A dream called Coast of the Cedars
This is the story of a photowalk made during summer holidays in 2015, in places that I love very much because they are related to my homeland, Calabria. I’m talking about the magnificent Coast of the Cedars, in the Upper Tyrrhenian coast near Cosenza. A real paradise for landscape and naturalist photographers, but also an unforgettable territory for true sea lovers. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on point of view) it is still a very underrated area by tourists and little known by the masses, especially in comparison to other more well-known places in Calabria also internationally, such as Tropea, Capo Vaticano, Palmi and Scilla on the Tyrrhenian coast, or Soverato, Copanello and Isola Capo Rizzuto on the Ionic coast.
Just recently the Coast of the Cedars was the subject of controversy following the reporting made by the known italian blogger and journalist Selvaggia Lucarelli, who on her social profiles showed a debatable advertising campaign appeared on the magazine onboard of Ryanair. She judged this campaign very amateurish. In this campaign it is displayed a very ugly picture of the Arcomagno beach, with distracting elements such as slippers and towels on the rocks, mistakes in the text and bad stylistic choices (such as the font in Arial, barely readable and not centered). In short, a very embarrassing campaign for the Administrators of Calabria Region who promoted this advertising. After the inevitable wave of indignation that has arisen especially on the web, they could not help but make a public apology and promise to carry out an investigation about the responsibles of the campaign. Controversy aside, and despite the bad style of the campaign, I hope that this episode can help to give fame to one of the most beautiful areas of Calabria, the region of which I am proud to belong and to which I hope to make a good service with this article. For what happened during my excursion, it would be more appropriate to talk not only about “photowalk”, but also about “photoswim” and “photoclimb”. In other words, it was a great opportunity to fully test my camera gear, including my Nikon AW130 rugged all-weather camera for underwater shots and offshore. The excursion lasted a whole day, with key stops in Praia a Mare, Dino Island, San Nicola Arcella, Arcomagno and Diamante.
The Riviera is a long area largely coastal, conventionally stretching for about 80 km in the Cosenza province, between the municipality of Tortora (on the border between Basilicata and Calabria) and the town of Paola, also including some mountain areas of the Pollino National Park. You can reach the Riviera from the North via the highway A3 Salerno-Reggio Calabria, taking the exit Lagonegro Nord and continuing on the road SS585 towards Tortora-Praia a Mare or, for if you come from South, taking the exit Cosenza Nord-Rende and following the road SS107 towards Paola. The nearest airport is Lamezia Terme, which is about 70 km south of Paola. The Riviera is named after the Cedar cultivation, particularly flourishing in these territories, and specially in the municipalities of Santa Maria del Cedro, Scalea and Diamante. There are really a lot of places and beaches to visit, and for exploring better these areas is recommended a minimum stay of one week. If you must concentrate your visit in a single day, as it happened to me, it is better to focus attention on the stretch between Praia a Mare and Diamante. For further information, thematic itineraries and other explanations about these territories, I recommend the excellent site InRivieradeiCedri.it
Praia a Mare and Dino Island
Along the road that leads to Praia a Mare from the exit of the road SS18, you can enjoy a number of panoramic points to admire from above the spectacular Dino Island, located about 50 meters from Praia a Mare in Fiuzzi district. It is right from this district that you should start exploring the island. In this place there is a number of bathhouses where you can spend the day swimming with the island on the background. This is the larger of the two islands of Calabria: the second one, Cirella, is located about 20 km south in the Coast of the Cedars, near the town of Diamante. You can swim towards the Dino Island right from the beach of Praia a Mare, although almost all bathhouses provide boat trips to visit the island and its beautiful caves. These excursions are quite cheap and they last 1-2 hours at most. They are also highly recommended to learn about the fascinating history of the Dino Island. Over the centuries, in fact the island has suffered several dominations (Arab, Turkish, Napoleonic) to become, in 1962, ownership of the Advocate Gianni Agnelli, who bought it from the town of Praia a Mare for the sum of 50 million lire era. From that time and for some years, it seemed that the island could become a new international point of tourist attraction, like Capri and Positano, thanks to the work of progressive construction of cottages and luxury residences. In fact, it was simply built a road linking the pier of the boats to the top of the island, while in the lower part were built picturesque Tucul (small buildings with conical roof typical of some african regions) that housed a restaurant, a swimming pool and some houses for tourists. The development project has suffered delays between bureaucracy and changes of ownership of the island that have finally led the abandonment of the structures that had been built. Both the road and the tucul buildings, in a bleak state of neglect, are still visible today, when you approach the island swimming or boating.
Swimming around Dino Island is a very exciting experience: the side facing the beach of Praia a Mare is easily accessible by a short swim, moreover in a stretch of sea where the depth is never exaggerated and you can see the bottom made of rocky and pebbles. You almost gets the feeling of being in a large pool. With my Nikon AW130 I could photograph the seabed, doing some filming underwater, and reach the rocky ridge of the island, with some very scenical gorges. It is also possible to snorkel with confidence, but do not expect to see tropical fishes and coral. Along the perimeter of the island are also scattered several limestone caves, some of them with stalagmites, as the Cave of the Sardine, or other rock formations that have similarities with people or animals, such as the Lion’s Cave or the Monk’s Cave.
The largest and most beautiful cave, however, is the Blue Grotto, homonym of the most famous one which is located in Capri, where you can swim surrounded by water with an intense dark blue color and beautiful reflections on the inner walls of the cave. Technically it is possible to go around the island by swimming, but it is advisable to use a boat or a pedal boat because the western side of the island is more exposed to currents, therefore there is a greater risk of finding rough sea. In any case, the best route to follow is counterclockwise, starting from the island side facing the beach and going on to the north side, then on the West side facing the open sea and finally on the south side, where there is the Blue Grotto, just below the stretch where you can still see the Tucul and abandoned buildings. The advice is to arrive early in the morning and complete the tour around the island before noon, in order to avoid the crowds and especially to have a nice light to take good quality images.
San Nicola Arcella and Arcomagno beach
After spending the whole morning around the Dino Island, and after a good lunch of fish in the center of Praia a Mare, in the afternoon I went to the spectacular Arcomagno beach, near the town of San Nicola Arcella. You can reach the Arcomagno in 2 ways:
- by land, leaving the car in a parking lot about 1 km away, and walking through the homonymous beach, then up among some rocks and finally climbing on a wall rather steep along a short but winding path that leads directly to the beach at the shadow of the Arch. It is a very attractive option, especially for nature lovers, but that is likely to put a strain on the nerves, especially if you do not have proper shoes and if you carry on your shoulders a few thousand euros in photographic equipment. I was wearing flip-flops, backpack, SLR on my neck and my 2 years old son in my arms, therefore it was a very adventurous experience, to say the least! Unfortunately I had not taken enough informations and if I had known before, I would definitely prepared myself a bit better in order to avoid unuseful risks. You are now informed and certainly you will not make my same mistake…
- by sea, arriving by boat or pedal boat that you can rent in the beach next. Also this option is very scenical because you get to the beach by passing directly under the Arch and is definitely a more appropriate way for those who do not like climbing mountains or who have no suitable clothing. The only drawback is that you have to pay attention not to wet your photographic gear when boarding or when getting off the boat. By sea also come the organized excursions that from Praia a Mare allow you to visit by boat the Dino Island and Arcomagno with a single ticket, but personally I do not recommend them because you are forced to respect the schedule made by the organization (always quite tight) and hence you do not have all the time you want for swimming and taking pictures..
There is another reason why it is best to arrive by land to the Arcomagno beach: along the adjacent beach, on the North side of the Arch, you pass through some rocks that create some small bays that are really spectactular, including the tunnel that leads to the so-called beach of the Priest. From a photographic point of view, it is an incredibly beautiful location, with some views that recall some Thai landscapes or other tropical marine environments. Water has a deep blue color and among caves, tunnels and rocks you really feels like in a kind of paradise for nature and sea lovers.
The Arcomagno beach is small and crescent-shaped, topped by a rock arch that marks a small body of water, in which you will feel like swimming in a wonderful natural pool. On the south side of the beach there is also a cave, inside which there is a small natural water spring that flows directly among the pebbles of the beach.
It is not easy to find the beach deserted, especially in high season and in the central hours of the day, but with a little luck if you arrive in the early morning or late afternoon you may find little crowding. As you can see from the image above, I’ve arrived there just before sunset: therefore I had to use the Healing Brush and Clone Stamp tools in Photoshop in order to remove a bit of people who were disturbing the shot (and also some towels and flip-flops, which instead are present in the advertising campaign mentioned atop this article). However, thanks to the sunset over the Thyrrenian Sea I’ve had a beautiful golden light to decorate the contrast on the rocks. To have a balanced exposure, given the strong backlight, I used the bracketing to take pictures with 3 different exposures (-1, 0, +1 EV) and then I joined them with HDR Efex Pro Software by Nik Software. The other difficulty of the shooting is due to the little angle of view that you have from beach: the best way to frame the Arcomagno in all its dimension is to going up the arrival path as high as possible, looking for a place not too bumpy where to place the tripod. But even from there it is better to use a ultra wide-angle lens to include also the cave in the frame. I didn’t have one available at that time, therefore I had to take 7 vertical shots to be merged as panorama later via Photoshop. Whereas each image was actually a set of three shots taken in bracketing, the image above has been created from the union of as many as 21 images, combined together with the technique of stitching. After taking pictures of the Arcomagno from all possible angles, I left the beach with the sun low on the horizon, for taking a final image rich in suggestions, with the Dino Island on the background of an unforgettable sunset. Finally, I ended the day and the photowalk with an aperitif on the seafront in Diamante, 20 km further south than San Nicola Arcella.
The Coast of the Cedars in Microstock
To my big surprise, the Coast of the Cedars and the coastal villages of the Upper Thyrrenian near Cosenza are not very popular in the image banks of the major microstock agencies. This means there’s not such a big demand of these subjects by customers, but anyways the fact of having identified a niche in the images of Italian seascapes made this photowalk potentially interesting from a commercial point of view: in fact, after a few months, I can say that the sales performance of these images are far above average, although they have been made more with the spirit of a holiday than as a professional shooting. By the way, I was there in swimsuit mainly for swimming and having fun, rather than to work, but anyway I managed to come back home with about fifty standard images, twenty intentionally defocused images and 2 videos to be sent to microstock agencies. For me it was the classic “win-win” situation: if all goes well, these images will bring to a good gain in the medium to long term; if all goes wrong, I will always bring with me the memories of a beautiful day where I had fun and I visited wonderful places. And since we are close to the summer holidays, I hope my article will be a source of inspiration for those who now are looking for a great place to spend their holidays at sea without necessarily cross the planet in search of a very expensive and maybe disappointing tropical beach.
Finally, as usual, the map with the geolocation of the images shown in this article:
Liked this article? Would you share it?