Welcome back to Ask a Local, a series of posts in which I interview locals all over the world about what to see, where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in in their city or town. The following interview was originally published in my Italy guide.
Today I’m happy to introduce you to Cherrye Moore, an expat and blogger-turned-business-owner here to tell us all about Catanzaro – the “city of two seas” and capital of Calabria.
First, tell us about you.
I grew up in southeast Texas, in a little town just outside of Beaumont. (Go Kountze Lions!) After college, I spent time at Walt Disney World in Orlando, which led to a temporary position at Disneyland Paris. There was a tall, dark, handsome southern Italian working around the corner and, after an extended long-distance relationship, I married him. Hence, I now live in Calabria.
I’ve been here since 2006 and love it. In early 2007, we opened a small bed and breakfast and, soon after that, started organizing ancestry tours to southern Italy through my blog-turned-travel business, My Bella Vita Travel. Today, we specialize in ancestry tours and custom vacations throughout southern Italy.
If someone is visiting Calabria and Catanzaro for the first time, what do you recommend they see or do?
Calabria is deceivingly big and, even though we don’t get a lot of press, there is a lot to see, do, and discover here. I’d recommend first-time visitors plan enough time to see two to three different areas or villages. Many of the Tyrhennian seaside towns are nice, including Praia, Diamante, Pizzo, and Tropea, as well as the Ionian towns of Cariati or Gerace. I like for travelers to plan a stop in a seaside town, as well as an inland mountain village. Many people like to include great, local foodie experiences, wine tours, tastings, or cooking classes.
What neighborhoods or towns are best to stay in?
Since many of the travelers I work with have ancestral roots in Calabria, we usually choose their base location accordingly. For travelers who just want to see and experience the best of Calabria, the Catanzaro area is nice because it is centrally located and makes a good base for day trips. As I mentioned above, many of the seaside towns are also stunning!
Let’s talk about day trips…what nearby places should everyone make sure to visit?
From the province of Cosenza, I’m in love with Civita. It is a precious Albanian village that dates to the 1400s and is home to Europe’s deepest gorge. It is history and nature all in one!
From Catanzaro, I like the ruins of Scolacium, ancient Greek and Roman ruins with a forum, theater, and necropolis all set in a beautiful olive plantation.
From Crotone, my all-time favorite place to take my family is Le Castella.
Tell us about the local dishes. What should people try here?
Calabria is known throughout Italy for having amazing, local, rustic food like grandma would make. Spicy red pepper can be added to anything. (Seriously, anything! I asked my father-in-law once what he wouldn’t put red pepper on and he was stuck for an answer!) Besides that, there is a fabulous baked pasta with meatballs, stuffed eggplant, spicy, spreadable sausage called ‘nduja, and sausage from the mountains.
What are your top three favorite bars and restaurants?
La Cascina (located at Via Corace 50 in Catanzaro Lido) is my current favorite wine bar/restaurant. The owner, a local sommelier, knows everything about Calabrian wine and helps you with your selection without being stuffy or pretentious.
In La Sila, I love Villa Marinella, a family-owned mountain restaurant with homemade everything (located at Villaggio Racise).
When I want a nice seafood lunch, I go to San Domenico (located on Via Colapesce in Pizzo). It has an amazing setting, fresh, creative cuisine, and a young, friendly staff and chef.
Is there anything tourists do that locals find rude or strange? What can we do to better fit in with the culture?
They think it’s funny that we drink wine all day (they only have it with meals), but they just smile and pass the bottle. They love having people visit the area.
What is the best way to meet locals and make friends?
I think it would be very hard for tourists to make real friends with Calabrians because, for the most part, they are friends with the same people they’ve been friends with since childhood. They are, however, really caring, generous, and friendly people. The best place to meet locals is going to be at a local cafe or in the town’s main piazza.
Why should people make sure to visit Calabria?
Calabria is still under the radar, which means we enjoy Italy’s beauty, food, and culture without having to share it with a load of tourists. Now is the time to visit!
What is the best place to go take beautiful photos of the area?
Since Calabria is so mountainous, many great photo opportunities can be found by walking through the historical part of a town and taking pictures from one of the lookouts. There are typically a lot of nice mountain, hill, valley, and sea views, many with little Italian housetops and clotheslines thrown in for fun.