Friday, December 21, 2012

Salerno--City of Lights

Before you go all Paris on me, be advised that is the City of Light, singular, referring to enlightenment, not Christmas lights.
Our Italian language teacher told us about the bellisima Christmas lighting that the city of Salerno does each year.  Our plan was to arrive there around 10:30, shop all morning, do lunch, then visit those shops that might be open during the siesta period. We wanted to see the lights at dusk just before our train left to go home.

Salerno, with a population of about 138,000 struck us as a good place to try some shopping for goods that we cannot get in Calabria--and do it by train in one day.  Yes, Napoli and Roma are probably better for this purpose, but those cities are too large and crazy for a one-day trip by country denizens.

It was a mostly sunny day, but it was around 8C with a 32 kph steady wind.  Very cold!  Unlike small shops in our area, these were heated and the larger department stores as well as some smaller entrepreneur types remained open during pausa--so we got some shopping done in warm places.

We also used the Temple Bar near the stazione two times, for an hour each time to sit, warm-up and relax. 

As you see, Salerno does go all-out for Christmas lighting.  Unfortunately the famous luminarie that hang over the streets of the historic district were never lighted before we caught our return train home. 

The train station is poor for such a large city – no benches or seats at all, nor restrooms.

The return train was 50 minutes late, but it was comfortable and warm all the way to Scalea. We had our first “seat fight”. We checked our ticket twice, once with the conductor (who assured us we had the right seats but left us to fight for them ourselves). I guess people just sit where they want and hope nobody will insist. We were cold and tired so there was no way we were going to sit on the luggage rack, not Di at any rate. The second time we showed the interlopers our tickets, they finally gave us our seats. 

The historic area and the shopping area of Salerno are very nice and the lungomare zone around the bay is lovely. All are best enjoyed on a slightly warmer day and we may return!  The district starts at the train station and two streets go about ½ mile north into Centro Storico--all parallel to the sea. It reminds Doug of Reggio Calabria with the shopping area adjacent to the shoreline. 

Oh, the shopping you ask? We always like to buy some things for ourselves with both of us together. We did okay and Doug got to use his new, upgraded Canon 600D camera--his big gift this year.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Alberi di Natale in Calabria

Calabria just isn't known for a commercialized type of Christmas--as we have previously explained, traditionally it's a day of food and family--but these things have a way of creeping in slowly. By the end of November, most shops had a  variety of Christmas goods for sale. This is becoming more prominent each year. There is quite a price range, from €10 table top trees to beauties costing hundreds of euro. We discovered the fancy trees when we went to our favorite nursery-farm store for a plant--the nicest trees we have seen so far. Each was over €100 bare, then there are the light strings and those ornaments that cost €2-3 each--so one can spend some funds.

We could make room for a large tree, but do not feel the need, and storage for 11 months would be an issue. We replaced last year’s cheap albero di natale with this slightly bigger one--mostly we wanted more lights.  The lights twinkle out and down to the street below.  Che bello!

More and more people seem to put up light displays at their shops and homes each year. A funny thing in Scalea--two shops have mechanical santas that have motion detectors and when you pass on the sidewalk, they erupt with "Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas!" (in English) and other carols. I noticed today that the larger Santa looks like Chubby Checker doing the twist:)

I enjoyed taking these cheery pictures of the Alberi di Natale

Di (in the distant mists of time) used to work in a plant nursery that kept open in winter selling decorated faux Christmas Trees. She had fun deciding what the theme of each tree would be. It looks like the folks who created the ones above had similar creative bursts. For those who wish to decide their theme at home you can of course purchase the basics:

Some Christmas articles began appearing in stores early in November, but we didn’t notice right off.

What got our attention more that the holidays are approaching was the boys playing with fire crackers.  Alfonso showed me his (2 photos below). In America, Italians are known as the finest firework makers, but here the kids are forced to use poppers made in China. The larger mortars their dads light-off at Christmas and New Years may be Italian made? They would be professional grade in the US...

On Christmas day, we will be sharing a traditional English Christmas Dinner in Old Scalea and I plan to capture images our hosts Clive and Kathryn at work, and with their guests.

Buon Natale, Guido


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