Posts Tagged ‘Calabria’

Golden Day 109: See the Riace Bronzes in Reggio Calabria

Calabria’s star art treasures are The Riace Bronzes: Two Greek bronze sculptures of warriors from the Fifth Century, BC.

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They are stunning glorifications of the ideal male form, with rippled muscles, majestic stances, exuding an air of mystery.

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Their discovery was simply miraculous: In 1972, a chemist from Rome was snorkeling off the coast of Riace. He caught sight of an arm emerging from the sand, that he first thought was a dead body. Moving closer, he realized he’d stumbled upon an ancient masterpiece…and then found another nearby! He called the police, the sculptures were dredged up, and found to be in excellent shape.

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Today the Riace Bronzes are the symbol of Reggio Calabria, the capital of the region of Calabria. They recently were restored and are displayed atop marble pedestals at the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia in the southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria,.(aka The National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria), open Monday to Sunday 9:10am- 7pm, Call (+39) 3207176148 for reservations.

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Photo Credit: http://www.madeinsouthitalytoday.com/

Be sure to reserve in advance for your visit–keeping in mind that it’s best to go in the early mornings, before the tour groups crowd in. You’ll be shown a video about the statues, taken to a filtering station, and then brought into the climate-controlled room for 20 minutes to admire these astonishing pieces.

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For a Golden Day in Reggio Calabria, have lunch at Ristorante Baylik (Vico Leone 1/3/5,0965 48624,Open for lunch and dinner) for traditional seafood dishes, such as spaghetti con bottarga di tonno or mixed grilled fish.

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Enjoy a walk along the Lungomare, and stop in at the city’s beloved gelateria, Cesare (Piazza Indipendenza, 01287.170805). If you’re there in the summer, you may even enjoy a show at the Arena dello Stretto, with stunning views of the sea.

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For dinner, reserve a table at Officina del Gusto (Via Placido Geraci 17/19, 0965.332830,Open only for Dinner), an elegant and friendly place with a fantastic wine list, that serves delicious traditional specialties, using organic products, including great beef selections.12948_731764170186860_2022530561_n

 If you’re spending the night, check into the sweet Possidonea B&B

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Be sure not to miss these astonishing treasures when you visit Calabria! Click Here for Tourist info...And if you are there this summer, Click Here for Info about the Special Exhibit welcoming back the Riace Bronzes…Buon Viaggio!

Golden Day 108: Monterosso with Grace Cleere of A House in Italy

gail in front of Casa SerenaWhen I stumbled upon the website: A House in Italy, I was intrigued to dig deeper. What were Americans doing in this remote mountain village? The search led me to Grace Cleere, and here’s how she explains it…

I was working with the National Geographic Society and the U.S. Navy in Washington DC, taking middle school students around the world on navy oceanographic ships. We did oceanography while at sea, along with history and culture touring while on land. One year the ship was based in Naples, and we took the students south to Calabria to see “the real Italy.”  We met Antonio Parisi as our guide, and that was the beginning.  Every time the ships were based in the Med in the years following, we went back to Monterosso with the kids.  After 9/11, when Antonio realized that such trips would now be an impossibility any longer, he said to me, “You’ll never come back here unless I convince you to buy a house.”  I scoffed and said  I am not a rich woman, but he showed me a small place for 12,000 Euro.  Heck, that was the price of a used car, so I put the house on a credit card!!  

Grace bought the 12th century house in 2003,here’s a look at the interior…

CasaSerenaGrace has since convinced her brother and sister-in-law, and several friends and colleagues to buy homes here too. The Monterossini look upon this small American community with great wonder, and all have become great friends… trading adventures, day trips, days at the beach, and of course food and recipes!

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I’m so grateful to have met adventurous Grace, and that she’s joined in to give us advice for a Golden Day in Monterosso:

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Monterosso Calabro dates to a time of crusaders and sultans, peasants and adventurers. Tucked into a fold in the hilly peaks of the narrowest part of Italy’s ‘toe,’ about 40 minutes from Lamezia airport to the north and Tropea to the south, it clings to one of the many hills that tumble in great waves down to the sea, straddling both sides of the peninsula.  This is the area where Crusaders landed in order to cross the peninsula on their way to the Holy Land. Richard the Lionhearted tramped near here many times!

The oldest part of town is a jumble of ancient houses and mostly abandoned palazzo, winding around themselves like an ancient Saracen souk.

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Take a walk here to get a sense of what it was like in medieval times.  Find – or have the expert local, Antonio Parisi (+39 347 6233680), take you to  the old Norman tower, built as a defensive lookout by distant relations the likes of William the Conqueror, most likely in the early 12th century. 

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Work your way down the narrow streets to the Museum (open on request), a former mill, and the town’s lovely main church (always open) filled with 18th and 19th century saints and madonnas.  church front

A second church is found in a small piazzetta, and features a ceiling painting of the Battle of Lepanto.Then take a hike up to the Monastero part of town where there is a third church (with a particularly realistic arrow-filled St. Sebastian), and high above it, the ruins of a Camaldolese Monastery. From here you’ll get a spectacular view of the town and out to the Mediterranean.

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 If the day is clear, you will see the Stromboli volcano floating surprisingly high on the sea!

Monterosso gastronomy is an intriguing mix of Italian and sometimes Arab ingredients(Sultanas, Almonds). Be prepared to “go local” – very little English is spoken, and menus in five languages are not to be found!  The village boasts several very good established restaurants (and new ones popping up), and superb kitchens in local agriturismi.  (Think tortellini stuffed with local funghi (mushrooms) and cinghiale (boar’s meat)! Yum!)

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Both Il Ghiottone (literally the glutton, but also the gourmand) and Il Melograno (the pomegranate) are on Via Roma leading out of town towards the north, and are family-run restaurants with views over a valley of olive trees with the lovely ancient skyline of Monterosso in the background.

 Il Ghiottone (+39 0963 326022) does exceedingly good fresh fish and meats as well as delicious pizza, and has both local and bottled wines as well as a full bar.

 Il  Melograno (+39 333.9082953), where Graziella and her husband Ottaviano do the cooking (and bake their own bread), specializes in delectable antipasti dishes, and pastas and lasagna with whatever is in season, especially forest mushrooms.  Ask what Graziella is preparing in the kitchen, while Ottaviano and his daughters fetch their wine.  Don’t forget the fresh desserts in either place.

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If you’re looking for a place to stay, I recommend, Villa Velia, above town on Mount Copari. It has wine and olive oil presses, a teaching kitchen, an observation tower, six well-appointed rooms (soon to be eight), and a large beautiful dining room. Stanza Letto

The villa’s owner, is my friend and tour guide, Antonio Parisi (+39 347 6233680), who speaks excellent English, having been a former tour manager and history and culture guide for American Express and Grand Circle Tours. He is available for tours of the village, and throughout Calabria and Sicily.  He is entertaining, cultured, and highly adaptable to whatever interests you have.

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 Antonio’s  wife Velia is the extraordinary cook at the Villa (you must call Antonio for a reservation first), known for her delicious meats, vegetables, and grilled fishes.  Her torta di alici is a specialty – fresh anchovies are something we can’t get in the States. 

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Another good accommodation in the old part of town is B&B Palazzetto Dell’orologio.

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Monterosso, like so many other towns in Calabria, brings visitors to “real Italy”. So that means along with history and beauty are sections built in the 1930s (cement block buildings), and trash and recyclables put out by the doors nearly every day. Despite this, it’s a lovely place, where you’ll enjoy friendly people, excellent food, and spectacular nature and views.

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Grazie Mille Grace—you’ve tempted me to come over and look at what’s for sale…To check out the offerings, Click Here!

Golden Day 107: Cosenza with LuLu Bianco of Calabrisella Mia

lu_calabrisellamiaI was immediately charmed when I found Lulu Bianco’s Calabrisella Mia blog. Lulu is a native of Toronto, Canada, and her dear father, who passed away five years ago, was Italian, instilling in her a love for the Bel Paese and its traditions. She picked up and moved to Cosenza a few years ago, and now writes a blog that’s a beautiful mix of her personal journey and a fascinating insider’s look at the town, including such fun things as the We Are Happy…from Cosenza You Tube video that was shot all over Cosenza and went viral!

We’re so glad she’s come along with us to spread the joys of her town, with advice for a Golden Day in Cosenza.

It doesn’t matter where you are in Italy; the best way to start any Golden Day in Italy is with a typical Italian “colazione” (breakfast) of caffé (coffee) and cornetto (croissant).  You not only get to have great coffee and a yummy sugar boost of energy to get you through the day, but you also get to participate in one of Italy’s oldest traditions.  The bar is where most Italians start their day and you will encounter all types of people there.

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I suggest heading to Gran Caffe Renzelli (Corso B. Telesio), in operation since 1805, located in the historical centre.  For a real treat, order a “Varchiglia alla monacale a sweet invented in the 1300s by nuns who at the time had their convent in Cosenza. It has since been handed down through the generations and is this café’s signature sweet.
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Now that we’ve got our sugar boost, let’s head for a walk starting with Piazza 15 Marzo.  In the centre of the Piazza stands a statue of Bernardino Telesio (Italian philosopher) and behind him you’ll find the beautiful Rendano Theatre, which was built in 1887 and named after Cosenza-born Alfonso Rendano, inventor of the “third pedal” on the piano.  Look familiar?  If you’re an Italophile it might because it was made to resemble the world famous La Scala in Milano.

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As you make your way back to the city centre, don’t forget to climb the steps of the Duomo, originally built in the 7th century and visit this remarkable building.  Here you will find a painting of Madonna Del Pilerio (patron saint of Cosenza).  It is believed that she freed Cosenza from the plague in 1576 by taking on the disease herself (which appeared as the stain on her cheek).  The amount of history in this building definitely makes it worth a visit.

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In Southern Italy “si mangia bene” (you eat well) and Cosenza is no exception.  For a traditional Cosentino plate of “lagane e ceci” (pasta with chick peas) go to “Al Vicoletto” (Traversa Francesco Gioia 9-11) a small restaurant tucked away in a side street.  It`s a place frequented by locals and a definite treat for tourists in the know. You can enjoy many local dishes without the inflated prices.

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After all that delicious food, it`s time to walk it off and what better way to do that then on Corso Mazzini.  It’s a large pedestrian area and the `meeting place` for the people of Cosenza.   It is also home to MAB -“Museo all’aperto Bilotti, an open-air museum.  As you walk along Corso Mazzini you can gaze upon the many beautiful art sculptures including “St. George and the Dragon” by Salvador Dali. 

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Usually shops close mid-day during lunch however you can find many shops on Corso Mazzini open if you’d like to do some shopping.  Don’t forget to “pop” into “POP Gelateria” for some delicious gelato.  You will always see people coming in and out of this long-standing establishment!

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 Cosenza is situated near the Sila Mountains, which is a perfect way to escape the heat and get some fresh air. A great place to visit in particular is Camigliatello Silano with its main hub located inside the Sila National Park.  You can take a ski lift up to the top of Monte Curcio for a spectacular view of the rolling mountains and Lake Cecita, a man-made lake.  This mountain resort village also has a wide range of small local craft shops where you can buy local products created by Calabrian artisans.  You can also purchase many of the Sila regions specialties like its cheeses, porcini mushrooms, potatoes and cold cuts.

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Head back to Cosenza for an evening stroll on Corso Mazzini to get a feel for what the traditional “passeggiata” (evening stroll) is all about before heading to Galliano Industrial Bistrot (Via Galliano, 8 tel: 0984 23894) for a light dinner, great wine and music.

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 Looking for a place to stay in Cosenza?  I would suggest Home Club Suite Hotel (Viale Giacomo Mancini, 28 tel: 0984 76833), situated close to the historic centre as well as the main city streets.

Grazie mille Lulu, I hope to meet you in Cosenza before too long!

 

 

 

Golden Day 106: Civita Calabria with Anna Lebedeva of Green Holiday Italy

I’m grateful to have met Anna Lebedeva, of Green Holiday Italy. She’s a freelance journalist and passionate follower of the Slow Travel  movement, who lives in the region of Abruzzo, and travels up and down the boot in search of the best traditional food and hidden corners. Anna has a beautiful blog, http://www.greenholidayitaly.com, where she writes about such fascinating things as Birdwatching in Rome and the village of Cerchiara, Calabria, which was recognized by the Slow Founnamedod Movement in 2012 as having The Best Bread in Italy.

 

I’m so glad Anna is joining in to give her advice for a Golden Day in Civita, Calabria.

 

Civita is one of the prettiest villages in northern Calabria. In the 15th century a group of Albanian refugees fleeing from the Ottoman invasion settled here. The locals still speak the Albanian (arbëreshë) language and are proud of their ancient traditions.

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Just outside the village you’ll see the spectacular Devil’s Bridge.The local legend has it that a clever villager struck a deal with the Devil, who promised to build a bridge in exchange for the soul of the first creature who crosses it. When the bridge was erected the villager pushed a dog which ran to the other side, saving his own soul.

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The local church of Santa Maria Assunta has stunning Byzantine mosaics.

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Take a walk around the village to see traditional Kodra houses that look like human faces. The village is also known for its beautiful old chimneys, each of them is different.

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Civita is situated in the Pollino National park, the largest in Italy, and has many natural trails for hiking. I had a fantastic experience canyoning with a small group in the Raganello river gorges–great choice for a hot summer day. For canyoning trips in the Raganello Gorges call Roberto at 0039 3471776569

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 Photo Credit: Cherrye Moore

Or, for adventurous travelers looking for off-road trips in the area, call a small company  Raganello Tour,  3409096436.

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You can also explore a remote area called the Grande Porta del Pollino to see rare Bosnian pines that grow only here and in a small area in the Balkans. One of the best guides for that trip is Nino Larocca Tel. 0039 3497966734, email: pinoloricato1965@libero.it

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As far as restaurants, Kamastra is a fantastic place to sample local specialties. The owner, Enzo, is a lawyer, but he also writes music for traditional arbëreshë songs. He will tell stories and recipes for his tasty dishes such as slow-cooked goat meat with laurel leaves, marinated onions, the scrambled eggs with peppers (called “the shepherd’s breakfast”). The home-made pasta dishes here are absolutely to die for!

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Another good restaurant is Agora. It might lack in the atmosphere but the food is excellent here too. I loved their Agora starter, which is a mix of local meats and cheeses, and home-made pasta tumàce with chickpeas.

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Here are some good options to stay: B&B La Magara is a mix of beautifully restored old interiors with a modern touch. Views of Civita from some rooms are amazing! Antonella is a bubbly and friendly host. She serves a big breakfast of local specialties. Check out the chimney on their roof: it is one of the oldest in town.

 

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Another lovely B&B is Il comignolo di Sofia. Stefania is a real expert of all things local and knows the area very well. She can organize tours and cookery classes for you. There are only two rooms but the atmosphere is beautiful. You will find many books on the arbëreshë traditions in the house.

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Grazie mille Anna, I’m hungry for Civita–Hope to get there soon!

 

 

 

 

Golden Day 105: Gerace with Domenico Russumanno of Made in South Italy Today

144AASES_150I’m grateful to have connected with Domenico Russumanno, a native of Vallefiorita, (Flowering Valley), a beautiful village in the province of Catanzaro, Calabria. Domenico is part of the team who created the Made in South Italy Today website, that’s full of insider’s information about Italy’s southern regions–including fascinating history, natural landscapes, and companies that sell artisinal products–such as olive oil, sweets, pastas, and fine textiles. I’m intrigued by what I found there about Calabria, such as the clip from the 1959 movie, The Forgotten Ones, that gives new meaning to “Off the Beaten Path”–showing the rituals of a remote mountain town–from hauling up supplies over craggy mountains on horseback, to feasting and dancing at their spring festival. 

Here’s Domenico, sharing advice for a Golden Day in the medieval town of Gerace:

Gerace is a charming town, set on a magnificent plateau, less then two hours drive from Lamezia Terme airport, in the hinterland of the Ionian side of Calabria, in the province of Reggio Calabria.

 

 

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It is well known for its wine, since the days of Ancient Greece.imagesCAP0CZQ6


It is called the “Florence of Southern Italy” because of its rich historical past and the numbers of churches dotting its maze of medieval streets, where you’ll find Renaissance palaces, beautiful piazzas, and views of inspiring landscapes. Gerace is also included on the list of the I Borghi piu Belli d’Italia–the most beautiful villages in Italy.

Walking through the town, visitors can admire the castle and the cathedral, both dating back to the Norman times, the architecture is characterized by multiple styles including Byzantine, Gothic and Roman.

 

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Among the many churches, the one topping the list should be The Cathedral Of Gerace.
It was built on the remains of a pre-existing sacred structure devoted to Aghìa Kyriakì (Saint Ciriaca) dating back to the eighth century, between 1085 and 1120, under Norman domination.

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The church, dedicated to the Madonna of the Assumption, is the most representative monument of Byzantine-Romanesque-Norman style in Calabria and is impressive both inside and outside

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Second on the list is the church of San Francesco (Square of the three churches), containing a precious Baroque altar. The altar represents the synthesis of artistic experiences in Europe, occupying a central position in southern baroque art. The foundation dates back to 1296. The portal is a triple archway decorated with Arabic-Swabian geometric friezes.unname2d

 

Next is a stroll to the Porta del Sole (Sun Gate) one of the few remaining doors once used as part of the defensive system protecting the town…

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If you’re Italian is up to it, contact Marisa Ranieri, a local professor of ancient history, who can take you around to show you this place she loves so much. You can write to her at luisa.ranieri@tin.it to arrange a tour.

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If you’re interested in organized activities or tours, contact Mr Giuseppe Piazzese, the owner of Ancient Paths, (Sentieri Antichi) a local travel consultant (giuseppe.piazzese@antichisentieri.it)

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If you’re up for a more active adventure, to discover the rugged Aspromonte mountain (and experience this beautiful area via kayak,mountain bike, or canoeing), contact Beppe and Demi (Aspromonte Wild) at info@aspromontewild.it.

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There are many places to taste delicious Calabrian specialties. Near the Cathedral, In Piazza del Tocco you will find Bar del Tocco, a heaven for ice cream lovers.

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Nearby (Via Cesare Battisti) is the enoteca Cantina del Barone, owned by Francesco and Rocco, featuring traditional products from the area, such as salami and wine. (ask for the ‘fettata casareccia”, a mix of sliced cheeses and salami) Tel. 347.1687363info@gerace-enoteca.it .

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For those who prefer a more traditional setting, A Squella, owned by Zio Franco (uncle Frank) is the place to visit.
The restaurant is located in an old olive mill on Via V. Della Resistenza (tel: 0964 356086- ristorante_asquella@live.it) .
It offers a typical Calabrian cuisine with appetizers, pasta and home-made cakes, grilled meat and grilled dishes as well as fish in the summer season.

 

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A specialty of the area is the Stockfish which is offered at most of the restaurants in Gerace.

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A beautiful place to stay is Villarosa, located a few miles from Gerace, among old olive trees, with a terrace for you to enjoy breathtaking views. It has 3 large bedrooms, and Rosanna, the owner , a native of Gerace now living in the  USA, can be contacted at the following e-mail address  : rosannaroe@yahoo.com

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Or there is B&B Giardino di Gerace . It’s uniquely positioned on the slopes of Gerace with five terraced gardens all facing the beautiful Ionian sea. It is owned by Professor Scaglione who also speaks fluently English, and you can take language and cooking classes there.
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For shopping, you’ll find a beautiful display of locally made ceramics at Condo’ Ceramiche, by Giovanni, in Via Sottoprefettura, not far from the Cathedral.

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A not so well known product, exclusively to this area is the Bergamotto. The fruit (a citrus look like) is not edible and is cultivated for production of its essential oil which is extracted from the ripe fruit peel and is used extensively in perfumery for its sweet freshness. The oil can be found at Antichi Sapori di Calabria, Via Zaleuco 23.

frutti_di_bergamottoCome visit in late spring, up until June, and September to October, when the weather is ideal!

Grazie mille Domenico, for turning us on to this undiscovered treasure of Calabria! I hope to get there soon…

For details about a special Calabria Tour offered by Made in Southern Italy today, Click Here.

Golden Day 104: Scigliano with Raffaele Ripoli of Bed and Breakfast Calabria

IMG_0212Grazie to my dear Roman friend Gioia, who introduced me to Raffaele Ripoli, an architect from Scigliano, Calabria. Although Raffaele has also lived in Cosenza, Florence, Amsterdam, and near Rome and Milan–it’s Scigliano, in the region of Cosenza, set perfectly in the hills, between the sea and the Sila National Park, that is closest to his heart.

His grandmother ran a bakery here, in a building from the 1800s, that sold bread to the whole village. Raffaele has now converted that building into Bed and Breakfast Calabria that’s beloved by travelers, where each room features an elegant, lovely design.

Travelers come here to experience the soul of Calabria , as Raffaele says: “It is the eternal region of romantic imagination. Here you can mingle with the country folk, avoiding common tourist locations and obvious beaten tracks.

I’m so grateful Raffaele has joined in to give his advice for A Golden Day in Scigliano:

The Calabria B&B, offers a breathtaking view over the valley and of a 15th century monastery. You can enjoy breakfast on our terrace…

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Then you can mountain bike around Scigliano, or if you would like to discover it on foot, we will give you directions for a walk, over a Roman Bridge that Hannibal crossed during the Punic Wars

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You can discover beautiful churches here, such as the Cattedrale di San Giuseppe…

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And further along, there is a forest and a waterfall..

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Stop by the Ice Bar in Scigliano for a gelato…

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You may want to go to the nearby beach at Amantea.

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Or take an hour’s train ride to Cosenza, through beautiful scenery.

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There, in Cosenza’s centro storico, you can enoy, Caffè Renzelli

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And have lunch or dinner at Calabria Bella (Piazza Duomo, 0984 793531). They serve an excellent pasta dish of Lagani (a thick ribbon pasta), that is a specialty of our region–with chickpeas and mushrooms.1017105_509340432472403_1928664918_n

Of course, if you’d like to stay and relax in the sunshine and beautiful natural setting at Scigliano, we can prepare a meal for you, using local specialties…

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309926_651705054845107_1673871663_npro_variGrazie Raffaele…looking forward to coming to your dreamy spot soon!

Golden Day 103: Pizzo with Susanne Crosetto of Palazzo Pizzo

BLACKANDWHITEThrough the miracles of the blogosphere, I have found a true adventurer: Susanne Crosetto. She is German born and married to an Italian, who is from Pizzo, Calabria. They lived in Beijing and now reside in Bangkok, but spend spring and summer in Pizzo. Susanne’s passions are writing, painting, and photography–she has beautiful photographs of Pizzo on her entertaining blog,  that documents the renovation she and her husband did of a 200 year old palazzo,transforming it into Palazzo Pizzo Residence.

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The residence is a gem of an accommodation, a one bedroom, beautifully designed, set on the edge of a cliff, with spectacular sunset views from its terrace. 

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I am so grateful that Susanne has joined in to share advice for a Golden Day in Pizzo

In Pizzo, life is slow here. You will find time to relax and enjoy the good things in life: food, wine and conversations.

The day starts with a  cappuccino at Bar Belvedere. Piazza della Repubblica, 44, Phone: 0963 531423.

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I always bring my visitors first to the Piazza Repubblica of Pizzo. It is the main piazza and Pizzitani call it the living room of Pizzo. If you want to meet someone, you sit down in the piazza and wait until the person you were looking for passes by.

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Pizzo has ten churches–many for a small fishing village. The most famous is the church Piedigrotta carved into stone on a beach outside Pizzo. But there are equally interesting and beautiful churches in the historic center.

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Next, the beach! It’s a 5 minute walk from the piazza down the alleys to the Marina. The 70 km Calabrian Coast between Pizzo and Nicotera deserves is divine name,Coast of Gods”, la Costa degli Dei . The crystal clear, turquoise coloured sea is amazing! So activities are swimming, diving, snorkling, boating and fishing. If you visit our residence, we can arrange a trip with our own gozzo type boat, a bit Capri style. 

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While swimming in crystal clear waters, you will know it is noon when the church bells ring and “Ave Gloria” music blasts through loud speakers. It feels like heaven, no matter where you are, you know you have arrived in paradise.

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About 30 minutes later the natives pack their swim things and leave the beach to prepare lunch at home. Then comes the afternoon nap. 9652034547_fc0784a664_z

In the late afternoon you might walk to the piazza again. The best way to discover the centro storico is by strolling the narrow and picturesque alleys.Pizzo 5

One activity is to taste Pizzo’s famous tartufo ice cream. It is a ball of chocolate and hazelnut ice cream filled with liquid chocolate and rolled in chocolate powder. There are about 14 to 20 ice cream parlours that sell it–try Bar Gelateria Belvedere (Piazza della Repubblica, 44, 0963531423) and Bar Gelaterie Ercole (Piazza della Repubblica, 18, 0963531149) both in the piazza.

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Then you choose among one of the many little restaurants. A very good small one is  San Domenico (Via Colapesce,3491390255), located above la Seggiola. They do not have a menu as the chef cooks the catch of the day and what he found at the local market. It’s slightly more pricey than the usual restaurants in Pizzo, as you will order at least two courses, and only serves dinner, starting around 9 pm. Service is not fast, but dishes creative and tasty. 

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We also like La Lampara (Via Marcello Salomone 128, 09631950378), the food is good and I really like the interior decorating. .

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If you are looking for something simple and casual, SPQR (Piazza della Repubblica 33, 3279445702) does great pizzas and pastas. 

PP pizza tricolore SPQR

After dinner, in summer there is entertainment in the piazza until late at night, and you can mingle with the friendly Pizzitani and maybe even try some more tartufo!

Pizzo by night

As far as a place to stay, besides Palazzo Pizzo Residence, there is only one hotel in the centro storic, Piccolo Grand Hotel. They were named one of the top 10 romantic hotels in Italy by Trip Advisor in 2012!

Palazzo Pizzo Residence collage

Grazie mille Susanne! Please save me a place on that terrace!

Golden Day 102: Borticello with Whitney Hickey

178947_10151136787467656_1830070881_n (1)I am grateful to have Whitney Hickey join the Golden Days in Italy team, as an excellent intern with a passion. Whitney fell madly in love with Italy in 2012 when she went to the Culturforum Italian Language School in Cefalu, on Sicily’s northern coast. She didn’t want to leave after the course ended, and happily accepted a job as a nanny with a Sicilian family for the summer. The experience completely immersed Whitney in Italian culture, including joining in with a family tradition: taking a vacation for the entire month of August, to enjoy the pleasures of Calabria.

Here, Whitney shares her advice, that’s particularly great for family travel, for a Golden Day in Borticello:

The first thing I learned about traveling with a family in Italy, is that it’s impossible to stick to a schedule. This turned out to be a good thing. We were supposed to leave Sicily early in the morning, but we ended up running several hours late, so we got to watch an incredible sunset, as we rode on the ferry from Messina to Reggio Calabria. IMG_2112

A great vacation base (where we stayed), is Villaggio Costa del Turchese  outside the seaside village of Borticello. It’s a great set up of condos of different sizes, that can be rented by the day, week or even for months. It has a gorgeous long private beach–white sand and clear blue waters.IMG_2129

There are activities here day and night–a volleyball court, and entertainers that offer water aerobics and dancing on the beach for kids, and they also perform plays.  I loved biking down to the little resort market in the morning to pick up some fresh peaches for the kids. The beach snack bar, that serves delicious gelato, transforms to a disco in the evening.play

Though it’s great to relax at the resort, here are a couple of ideas for day trips nearby:

As Cherrye wrote about in Golden Day 101, there is Le Castella, a massive fortress that is rumored to be the secret hideaway where Calypso held Ulysses in The Odyssey. You can tour the inside of this miraculous place, hiking up the little stairs and peeking out the windows. Often during the day you will see many people touring the town and playing in the sea. Be sure to grab a gelato while you’re walking around—Try the brioche which is the southern Italian version of our “ice cream sandwich”–sweet bread stuffed with gelato. IMG_2536

If you are feeling more adventurous, go to the Il Parco di Avventure, an eco-friendly adventure park surrounded by a forest in the beautiful Sila National Park. This is a magnificent place for the whole family , and you can even bring your dog. The entrance is free, and then you pay according to what activity you’d like to take part in–there is zip lining, tight rope walking, wall and tree climbing, trekking, and mountain biking.IMG_2502

 

For lunch you can have a barbecue in the park.. A traditional Calabrian dish is Carne Verde, grilled beef that’s seasoned with a spicy herb rub that may look a little strange at first, but tastes outstanding! IMG_2509

 

In the evening, enjoy the passeggiata around the villaggio and dancing at the Paradise disco. Everybody enjoys stopping in at the Caffe Aiello for a warm, fresh, deliciously filled cornetto and a cappuccino. You may be amazed (I was!) to see groups of friends and couples here laughing and talking at the wee hours of the morning…Here’s my photo from 4 a.m. last August… capp

Grazie mille Whitney…we’re making summer plans…

Golden Day 101: Catanzaro and Beyond with My Bella Vita

Cherrye Moore 2I became a fan of Cherrye Moore’s My Bella Vita blog when she began it in 2006. The story of this adorable Texas native who fell in love with a southern Italian and left everything behind to begin a life with him (IN CALABRIA!) fascinated me. From the start Cherrye’s passion for her new home was clear, and her enthusiasm for learning new recipes, customs, and exploring new places was absolutely enchanting.

It’s been gratifying to watch Cherrye’s business grow into My Bella Vita Travel, the premier genealogical travel company in southern Italy, specializing in ancestry tours to Calabria and custom vacations throughout Southern Italy. Her services, and the Catanzaro B&B Il Cedro she created with her husband, get raves from happy clients. She’s also written guides to the area and has expanded her blog so that it’s an interactive resource where readers find Italy travel tips, Calabrian destination highlights, such as Five Spots in Calabria for Art and Architecture Lovers, recipes such as this truly authentic recipe for Calabrian Lasagna, and a hodgepodge of Calabrian tales.

Plate of lasagna at an Italian restaurant

I’m so grateful Cherrye has joined in to give advice for a Golden Day in Catanzaro:

Calabria isn’t yet a household name for many Italofiles. In fact, many non-Calabrese Americans don’t know of this rugged, wild place – a land almost trapped in time that still very much epitomizes Old Italy.

Fourteen years ago I was one of these people. Today, along with my testa dura Calabrese husband and son, I call this place home. cherrye-and-peppe-engagement-pic-1-240x300

We live in Catanzaro, that is often referred to as “The City Between Two Seas,” because it sits between the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas, making it a perfect base for a Calabria vacation. beach

Come stay at our Bed and Breakfast Il Cedro, set amidst a grove of citrus trees. 

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For this Golden Day, you can sleep in until 9:00, then head up the Ionian Coast towards Crotone.  Just off of the road, you’ll find Le Castella, the massive fortress that is rumored to be the secret hideaway where Calypso held Ulysses in Homer’s The Odyssey. I typically pack a picnic lunch and either eat in the shadow of the ancient Argonese castle or sit on the rocks that line the tiny shore. castella

 If you prefer fresh seafood, my choice is Micomare, (Tel: 0962/795082), located on Via Vittoria on one of the tiny town’s side alleys. For unbeatable views of the castle, ask for a table on the terrace and dine on spaghetti with mussels and clams. 
ristorante-micomare

 After lunch, continue up the coast, past the hometown airport Sant Anna and turn down the long, dusty road towards Capo Colonna. Capo Colonna is the last remaining temple dedicated to Hera Lacinia that dates from between the 6th and 5th century BC. It’s hard to find, but if you let yourself get lost (in your thoughts!) you can imagine what the Greeks must have seen when they chose the site. capo

In the early evening, head back to Catanzaro where you can end your mini-tour of ancient Magna Graecia by sampling wines that descended from Greece’s Cremissa – a wine that was served at the ancient Olympics.  Dine with us at Il Cedro and then take a stroll along the Catanzaro Lido lungomare, stopping for some award-winning gelato at Marrons Glacès .lungomare

Grazie mille Cherrye! I am packing my bags…

Visit My Bella Vita Travel for more info about Cherrye’s customized tour services of southern Italy, ancestry tours, and to sign up for her newsletter. You can also join her on the Calabrian Table Tour held 2-3 times a year, that she hosts and designs with Tania Pascuzzi of In Italy Tours.

GOLDEN DAY 100: Tropea with in Italy Tours

Let’s move on to the region of Calabria, and make our first stop a town at the bottom of Italy’s boot: Tropea.

tropeaMAP

Tropea is dramatically set above the sparkling sea, waterview

an evocative mix of crumbling baroque buildings,

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Piazzas that look like opera sets,

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and views out to the volcanic island of Stromboli, that continuously bursts forth with glowing fireworks. stromboli

I visited Tropea a few springs ago, as a guest of In Italy Tours  The company was created by Tania Pascuzzi, a charming Australian-Italian whose parents were born in Calabria, and then emigrated to Melbourne. Tania grew up around delicious Calabrian food, moved on to work for many years as a stylist in New York, and finally returned to her roots, making Tropea her home base.

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This is an undertouristed area, which Tania has grown to know intimately. She has a great passion for the land and its people, and has been embraced by the natives over the many years she has lived and worked there. As for my experience: AMAZING. The Calabrese lived up to their reputation as being some of the kindest, liveliest folk you’ll ever meet in your travels, and with Tania guiding I was immediately embraced as family.

My Golden Day in Tropea began with breakfast on the rooftop of Il Residenza Barone . This is a luxury B&B, right in the historic center, that’s been stylishly renovated, with chic, airy rooms, elegantly run by Rosella and Roberto.

RESIDENZABARONEMORNINGTania’s itinerary started with a food tour of Tropea, through the enchanting centro storico, where the culinary stars are hot red peppers, that are dried up, tied up, hanging in garlands everywhere. pepper

They’re also minced up into a spread called n’duja that’s delightfully sizzly or will have you choking and teary-eyed, depending on the intensity. You can try some at La Casetta del Piccantino, where you’ll meet Franco—probably wearing a corno–what we in Jersey used to call an “Italian horn” (hot red pepper shaped charm)-around his neck. Franco will generously offer you tastes of all varieties of n’duja and other delicious spreads.

You’ll find the most spirited Tropea character at Gelati Tonino

gelati

This beloved-by-locals octogenarian is famous for his gelato, always inventing new flavors using what’s growing around there at the time–such as red onion gelato, garlic gelato, of course red pepper gelato…

It’s relaxing to pick up a panino somewhere and take a break at the beautiful beach, that’s voted every year as one of the best in Italy. 

TROPEABEACH2The dreamy day continues with a Cooking in Calabria class. During my visit, Tania took me to a hilltop cottage on the outskirts of Tropea, surrounded by a small vegetable garden and some fruit trees, where I cooked side-by-side with a local mamma and her husband–from appetizers to homemade pasta, and then we ate at a picnic table under the stars.

In 2012, Tania expanded and improved this concept, so now guests are driven to a glorious 3.5 acres of sprawling olive groves, flourishing vineyards and gardens in the rolling hills above Tropea. As Tania puts it: “You’ll enter as a guest and leave as part of the family after a day of cooking and feasting on made-from-scratch Calabrese cuisine with our hosts and dear friends, Peppe and Vera.” 

Guests tour the gardens, finding an abundance of Tropea’s famous red onions, expansive olive groves, and lush vineyards–the olive oil you use for cooking and wine you drink is produced right on this farm. 

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In the kitchen Peppe and Vera teach recipes such as handmade pasta, meat and seafood dishes, luscious fruit tarts–as true to Calabria as they are.cooking-class-tropea-5

The finale is an open air feast, insomma as Tania says, “Not only is this the ultimate food experience, it is a chance to be with authentic local people and experience the ‘dolce vita’ with them.” 

familyNon vedo l’ora di ritornare== I can’t wait (can’t see the hour) till I return to Tropea!

For more info: Check out the In Italy Tours website http://www.initalytours.com for Calabria Tours AND tours of the Castelli Romani (outside of Rome).