Italy's southwest coast - Italy's southwest coast - CycleBlaze

March 11, 2022

Italy's southwest coast

Cycling Calabria and Campania


Lamezia – Tropea – Reggio di Calabria – Train ride – Salerno – Paestum – Sapri – Lamezia

This is the second time we, Kurt and Ernst, spent time together on a bicycle trip. After our freezing experience last year in southern Switzerland, a warmer destination was calling. Lamezia in Calabria in Southern Italy would be a perfect starting point since it was new for both of us and easily reached by plane from Zurich.

This is where we were
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Stage two of the planning involved dinner in a local pizzeria, run by a Calabrese chef. It took three minutes to open the map and squeeze it between our plates, then three minutes to come up with a round-trip route before two hours eating, drinking and dreaming of what the Mediterranean would offer. So far so good.

That's us, Kurt and Ernst
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Lamezia is a non-descript place with an airport. Temperatures were a bit cooler than expected, but according to the weather forecast, that was the case right across southern Europe from Cyprus to Gran Canaria. In beautiful sunshine we made it to Tropea, a cutesy little town on a cliff above a white sand beach. 

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Rachael AndersonWe loved Tropea when we were there.
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Kurt BaehlerTo Rachael AndersonWe did too, and we had a wonderful meal there too ;)
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More scenic roads followed to the Capo Vaticano, but from there, the going got tough. We had two long 24% inclines and a third long uphill, but what was more demoralizing was the horrific rubbish dumping we encountered towards the end of the day. We spent the night in Gioia Tauro, a town that’s so run down and defunct, it left us shocked and bewildered. I'll save you the pictures...

Above Bagnara
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Quiet roads brought us up a hill above Bagnara and we had a wonderful stretch of road down to the coast and on to Scilla. The rest into Reggio was not memorable, just suburbia that had to be crossed. We did like the town of Reggio though, with its promenade and pedestrian road, but we also needed to come up with a Plan B. Originally, our route would take in four national parks, but with snow still on higher ground and my poor over-exerted knees this was not very enticing.

We opted for a five-hour train ride north to Salerno. While Ernst used the afternoon to cycle a bit of the nearby Amalfi coast, I spent the time exploring town and I liked what I saw. A walk in the park along the yacht harbour and city beach is recommended, and from there you could head into the nicely spruced up old town that has become the social centre of this town of 130,000.

Since it was Paddy's day, I'll put in Barbaverde (Greenbeard)
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The Greek and Roman ruins at Paestum (former Poseidonia) were our absolute highlight. Three big Greek temples (4th and 5th century BC) and the remains of a Roman town from their conquest in 274 BC were as much food for thought as a feast to the eye.

Neptune temple
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The coastal road from Agropoli to Sapri was another highlight with beaches on the right and snow-capped mountains on the left. This is earmarked for a future trip with Darina.

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On that stretch we saw the poster equalling (a healthy) Environment with Tourism (Or income for that matter), while down in Calabria the environment seems to be ....

San Giovanni above Sapri
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In Sapri we had dinner in a wonderful Enoteca where the owner gave us a very convincing explanation of the high-quality food he offers.

He'll appear in our  YouTube Video after 5min and 51 seconds but of course, your very welcome to watch the whole lot ;)

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The road out of Sapri’s claim to fame is that it was the location for the latest 007 movie. For us there was a road closure after a couple of kms and no sweet talking would soften up the gatekeeper. We had to go back and climb over a 600m pass to re-join the road further south. Well, we concluded that it was sweat well spent!

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From there on we were mostly back on the SS18 that connects Salerno and Reggio, which was way too busy for our liking. The bicycle routes or domestic side-road detours we took were of very mixed quality. In the end, we just stayed on the main drag. San Lucido was another little hilltop town oozing charm, but for most of the days we passed housing and holiday developments from the 50s and 60s now crumbling away. The area was/is just too poor to give the young folks any perspective, so they moved and still move north to better incomes.  So, two generations have left to build up other economies, starting a new life in new places while Calabria can’t afford its own upkeep. Tourism does provide a little income, but competing with Spain, Greece or northern Italy is hard.

Didn't we all want to go to Shangri La?
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A good way to show the North to South wealth-gradient was the cyclists we met along the road. From Salerno to Sapri we met loads of friendly racing cyclists in spandex, all of our vintage, while in the  Calabrian part cheap bicycles were used by commuting farm hands.

As Ernst put it, coming home from a trip and being able to say that we had gone where no tourists go, gives us some standing. However, in the future, we would rather go to more touristy places like the Napoli and Amalfi area (definitely) or other “unexplored” shores.

To end on a positive note, the Mediterranean did offer some gems and we’ll certainly head off together again. Maybe we need to leave a tad later in the year to get that real spring feel and minimize the risk of cold spells.

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Today's ride: 600 km (373 miles)
Total: 600 km (373 miles)

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