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Why Calabria, Italy Should Be on Your Foodie Bucket List for Authentic Italian Cuisine



5 February 2023

Just like New York City is known as the "melting pot" of the United States, when it comes to which regions in Italy offer a diverse, eclectic mix of nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures akin to the Big Apple, the majority of Italians will tell you it's the region of Calabria. And, it is for that very reason that Calabria's culture, food, language, and even architecture have been shaped into what they are today. 

Forming the "toe-tip" of Italy's boot, Calabria is a stunning landscape mixture of wild terrain, rugged mountains, rolling green hills filled with vineyards, groves of olives, lemons, and oranges, and spectacular beaches surrounded by the sparkling, turquoise blue waters of the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Sea. Rich in history, the ancient region of Calabria is nicknamed the "Land of the Vines" for its leading role in creating robust Italian wines. More importantly, it's Calabria's homemade, spicy, and bold gastronomical cuisine that sets the bar for Italian cooking throughout the country. And, if you're a foodie with a love for piccante (spicy) ingredients, we're here to tell you why Calabria, Italy should be on your bucket list for authentic Italian cuisine.

The Melting Pot of Calabria

Before we dive into Calabrian delicacies, we need to explain why their cuisine is so cherished. The Greeks were the first to settle in Calabria and other southern Italian regions in 8 B.C., making the "Land of the Vines" part of the Magna Graecia, which is a region consisting of inhabitants such as the Spanish, French, and Arabic. This southern Italian melting pot became home to some of the most culturally diverse ethnicities in all of Italy, each bringing with them foods from their homelands, creating a Mediterranean cuisine unlike any other.

Eggplants, artichokes, tomatoes, olives, onions, potatoes, and more importantly chili peppers, were brought over to this area, and today, they are still some of the staple ingredients found in Calabria's simple dishes packed with a punch. The region's diverse landscape of mountains and sea is also part of the Calabresi gastronomical cuisine. Fresh seafood, cured meats, wild mushrooms, sweet figs, and chestnuts are lovingly prepared with less than a handful of ingredients, revealing the authenticity and high quality of Calabrian cooking — each bite is a tantalizing morsel of wholesome ingredients.

Some like it hot!

Let's talk about the Calabrian Chili. Calabria grows and sources its very own hot, chili pepper, and they use it quite often in their delectable dishes. If you love spicy food, this key ingredient is essential in Calabrian cuisine. Some fiery delicacies that have received DOP status and will quite literally make your eyes tear and set your mouth on fire include the cured, spicy salami called Capacollo di Calabria, and the spicy, cured sausage known as Soppressata di Calabria. If you're a fan of Spanish chorizo or French Andouille sausages, you'll love Nduja di Calabria. A traditional food of the region, this spicy, hot salami can be spread on warm slices of Italian bread and is extremely popular with the locals.

While other areas in Italy are overcrowded with tourists, such as Florence and Rome, the region of Calabria has gratefully steered clear of mass tourism, keeping its slow-paced way of living, unique authenticity, and beautiful culture and heritage intact. Walk along the streets throughout the cities and medieval villages within its region and you'll see Nonnas (grandmothers) preparing food, cooking proudly in their kitchens, and Nonnos (grandfathers) playing cards on the cobbled streets with friends. The scents of Lagane e cicciari, stuffed eggplants, and Calabrian chilis fill the air. And, since it's on the southernmost tip of Italy's peninsula, its Mediterranean climate and hot temperatures compliment its homemade, spicy dishes perfectly.

This article originally appeared published here by the same author.

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