Crotone doesn’t appear in any of the usual guidebooks. This is such a shame as visitors are missing out on such a treat! It feels like one of those places that Calabrians want to keep all to themselves!
We found Crotone one weekend when we were deciding where to visit. I’d received an offer in my email for cheap rail tickets on the more comfortable InterCity services. So, we stuck a pin the map, and Crotone was our choice!
A little history ….
Crotone is about three hours by train from Melito on the eastern coast of Calabria. There’s also an airport just outside the city, although this is only for internal flights.
The original city of “Kroton” can be traced back to 782BC. It was an integral part of Magna Grecia (Greater Greece) when the Greeks ruled this part of Italy.
Crotone was famous for the strength of its men and it had more Olympic champions than any other Greek colony. It was not just brawn, but also brains too. Pythagoras (yes him of that theorem you hated in school) set up the first medical, philosophy, music and mathematics school in the world here. As Vico the ancient philosopher said, “At the time when Rome was a shepherd’s village, Pythagoras was teaching in Crotone.”
Unfortunately, earthquakes and natural disasters destroyed quite a lot of ancient Crotone. However the local archaeology museum features some of the remains from the Bronze age and treasures from the ancient temples.
As with most places in southern Italy, the train station is located on the outskirts. We did have a feeling of foreboding when we stepped off the train and found ourselves in the middle of nowhere.
After a quick look at Google Maps we found that we had a half hour walk to the historic centre. Keeping to the shaded side of the street, we eventually hit civilisation. We dumped our bags at our accommodation and set off to explore.
The Food …
Our stomachs told us it was lunchtime, so we headed down to the seafront.
Crotone has clearly had a lot of money invested in it. After passing the bustling fish market, you hit the main part of the lungomare. On one side are miles of beautiful, pristine beaches. On the other, instead of the usual panini and pizza shops, there was a wide variety of places to eat. You can try the local specialty of maccarruni pasta with sardines and breadcrumbs. Obviously being near the coast, seafood features heavily on every menu.
We spotted a menu that we liked and wandered in to book a table for the evening in my basic Italian. Imagine our surprise when we replied to in perfect English. It turned out that we were speaking to the Canadian owner, who had relocated here some years earlier! We then found out that there was a thriving ex-pat community there. So, we weren’t the first to discover how beautiful this place is!
After a delicious evening meal of seafood, we decided that we needed a nightcap. Just off the lungomare was a jazz club with comfy armchairs. While Lisa had her usual G & T, I decided it was time for my favourite, a Negroni. When we arrived we noticed the owner seemed to be a little worse for wear for some reason. Luckily a perfectly sober barman made my negroni and it definitely hit the spot.
The next day we had our first experience of “Poke Bowls,” the dish ubiquitous in Hawaii. I know it-s not a new thing, but it takes a while for these things to make their way down to the South! It definitely filled us up for our train journey back home.
Ciro – The Wine Of Crotone …
Nearby is the town of Ciro, tucked into the hillside. This is home to Calabria’s best known DOC wine, Ciro.
It is also one of the oldest wines in the world. Records show that in 6BC it was the drink of choice of the great Olympic wrestler Milo of Kroton. Things were obviously different in those days, as he drank about two and a half gallons of it a day!
Ciro rosso (red) is the most famous of the Ciro wines. In order to qualify for DOC status, it has to be made with 95% gaglioppo grapes, which are indigenous to the area. We’d already sampled the red elsewhere, so we went with the bianco for our dinner. It was amazing too!
If you’ve got a car you can visit the town of Ciro as part of a day trip. There are also several producers nearby, who offer guided tours and tastings. We didn’t have time on this visit, so maybe next time!
The City Of Crotone …
Apart from the lungomare, there is a lot to explore in the old city. The first thing you notice is the castle of Charles V. With a typical Calabrian shrug of the shoulders this is referred to locally as “the Castle!” It was built in 840AD to protect against invaders from the sea. The castle towers over the city from every viewpoint, and is surprisingly well preserved until the 19th century, but fell victim to the series of earthquakes that hit this part of Italy.
There is also The National Archaeological Museum in the heart of the centre, which I talked about before. If churches are your thing, there’s several of them around. A welcome chance to cool off from the still burning sun, even in October!