Calabria was inhabited by a large number of Albanian settlers who crossed the Adriatic Sea in the 15th century, fleeing the Muslim persecution of the Turks who had conquered their native land. Consequently, there are many Albanian towns in Calabria (Santa Caterina Albanese, for example) where people speak traditional Italian, the regional dialect of Calabrese, and Albanian. Albanian traditions have also been adhered to for centuries, including loyalty to the Greek rites of Catholicism (not to be confused with the Greek Orthodox church), which allow married men to become priests.

The Calabresi are subject to the pervasive regional racism that is characteristic of Italy. While not as discriminated against as the Sicilians to their south, Calabresi are stereotyped as backwards, rural, ignorant, and oafish by the more industrial North. This is not entirely misled, for during the formative years of the 19th century, as the Austrian-inhabited North was becoming industrialized, the South remained purely agricultural under the feudal reign of the Bourbons. Nowadays, some regional centers have grown and modernized (such as the city of Cosenza), but for the most part Calabria remains pastoral, as younger generations leave their home villages for the bigger cities of the North or emigrate to America.