Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tropea to Reggio Calabria

We left Santa Domenica Talao during some "interesting" weather
This is a waterspout if you've never seen one--
Note the disturbance it's creating on the water below

If you remember your grammar school geography--The boot of Italy is kicking Sicily.
Reggio Calabria is doing the kicking and Tropea is under the line of clouds shown here on the top of the foot (where all the little bones are)

For two weeks we are in the city of Tropea attending the Piccola Universita the same language school that we attended in 2007. Since this is the off season, there are only 3 other students other than Di & Doug this week. 

Lonely Planet calls Tropea the loveliest area on the west coast of Calabria and it’s hard to argue against. We do miss the greetings we get in our home town. No constant buongiornos or buona seras here. Di plays a game trying to get folks to respond. The older folks do.

We’ve bumped into quite a few Americans here and there is a strong presence of Germans in the town and also at the language school. Many more restaurants and businesses are closed for the winter here compared to our area, or are just open weekends.
The famous point in Tropea.
The iconic structure on top is being restored.

A familiar gathering of the gents--no greetings from these guys, although we found a very friendly restaurant and pizzeria that we love to frequent so that makes up for a lot...
Here I am on our terrace at our student's apartment.*
Inside Pim's Restaurant--OK but not a fav
Great View though--(beware phone photo)
Stromboli (zoomed in) from the Terrace
Wednesday, the school took a van to the city of Reggio Calabria, two hours south, which is the southernmost point of the Italian peninsula. Di stayed in the apartment with Vince while Doug went to town. We visited the famous bronze statues of Riace which are being cleaned in the laboratory. The same location has many other fine artifacts on display, but cameras are not allowed. I did find these displays on the Corso di Garibaldi which is a lovely pedestrian way. Many of the historic sites and relics (all brought to Reggio) are Greek.
The women in the group took of shopping while I roamed with my Italian teacher speaking mostly Italian except when he asked about American cities that he’s learned by their basketball and American football teams. I loved the cleanliness of the corso and the architecture. It was fascinating to see the old and modern side by side at this moving sidewalk.

With a population of almost 200,000, Reggio is the largest city in Calabria and I didn’t have to drive! I did view Messina, Sicily across the Straights with the same name and realized I do have to drive there this Friday so we can spend the weekend in Siracusa (Syracuse). There is a good chance for dry weather which would be wonderful for playing the role of tourist….it has been cold and wet much of the week.
While in Reggio, I spent some time inside the Duomo of the city. It is a gorgeous building and it got us out of the rain for awhile: 

Ciao!(Sicily next week), Guido

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Calabrian Garden

When we moved to Santa Domenica, I was fresh off the farm, with over 30 years of gardening experience. When I was 20, I was absolutely fascinated and otherwise transfixed by the miracle of little seedlings coming through the soil in my flats under the lights. When we finally built our greenhouse, I still was--even though the numbers of flats went from 10 to 100 at the peak of our production. When we moved here permanently, since I was burnt out a bit from all the work, I knew I would be satisfied with plants on the terraces and aspired to an entry like the one above (with even more plants). We watched our neighbors garden and thought maybe they'd need help, but mostly they have things under control.  Here is a typical town garden:

Most are based on fruit trees such as fig, lemon, pomegranate, and orange.  There are grape vines, of course.  In between the trees, many people plant other useful plants such as tomatoes, onion, garlic, and artichokes.  I loved looking but I was not jealous.  One night our friends Nunzia and Arturo called me from a garden I knew to be owned by an expat from Ireland.  I waved hello.  They were picking oranges for their store.  I though nothing more about it until another friend asked Doug if we would be interested in tending the garden a bit for the use of the fruit.  Below are some pictures so you can get the general gist of its condition:

What turned my head?  Compost.  I hate buying soil for my plants and I know from experience that those plastic compost containers are not only ugly but marginal at best. At first all I could envision was that I'd have a place for a real compost pile.  To make a long story short, we agreed to take it on and Doug bought some tools.  We spent a day trimming and cleaning up debris so that a person could walk through the garden with no trouble. Just one day out there and the whole village was wondering if we bought the garden and our friends already knew we agreed to work in there before we told them.  The serendipity of it all is unique to our life here.

I enjoyed that day.  It was sunny and warm and the gardening chores were automatic and unstressful. What has become stressful is the fear that we will become too attached to it. The garden is for sale along with a house in town.  So far I have decided that it is worth the risk--for the sake of compost and a few calm hours out there in the sun.

Friday, January 14, 2011

If Pigs Could Fly

Typical SDT Livestock Quarters
If they could fly, pigs might be able to even the odds, but Calabrians might starve. Yes, pork is the most popular of terrestrial meats here followed by veal, chicken, goat, rabbit, horse. This is a popular time of year for people that raise their own pigs to slaughter a couple and process them into steaks for freezing and sausage/salami for drying.
Our neighbors did that just last weekend. Here they are cooking some meat in a water vat just down the street.
This family has a little garden spot with pig pen along the edge of the village. I was invited to go watch them do the slaughter, but passed. They do it the old fashioned way with a knife, so I passed on that opportunity. When we processed animals on our farm, we either took the steers to a slaughter-house or had a mobile truck come to the farm. They used guns in lieu of knives for the most part.
The neighbors have an extra apartment in our building that they sometimes let their visiting kids use, but more often use it for a cooking and processing space. It is also rigged with overhead hooks to hang salami and salciccia. Our builder dedicated an entire bedroom to sausage storage in his new home!
The family broke for lunch and, of course, had home made wine. I had to sit and try this before starting into the grueling work of photography. This was a good vino rosso. I am one of the few people in the village that buys commercial wine – most everyone makes their own or has friends that make it. Much is very good. 
Because these folks are self-provisioners, they have serious tools for preparing a years worth of food. In addition to a heavy meat grinder and mixer, they have this industrial grade machine for stuffing the skins.
Each sausage is hand tied at the ends and there is a spiked device to poke the skins so air can escape as the meat is injected. Clever!

These guys worked most of the weekend on this project. I didn’t get a tally of the total sausage output, but here is the whole gang in a family photo. Brothers and sisters, husbands and wives. Many hands assured there were no flying pigs. 
Guido (Di wouldn't be talking about this subject!)

NOTE: We are headed to a two-week intensive language course in Tropea and a weekend trip to Siracusa, Sicily, so the blog may have some interesting photos.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Season of Sunsets

This is the season for sunsets in Calabria with clear air and lyric cloud formations.  The word "sunset" also refers to the end of things besides just a day.  2010 has clearly sunsetted--as have some other parts of our life. Sunsets can easily be conceived as a metaphor for beautiful endings, endings with bittersweet meanings--or endings signifying the end of light...if just for awhile. They also give promise for a starry sky and a new day. It's all how you look at a sunset--and at life.

2010 was a very good and very bad year (mostly for the world--wars, economies, etc). It was mostly good for us, we have a lot to be grateful for:
We moved to Italy and managed to survive, get our residency papers, a car, finish our home, and begin the long road to being fluent in Italian. Every year seems to bring some sunsets: 
We will never again have that feeling we had when we first moved into this little house.  We aren’t vacationers anymore. This is now our only home and it’s not the same as going on vacation.
We can never get back that optimistic but isolated feeling lots of Americans used to have. We know--as we never realized before that the world is moving on and America is no longer leading the way (or seeming to us to be leading, anyway). The problem is, neither is anyone else.

The dawns will never again outnumber the sunsets but hope survives that the dawns will still bring wonderful things:
We have time to learn how to enjoy every day and make the very best of it.
We have the luxury of not having to care what people think of us. We still do, but our survival does not depend on faking anything.
An interesting quote from a book Doug read claimed that being Italian means to “be yourself”. I hope to have the courage to believe in that—even if it’s not true. There is no need to try and become Italian except in this hopeful sense.
Hello 2011--and welcome, feel free to be yourself!


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