towns. We saw beautiful architecture. We explored churches, tiny streets, tourist shops and tasted more gelato than anyone would want to keep track of. Simply put, we just immersed ourselves into exactly what we had signed up for, an adventure in Calabria.
our favorite lunch of fried mussels and zucchini flowers from Koes in Tropea
Calabria without a car showcases the slower paced life of Southern Italy. A quieter, less touristy, and maybe even more “authentic” Italy. Yes, you must choose your cities in advance in order to accommodate for train travel, and most definitely make sure to book your train tickets online – but other than that, it’s a piece of cake.
Calabria stole our hearts just as it was. And that is the beauty of travel. No two experiences are the same, just as no two people are. So if you have an idea in mind for a travel experience, don’t let any Google search get in your way. Because as we had hoped for and did find out, there was absolutely nothing about this spicy Southern region that we would have done differently. In fact, we are already looking forward to retracing our steps. (Pun intended.)
During our time in Scilla, we stayed at the most wonderful and welcoming bed and breakfast, Da Zio Totò. It was not the typical single room in a larger building style bed and breakfast, but a private apartment that is completely catered to you for your stay. The apartment sits in the historic neighborhood of Chianalea in Scilla, and it is absolutely oozing with charm. Think tiny streets, Nonnas cooking dinner, fisherman bringing in their catch of the day, kids playing soccer, basically want to move there after five minutes kind of Southern Italy charm.
Our apartment was prepared with everything to make our stay completely comfortable and seamless – juices, coffee, snacks, fruit, milk, a full kitchen (with quite literally every possible kitchen utensil and cooking tool), fresh linens, fresh flowers, a washing machine, a private patio, a gorgeously modern shower (which is basically unheard of in Italy), air conditioning, complimentary breakfast at the local caffè – truly the list goes on and on. It was the perfect little getaway for us, and will easily be our home away from home when we return to Scilla.
Our charming stay at Da Zio ToTò was generously provided for us by the owner; however, no compensation was received in exchange for my writing. What I have shared about her property is an honest reflection of our experience, and one that I can easily recommend to anyone traveling to Scilla. It is truly a gem.