Calabria: highlight of our southern odyssey

A first-time visit for The Society to Cirò in Calabria was a highlight of the trip. Remote and sadly neglected, this is one of the most beautiful, unspoilt regions of the whole country.

One of the highlights of our southern Italian odyssey was the visit to Cirò in Calabria to see Santa Venere. Neither Sebastian nor I had visited this remote, and sadly neglected, backwater of Italy, so we were keen to make the not inconsiderable detour. Calabria has an image problem due to its reputation for organised crime, but it is one of the most beautiful, unspoilt regions in the whole of the country.

Santa Venere is owned and run by the affable Giuseppe Scala, whose family has been farming the estate for over 300 years. Whilst Giuseppe has a small but well-equipped winery, it lacks the space for expansion, and on the day we visited the first foundations were being dug for a new winery, which will be ready for the 2017 vintage.

Santa Venere has some of the most beautiful vineyards I have seen, perched on a hill just a stone's throw from the Ionian Sea. We were taken on a bone-shaking tour of the vineyards in Giuseppe's 4x4, and you can see what a magical place it is from the photos.

Santa Venere Vineyard
Santa Venere Vineyard
Santa Venere Vineyard
Santa Venere Vineyard

After the vineyard visit we tasted the full range, all organic, including the dry, aromatic greco, a light and perfumed rosato and the savoury, characterful 2014 Cirò Rosso Gaglioppo. The tasting was accompanied by some local cheese and salami, as well as a fish and spicy pepperoncino dip known as sardella.

A perfect way to round off a whirlwind, but fascinating tour of the wine regions of southern Italy.

Santa Venere tasting
Santa Venere tasting
Simple local food was the perfect way to round-off this tasting

A surprise serenade at the airport!

My parting memory of Calabria should have been this idyllic tasting of Cirò wines and local delicacies, but the moment was eclipsed by an altogether more unusual experience. At the airport, whilst waiting to check in our bags for the flight home, a troupe of nuns suddenly appeared and started singing and dancing in formation to some Euro pop. To this day I can't work out if they were the genuine article, but they certainly brightened up a dull Friday evening in Lamezia Terme!

Dancing nuns at Calabria Do they do this every Friday evening? Were they here to send us off? We shall never know…

Where to go next?

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