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The seaside town of Praia a Mare, slightly less than a three-hour drive from Naples, features miles of  black pebble beaches, licked by waves of pristine blue-green waters juxtaposed by mountain ranges.

The seaside town of Praia a Mare, slightly less than a three-hour drive from Naples, features miles of black pebble beaches, licked by waves of pristine blue-green waters juxtaposed by mountain ranges. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

The seaside town of Praia a Mare, slightly less than a three-hour drive from Naples, features miles of  black pebble beaches, licked by waves of pristine blue-green waters juxtaposed by mountain ranges.

The seaside town of Praia a Mare, slightly less than a three-hour drive from Naples, features miles of black pebble beaches, licked by waves of pristine blue-green waters juxtaposed by mountain ranges. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

Sun set from the beach in Praia a Mare, Italy.
May 2011

Sun set from the beach in Praia a Mare, Italy. May 2011 (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

The picturesque town of Rivello is among a handful of hilltop towns that make the trip to Praia a Mare a breath-taking journey.

The picturesque town of Rivello is among a handful of hilltop towns that make the trip to Praia a Mare a breath-taking journey. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

Sunset along the boardwalk of the seaside town of Diamante, called the ?Pearl of the Tyrrhenian,? near Praia a Mare.

Sunset along the boardwalk of the seaside town of Diamante, called the ?Pearl of the Tyrrhenian,? near Praia a Mare. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

Parasailing is one of the many activities visitors can enjoy in the southern Italian seaside town of Praia a Mare, in Calabria.

Parasailing is one of the many activities visitors can enjoy in the southern Italian seaside town of Praia a Mare, in Calabria. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

A mural in the seaside town of Diamante, near Praia a Mare, depicts a poem written in the dialect of Calabria. It tells the legend of how a fisherman saved a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary that now resides in the town's main church and draws religious pilgrims to the region.

A mural in the seaside town of Diamante, near Praia a Mare, depicts a poem written in the dialect of Calabria. It tells the legend of how a fisherman saved a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary that now resides in the town's main church and draws religious pilgrims to the region. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

?Welcome to Diamante/City of Murals? is painted on the wall as visitors enter the seaside town near Praia a Mare. Diamante is known for chili pepper paste called "Calabrese bomba" and is called "the city of murals? because of the artwork painted on homes in the town?s historical center.

?Welcome to Diamante/City of Murals? is painted on the wall as visitors enter the seaside town near Praia a Mare. Diamante is known for chili pepper paste called "Calabrese bomba" and is called "the city of murals? because of the artwork painted on homes in the town?s historical center. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

Mmmmmmm, gelato ? here a combination of pistachio and dark chocolate. Delicious summer treat.

Mmmmmmm, gelato ? here a combination of pistachio and dark chocolate. Delicious summer treat. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

Visitors might see these signs posted around Praia a Mare. "Affittasi" --- for rent --- signs offer a phone number to call to rent a vacation home. Praia a Mare has fewer hotels than other beach towns in Italy, which is perhaps a refreshing difference from other vacation destinations in the country. While still teeming with tourists, especially in August, those who descend here tend to rent one of the numerous beach homes available. Some owners speak English.

Visitors might see these signs posted around Praia a Mare. "Affittasi" --- for rent --- signs offer a phone number to call to rent a vacation home. Praia a Mare has fewer hotels than other beach towns in Italy, which is perhaps a refreshing difference from other vacation destinations in the country. While still teeming with tourists, especially in August, those who descend here tend to rent one of the numerous beach homes available. Some owners speak English. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

One of several boat tour companies take visitors in the bay and around the island of Dino in Praia a Mare.

One of several boat tour companies take visitors in the bay and around the island of Dino in Praia a Mare. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

A lagoon at Praia a Mare, with clear, clean water and pebble beaches.

A lagoon at Praia a Mare, with clear, clean water and pebble beaches. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

The sun sets behind the island of Dino in Praia a Mare.

The sun sets behind the island of Dino in Praia a Mare. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

The charming fishing town of Diamante is famous among Italians for its chili peppers, or "peperoncino," made into a paste called "Calabrese bomba."

The charming fishing town of Diamante is famous among Italians for its chili peppers, or "peperoncino," made into a paste called "Calabrese bomba." (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

Diamante, also known as "the city of murals," is full of paintings such as this one, painted in 1981. Each year in June since 1981, painters from around the world come to paint the town red ? and blue, green, pink, orange, and ... you get the idea ? based on a theme selected by town officials.

Diamante, also known as "the city of murals," is full of paintings such as this one, painted in 1981. Each year in June since 1981, painters from around the world come to paint the town red ? and blue, green, pink, orange, and ... you get the idea ? based on a theme selected by town officials. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

The Mediterranean is known for its beautiful beaches, many of them in Italy. Praia a Mare in the southern region of Calabria is among them.

Miles of black-pebble beaches, licked by waves of pristine blue-green waters, are juxtaposed against mountain ranges that jut from the earth just a few miles away — a perfect combination of mare e monte (sea and mountain) for those seeking a holiday getaway.

Slightly less than a three-hour drive from Naples, the meandering route through the Lagonegro area of Basilicata to Praia a Mare is just as rewarding as the destination — a two-lane highway flanked by dense, deep green forests mixed with glimpses of quaint towns that pepper the breathtaking mountain range.

Praia a Mare offers a refreshing difference when compared with other beach vacation towns in Italy: There are fewer hotels, though it still teems with tourists. Those who descend here tend to rent one of numerous beach homes available for a week at a time, two weeks, a month even.

While the No. 1 reason most visitors come to Praia a Mare is hitting the lidos (sectioned-off areas of the beach where customers pay for lounge chairs and umbrellas and usually have access to a small cafe for drinks and fast food), the resort town has lots to offer guests of all ages and interests.

The AquaFans water park is just off the main boardwalk, and is open from May 29 until Sept. 20. For 15 euros (except Sundays when entry costs 17 euros), guests have access to all the attractions, which include five slides, a Turkish bath, hydro massaging pool, a wave pool and your own lounge chair and umbrella.

Other nearby attractions and activities include a go-cart track, parasailing and boat tours. Restaurants and ice cream shops abound, and if the sun doesn’t drain you, there are several discotheques for nighttime entertainment.

There are a number of things to see and do in the area, from religious and historical venues, such as the sanctuary of La Madonna della Grotta (Madonna of the Cave), castles and a handful of picturesque towns.

One in particular, not too far from Praia, is the charming fishing town of Diamante, called “the Pearl of the Tyrrhenian” and famous among Italians for its chili peppers, or peperoncino, which are made into a paste called Calabrese bomba. Diamante is also called “the city of murals” because of the artwork painted on homes in the town’s historic center.

Since 1981, painters from around the world have come each June to paint the town red — or any other colors they choose — based on a theme selected by town officials.

jontzs@estripes.osd.mil


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