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The toe of Italy’s boot is not on the Grand Tour route of most foreign tourists, although Italians head there for its long strands of beautiful beaches and its mountains, which offer several surprises. One is skiing in the winter, although it can hardly be classed with northern Italy as a ski destination, and the other is one of the last remaining vast stretches of European forest that once covered the region and much of Italy. The Romans stripped the mountainsides and valley, creating today’s arid barren landscapes. The Romans weren’t the first to invade – earlier this was part of Magna Graecia (Greek Empire) in the Classical era, and ...

The toe of Italy’s boot is not on the Grand Tour route of most foreign tourists, although Italians head there for its long strands of beautiful beaches and its mountains, which offer several surprises. One is skiing in the winter, although it can hardly be classed with northern Italy as a ski destination, and the other is one of the last remaining vast stretches of European forest that once covered the region and much of Italy. The Romans stripped the mountainsides and valley, creating today’s arid barren landscapes. The Romans weren’t the first to invade – earlier this was part of Magna Graecia (Greek Empire) in the Classical era, and although earthquakes have destroyed most of the early antiquities, Gerace still has its immense Romanesque cathedral and Rossano its Byzantine cathedral. Old medieval quarters hide in the heart of Cosenza, Pizzo and other cities. In Matera, the cave dwellings that were inhabited by thousands of people until the 1950s are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although most Italian holiday-makers head here for the beaches, the coastline is spectacular for its scenery of soaring headlands, where several mountain ranges plummet into the sea. More adventurous visitors explore the inland ranges on hiking and walking trails. La Sila, the mountains where the great forest remains, is close to Cosenza, and the northern Pollino Massif reaches south to meet the Catena Costiera mountains, which end abruptly at the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Stillman Rogers
About the Expert

Stillman Rogers has written more than two dozen guidebooks, including Adventure Guide to Canada's Atlantic Provinces, Guide to Eastern Canada, and Adventure Guide to the Chesapeake.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Southern Italy, the toe of the boot, bordered by the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas
  • Language: Italian
  • Currency: Euro
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Even for beach lovers, this part of Italy is brutally hot in the summer. Spring is beautiful, and begins in late January.