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  • Writer's pictureAmar Dhaliwal

Scilla, Calabria - June 2023

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Scilla (or Chianalea di Scilla) is a picture postcard perfect seaside village and legendary home of the sea monster Scylla of Greek mythology.


Scilla is at the tip of the toe of the Italian boot and has two distinct sections - one of cobbled streets, traditional fisherman's houses set into the rocks, restaurants with patios that extend over the Tyrrhenian Sea, and little alley ways that take you to the water and the other of sand, beach clubs, and swimming.



Scilla remains a working fishing village and has a history, extending back to the ancient Phoenicians, in the hunting of swordfish. The fishing fleet still relies on traditional passerelle boats with their distinctive tall look-out posts and long gang-ways extending far beyond the bow of the boat. During the day you will spot the fishing boats ply the bay and in the evening you can join the villagers and tourists in greeting them back to dock and watch the unloading of their haul. Swordfish are an important part of the local economy and, of course, feature heavily on local menus.




Reggio Calabria is 30 minutes away by train and it is a must visit to see the Riace Bronzes, a pair of ancient, life-size Greek statues. More about these later.


Scilla is beautiful, interesting and friendly and the perfect place to spend a few days at a slower pace. Highly recommended.

 

Staying


Il Casato Deluxe Rooms (map)

  • This is a lovely bed and breakfast which I cannot recommend highly enough. The room was impeccable, the staff were so friendly and so helpful, breakfast was delicious and generous, and the restaurant was amazing. The property has a fantastic location, right in the heart of Chianalea di Scilla and just steps from everywhere you will want to visit. Paid €115 per night via hotels.com

 

Eating


Il Casato Sea View Restaurant (map)

  • The dining room at Il Casato is a lovely patio extending over the sea. The menu, as in most places in Scilla, features the freshest of seafood including the ubiquitous swordfish steak. The food and service were excellent. We ate here twice as we were staying in the rooms above. Highly recommended. Dinner for two with a nice bottle of wine will be between €80 and €90.


Civico 5 (map)

  • The specialty at Civico 5, and the reason for the long queues, is their swordfish sandwich (panino col pesce spada). We were in Scilla over the Republic Day weekend and the town was busy with both tourists and locals. We put down our name and WhatsApp number with the host (also the owner) and went and had a wine with our friend Francesco. Some one hour later we got our call back and were seated on a picturesque seaside platform. The quality of the fish, bread, sauces, and variations are fantastic and explains why this place bustles the way it does. Be aware that when the swordfish runs out the place closes. Highly recommended. Lunch for two with a glass of wine each will be between €30 and €40.


Il Principe (map)

  • We had dinner here on a rainy Tuesday evening. The grand and ornate dining room was quiet, with just a couple of other tables occupied. Understandably the atmosphere was low key but the service was courteous and attentive nonetheless. We shared a very elegant and delicious appetizer of raw seafood, followed by pasta, and some perfectly prepared swordfish. Il Principe also happens to be a spot that Stanley Tucci visited in his wonderful show ‘Searching for Italy’. Dinner for two with a nice bottle of wine was €90.


La Piccola Venezia (map)

  • La Piccola Venezia might have the best view of all terraces of Chianalea di Scilla. This was the first place we visited when we arrived in Scilla and it seems to be one of the few places open outside of the lunch and dinner hours. Even though they were between services we were welcomed onto the deck by their kind and friendly staff and ordered a couple of drinks and some snacks. We returned later in our stay for a laid back dinner of a burger and a pizza. I would say that the food is just ok but the restaurant is not pretending to be anything other than a casual joint. Dinner for two with a decent bottle of white wine was €50.

 

Drinking (prices are from June 2023)


Chest'è (map)

  • It is not an exaggeration to say that we visited the wine bar, Chest'è, every day and came to enjoy our time with the owner, Francesco, very much indeed. He is the perfect host - informed, charming, and attentive. He introduced us to many new Calabrian wines and shared his knowledge and experience freely. A glass of wine from €7 per glass.


Casa Vela Wine Bar (map)

  • This is a lovely place in the middle of Chianalea di Scilla, right next door to Chest'è, Unlike Chest'è, however, they also have an extensive food menu with a nice selection of tagliere (cheese and cold cuts), bruschette, and sandwiches. Try the grilled smoked scamorza cheese with ‘nduja and focaccia!! A glass of wine from €7 per glass.



 

Doing


Watch the catch come in (map)

  • Every evening villagers, and tourist alike, gather in the small harbour of Scilla to welcome home the swordfish fishing boats and watch the catch being taken on shore. Some of these beasts can grow to more than 150kg and require three brawly fishermen to get off the boat and on its way to the wholesaler. It's a lovely part of the day and a tradition that has been going on for many hundreds of years and you cannot help but feel connected to a long and ancient history.




The Riace Bronzes (map)

  • I cannot stress this strongly enough, if you are anywhere near Reggio Calabria, you must see the Riace Bronzes. Located in the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia in Reggio Calabria, these are two full-size Greek bronze statues of naked bearded warriors, that were found in the sea in 1972 near Riace, Calabria, in southern Italy. They are dated to the 5th Century BC but who forged them remains a mystery. Visit them, look into their eyes, marvel at the accuracy of the depiction of the human form, and wonder at the artistic compulsion to create. Stunning. It's a easy train ride from Scilla to Reggio-Calabria and then a 10 minute walk to the museum.


Beach Clubs (map)

  • The beach of Scilla is quite lovely. Well groomed, spotlessly clean and a limpid blue sea. Lining the beach are plenty of beach bars offering snacks, lunch or an aperitivo. Some parts of the beach are reserved for paying guests, however, there are plenty of free sections. There are three beach clubs who charge €15 to €20 per person for a lounger and a parasol. They all have a bar/restaurant offering classic beach side fare. They are nice places to hang out for the day.


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