My Trip to Calabria, Part Deux

Welcome back friends! I’ve come to the part of my travel blogging that I always hate–the part where I write about the rest of the trip and then I’m done. It always feels so finite, like I’m actually finally done with the trip. There’s nothing left to do. The last word has been written. As long as I still have these blog posts to write, the trip is still alive in my mind, you know?

Anyway, as they say… all good things must come to an end, I guess.

So here we go, on with the final few days of my trip.

After a full night’s sleep on Tuesday night (and the lifesaving powder Tylenol/drugs I received), I was ready to face the day, bright-eyed and bushy tailed. My aunt, uncle and cousin grabbed the shuttle from their hotel to mine, where my Uncle Patsy picked us all up.

Back at the house, we fell into a relatively similar routine each day for the rest of our trip, which included eating breakfast in the mornings:

Fresh fruit picked from our family farm.

Prickly pears.

Cookies and biscuits.

Homemade wine.

Family farm peaches soaked in homemade wine. For breakfast. I love Italy.

The family, after enjoying breakfast.

After breakfast, we’d all get ready and head to the beach for a couple of hours:

What I basically discovered during these days that I spent at the beach was that, essentially, the Mediterranean Ocean and I are in love. At least, I’m absolutely in love with it. The water was like bathwater. The sand provided us with these beautiful rocks that we enjoyed collecting every day. The waves were practically nonexistent, making it easy to float around aimlessly for hours and get lost in your thoughts.

I didn’t even mind the teeny, tiny little fish that would sometimes find you and nip at your heels under water.

I’m telling you, my friends, the Mediterranean is where it’s at!

Anyway, after our few hours at the beach, we would head back to the house where we would either eat there, or else we had a date to eat at my Aunt Pena’s house on Wednesday.

What’s that? Did I happen to take any photos of the food that we ate while at my Aunt Pena’s house? Well you know what—I certainly did!

I can barely get dinner on the table for myself and Chris. Just the thought of cooking for this many people gives an agita.

First course: Homemade ravioli in peanut sauce.

The tastiest olives you’ve ever had–grown on our family farm.

Artichoke frittata.

Fried eggplant with fresh mozzarella.

Mozzarella and rice salad.

Fresh tomato salad.

Meat ravioli (unfortunately I had to pass on eating this one, but it sure looked good!).

Homemade meatballs.

Chocolate-covered gelato cones!

It was at my Aunt Pena’s house that I also got to meet some other family members, as well as take a tour of a part of our family farm. You see, the Coluccio’s of yore owned acres upon acres upon acres of farm land, and they actually used to provide markets in the area with their produce. The farmland is now mostly owned by my Uncle Pasty. Pretty cool, huh?

Extended family is the best, isn’t it?

Lots o’ laughs on this trip (not all of which were entirely focused on Uncle Vinny :)

The famous fig tree! (My Uncle Patsy loves him some figs!)

And then, upon returning to the house after touring the farm, we were confronted with this:

Holy…

I mean, what’s a girl to do, am I right?

Anyway, on any given day, after our beach trek and huge lunch, you can find multiple members of my Italian family in their beds, taking a siesta. Siesta lasts for as long as they’d like it to last–a couple of hours, at least.

It was on Wednesday during the siesta that we had lunch at my Aunt Pena’s, but on Thursday, we took a trek up to the castle at the top of the hill. Back in the day, the castle was the summer home of the Prince of Naples. It has since fallen into disarray, but they are in the process of restoring it. The hike was about a mile and 1/2. Not far, on a normal given day, but let me ask you this: Do you think it would be a good idea to take a mile and 1/2 hike (all uphill, mind you) at 2 p.m. in Italy in August?

I’ll give you the answer–Sure, it’s fine, but don’t expect to be not drenched in sweat when you’re done.

Here’s what we found:

On the hike we happened upon the church where my grandfather, and many of his siblings, were baptized, and some were even married.

When we finally did arrive at the castle, to our dismay, it was closed! But this lovely man appeared, and after my Aunt Emma explained to him, in Italian, that we were American, and we had come all this way, could he please just let us in, he was kind enough to not only let us in, but to give us a private tour of the castle, as well.

By the way, this photo of the tiny car reminds me of how my aunt and I were joking around that you basically take your life into your own hands every time you go driving in Calabria. While certain rules might remain strict (like, say, the time for siesta), there appear to be no rules when it come to the road! Tiny cars, fast drivers and extremely narrow streets all make for an extremely interesting driving experience in the tiny town of Roccella!

The other great thing about Roccella? Fresh fruit grows just about everywhere. So say one happened to take a mile and 1/2 trek in the dead of the hot afternoon and got thirsty along the way, one could stop and grab some thirst quenching grapes on the way back down and feel much better.

On Friday during my uncle’s siesta, the family took a trip out to…wait for it!…my grandfather’s sister’s son’s house.

Did ya catch that?

Man I love extended family! Here’s a bit of what we found over there:

This is a family antique bed that they dipped in gold. Yes, my friends, this is a gold-dipped bed.

Limoncello!

Happy family.

After spending some time at the house, we took a trip out to visit an old church (which was beautiful) and to see the marina. Now, I wish I could remember the whole story about the church, but unfortunately I don’t. There was something about a group of sailors who got caught out in the water in a terrible storm. So they prayed to the Virgin Mary that if she kept them safe through the night, they would build a church for her. By morning they found that the seas had calmed, and they were grounded at the exact spot where this church stands today. Apparently in the middle of building, they came back to the pile of supplies after a night’s rest and found that the supplies had been moved to near the base of a nearby mountain. The story goes that Mary actually wanted the church to be built in that other location, but the sailors were unable to build into the side of the mountain, obviously, so instead they built the church where it still stands today, as well as a shrine to Mary in the side of the mountain:

And then it was on to the marina:

That night, since my aunt, uncle and cousins would need to get back to the hotel and pack for their 3 a.m. shuttle to the airport, we decided to go easy on dinner. This is what I had:

Brioche with Nutella, Chocolate and Vanilla ice cream!

And while everyone else headed back to NYC early Saturday morning, I was lucky enough to not have a flight out until 7:30 that night, meaning I got to spend one more full day with the family, eating delicious food and hanging out at the beach.

What can I say, friends, other than that this really did turn out to be the trip of a lifetime. I learned so much about my family, met people who I didn’t even know existed, learned a little bit more about my grandfather’s pre-American life and, I believe, got just a little bit closer to him over the days I spent in his beloved town.

It’s my beloved town now, too, and I hope to make it back some time very soon.

Editor’s Note: Can I make a quick side comment, if you don’t mind? I find it necessary to say, that if before you are packing luggage into a suitcase you feel the need to say to your fiancee: “This suitcase isn’t going to break on me on my way to Europe, is it?” and his response is, “Probably,” then you probably shouldn’t take said suitcase with you on such a long journey.

I, however, did not heed this warning, and as such was confronted with a torn-at-the-seems, duct-taped (and humiliating) suitcase on the carousel on my flight from Reggio to Rome, where I had an overnight layover. Luckily for me I had kept most of my necessities for the night in my backpack (except for the charger to my then-dead cell phone), so I didn’t need to undo the bag, but it was still not a great experience. At the Rome airport in the morning, the kind check-in man was nice enough to stick a plethora of “Fragile” stickers all over my already duct-taped bag so as to hopefully shield it from further trauma.

Why I didn’t take a picture of this, I cannot say. What I can say is that by the time I arrived in Rome and collected my trashed suitcase (with the full understanding the bottle of Limoncello, cooked figs and bottles that were inside it were probably all ruined), I was in no mood to argue with a Roman cab driver. So after getting into the cab and being told that this was the wrong cab for where I needed to go, and that he wasn’t zoned for going there (mind you the hotel was about 10 minutes from the airport) and that it would cost 30 euros for him to take me there, I had no energy left to argue.

Was he taking me for a ride? Probably. At that particular moment in time, did I care? Not in the least.

As another aside, I ended up staying at the La Maison Jolie for my overnight layover in Rome. While I would never recommend this hotel if you’re planning an actual vacation in Rome, it works out quite nicely if you just happen to need a place to rest your head for the night. There was a 6 euro shuttle to the airport (plus a 3 euro tax) and free internet and breakfast. Not too bad.

So that’s it, my friends. My trip in a nutshell. I’m back (surprisingly with everything from inside my suitcase in tact except for two cases of cooked figs), and already planning and looking forward to the next trip–Berlin, Munich, Venice and Rome with Chris at the end of September.

Thanks for listening in on my experience.

Bis bald, my friends!

5 thoughts on “My Trip to Calabria, Part Deux

  1. Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing some research on that. And he just bought me lunch because I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase that: Thank you for lunch!

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