Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bellissimo Escursione

Monte di Caccia is on the horizon at far right...the one with a "bump" on the left
It was a day of remarkable beauty, but it was also a day of bittersweet, limits, and hope. As our friend and co-hiker put it, it's one thing to look out at the beautiful mountains around you but quite another to look at them knowing you hiked there...up to the height of your limits. We spoke of Monte di Caccia in our last post, not knowing that the weather we were waiting for would be here so soon. We could not have picked a better day or better companions. We hiked with an Irish friend from Santa Domenica Talao and three new friends from the UK...although they were out of sight rather quickly. To be honest, we should have taken their pictures when they were still with us. They were such good blokes, they would have kept waiting for us (Vince and me) but we set them free. More on that later.

The cross on Monte di Caccia--the hiking goal

Our hiking goal was the site of this cross near the top of the mountain seen here through a telephoto lens. It was way too far away to see the cross in a picture from where we started. It was supposed to take two hours one way (according to a sign) but we now figure that whoever timed it was in their 20's and an avid hiker. We are not city folk, but neither are we super avid hikers or in the bloom of youth. Our dog Vince came along who is 105 in doggie years.

The trail is rated as intermediate but to get to the cross, you would have to be advanced to the point of dealing with scrambling on scree, losing the marked trail, and taking 4 hours to get there when you expected 2.

I often stood and looked at the scenery, (a trick I learned from Doug to rest--but had to use more than he did)

See the lion (or whatever) head?
As we got higher and higher, we were afforded breathtaking views with many rock outcrops such as the one above with animal or human features and views into glorious canyons. It was a perfect day, not hot, with not a breath of wind.

Our friends later reported al bar that it took them 4 hours to get to the cross, and two hours to get back to the car. So what happened to us? Doug realized that I was too slow for the wait and catch-up method, so he told the boys to go on and we kept going until Vincie did a back-flip (bad rear legs) and generally let us know he wasn't having fun anymore. We made it about 2/3 way up, about 450m/1475ft of climb. We ate lunch under pine trees looking out over the sea. On the way back, I discovered that Vince saved me from a lot of pain because I started hurting and hoping for the parking lot to reappear. What I would have been like with 2 more climbing hours under my belt, I don't know but can guess. Doug says we should go back and complete the journey at our own pace. It's bittersweet to know that our once spry Vincie won't be able to come with us but that he made it farther this time than most 15 year-old dogs could. I have hope, but not complete confidence that I could make it the next time...Happy hiking.

Vincie and I learned of our limits in a similar way

Friday, April 20, 2012

Exploring the Neighborhood

Diamante from the road to Monte di Caccia
There is still a lot we have not seen within a 30 km radius of home. This week we explored the steep hillside communities above Belvedere with the objective of finding a trailhead at Trifari, a neighborhood of about 10 homes. The trails there access Monte di Caccia, elevation: 1785 meters. We plan a hike on a clear, warm day.

Trailhead Sign
The road to Trifari is paved although 4.5 km is single lane with turnouts like the forest roads we used to drive. This road , however, is much steeper with grades approaching 25% and some exposed spots that make you sit up in the seat. Not a drive for someone fearful of heights.

Belvedere centro storico left, and Marittimo right  from on high
Fortunately there was little traffic – only a Poste Italiano car that came flying past. He was obviously used to driving this route.

The homes up there have incredible views (that we have grown to expect everywhere here along the west coast of Calabria). I'd like to return on a clear day with the larger camera. The shot above of old and new Belvedere shows the steepness of the hill and the tight, switchbacky roads.

Halfway up is the neighborhood of Laise where our Italian teacher lives and just below is a church we stopped to see.

There were new sights to see in Santa Domenica Talao this week as well. We spotted a new sign on the exterior of the comune building (city hall). There is a major anti-Mafia movement in the Region of Calabria which is home to the ‘ndrangheta branch. The sign states “Here the ‘ndrangheta does not enter. The communities of Calabria repudiate the mafia in every form” Good news. Guido.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Perfect Mediterranean Spring Combo

If you are a gardener of advanced seriousness in the U.S, you have dreamed of Spring in the dead of winter with the help of catalogues like the one from White Flower Farm. I'm sure the folks at high quality nurseries grow tired of people like me who never actually ordered anything. After all, fifty bucks for a yellow clivia plant is a major investment. I've always wanted a yellow clivia, though, and didn't suspect that this dream would come true in Calabria--and it didn't cost fifty dollars either. It was sitting on a sidewalk display at a florist shop in Scalea last summer. Guido was kind enough to stop in the middle of bad traffic on Maggio street so I could buy it right then. 
I knew it would bloom again as that is the beauty of clivias--they are as tough as they are gorgeous. What I didn't know is that it would bloom just as the Japanese maple came back to full leaf along with a nicely harmonious azalea. A gaggle of swifts are back, not the full compliment, but enough of them for us to enjoy as they swoop around the roofs of the neighborhood--I hope they are cheered by a spot of perfect harmony too. Enjoy your spring.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Heart of Santa Domenica Talao- for more than 350 years

The rotunda and bell tower of our church dominate the view.

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday.  I was outside watering plants when I heard the priest singing in the piazza as he led a procession thru the village prior to the mass.  A few people had fronds of palms.  Another ritual seems to be handing-out springs of olive branches in a gesture of peace and friendship.  All I had, in case the procession came by, was a handful of wild asparagus.  They didn’t come our way.

The church posted this large banner celebrating 350 years of the parrocchia (parish).  Wow, this small town parish has been around 114 years longer than the United States has been a nation!  

Asking around, I was told the church structure itself is much older – dating to the 1300’s.  Like many things, there have been changes over that long period, but some of the original walls, floors, etc. are still visible and in use. From the outside you see the rotunda which is over the alter area. Then of course, the bell tower with its automated bells ringing-out the time four times per hour. This time of year when the house windows are left open at night, you can know what time it is if you are lying in the dark and don’t want to over-exert yourself looking for the clock.
Below are more images of the church interior.  I didn’t capture the glass-covered openings in the floor here and there which show where crypts and ancient stairways are.  It still amazes me to find such lovely architecture in small village churches knowing that the locals are the ones that must pay for and maintain them.  Someone who knows more about Catholic churches can tell us what the many side “knaves” are about?


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