La Piazza Blog & Stories
Undiscovered Italian Regions: Abruzzo, Basilicata and Calabria
November 05, 2019

Undiscovered Italian Regions: Abruzzo, Basilicata and Calabria

cyclists cheering

Italy’s peeling, sun-bleached south is the heart and soul of the country at its most ancient, soulful and sensual core. Down south, the ruins are older, the lunches longer, and the landscapes wilder and more intense.

Long stereotyped as the poorer, more passionate regions Abruzzo, Basilicata and Calabria are finally being appreciated for their true richness. Laundry hung on weather-worn balconies, scooters speeding down medieval alleys and ancient towns crumbling under the Tyrrhenian sun. These are the backdrops of our Three Southern Graces.

photo: Lauren Hefferon

But look past billboard stereotypes and you’ll find things altogether more complex and wonderful; gritty, unsentimental cities with ancestry stretching back thousands of years; dramatically broken coastlines that have harbored fisherman and pirates for millennia; and above all, proud and generous people, eager to share all their special delights with us.

And then there’s the music.

photo: Frank Yantorno

At the crossroads of civilizations for millennia, southern Italy is littered with the fragments of diverse and gilded ages, from Greek and Roman to Saracen, Norman and Spanish. Every carved stone and every frescoed palace tells a story, from fiery Carthaginian invasions and power-hungry kings, to the humble hopes of Roman slaves and gladiators. Here, ancient Greek temples are older than Rome, Byzantine mosaics attest to cosmopolitan encounters and royal palaces.

Southern Italy is home to no less than thirteen Unesco World Heritage cultural sites, each laced with tales of victory, failure and ever-relevant humanity.

Let’s take a moment to revel in Ciclismo Classico’s three most favorite Southern regions: Abruzzo, Basilicata and Calabria.


Notwithstanding, this gritty mountainous domain, rocked sporadically by earthquakes, remains refreshingly unique.  In Abruzzo there is a higher concentration of protected land than anywhere else in Italy; some of the last wild fauna and a patchwork of individualistic towns and villages whose folkloric traditions go back as far as the Italic tribes who founded them.

photo: Frank Yantorno

Sprinkled into our already super thrilling trip through Abruzzo, our guides will lead you on a series of exclusive visits with local pasta grannies, as well as local chefs, farmers, artisans and producers who are still creating and making things as they’ve been done for centuries in the remote villages of Abruzzo. The way we see it is: visiting these folks and seeing them in action is just one small way we can contribute to keeping these traditions alive. Whether it’s the Apennine Splendor or the Bike Across Southern Italy   these magical trips offer hilly climbs and zig-zagging descents of verdant mountains. We get energized by the unspoiled ruggedness of Abruzzo; the varied scenery, amazing foodie highlights and outstanding regional culture that blend together to make for the most inspiring, unforgettable cycling trip–ever. This is our Abruzzo experience.


We know our beloved, ever-so-tiny region of Basilicata super in-depth via the unforgettable dip into this region on our La Bella Puglia trip. There are no words for the rich and delightful “city of stones”–otherwise known as Matera. The city is this year’s big red pin on the map as it’s being celebrated as Europe’s 2019 Capital of Culture.

photo: Frank Yantorno

The town lies in a small canyon carved out by the Gravina River. Known to many as la città sotterranea (“the underground city”), its historical center “Sassi” contains ancient cave dwellings. The exact date when these were first occupied, and the continuity of subsequent occupation, are questions that scholars still debate. Sassi, along with the park of the Rupestrian Churches, was awarded World Heritage Site status by UNESCO in 1993. And, this past year heaps of travelers visited Matera celebrating the city’s choice as European Capital of Culture.

photo: Frank Yantorno


Calabria: the “toe” of the Italian boot. Sunny and with an endless coastline that is lapped by the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas it cradles rugged mountains, hidden forests and tiny villages. Its ancient origins are evident in its numerous archeological sites and is the base for the strength of the traditions behind the dialect, the food and the wine of the region.

Despite its proximity to Rome and its long history of tribalism and pre-Roman civilization, Calabria sits well down the pecking order of Italian regions in terms of bike tour allure. But wait! This region is an absolute gem. Why don’t we know more about it? Well, here are a few best-kept secrets:

Guest Jennifer Davis and friend, end of last climb, the Passo dello Scalone, Morano Calabro to Centraro. Photo: Lauren Hefferon.

Calabria, known in antiquity as Bruttium or formerly as Italia, is a region in Southern Italy, forming the traditionally conceptualized “toe” of the Italian Peninsula which resembles a boot.

The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro. Its most populated city, and the seat of the Regional Council of Calabria, is Reggio Calabria in the Province of Reggio Calabria.

photo: Frank Yantorno

In ancient times Calabria was referred to as “Italy”. The Romans later extended the name to cover Southern Italy and then the entire peninsula, whereas the name Calabria was used to refer to the peninsula of Salento (also known as the “heel” of Italy).

photo: Frank Yantorno

On our Bike Across Southern Italy trip you will not only experience Calabria but you will cycle endless landscapes and villages of this unique place frozen in time: stunning, crumbling, authentic and completely unimaginable!

photo: Frank Yantorno

We’re here to tell that if you haven’t yet cycled the glorious roads of the beautiful Southern Italian regions…it’s time to go.

Check out our Southern Italy tours and join us now to celebrate the real Italy!


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