My family and I have been on an epic adventure over the Christmas week. I use the word epic because it was a grand, out of the ordinary, impressive adventure that lays another foundation stone for us being here.
We visited Calabria, in southern Italy. Specifically we spent our time in Catanzaro Lido on the coast, on the sole of the boot. The purpose of the road trip was to spend Christmas with our extended family, my husband’s aunts, uncles and cousins, meeting some for the first time, getting to know them further and to experience a true southern Italian Christmas.
Only one word is needed to describe our time spent with them, “wonderful”– but of course I can not stop at one word. They were warm, welcoming, full of conversation and information and their hospitality was more than anyone would expect.
We were graciously driven back to the area where my father-in-law grew up.
I know it is a cliché, but it helped us put the pieces of the puzzle together, they would speak of the small isolated villages in the mountain region of Calabria where olive trees covered every hillside and every spare space imaginable.
My father in law would speak of the large family living in the small house and the stables where the animals were kept and the veggie garden that sustained them all. We got to see it all. My teenage children got to see where their grandfather lived and his father and grandfather before him.
I had driven across southern Italy before- admittedly from Naples to Brindisi and not through Calabria itself and on a Contiki bus- 25 years ago. But I remembered it being rural, farmland for miles as far as the eye could see. It was pretty.
I remember seeing an old man walking a donkey along the main road passing a corrugated iron hut sitting all alone in a field- This is the idyllic image I had etched in my memory unbeknownst to me that I would marry a man with Southern Italian heritage and be back one day with my kids.
The south had a bit of everything, some village streets looked like they hadn’t changed for 60 years, sat along side fields that were covered in solar farms and hundreds of power generating windmills, the roads and bridges were works of art jutting out the mountainside wherever they were called for.
Our week in Calabria ticked a lot of boxes on our to do list whilst in Italy, probably more spiritual than practical.
Time to head back north. Thank you zii.