“For an authentic taste of Italian life, there's nothing better than Calabria,” the Italian-language advert on the British airline's website said. “The region suffers from a distinct lack of tourists because of its history of mafia activity and earthquakes”.
Easyjet said the region in Italy's southern tip, famous for its coastline, rich history and culture, suffered from “the lack of iconic cities such as Rome and Venice capable of attracting the Instagram crowd”.
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Italy's minister for the south Peppe Provenzano on Tuesday demanded Easyjet “apologise to Calabria and Italy”, with Calabrian senator Ernesto Magorno shouting: “Shame on you Easyjet! Calabria is a wonderful land with exceptional people.”
— Peppe Provenzano (@peppeprovenzano) June 23, 2020
The region's head, Jole Santelli, slammed the “pseudo-marketing operation” as “aggressive, short-sighted and with a clear racist undercurrent”.
Easyjet apologised, saying it had only wanted to point out that Calabria was undervalued by foreign tourists, and would remove the offending advert as well as launching an internal investigation, Italian dailies said.
“Calabria is a very important land for us, which we love and have always promoted with numerous flights to Lamezia Terme,” it insisted.
While Calabria may not be as well known overseas as other parts of southern Italy, the region attracts a healthy number of Italian tourists each summer with its spectacular rocky coastline and hyper-blue waters.
It's also one of the best places in Italy to find traces of the Ancient Greeks who settled in southern Italy before the Roman Empire, including two priceless bronzes discovered by a local diver after centuries underwater and now housed at the impressive National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria.
The Riace Bronzes on display in Reggio Calabria. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP