There are a group of Albanian villages in this area of Calabria which were founded in the 15th century by Albanian refugees from the Ottoman invasion. These are places where the street signs are in Albanian and Italian and they continue their ancient Albanian customs to this day. Civita’ is one of my favourites. It’s very small (less than 700 inhabitants outside the tourist season) and it’s in the Pollino National Park as well as being very close to the Ionian coast.
When you arrive in Civita’, you can be forgiven for thinking there isn’t a lot going on. There isn’t! The old men sit in the bar playing ‘scopa’ and there might be a fruit and veg man selling produce out of his car, or there might not be, but look a bit further and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
The Ponte del Diavolo is a short 2km hike away down a very steep hill. The teeny Devil’s Bridge allows you to cross the spectacular Ravanello gorge at an impossible height leading to all sorts of myths around how only the devil could have built something so difficult. The Gorges of Ravanello (or Gole del Raganello) are also a great place to try canyoning, where you basically walk or scramble along the river bed through different levels of water. You need a guide and the tours take place at weekends. I would recommend Roberto de Marco who runs Raganello Canyoning Explorer (he’ll pick up messages on Facebook) https://www.facebook.com/raganellocanyoning/
Civita’ is also a good base for a visit to the therapeutic sulphur baths – la Grotta delle Ninfe (Cave of the Nymphs), at Cerchiara di Calabria.
You can’t get to the mud directly in the cave anymore as too many people ‘contaminated’ it so now it is brought to you in a very glamorous wheelbarrow. Best to go in the morning when the sun is on the pools but this is an excellent, if slightly smelly, place to chill out – or pretend to be a zombie. Go in, slop on some mud, let it dry, wash off, have a swim. Repeat.
And finally, recommendations for a B&B and restaurants.
Regarding B&B, this is possibly the best one I have stayed in Southern Italy. Il Granaio is difficult to find online so I’ve attached the best link. Signora Rossella isn’t IT friendly but she knows her way around the kitchen and you will get the best (and biggest) freshly made breakfast you will ever find in Italy.
For restaurants, you only need to go around the corner to Agora which does great local food and has a labyrinth of rooms so when you are shown to your table you may well feel like you’re recreating that ‘one cut’ scene from Goodfellas. Also just around the corner and equally good is Kamastra. You can’t go wrong with either.
Civita’ may be small but scratch the surface and you’ll find it’s a great place to stop.