Amantea is a seaside resort in the region of Calabria, in the south of Italy. The town lies on the Tyrrhenian coast between Paola and Lamezia Terme. It has a very attractive old centre on a hill above the modern town and a long stretch of beach. Off the main tourist trail, Amantea is a nice town to visit for a brief exploration, a short stay on the route south, or a quiet and relaxing holiday.
Amantea tourist information
You can plot the history of Amantea’s development through the age and styles of the town’s buildings: the nucleus up on the hillside protected by fortifications, urban streets beginning to reach out along the slopes, moving down to the foot of the hill then spreading out to the seaward side of the bay and finally, thanks to seaside tourism, filling up the whole stretch of level ground between the hills and the sea.
The modern part of Amantea is fairly uninspiring, but most explorations will begin here, as the flat grid of streets at sea-level is where you’ll find the main coastal road, the railway station and most of the town’s shops and businesses. If you can get hold of a town map, do so. We found a street plan at our hotel near the railway station, the Mediterraneo Palace.
Present-day Amantea is a bustling place, busy with traffic and shoppers. There is a market (in the obviously-named Piazza Mercato) and there are lots of cheap clothes shops. Outside the summer beach season, the town doesn’t have much of a tourist feel, but one exception is a shop called Fratelli Marano which sells tempting local products (lots of figs and candied fruits) and chocolate creations; there are branches at Viale Regina Margherita 157 and Via Garibaldi near the station. Walking away from the sea you eventually reach the most attractive and vibrant street of the lower town, Via Vittorio Emanuele II.
Amantea’s centro storico, or old town, is a world away from the bustle and modernity of the lower town. You can get there on foot from Via Vittorio Emanuele by climbing a flight of steps called the Gradinata di San Bernadino, or by following the winding Via Nazionale. The stairway, which is the most direct route, passes Amantea’s most interesting church, the fifteenth-century Chiesa Convento di San Bernardino, which after various rebuildings and earthquakes has been returned to its original Gothic appearance. It’s worth taking a look inside as well as admiring the views from the portico and piazza.
Turning left at the top of the steps will bring you to the start of Corso Umberto, a very pretty street contouring along the slope like a panoramic terrace, past Amantea’s town hall (Municipio). Where the road bends around the hill, a narrow lane climbs up under an archway into the heart of historic Amantea. Although small, this little district is an appealing network of alleys and picturesque buildings in varying states of disrepair or refurbishment, and it is worth allowing some time to roam around. One or two painted signs indicated the sale of ceramics and other tourist goods, but when we visited this area was sleepy and empty, inhabited by a group of dozing cats.
Paths lead onwards along the slope to some of the ruins overlooking the sea – but we found these closed for repairs. The originally-Byzantine fortress is right at the summit, and is overgrown and abandoned. Towards the seaward end of the hill is a crumbling watchtower. At a lower level, and connected to the centro storico by paths, is the ruinous apse of a thirteeenth-century church, the Chiesa Convento di San Francesco d’Assisi. A larger ruined building further along the slope was a Jesuit religious complex and later a prison.
Back down on the winding main street of the centro storico is the town’s ‘mother church’ (Chiesa Madre or Matrice), which is worth visiting for travellers interested in religious kitsch.Along the rather grand terrace here, overlooking the lower town, are some attractive buildings and curiosities like a half-collapsed building with only a facade left standing. To continue exploring, follow Via Indipendenza as it meanders along the steep hillside, past ruins and surviving historic buildings, including a former convent now turned into a restaurant-hotel, the Palazzo delle Clarisse. As Via Indipendenza descends, a road branches off to the right, and then doubles back, leading under Via Indipendenza. Following this route, then turning left, you will be walking back into the lower town along Via Dogana, past allotments and houses. Below the cliffs is the Parco della Grotta, a pleasant grassy park, popular with families, which has the unusual feature of a large cave in the side of the hill containing a spring and a boat. The sea used to reach the base of the cliffs, and there was an anchorage here and, it is said, a passageway leading up inside the old town fortifications.
Amantea’s beach is long and wide, made up of gravel, stones and sand. A few small boats are pulled up on the shingle; reminders that Amantea was once a fishing village. In the height of summer, when Italians take their holidays, the beach establishments and little cafes on terraces must be lively and colourful. When we visited at the end of May these places were still stocking up and repainting, while locals played football, sunbathed or swam on the beach and just a few sunbeds and parasols dotted the long expanse of shore. The ground shelves quite steeply into the sea.
A long promenade runs along the back of the beach and allows for a pleasant stroll or cycle ride. The main part of the modern town is a short walk away. The railway station is right alongside the beach.
There are several unpretentious places to eat and drink around Amantea, mostly in the modern part of town. The smartest place to dine though, is the Palazzo delle Clarisse, on the winding road that leads along the hillside out of the centro storico. The restaurant is set in an old convent on the steep slopes below the castle. We enjoyed a filling meal with good local wine in the modern part of town at Due Bicchieri on Via Dogana.
Travel and transport
Amantea is very convienently located if you are travelling north or south along the Calabrian coastline. The main Naples-Reggio di Calabria railway line passes through town, with a station by the sea. The railway station was very new when we visited, and equipped with ramps allowing easy platform access with suitcases. However, there wasn’t a functioning ticket office, so I’d recommend that travellers check in advance, and if necessary equip themselves with tickets at a local travel agents (Agenzia Viaggi – look out for the FS or Trenitalia logo; we found one on Viale Regina Margherita). You may be entitled to a discount if you are a senior citizen and travelling within Calabria.
The nearest airport is at Lamezia Terme, just a short drive or 20-minute train ride away (take a taxi or bus from the airport to Lamezia Terme Centrale station).
Between Amantea and picturesque Belmonte Calabro, to the north, are some offshore rocks called the Scogli di Isca which are surrounded by a WWF marine reserve. There’s a visitor centre and boat trips can be arranged during the summer months subject to advance booking.
One of the most scenic places to visit near Amantea is Fiumefreddo Bruzio, also to the north. This is a picturesque little hilltown or borgo, a member of the Borghi più belli d’Italia, the ‘most beautiful villages in Italy’.
If you are travelling with a hire car you will be able to explore some of the green hilly countryside inland from Amantea, where you can discover traditional Calabrese villages and landscape.
We stayed in the Mediterraneo Palace Hotel, a new and modern hotel on the main road close to the station and the sea. It has its own beach lido a short walk or golf-buggy ride away, and is a convenient place to stay if you’re passing through Amantea or wanting to enjoy the sea.
> Mediterraneo Palace Hotel review
> Amantea hotels, B&Bs and apartments – availability search
On this site
Mediterraneo Palace Hotel, Amantea – my review
Useful external links
WWF Scogli di Isca (in Italian)