Pizzo, sometimes called Pizzo Calabro, is a seaside town in Calabria, southern Italy. The historic heart of the town is on a headland above the sea; newer settlements spread along the seashore in either direction. There are beaches nearby and Pizzo is both a busy ‘local’ town and a holiday destination. It makes a good day out from Tropea, a more famous tourist resort further along the Costa degli Dei (‘Coast of the Gods’).
Pizzo tourist information
Pizzo has two main tourist attractions: the Chiesetta di Piedigrotta, a bizarre cave-chapel on the shore, and the renowned tartufo di Pizzo, a chocolate truffle ice cream. It also has a historic castle and a pleasant town centre where there is a tourist information office in Piazza della Repubblica, the main square.
The Chiesetta di Piedigrotta is just outside Pizzo; a fifteen-minute walk along the road leading out of town along the coast to the north-east. The church is down a flight of steps; tickets are for sale at a bar over the road. The church dates back to the seventeenth century and is a cave dug out of a soft rock in a bank facing right out to sea, and was originally created in gratitude by shipwrecked sailors who’d been saved from a storm. The interior is ornamented with statues carved enthusiastically from the rock by a local family in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is hard to decide whether the chapel is a devoutly kitsch curiosity or a tourist trap. Still, it is definitely worth seeing if you are in Pizzo. According to local tourist publicity, it is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Calabria, rivalling the Riace Bronzes in Reggio di Calabria’s archaeological museum.
The tartufo di Pizzo is a chocolate and hazelnut ice cream (gelato) shaped as a rough sphere, containing chocolate fudge sauce and coated in cocoa powder and sugar (see picture). Its popularity – or marketing power – spreads beyond Pizzo and you’ll find it on the dessert menu in other parts of southern Italy. Word has it, locally, that a big ice cream multinational is seeking to popularise the product even further. The cafes around the main square in Pizzo all serve this speciality, and variations on it, with waiters producing a non-stop procession of ice creams.
The centre of Pizzo is a picturesque network of narrow lanes, historic but bustling with everyday Calabrian life. We visited during a strawberry festival and found the town lively with stalls, food tasting, live music and a jolly atmosphere. The heart of town is Piazza della Repubblica, where travellers can relax at an outdoor table and enjoy a gelato. Close to the square is Pizzo’s castle, known as the Castello Murat. It was built in the fifteenth century but is most celebrated for being the place where Napoleon’s brother-in-law, Joachim Murat, was executed. The castle is open to the public, and also hosts special events.
Downhill in the shadow of the castle is Pizzo’s small harbour, with a pleasant seaside promenade. The railway station is along the coast in this direction (more below). There is a stretch of beach here, and more beaches on the other side of town, a short drive away.
In the summer tourist season a little tourist ‘train’ called the Pizzo Express takes visitors on a tour of Pizzo and to the Chiesa di Piedigrotta.
Travel and transport
Pizzo has a station on the branchline which runs along the Costa degli Dei through Tropea. Lamezia Terme, the site of the nearest airport to Pizzo, is half an hour away to the north, and Tropea is the same distance in the railway’s other direction. Trains are approximately hourly. This railway station is about a 20 minute walk outside Pizzo – from Piazza della Repubblica, descend to the port and follow the coastal road.
The town also has another station on the main north-south railway line, shared with Vibo Valentia, which is called Vibo Valentia – Pizzo, though this is several miles from town.
Buses also serve the area around Pizzo including a free summer shuttle to Lamezia Airport and along the coast.
Pizzo is conveniently placed on the coastal road and railway for visiting Tropea and the rest of the Costa degli Dei. If you have hired a car, you can tour the whole Tropea promontory visiting little coastal resorts and villages such as Briatico, Parghelia, Tropea, Capo Vaticano and Nicotera. The provincial capital, Vibo Valentia, is a short distance inland from Pizzo and is worth a visit for its mighty castle which has superb views. There are a number of interesting inland destinations for travellers with their own transport, such as Filadelfia. Further north up the Calabrian coast is the historic town of Amantea. Scilla, a very attractive fishing village and beach resort is around two hours away by train, and Reggio di Calabria is half an hour further – a long journey but worth it if you are interested in seeing the famous Greek statues, the Riace Bronzes, in the museum.
From this stretch of coast there are summer boat trips to the Aeolian Islands, with departures from Pizzo as well as nearby Vibo Marina. These day trips are a good way to visit several of the beautiful islands including Stromboli, which is an active volcano.
A lot of the local accommodation options are out-of-town seaside ‘resort’ hotels spread along the coast, which are ideal for travellers who have cars or are planning a very laidback holiday. However, for those who would like to stay in Pizzo itself, there are several good B&Bs in and near to the historic centre, as well as a few seafront hotels just outside the centre. Even if you’re not staying in town, Pizzo is a good destination for a day trip or a typical Italian evening out. We visited as a day trip from pretty Tropea.
On this site
Villa Antica Tropea – Tropea hotel review
Useful external links