7 September 2021.
Perhaps the most beautiful village in Calabria, Scilla is not to be missed!
Arriving from the east, the dramatic old town can be reached via either of two spectacular coastal roads – one that scuttles along the cliff line beneath verdant hills and another that swings out from the highway over the sea offering up phenomenal views of Scilla and a first glimpse of the curious little town that lies ahead.
Amongst the streets, salty spray hangs in the air thrown up by the waves that drum along the waterfront, narrow laneways weave between the tight knot of pretty sandstone facades and terracotta rooftops that lie draped across the promontory, and rising high overhead, the striking backdrop of Castello Ruffo and Chiesa Matrice stand proudly on the hilltop.
Scilla’s proximity to Tropea means it can easily be enjoyed as a slow-paced day trip, but with its gorgeous setting caught between the mountains and the sea, a sun-drenched beach on offer and the region’s capital, Reggio Calabria, just a stone’s throw away, Scilla also makes a wonderful base in the south of Calabria from which to explore further afield.
However you choose to visit, this short guide includes the best things to do in Scilla, along with where to stay, eat and park.
* This post includes affiliate links and any purchases made through these links will earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you. *
Wander Through Chianalea, Scilla’s Historic Fishing District
Creeping right to the water’s edge, Chianalea is one of the prettiest parts of town, crowded with tall pastel facades, charming storefronts and powder-blue boats that pepper the waterfront.
Via Annunziata feeds into a web of twisting cobbled laneways and tiny stairwells decorated with terracotta pots of cacti and draping foliage. Although small, this rambling pocket of town best showcases Scilla’s rich history with some houses here existing since the 1600s and the deep-seated fishing traditions on full display. Only adding to the atmosphere, the smell of salty spray filters through the streets while the crash and roll of the waves sure make a fitting soundtrack to your stroll about town.
If you’re arriving from the east, Chinalea will be your entry point to Scilla and makes a charming introduction to this picturesque seaside town.
Learn About Scilla’s History and Take In The Views From Castello Ruffo
Perched atop the promontory that juts out from town, Castello Ruffo is an icon of Scilla and dates back to the 9th century. Over the past millennium, the castle we see today has taken on numerous roles, morphing from monastery and military fortress to a nobleman’s family residence and now a cultural centre.
While there’s not a great deal to see inside the castle walls, the magnificent views alone make Castello Ruffo worthy of a visit and one of the best things to do in Scilla.
Carving the town into its two halves, to the east you’ll be greeted by Chianalea where the vibrant thread of vermillions rooftops collide with the turquoise sea, while to the west you’ll find the ashen palm-lined shores of Maria Grande, accompanied by the impressive emerald peaks of the Calabrian Coast rearing up from behind.
Today, the castle chambers house exhibitions that change regularly and are worth a look. During our visit, there was a photography showcase of intriguing underwater creatures which was a fascinating and pleasant surprise in this unexpected setting.
Castello Ruffo is open daily between 9:30 am and 5:30 pm and entry is €2 per person.
Explore Maria Grande
After a stroll through Chianalea’s tangle of pretty streets that hover right on the water’s edge, make your way across to Maria Grande which cascades steeply across the hillside from the centre of town and sprawls along the beachfront.
Spend some time getting lost amongst the labyrinth of cobbled stairwells that criss-cross the hillside, concealing plenty of picturesque pockets before arriving at the waterfront below.
In summer, you’ll find numerous cafes and restaurants speckled along the boulevard serving up the area’s seafood specialties and crisp aperitifs.
Stroll the charcoal shores of Spiaggia di Scilla
Our visit to Scilla coincided with the tail end of a violent storm that ripped along the coast, leaving the seas relatively choppy and sweeping much of the beach into the quiet village streets (look closely at the waterfront in the picture below!).
Yet even on a moody winter’s day, the vast cocoa-tinted shores of Spiaggia di Scilla cradled beneath the mountains is a must-visit. In the summer months, drenched in golden sunshine and lapped by calm seas, I can imagine it would be a beautiful spot for a lazy beach day, a sunset stroll or a well-deserved gelato.
Be sure to walk the length of the beach or promenade and gaze back to enjoy the lovely views of Scilla from afar – the ochre facade of Castello Ruffo perched on the cliff’s edge, the silhouette of Chiesa Matrice peaking over the saddle and the patchwork of colourful homes that climb steeply across the hillside.
During peak season, the beach is divided into private beach bars with chairs and umbrellas available to hire and one section retained for free public use. As always, this is no doubt a popular spot during the warmer months so arriving early to secure the best patch of sand is highly recommended.
Discover some of Scilla’s best views at Via Nocarella and Belvedere di Punta Paci
Pretty as Scilla is from within, one of the most remarkable things about the place is its dramatic location perched on the cliff’s edge and clattering towards the water in a sea of terracotta.
Once you’ve whiled away a few hours soaking up its beautiful streets, don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the views from afar as well.
Sweeping around the edge of the town centre above the rooftops on Chianalea, Via Nocarella provides some sublime vantage points overlooking the patchwork of buildings and the impressive coastline stretching into the distance.
At the far end of Spiaggia di Scilla, Belvedere di Punta Paci (also known as Morselli) also offers up exceptional views along the coast, however, parking here can be rather tricky.
While we chose lovely Tropea (don’t miss the best things to do in Tropea here!) as a base for our trip through Calabria and visited Scilla on a day-trip, the town boasts an excellent location in the south of Calabria and would also make a wonderful place to stay as you make your way along the coastline. It is perhaps worth noting though that many reviews of accommodation in Scilla mentioned the lack of wifi available so bear this in mind if internet is essential for you.
BB Il Generale | Located right on the water’s edge in the heart of Chianalea, this charming B&B is an excellent choice for your visit and one of the best-rated options in Scilla. The rooms are simple, homely and mostly come with a sea view, the hosts are wonderfully welcoming and the daily breakfast spread is laden with local specialties. Check rates and availability here.
U Catoiu | For something a little different, this rustic, nautical-themed apartment is a decent choice. Located in the heart of Chianalea, breakfast is included, there’s a simple kitchen for self-caterers and a small balcony from which to enjoy the sunset. Check rates and availability here.
Il Casato Deluxe Rooms | This charming hotel offers bright, spacious rooms, many of which open onto a private balcony perched above the water’s edge. Guests also love the excellent waterside restaurant. Check rates and availability here.
While you’ll find plenty of cute hole-in-the-wall eateries tucked away in the streets of Scilla, unfortunately, as our visit coincided with the Christmas period, we found most of these to be closed.
That said, we did stumble upon the very cozy Casa Vela Wine Bar and ended up having a lovely meal replete with delicious local wines and tasty home-cooked food. Located in Via Annunziata, this place is small and specialises in simple homely meals, sharing plates, local artisanal products and, of course, wine. Highly recommended!
Another place we had our eye on that was unfortunately shuttered over winter was Civico 5 Paninoteca, a budget-friendly sandwich bar renowned for their swordfish panini which is a specialty of the region.
Scilla lies just 30 minutes from Reggio Calabria or 90 mins from Tropea and can be reached from either direction via the Tirrena Inferiore SS18 if you’re sticking to the coast, or the E45 if you prefer travelling along the highway.
If you’re arriving from Tropea, the easiest place to park is just off the SS18, beneath the overpass on Via prof. De Marco (around here). There are a few pay stations scattered along the street, though these were all out of order during my visit and we were told by a passing local that they’ve been broken for a while and that we could comfortably park for free. Be sure to check if they’re in operation before setting off for the day.
In the peak summer months, I can imagine this place gets incredibly busy so I’d definitely recommend arriving early in order to secure a convenient parking spot.
Alternatively, Scilla also falls directly on the train line with the station located in Maria Grande, just a block from the beach. If you’re not keen on tackling the traffic or parking situation, trains to Scilla run almost every hour from Reggio Calabria and every 2 hours from Tropea and take about the same amount of time as driving. For a stress-free option, check the train timetable here.