Vibo Valentia is a kind of capital of Capo Vaticano-peninsula. It is located on the place where here once stood the ancient town of Hipponion. A few remains like ruins of a fortification wall, the temples and the acropolis are still visible.
The Heart of Italy
"Be amazed... blue is the sea"
Of course I had seen the pictures, I had ooh'd and aah'd at the photos of my friends that started their own little travel agency to promote their Patria, La Bella Calabria. Of course I wanted to believe how blue the sea was, how clear the water, how beautiful the little bays with the high cliffs rising up high behind you when you're on the beach...
But hey... we've been around, haven't we? We've smelled the roses, we know what you can do to a photo by using a computer, right? We've been boomboxed out of hotel rooms that were supposed to be "quietly located in a rural surrounding". So no way... we're sceptical.
And then you arrive at Capo Vaticano, basically a big high cliff that rises up out of the sea. And then you peak over the edge for the very first time...
"But what about the beaches? Crowded?"
We went to Capo Vaticano in September. Basically that's off season, although temperatures are still way up there. 30 degrees centigrades and up. If you're lucky a little bit lower, but not much. Luckily the sea is near, the water is great and sometimes there's a nice breeze.
The beaches south of the Capo are sandy little bays between rocky cliffs. The picture above shows a typical bay with beach. The sand is soft and it's not hard to get into the water. No pebbles washing up against your toes with great force all the time making you want to scream in agony. So it's lovely to go for a swim.
Mind you, the picture above was taken from way up, from the top of the Capo itself. The bay looks very small, but it actually is quite big. When we were there there was plenty of room and if you decide to climb over some rocks to reach the next bay there may even be noone else. That's cool.
"More beaches! Soft sandy beaches..."
This is a picture of the beach that stretches out north of Capo Vaticano. It's less rocky, less bay, and therefore will attract less people in busy periods. In September it was deserted. Soft sand, great sea, wonderful to swim... Perfect.
There were some annoying little sand bugs after a day of rain (it rained for two days, highly exceptional!), but I guess you'll find sand bugs everywhere after a rainy day.
To get to the beach you have to take a steep road leading down from the Capo. A car is therefore by far the easiest way to get to the beach, especially if you want to avoid getting back to your villa sweating like a cyclist after climbing Alpe d'Huez. There are parking spots, but obviously, you ARE in Italy, so go early, otherwise the parking may be completely full. And with full I mean FULL. As in, where did the tarmac go?
"Tropea - Buy some peppers"
Tropea is the town nearest to Capo Vaticano. It'll take you approximately 20 minutes to get there by car. Tropea is compact. Buildings are close together, creating that typical south-italian atmosphere. It's just a nice little cosy town.
There are quite a few restaurants in Tropea. Prices are low, so just pick a nice spot outside where you have a good view of the people walking around through the streets. Fish dishes are definitely worth a try here, since most restaurants use fresh fish and hey... italians do know how to cook...
Tropea then offers a lot of little stores selling everything from peppers to souvenirs. As long as it sells, it is being sold. Round peppers, big peppers, long peppers, huge peppers, incredibly hot peppers, green peppers, red peppers, chains of peppers, you name it, they sell it. Store them in a dry place and enjoy the taste of them in your home made pasta sauce.
Capo Vaticano is on the west coast of Italy and therefore you get to enjoy the most impressive sunsets, day after day. It's photograph paradise, I tell you. Just go down to one of the bays, or choose any place you like and wait for the sun to set.
Bring your camera every single evening, no matter what. Don't miss out on your one shot of Stromboli at sunset. (I did, it was always hazy so Stromboli was invisible, then the last night, camera already packed away, there it was, prettiest sight ever... Murphy's Law)
If you have the time, visit Stromboli. It's one of the most active vulcanoes in Europe and it's rather 'predictable'. Be careful though, it is a vulcano and by definition vulcanoes do unpredictable stuff. Read all the horror stories on the web. But if you're interested in seeing lava and other vulcanic activity... Stromboli is the island to go to. Read about it before you go. That way you know what to do, what to look out for and what to expect.
(I took the picture above from a website, don't remember which one. As I told you, I missed my one shot at the best Stromboli picture ever...)