Italy’s A3 Autostrada Near Completion 50 Years After Project Began

It’s been called the “shame of Italy” and for good reason. The A3 autostrada, a 443km highway that is to connect Salerno to Reggio Calabria, has been under construction since 1966.

Faulty construction and mafia meddling by both the Camorra and ‘Ndragheta factions have caused numerous delays during the nearly 50 years since the project began, reports The Independent. It has become the “symbol of how public works are in Italy,” according to Stefano Zerbi, spokesman for Codacons, Italy’s national consumer organization.

When mobsters aren’t creaming off millions from the road building thanks to dodgy contract work, it seems they’re ensuring that the route doesn’t impinge on their other activities. About halfway, the route curves back on itself awkwardly. This detour is said to have been done at the request of a local Mob boss who didn’t want the motorway coming too close to his villa.

This week, Prime Minister Renzi declared that construction of the A3 will be stepped up in the hopes that the project will be finalized by the end of 2015. However, no completion date has been set.

Read more: Fifty years on, work on Italy’s ‘eternally unfinished’ highway enters final stretch

Five Favorites: Beaches in Calabria

It seems that I’m not the only one thinking of lazing on a beach right about now. This week, Italofile has another guest blogger, Cherrye Moore, who writes the blog My Bella Vita and runs the Il Cedro B&B with her Calabrese husband. She has chosen to write about the Five Best Beaches in Calabria.

Five Favorites: Beaches in Calabria
If the idea of warm sand rubbing your toes and a fresh Mediterranean breeze blowing in the background makes you dream of warmer days, then it is time to start planning your summer vacation … in Calabria.  With more than 500 miles of coastline, wrapping around seaside villages and swooping cliffs, Calabria is packed with beaches in every shape, size, and color and choosing which ones to visit is tough. As a certifiable beach bum and Calabria connoisseur I’ve made the rounds. And here, in no particular order, are the five best beaches in Calabria.

praia-a-mare

Praia a Mare
Located on the northwest coast of Calabria just south of the Basilicata border, Praia a Mare’s two kilometer-long sand and pebble beach is among the best in the country, but even that’s not the main attraction. Jutting from beneath the shimmering blue waters just off of the shore is Isola di Dino. Once called “Rabbit Island,” Isola di Dino is four kilometers in perimeter and reaches 65 meters into the sky. There are no beaches on the island, so travelers spend the day exploring the island’s sea caves, most notably the Lion’s Grotto, where stalagmites jut from the limestone floor or the Blue Grotto, where lights magically glimmer from beneath the cave.

Diamante

Diamante
Continuing south along the Tyhrranian Coast, Diamante’s sparkling waters and glistening coastline beacon travelers to stop-and once they do, they are hooked. Although Diamante’s beach overflows with bright white sand, the real attraction is just off of the coast. Diamante is famous with foodies throughout Italy for its annual Peperoncini Festival where local vendors spice things up by creating dishes such as chili pepper shrimp, chili pepper chocolate, even chili pepper liquor. The 150 hand-painted murals in Diamante’s historical center have earned it the nickname, “The City of Art.”

Tropea2

Tropea
Tropea is by far the most touristy name in Calabrian beaches and with a strip of coast that is only 500 meters long and 30 meters wide, it is often brimming with beach-goers anxious to bask in the Mezzogiorno sun.  The sand is soft, the cliffs are steep and the water on the edge is a bright Easter egg turquoise-green that slowly fades into light green, then azure blue and finally sapphire. In peak season, the beach is packed with wooden bungalows selling sandwiches, gelato and drinks and there are a dozens of pizzerias, seafood restaurants and bars lining the beach front.

scilla

Scilla
This mystical village is plucked from Greek mythology and was one of the locations featured in The Odyssey.  According to Homer, a six-headed sea monster names Scylla slept on the shores of this town and attacked sailors as they attempted to pass the Straits of Messina. She eventually attacked Ulysses’ crew, capturing six of his men, but he escaped her grasp. Located just 22 kilometers north of Reggio Calabria on Calabria’s west coast, Scilla is still guarded by Ruffo Castle, the 11th Century fortress that sits on the cape that once overshadowed the slumbering Scylla. The soft-sand beach is one kilometer long and 60 meters wide and on a clear day offers easy views of nearby Sicily.

caminia

Caminia
Located on Calabria’s east coast near Catanzaro, Caminia is one in a string of beaches that make the Ionian Coast one of the most beautiful-and untouched-stretches of land in Italy. Caminia, along with neighboring Pietragrande and Copanello beaches, rival Calabria’s west coast beaches in terms of dramatic cliffs, panoramic views and warm, clean water, but are much less developed in terms of tourism and services. The main attraction at Caminia is the beach itself, which features fine, light tan sand, bright sun and relaxation.

cherrye mooreCherrye Moore is a freelance writer and southern Italy travel consultant who has lived in Calabria since 2006. She and her Calabrese husband own Il Cedro Bed and Breakfast in Catanzaro.

Photos © AA904462 , PhotolabXL, Cherrye Moore (Tropea and bio pic), lipeamie, Nico**

Travel Partner Wanted for Calabria

Cherrye, an Italy blogger colleague in Calabria, posted the following information about Jennifer Rafferty, who is looking for a (preferably female) travel partner to accompany her as she searches for her family’s roots in the Catanzaro province of Calabria. You’ll have to pay your own way, of course. But what a nice story this is…

WANTED: Fun-loving, Free-Spirited Travel Partner to Tackle Calabria | My Bella Vita.

20 Things We Love About Italy – Part 1

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a favorite shopping spot in Milan

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we here at Italofile wanted to share with you some of our favorite foods, fashions, architecture, and other random things that make Italy our favorite destination. Yes, just about every one of our posts highlights the things we love about Italy. But this is our chance to feature some things that just don’t make it into every day posts.

And, why 20 things, you ask? Italy has 20 regions and we’ve selected a favorite thing from each of them. Keep in mind, this is hardly an exhaustive list: it was hard to pick just one thing from each region. Also note that this list is in no particular order (except alphabetically by region).

What kinds of things have made you fall in love with Italy? Please be so kind to share them by commenting below or contacting us on Twitter @italofileblog. If you want to know more about each of the 20 regions of Italy, click on the “By Area” categories to the right or visit our Tourism Boards page.

Today, we’ll tackle the first 10 – Abruzzo through Lombardy:

1) Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo. We love our Chiantis and Barolos, for sure. But we often find that when it comes to buying a good, everyday table wine for under $15, we return time and time again to Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. There are many good brands of Montepulciano out there. However, Wine Spectator recently featured Valle Reale as one of its daily wine picks. To learn more about this vintage, visit Winebow.com.

2) I Sassi of Matera, Basilicata. These cave houses, which are a lot like those of Cappadocia in Turkey, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The eerie dwellings were mentioned in Carlo Levi’s Christ Stopped at Eboli and the Matera landscape was used as a stand-in for Jerusalem in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ.

3) Sopressata and Caciocavallo, Calabria. Many an Italian-American household would be at a loss on what to serve for antipasti were it not for these delicious sausage and cheese items from Calabria. I’ve yet to try these foods in their native place. Though, we once shared some Arthur Avenue sopressata (sausage) with a visiting Italian friend and he said it was some of the best he’d ever tasted.

4) Mt. Vesuvius, Campania. From the ruins at Herculaneum and Pompeii to the jawdropping landscape of Naples – even to the rock formations on the island of Capri – Vesuvius was involved. This still-active volcano is a sight to see, which makes this trip seem pretty cool.

5) Byzantine Mosaics of Ravenna, Emilia Romagna. Yet another World Heritage Site, Ravenna is often overshadowed by other Emilian cities like Parma and the capital Bologna. But Ravenna shines because of its stunning, well-preserved, early Christian mosaics, particularly in the Basilica of San Vitale. If you’ve got an Italy “bucket list,” seeing Ravenna’s mosaics should be on it.

6) Gorizia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia. There are little pockets on the peninsula that defy Italian stereotypes. Gorizia, which lies on the border with Slovenia (Nova Gorica), is one of those places. Here is where central and Slavic Europe meets Italy in a melting pot of dialects, architecture, attitudes, and more.

Civita di Bagnoregio, a magical little village in Lazio

7) Civita di Bagnoregio, Lazio. Beyond the attractions of Rome, one of the most charming places in all of Central Italy is the tiny, hilltop town of Civita di Bagnoregio. Built by the Etruscans on soft tufa rock, the village is slowly but surely giving way to the ravages of time and gravity. So you may want to pay your respects before its too late.

8) Olive Ascolane, Le Marche. The earthy cuisine of the Marches (Le Marche) is finally getting its due thanks to the fantastic cookbook Cucina of Le Marche by Fabio Trabocchi. Certainly no book on the cucina marchigiana would be complete without a recipe for Olive Ascolane – fried, stuffed olives. Yum!

9) Portofino, Liguria. Liguria, the eyebrow shaped region of Italy, is very eye-catching indeed, what with its picturesque fishing villages, particularly those pastel painted cities of the Cinque Terre. Portofino, in the Genoa province, is a huge tourist magnet. But one glance at its tidy cityscape and port and you’ll understand why those big-time hotel developers have tried their damnedest to recreate the place.

10) Milan Fashion Week, Lombardy. Twice a year in Milan, we have the opportunity to see what Italy’s creative fashion minds have come up with for the catwalk. In my humble opinion, the Italian designers have always been on the cutting edge with sexy, yet wearable clothing. Think Valentino, Versace, Gucci, Prada, and Dolce & Gabbana, and you’ll see what I mean. Of course, Milan is Italy’s fashion capital year-round which is in evidence when you walk the city’s bustling streets, stroll through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and window-shop the chic shops on Via Montenapoleone.

Tomorrow…our favorites from Molise through the Veneto!

Photo © Traveler100, Alessio Damato