Calabria is a region in southern Italy, forming the “toe” of the Italian Peninsula. Calabria is one of the oldest regions of Italy with the first evidence of human presence dating as far back as 700,000 BC. It was the Greeks who occupied the shores of Calabria and Eastern Sicily forming Magna Grecia or Great Greece. The area was home to the poet Theocritus and mathematician and inventor Archimedes, and it remained part of the Greek Empire until the Romans annexed it in the 3rd century B.C.
The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro. The most populated city and the seat of the Calabrian Regional Council, however, is Reggio. It is bordered to the north by the region of Basilicata, to the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea and to the east by the Ionian Sea. The region covers 5,822 sq mi and has a population of just under 2 million. The area is seismically and volcanically active.
The Pollino Mountains in the north of the region are rugged and form a natural barrier separating Calabria from the rest of Italy. Parts of the area are heavily wooded, while others are vast plateaus with little vegetation. These mountains are home to a rare Bosnian Pine and are included in the Pollino National Park. The area boasts numerous lakes and dense coniferous forests.
In general, most of the lower terrain in Calabria has been agricultural for centuries and exhibits natural scrub land as well as introduced plants such as the prickly pear cactus. The lowest slopes are rich in vineyards, citrus fruit orchards and olive and chestnut trees. The region boasts the second highest number of organic farmers only after Sicily. The region is the second-highest for olive oil production The Bergamot orange is intensively cultivated, since the 18th century, exclusively the in coastal area of Reggio, where it found its optimal geological and weather conditions.
Along the coastlines, the climate is Mediterranean with average low temperatures of 8 °C (46 °F) in the winter months and average high temperatures of 30 °C (86 °F) in the summer months. Along the Apennines and in the inland areas, the climate is mountainous (continental) with cold, snowy winters and warm, dry summers with occasional thunderstorms.
Calabria is one of the least developed regions in Italy. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Calabria is represented by service industries (28.94%), financial activities and real estate (21.09%), trade, tourism, transportation and communication (19.39%), taxation (11.49%), manufacturing (8.77%), construction (6.19%) and agriculture (4.13%).
The 485 miles of its coast make Calabria a popular tourist destination during the summer. The low industrial development and the lack of large cities in much of its territory have allowed maintaining low levels of marine pollution. In fact, the region is considered by many a natural paradise, which attracts a number of tourists from all over Italy. The most popular seaside destinations are: Tropea, Capo Vaticano, Pizzo, Scilla, Diamante, Amantea and Soverato.
The interior of Calabria is rich in history, traditions, art and culture that attract a number of tourists. Fortresses, castles, churches, historic centers and cemeteries are common elements in the interior of Calabria.
Some mountain locations attract tourists even in winter. Sila and Aspromonte are two national parks that offer facilities for winter sports, especially in the towns of Camigliatello, Lorica and Gambarie.
The cuisine is a typical southern Italian Mediterranean cuisine with a balance between meat-based dishes (pork, lamb, goat), vegetables (especially eggplant) and fish.
Pasta is also very important in Calabria. Pasta dishes that include peppers, onions and sausage sauteed with or without sauce are very common. Frittatas made with pasta and sausage mixed into the eggs are also prevalent.
Calabrians have traditionally placed an emphasis on the preservation of their food, in part because of the climate and potential crop failures. As a result, there is a tradition of packing vegetables and meats in olive oil, making sausages and cold cuts (Sopressata, ‘Nduja), and, along the coast, curing fish- especially swordfish, sardines (sardelle rosamarina) and cod (Baccalà). Tomatoes are sun-dried, octopi are pickled, anchovies salted and peppers and aubergines packed into jars of oil and vinegar.
The chilli pepper is popular here and is crushed in oil and placed on the table with every meal to sprinkle over your food. The chilli was once considered to be a cure for malaria which probably accounts for its extensive use in this region.
Local desserts are typically fried, honey-sweetened pastries (Cudduraci, scalille or scalidde) or baked biscotti-type treats (such as ‘nzudda) served during holidays. Ice cream or fresh fruit is mainly served for dessert and melons,particularly watermelons, are abundant in Calabria
Some local specialties include Caciocavallo Cheese, Cipolla rossa di Tropea (red onion), Frìttuli and Curcùci (fried pork), Liquorice (liquirizia), Lagane e Cicciari (a pasta dish with chickpeas), Pecorino Crotonese (Cheese of Sheep), and Pignolata.
Some vineyards have origins dating back to the ancient Greek colonists. The best known DOC wines are Cirò (Province of Crotone) and Donnici (Province of Cosenza). 3% of the total annual production qualifies as DOC. Important grape varieties are the red Gaglioppo and white Greco. Many producers are resurrecting local, ancient grape varieties which have been around for as long as 3000 years.
Sun Dried Tomatoes
This particular recipe is Calabrian; before you begin check the weather forecast because you’ll need several days of hot dry weather with intense sunlight.
- 2 pounds (1 k) ripe plum tomatoes, as many as you want
- Freshly shredded mild or hot pepper to taste
- Olive Oil
Wash the tomatoes and pat them dry.
Slice the tomatoes lengthwise, set them on a rack, dust them with salt, put them out where the sun will shine on them all day (if where you live has a lively insect population cover them with fine netting).
Leave them in the sun until dusk and then bring them inside.
Continue putting them out in the morning until they are dry. Depending upon the humidity where you live this could take 2 or more days.
When they have dried, rinse them with water and vinegar. Mince the herbs in the proportion that suits your taste, and then layer the dried tomatoes in a jar, sprinkling the herbs and some salt over each layer. Press down well, then fill the jar with olive oil, shaking repeatedly and tapping the sides of the jar to make sure no air pockets remain. Seal, and let the tomatoes sit in a cool dark place for a few months, at which point they’ll make a fine antipasto, over slices of crusty bread or sliced and served as a garnish for main dishes and vegetables.
Linguine with Sun Dried Tomatoes
At times, Calabrians add seafood to this dish.
- 1 pound (450 g) spaghetti or linguine
- 1/4 pound (100 g) sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup basil leaves, cut thin
- 1 tablespoon oregano, chopped
- 1 hot pepper
- A bunch of parsley,finely chopped
- 3-4 tablespoons of oil the tomatoes were packed in
Chop the tomatoes and heat them for 3-5 minutes in a skillet with the oil, the garlic, the basil, the hot pepper and a pinch of salt. Don’t overcook or the tomatoes will dry and toughen. Turn off the heat and keep warm.
Cook the pasta in abundant salted water. Drain it’s al dente, transfer it to a bowl, pour the tomato mixture over it. Mix well. Garnish with the minced parsley and oregano.
Calabrian Marinated Tuna
- 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) fresh tuna, cut into 3/4-inch thick slices
- 8 ounces (200 g) pitted black olives
- One lemon
- Garlic (2 cloves)
- Fresh hot pepper (chili flakes)
- Extra virgin olive oil
Pat the fish dry and grill it, basting it lightly with olive oil; turning it once. Figure a total cooking time of 5-7 minutes.
In the mean time blend the remaining ingredients with more oil to make a sauce. Marinate the fish in the sauce for at least an hour before serving it.
Spicy Calabrian Grilled Pork Chops
- 6 pork chops with bone
- Crushed or powdered hot pepper to taste (Calabrians like things hot)
- Fennel seeds
Lightly pound the chops to flatten them out, sprinkle them with salt and then rub fennel seeds and hot pepper into them.
Grill them over medium hot coals or medium high on a gas grill, turning once, until the internal temperature is 145 degrees F, about 15 minutes.
Transfer chops to a platter. Loosely tent with foil to keep warm; let stand 5 minutes before serving.