Love Italy but hate the crowds? Been to enough museums and churches? If you want a warm beach and a nice quiet place to spend a cold winter, you just might want to retire in Praia a Mare, Italy. Located on the top of the “foot” of Italy, this great little town of about 7,000 people has some of the most beautiful white sand and black sand beaches and the clearest water in the Mediterranean. Also known as Praja (to locals and on train schedules) the town is all about the outdoors. The warm water is perfect for snorkeling. Just offshore is the Isola di Dino, a privately owned island where kayakers explore the grottoes carved by the sea or, those brave enough, can cliff dive. You can also drive to the top of the mountain and hang glide over the hills and city. The Lao River Valley seems untouched by man and white water rafters can enjoy a trip to the sea.
The Sanctuario Santa Maria Della Grotta is a large cave system housing the city’s patron, the Blessed Madonna. An ongoing archaeological site, the modern church and statue of the Madonna can be seen by a guided tour. The cave has been continually habituated for over 14,000 years and is a wealth of information and insight into the lives and culture of ancient life in Calabria.
The town itself has a great little bookstore, open air markets, some outlet stores. You are just 80 miles south of Salerno where plenty of shopping is available. The seafood is simply to die for. The several hotels have bars with entertainment. If you are here in the summertime, the city reaches critical mass on August 15th for the Festa di Santa Maria when the Madonna statue is brought into town for a boat parade. As the Madonna passes the beaches, bonfires are lit and a week of festivities begins. The event brings thousands of people to the little town.
Where to stay? There are a number of bed and breakfast establishments in Praja and those run about $65 a night. We found furnished 2 bedroom apartments in the area for $1,100 a month with a stunning water view. (Come with another couple and split the rent!) We also noted a B&B for You will probably need to rent a car to see the area. Many of the rentals are right on the $850 a month. You will need a rental car to explore the beautiful countryside in southern Italy.
Praja is not Rome or Florence. This is not one of the mega-tourist areas in Italy. But when you are done with all that and want to enjoy the villages and amazing beaches, this is a wonderful place to spend some time and explore southern Italy. All you need is a beach chair, a bottle of wine, and some sunscreen!
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Zoom in and out on the map below to see roads and attractions!