The good, the bad and the ugly all jostle cheek-by-jowl along Calabria's northern Tyrrhenian coast. The Autostrada del Mediterraneo (A2), one of Italy's great coastal drives, ties them all together. It twists and turns through mountains, past huge swathes of dark-green forest and flashes of cerulean-blue sea. But the Italian penchant for cheap summer resorts has taken its toll here and certain stretches, particularly in the south, are blighted by shoddy hotels and soulless stacks of flats.
A 30km stretch of wide, pebbly beach runs south from the border with Basilicata, from the popular and not-too-garish resort town of Praia a Mare to Diamante, a fashionable seaside town famed for its chillis and bright murals painted by local and foreign artists. Inland are the precariously perched, otherworldly villages of Aieta and Tortora, reached by a tortuously twisted but rewarding mountain drive. Further south, Paola is worth a stop to see its holy shrine.