Scilla, like most of Calabria, is generally overlooked by anyone travelling to Italy. This is such a shame, as they are missing out on one of Italy’s most beautiful villages.
Don’t confuse Scilla with Sicilia, which is Italian for the island of Sicily! Even if you don’t have a car, you can get here easily by train.
Scilla (pronounced like the woman’s name, Sheila) on the Tyrrhenian Coast is one of Calabria’s most popular and beautiful destinations. It also has a famous legend to go along with it.
According to Homer in The Odyssey, Scilla’s rocky cliffs were home to the six-headed sea monster, Scylla. This monster, along with Charybdis, spent their time terrorising ships passing through the Strait of Messina. Local legends say that mermaids still live among these waves.
The Grafity Defying Castle
Even if you’re not into mythological tales, you must go to Scilla for its gravity-defying Ruffo Castle. This overlooks the stunning beach and offers views across to the Aeolian Islands. The imposing rock of Scilla first became a kind of fortress as far back as the 5th century BC. It eventually became a proper castle between the 13th and 16th centuries. It is a spectacular sight, projecting immense strength while perching on top of the rock underneath it.
The coastal area of Scilla is similar to many towns in southern Italy. There are bars, restaurants, and, in the summer, plenty of nighttime entertainment. However anytime of the year its shores are exceptional, even for Calabria. Its white sandy beach is one of the most beautiful in the region. Also, in case you’re concerned, no one has been captured by a six-headed monster in many, many years!
The Village Of Chianalea
Another one of the region’s best-kept secrets is the tiny fishing village of Chianalea tucked around the corner from Scilla. Walk through the road tunnel underneath the castle and you’re there!
Chianalea is Scilla’s oldest district and has also been named one of Italy’s “borghi più belli,” or “most beautiful villages.”
It is nicknamed “The Venice of the South.” The houses of Chianalea are built directly into the rock and are separated by narrow alleys that go down to the Tyrrhenian Sea. Seen from above they look a bit like the Venetian canals. The houses of Chianalea seem to challenge the force of the sea. The sound of the waves provides background music for the village.
It’s a small village, which still makes a living from fishing. You can wander freely without bumping into anybody as there are hardly any tourists! Walking through its alleys, it is not difficult to meet the local fishermen. You can watch them build their fishing nets and repair their boats before leaving for the sea. If you’re really lucky, you may just get yourself some fresh fish for that evening’s dinner!
Or you can just eat at one of the many restaurants overlooking the sea and enjoy the sunset.
If you’re on a mission to witness everyday life in a small, southern Italian village, Scilla and Chianalea are a perfect choice!