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When to go to Calabria?

braindoc

10+ Posts
Thinking/fantasizing about a trip of a couple of weeks in early spring 2022. Sorry if I ramble a bit.

Our twice-cancelled 2020 trip is scheduled for this coming October. That will be three years without a vacation - a combination of an expected staffing gap in my office extended by the virus. We will be starting up north, and I’ll probably be seeking some itinerary help soon for the second half of the trip.

However, Alitalia has extended its current awards program through June 30, so I wanted to book something for next year in case the threatened devaluation of their frequent flyer miles takes place. Right now, 80,000 miles gets you round-trip business class (aka Magnifica), US-Italy. That is one of the best rates for business class from the US to Europe. Certainly, Alitalia is quirky when it comes to booking award trips, and their policies for pandemic-related rebooking of award trips was atrocious - but that is a topic for another day.

We have been thinking about Calabria for a while. We might want to go back to Matera and Puglia, where we spent part of our April 2018 trip. This will not be a beach trip; we are not sun worshippers. I realize the distances can be deceptively long so we will be cognizant of driving times. In that light, if we decide to spend a little time in Rome at the end of the October trip, we might not return there in early 2022. That could mean saving some travel time with an open jaw itinerary, say Boston to Lamezia going and Bari to Boston returning.

If we do decide to spend time in Basilicata, I know there is a very highly rated guidebook available.

My main question is when to go? We need to be home by early April. Alitalia is showing direct flights from Boston to Rome, beginning in mid-February. Or should we be thinking more about a mid or late March start. I’m concerned about the weather and wondering if things are going to be closed during the winter. Wine and food are our focus.

What do you all think? Thanks.
 
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lisaonthecape

10+ Posts
Honestly, I think March is a bit early. The weather would be much better in April or May--or of course stick to the October planned trip. We spent two weeks in Calabria in late September/early October 2019 (our last pre-pandemic Italy trip), and the weather was absolutely perfect. We started in Reggio Calabria, then went up the Tyrrhenian coast as far as Pizzo. Next, we crossed over to the Ionian coast at Praialonga (near Isola di Capo Rizzuto) down as far as Gerace. So much more to see, but that was a nice pace for a two-week trip.

I would highly recommend Karen Haid's book, Calabria: The Other Italy. Do be prepared for the afternoon pausa, which is strictly observed. Everything, and I mean everything, locks up tight. It's not like northern or central Italy, where you can still find some things open. The roads, especially inland, can be a bit dicey. Also, take a flight from Rome to either Reggio or Catanzaro, depending on your choice for a base. It's further than you might think.

Overall, though, a fascinating and different place.
 

braindoc

10+ Posts
Thanks for your input lisaonthecape, and greetings from nearby Rhode Island.

We definitely hope to stick to our October 2021 trip (Venice, Bologna for sure and then, perhaps, Le Marche or Abruzzo) AS WELL AS go back to Italia in early 2022.

Can you expand a bit on what you don’t like about the March weather? My wife needs a very cold bedroom to sleep comfortably (I’m talking no heat in our bedroom and a window open even in the winter). Given the Italian penchant for warmth and the lack of air conditioning in most places outside of the later spring and summer, very cool nights are a must. As you know, April down south can be hot.

Cold and rainy are not a problem for us. We’ve gone to Italy twice in February - nothing beats walking into the Vatican without a line.
 

lisaonthecape

10+ Posts
Thanks for your input lisaonthecape, and greetings from nearby Rhode Island.

We definitely hope to stick to our October 2021 trip (Venice, Bologna for sure and then, perhaps, Le Marche or Abruzzo) AS WELL AS go back to Italia in early 2022.

Can you expand a bit on what you don’t like about the March weather? My wife needs a very cold bedroom to sleep comfortably (I’m talking no heat in our bedroom and a window open even in the winter). Given the Italian penchant for warmth and the lack of air conditioning in most places outside of the later spring and summer, very cool nights are a must. As you know, April down south can be hot.

Cold and rainy are not a problem for us. We’ve gone to Italy twice in February - nothing beats walking into the Vatican without a line.
Although I've been traveling to Italy for 30+ years, the 2019 trip was my first to Calabria, so I'm not holding myself out as a Calabria expert in any way. We're not beachy people either, despite living on the Cape. My bigger concern would be driving in the rain and fog, which I understand can be an issue in early spring. Can't speak from experience there, just what I've read, but I do know that while the highways are pretty good, the inland roads can be very spotty (paved road ends, turns into a cowpath, etc.) It doesn't sound like lack of heat would be an issue for you, which is good. It might be perfectly lovely in March.

We loved our Calabria trip. I think I would probably go back to Puglia for a second trip before returning to Calabria, but I would definitely go back. Really loved Gerace and can send you info on the place we rented, if you want.

The people we met were lovely. Less English spoken there than further north, so some knowledge of the language will help quite a bit. My husband used to work in Italy and is fluent, but even he found the local dialect hard to understand. So, overall, Calabria is not "easy" like Florence or Rome, but is definitely worthwhile. You won't finds lines in Calabria. The museums are much smaller in scale and you can easily "do" a small town in a day, even slow travel style.
 

braindoc

10+ Posts
Thank you again. We have to buckle down and do some research now. Any information about where to stay would be greatly appreciated!

My history with Italy also goes back more than 30 years. I spent toughly two and a half academic years (the first half of medical school) in Italy, starting with an intensive language course in Perugia. I was in a group of about a dozen American students assigned to the University of Bari. I lived in a tiny fishing village, Torre a Mare, south of the city. I can still remember a few words of the local dialect. For my last year, I transferred to the school in Chieti and lived outside of Pescara, in Francavilla al Mare. Perhaps, I’ll stop there during the upcoming October trip. First time back since a pathology exam in 1979

There were 2 restaurants in Torre a Mare. I returned with my wife during our 2007 honeymoon to find about a dozen; a marina had replaced almost all the small wooden fishing boats. Torre a Mare had become a spot for day trippers from Bari and has even been mentioned by Gianrico Carofiglio in his books. The nautical-inspired apartment building where I lived was still there and looked immaculate, virtually unchanged after 30 years.

I was worried about dialect when we traveled to Sicily in 2008. However, when people heard me speaking in “regular” Italian they very graciously did also. The same happened in Matera and Puglia when we visited in 2018. Your point about Calabria not being ‘easy’ is well-taken, though. Hopefully, we will still be ready for some challenges.
 

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