The list is out – early in January, the New York Times unveiled their “52 Places To Go in 2017” and Calabria made the cut! That’s right. The only place chosen in the entire length of the Italian boot wasn’t one of the usual favorites – not Rome, Florence, Venice, the Amalfi Coast or even the hill towns of Umbria. This year, go to the toe – visit Calabria!
It would seem I’m on the cutting edge.
Well, perhaps not on the very edge as there’s a little scrolling involved to get down to the 37th place. Calabria is sandwiched between the Maldives and Antequera, Spain. A country, a region and a town – the list doesn’t differentiate.
The Maldives, the South Asian island country located in the Indian Ocean, was hailed by the list makers as an eco-friendly place bursting with new tourism. Judging by the accompanying photo, you can dine with your feet bathed in the gentle motion of the crystal green water at a wooden table set up right in the ocean off the white sandy beach.
Antequera, a town in southern Spain, was distinguished for its ancient megalith tombs that have recently received UNESCO World Heritage status. According to the paper, after 5,000 years this “Stonehenge” of Andalusia is now ready for visitors.
Calabria was cited for its food and wine. What about its landscape, its history and art? Well, each entry was only allotted a short paragraph to sum up its highlights, and the food is certainly an excellent starting point.
TRAVEL EDITORS’ CRITERIA
The world’s a big place, so how do the NY Times travel editors select only 52 to recommend? As explained on one of the newspaper’s podcasts, they start out by soliciting ideas from their regular contributors. They don’t have a particular traveler in mind, but try to include something for everyone, often hooking into thematic elements, such as food.
Geographic diversity is important, and events or museum openings can also spark an interest. They try to find places that feel as though they are transforming themselves in some manner.
In Calabria’s case, it’s true that the region has been receiving an increase of media attention of late, particularly in the food category. Top chefs are “discovering” a few of the products that Calabria has long since been famous for, at least for those in-the-know, such as the spicy, spreadable ‘nduja salami made with the area’s superb peperoncino, the bergamot, a unique, versatile citrus grown in the Province of Reggio Calabria, the region’s natural licorice as well as its sweet red onions from the town of Tropea. In addition, the NY Times praised the region for its initiatives in organic farming and the production of wine from local grapes.
Many years ago, the Calabrian writer Corrado Alvaro (1895-1956) portrayed his homeland as “la regione più misteriosa e inesplorata d’Italia” (the most mysterious and unexplored region of Italy), and local tourist boards still quote him. But is the secret finally out? Will more people begin to visit Calabria?
Of course, whenever there’s a list, you always look to see who got the top spot. This year, the #1 place is Canada – an enormous, diverse country that happens to be celebrating the 150-year anniversary of its confederation. And for American tourists, the weak Canadian dollar also makes it that much more attractive at the moment.
The funny thing is that I have a fairly strong association in my mind of Canadians and Calabrians. In the U.S., I’ve known a handful of Canadians, but it wasn’t until I went to Calabria that I started meeting Canadians in greater numbers, Calabrian-Canadians. Their ties are often closer to their homeland as the Italians who settled in Canada generally did so later than those who went to the United States.
Interestingly, 80% of Italian immigrants to Canada came from Southern Italy in the 1950s and 60s, and of those almost 20% came from Calabria. So, when I see Canada as #1, I think that tourists to the world’s second largest country might just run into an authentic Calabrese or perhaps a Calabrian sausage or other product imported directly from #37.
VISIT CALABRIA IN NEW YORK
Attendees of the New York Times Travel Show a few weeks ago had the opportunity to visit Calabria in the center of New York City. The region’s Department of Tourism was in attendance to showcase, “an authentic image of Calabria, a land still to be discovered with its 800 kilometers of coastline at the heart of the Mediterranean, where the flavor of the food tells an ancient story over 2,000-years old,” according to agency member Angela Vatrano.
Two Calabrian chefs mentioned by the NY Times, Antonio Abbruzzino and Caterina Ceraudo, were on hand to prepare appetizer delicacies for travel show participants to sample, thus enabling them to visit Calabria via their taste buds. In addition, well-known Italian-American chef Lidia Bastianich was the Calabrian booth’s honored guest. Although her roots lie in northern Italy, she enthusiastically praised the region’s food. The Italian newspaper Il Quotidiano del Sud quoted her as saying, “Calabria’s flavors are so genuine that they reward the palate with a sensation that is unique in its type. This wholesomeness is at the forefront of culinary art today.”
Another Italian media outlet called askanews reported that Lidia loved the intensity of Calabrian flavors. Adding that she asked: “Did you know that Queen Elizabeth of England has 200 kilos of Tropean onions shipped to her every year?” Now that’s interesting food for thought.
VISIT CALABRIA, ITALY
All this is good news for the region. I wonder if when people see my book, they’ll still approach me hesitantly, asking, “Calabria, what’s that?” Maybe it will even make the Jeopardy TV game show some day.
Clue: Region in Italy where the bergamot comes from
Answer: What is Calabria?
Do you plan to follow the recommendation by the New York Times article “52 Places To Go in 2017” and visit Calabria in 2017 or in the near future?
(Comments are welcomed below, and further down the page you can subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.)
The cover photo by Eugenio Fimognari is an uncommon image of the Aragon Castle blanketed in snow. The NY Times article featured a classic photo of this impressive castle that sits on its own islet in Le Castella on Capo Rizzuto (Province of Crotone) and is connected to the mainland by just a narrow path through the crystalline water of the area’s marine reserve. The ‘nduja photo is courtesy of © Alice Wiegand / CC-BY-SA-4.0 (via Wikimedia commons), Amarelli licorice photo: Gelateria De’ Coltelli www.decoltelli.it / CC-BY-SA-2.0, Bunch of Gaglioppo grapes in Crotone, Calabria: Fabio Ingrosso
From its splendid beaches to its beautiful mountains, Calabria is full of stunning panoramas, interesting cities and villages as well as wonderful food. Read more about this fascinating southern Italian region in Calabria: The Other Italy, a nonfiction, award-winning book that explores daily life, culture, history, the arts, food, society and tourism of Calabria, Italy. Click on the following links to posts about Calabrian food that will whet your appetite: The Bergamot: Calabria’s Incredible Citrus, Le Frittole: The Pig Boil, Calabrian Style, Calabrian Eateries: Trattoria La Collinetta in Martone, Mammola and Mushrooms.
Looking for a comprehensive tour to Calabria? Check out the itinerary of Karen’s Travel LLC Calabria Tour.