Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Doggie Consciousness--Vito's Rescue

Vincie was a shelter dog--a pup who stared at me quietly while the others barked--he lived with us for 17 years.
Vito, basking in attention from his new friends
The subject of dogs is an interesting one for all the non-Italians we have met here in Calabria. To put it plainly--there are lots of dogs and there are lots of strays, both abandoned pets and feral offspring. The rest are owned as hunting or watch dogs and only a few are cherished pets. We aren't experts on this subject because we are cowards...we don't want to know exactly what happens to each stray we meet who then disappears! It is an enormous problem that seems beyond the capabilities of us foreigners to positively affect. We have heard of roundups, but they aren't often and we don't know first-hand the conditions in animal shelters. We do know that many strays die--either poisoned or run over or starved. 

This is the story of Vito, one dog who was saved thanks mostly to Fiona, a woman we met on the internet who adopted a stray herself a couple years ago and who asked us for help this time. Our assignment was to find him where she last remembered he hung out (she had to leave the area since she lives in the U.S.) and to deliver him to a shelter in Lamezia Terme from where a Dutch woman would take him to Holland with her. We accepted, although we wondered whether we could find him and find the shelter. It sounded like a good thing to do for dogs. Vincie (our good old dog) would have wanted us to try since we found him at a shelter in America where at that time and place he would have either gotten adopted or gotten killed. 

Vito meets Francesca, who runs the shelter where he'll live before he flies to Holland

Vito was reported by Fiona to be hanging out in the hilltown of Guardia Piemontese--at the cemetery. We were supposed to meet Mario and his partner there. They are with an animal protection group in Cosenza helping with strays. Mario and his friend would help us search and then direct us to the shelter. We worked together and managed to find him nearby at a panificio (bakery) where he begged for food. He was more handsome than the photo Fiona sent. Some of us just aren't that photogenic.

The shelter, called Rifugio Fata is very nice-- handles up to 150 dogs.

We and Vito had a very long ride to Lamezia, but he was welcomed by many new dog friends. He was very clean and obviously used to people, although he might have bad dreams of being dumped in Guardia Piemontese.

Meanwhile, at home in Santa Domenica, we feed Raggedy A**, a friend we met in the parking lot. We wish we could take her in, but we promised ourselves that we wouldn't own a dog in SDT again. We know there will always be strays who befriend us, we wish there was a better answer for them all. She is lucky. A person unknown to us had her spayed so she will not add to the feral dog population. That person, and we, feed her and keep her alive. We're adding a collar this week which is the local way of saying "this dog should not be taken in a roundup."

Vito looks out of the back of our car on the way to meet Francesca.  Good luck in your new life!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Un Giro di Calabria al Sud

Two summers ago, we set out to drive through a piece of the Region of Calabria we were curious about. We started in the northeast corner and drove south along the northeast coast which, it turns out, is not the prettiest part of Calabria (north of Crotone) although they do make good wine in that zone around Ciro’. That trip did meet our goal of finding out what’s out there!

This time, we prepared carefully using the maps on the iPad to locate nice looking places to stay and to explore. Some Doug and Di trips have been a bit on the unplanned side as we have noted before. This one benefitted from the best planning we have ever done for our road trips around home.

The 625 km trip took us to Lamezia Terme to catch roads east to Catanzaro Marina. We stuck to the mountain roads to see the landscape and to avoid driving through the regional capital of Catanzaro. We were rewarded with beautiful country, few towns and lots of serious agriculture. There is a “notch” in the earth between the west coast and east that creates steady winds and therefore is a natural place to locate wind farms for power generation. Doug guesses that the local farmers augment their income by leasing land to the wind generator companies like they do in the US.

Olive Farms and Wind Farms Live Together

We reached the quiet town of Stalleti’ (Stal-let-TEE) perched on the mountain above the beach hotel at Copanello where we stayed for two nights. 

Ionian Coast 
Catanzaro Marina from Il Gabbiano
Il Gabbiano Hotel had our reservation. We prayed it would work out because it was just a 3 star facility and we have had bad luck in the past with poor quality hotels. This one turned out to be a nice surprise. The room and bath were small and not fancy, but the business made up for that with fantastic food and hospitality. They even gave us free umbrella and sun beds on the beach and it was a nice golden sandy beach.

The Beach where we snorkeled in suprisingly cold water--must be the result of the cool summer!
The beach was very busy Sunday when we arrived with day users from Catanzaro, but slow and peaceful Monday. Like most holiday areas of Calabria, their “high season” is about 6 weeks long from mid-July to late August. Now is when many Europeans and Americans can find good deals without crowds at seaside. We heard Germans and one American family near us in the dining room. This off-season visit for us was under €300 for two nights with plenty of excellent food and drink.

We headed south again down the coast on Tuesday and took a quick look at the town of Badolato that is about 8 km up the mountain from the coast. It is similar to our town with older homes and apartments being renovated by both Italians and foreigners.

The dry country along the eastern and southern coast reminded us of Central Oregon and Colorado where we lived. The Aspromonte National Park, from a distance, appeared to have a lot of shrubby vegetation, but it might be different in the central higher elevation areas.

We'd name this part of the coast, the Oleander Coast
Driving this coast route is not fast because the highway goes thru the middle of many towns with their constrictions and traffic. In between, there are many kilometers of empty, undeveloped sandy beaches. We were surprised how large some of the towns were including Locri. We managed to pass thru Reggio Calabria, the largest city in the Region at 184,000 population, without issues and headed for our next destination – Scilla across from Messina PointFor those not familiar with Sicily, this is the point north of Messina at the most narrow part of the strait. A powerline runs overhead from the mainland close to Scilla. We watched cruise ships, container ships and tankers all headed into the Mare Tirreno from the Mediterranean.

Scilla (sounds like the girl’s name Sheila) was a wonderful surprise. We’ve driven past it before on the way to the Sicily ferry and never new what a pearl we missed. The population is 5,000. We stayed in the Centro Storico (historic district).

It is a tourist town that, like Tropea, seems to attract a lot of Germans. Our hostess at the B&B La Veduta said that she has also had Americans stay at her fantastic 3- room facility. Without a doubt, this was the best place we have ever stayed in Italy and it probably tied with the fancy resort we stayed at in Sri Lanka! A warning to foreign speakers – our hostess speaks no English and her Italian is fast! You need some Italian skills, or at least have a phrase book handy. Like many towns in southern Calabria, Scilla was heavily damaged by the earthquake of 1783. The B&B is just 5 years old and you can see the high quality doors, windows and furnishings at their website. The word veduta means view in English.

From our Balcone at La Veduta--Sublime is the word
The odd boat with the crow’s nest and bow boom is used for locating and catching Swordfish

We decided to spend the morning - before driving 3 hours home - at one of the lidi on the beach. Crystal clear water for snorkeling. It is a rocky beach and sandals are needed for sure. The lido costs of €12 were similar to our neighborhood.

Once again, we asked ourselves if we missed an opportunity to live elsewhere in Italy and, again, decided we were very fortunate to find our niche in Santa Domenica Talao. We have a lively little town with shops, bars, etc. and as nice as Scilla is, being literally right on top of the sea means you don’t see the mountains like we do--and our hostess told us some very scary stories about winter storms sweeping through her hotel when she was a child and her Mom ran the place (she lives higher up now because of the winter storms). But – these are our fears and values. Bottom line – the Region of Calabria offers a great variety of things and it is truly beautiful. We have seen most of it now and continue to wonder why it doesn’t get more good press.


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