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Getting to a small Calabrian town and back to Naples or Rome

Help, please! My partner and I are taking a RS Southern Italy tour in late October. Two of my grandparents were from Stignano, a little town in Calabria. I'd love to see it and I don't know if I'll get back to Italy again as I'm in my 70s. (Healthy and active. Went on the RS Sicily tour last fall.) So, we thought we might go from Naples, where the tour ends, to Calabria, but we only have Thursday through Sunday. Both Thursday and Sunday would be travel days. We plan to fly home on Monday (work needs) and want to be in the city we're flying out of by Sunday night. So far, we're thinking about going down and returning by train, and hiring a driver/guide for Fri and Sat. My only other real destination in Calabria is the archeological museum in Reggio, to see the Riace bronzes. (Stignano is about 70 miles from the city.) I speak a little Italian....
Questions:
1) Is this unreasonable?
2) Has anyone found a good way to find a reliable driver?
3) Is trenitalia.com the way to go?
4) What else do I need to consider?
5) Hotels/inns if you'd recommend any?

Posted by
15417 posts

You can certainly reach Reggio Calabria by train. Trenitalia goes there. Italotreno I think reaches only Villa San Giovanni.
I would rent a car, maybe at Lamezia Terme which has all major rental car companies. I would also consider returning the car at Lamezia Terme Airport and take a flight to Rome with ITA Airways, if the price is right. Then I would stay at a hotel at the Rome airport before flying home.

Posted by
2857 posts

My experience with my sister-in-law:
Loved the South of Italy tour (2019) but the highlight was going to her grandparents’ village of Mongrassano Calabria. At the time I was 69, she was 73. Mongrassano is so tiny it doesn’t have a hotel. We stayed about 3 miles away. Stignano is 2+ hours farther south. Use Bookings.com to search for B&Bs and hotels. Your logistics are doable with planning.

I didn’t consider a driver an option because we wanted time to walk around and explore. We visited for an afternoon and the next morning. You’ll have to check on trains. It wasn’t an option for us. Google Maps doesn’t show trains in Stignano. Play with maps and TrenItalia app for the best route.

We rented from AutoEurope using Hertz at the Naples airport. Naples was not my first choice. Preferred was train to Salerno and rent a car there. But we needed to return the car on Sunday since we were taking the train to Venice early Monday morning. The rental office in Salerno was closed on Sunday afternoons. So Naples airport was our only option. It’s a mile from the freeway.

I posted more a couple days again on a similar thread. Others posted ideas too. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/southern-italy-w-elderly-mom

My advice is do whatever you can to visit your ancestral village. You will make the best memories. The people went out of their way to help us find information. We don’t speak Italian; they didn’t speak English but Google Translate got us through.

Enjoy your tour and your trip.
Buon Viaggio!

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks for your ideas. Lots to consider. I don't think either of us has the courage to drive there!

Posted by
15417 posts

If you drive in North America you can drive in Calabria. Stingnano is in a rural mountainous area but to get there from Lamezia Centrale Station (several rental car offices there with Hertz, Europcar, Avis-Budget) the road to Stignano is largely a 4 lane freeway and a two lane straight highway. Only the last few miles from Riace Marina on the coast, to Stignano is a two lane highway with curves. You can also drive there from Reggio Calabria, if you prefer to visit Reggio before renting the car. If you plan to visit Reggio that is what you should do. First go to Reggio by train and visit the city. Then rent a car in Reggio, drive to Stignano area, and finally drive to Lamezia station or airport to return the car and go to Rome (by train or airplane). If you hire a driver in Reggio Calabria to take you there for a few hours and back to Reggio Calabria. The cost of a driver should be about 100€ per hour.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks for your help, everyone. Question: Is Lamezia Terme station at Lamezia Terme Airport? Sounds like it.

Posted by
15417 posts

The Lamezia Terme Central station is near the airport at Santa Eufemia (just over one mile from the airport). The actual ancient town of Lamezia Terme is up the hill about 6 or 7 miles away north of Santa Eufemia. Rental car offices are both next to the train station and also at the airport.

Posted by
1159 posts

You might want to consider hiring a guide for a half-day or day. There are several advantages compared to just showing up and looking around. For one they know the area and speak Italian. If booked well in advance and if you explain you're visiting to see where your grandparents were from the guide may be able to take you to see some city or parish records about them, perhaps even the house(s) where they lived. The official tourist site is https://calabriastraordinaria.it/en/destinations/stignano-the-house-of-tommaso-campanella and they may be able to suggest guides in the region.

There are lots of stories online about people visiting towns where their ancestors are from such as the ones at https://www.italymagazine.com/back-your-italian-roots And the more you can research (ancestry.com, etc) before your trip the better. It's possible you even have relatives such as 2nd cousins living there.