Today is Festa della Liberazione, a national holiday here in Italy and a great excuse to get out and about and enjoy the sunshine. So when the husband suggested a trip to Pizzo I jumped at the chance, I’ve never turned down a tartufo!
Pizzo is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Calabria and it is easy to see why as it oozes with charm. A seaside town perched on a hill overlooking the turquoise blue sea and giving a glimpse of the stunning coastline which is aptly named Coast of the Gods, it is separated into two main areas; the Centro Storico with its labyrinth of cobbled streets and souvenir shops, and Pizzo Marina where you can laze on a small beach or passeggiare to walk off the seafood pasta and tartufo you’ve indulged in in one of the many seafront restaurants.
Wandering through the Centro Storico it is easy to imagine the history of the town which has its origins as far back as 1300 when it was a sleepy fishing village inhabited by Basilian monks. Listening to the women call out to each other from balcony to balcony or seeing the fishing equipment lying on people’s doorsteps you feel as if you’ve stepped back in history and can almost forget the constant clicks of camera shutters as tourists flock to grab their authentic taste of tartufo. For a real step back in time check out the Castello Murat, a 15th Century Aragonese castle which has its fair share of bloody history as there you can learn about how Napoleon’s brother-in-law was imprisoned and executed by revolutionary Pizzitani.
Another must-see is the Chiesetta di Piedigrotta, a church carved out of a rock on the beach, a short walk from the centre of Pizzo. As you climb down the narrow staircase (definitely suitable for people with mobility issues) to the beach, there are some beautiful views of the bay but it’s what you find inside the tiny unassuming chapel at the bottom that will really surprise you. Inside the church are hundreds of statues carved out of the rock. Legend has it that in 1665 the captain of a Napolitan ship that was on the verge of wrecking in a strong sea storm started praying to a picture of Madonna of Piedigrotta begging her for salvation. Miraculously the crew and ship survived unscathed and as a thank you, the captain placed the painting inside a fisherman’s chapel carved from the rock. Later the locals moved the image to another location where they believed it would be safer but another storm washed it away and returned it to its original location, a sure sign from God that this is where it belonged. Local artists then caved statues out of the rock and this incredible church became what the popular attraction that it is today.
While it is possible to while away many hours people watching in Piazza Republica or down in Pizzo Marina every visitor to Pizzo has one true agenda when they decide to visit. It’s small, cold and incredibly good, I’m talking of course about tartufo, which I think I may have mentioned once or twice already. Tartufo di Pizzo is a national treasure, a delicious ice cream dessert with a gooey fondant centre. The original tartufo is chocolate and hazelnut ice-cream with a chocolate and cherry centre but there are many different variations. It would virtually be a crime to visit Pizzo and NOT sample one (or three) so head to a Gelateria and try what has put this beautiful town on the map!