The abandoned, historic centre of Belmonte Calabro has been converted into a magical place to stay, creating a model of sustainable tourism in the process
The hills were on fire. It was August and the view from our car window of smoke rising from forest fires was as dramatic as the road taking us south. The “motorway of the sun”, more prosaically known as the A2, negotiates the mountains of Calabria through a series of tunnels and high bridges right down to the toe of Italy.
Long before it reaches the tip, the autostrada veers south-west towards the coast, as if it’s had enough of the rugged interior. This was where we left it, in search of EcoBelmonte, one of just two alberghi diffusi in Calabria, in the historic centre of a village called Belmonte Calabro, where tufo stone houses are being converted into tourist accommodation. Calabria is a land of secrets, a stronghold of the Ndrangheta mafia, with sleepy, isolated villages hidden in its wildernesses – the region boasts three national parks.