During this summer’s trip to Italy I took more pictures than usual. On purpose! Because this time I wanted to share them with you:)
Most people who have either already traveled to Italy or plan to visit soon usually think of visiting Florence, Venice, Rome, and so on. In other words, the most famous cities. The southern region Calabria does not belong to the main tourist attractions known around the world. And that is very unfortunate. It has so many unique and precious things to offer that often not even Italians know about it. If I had to describe “the tip of the boot” with a few words, it’d be: hospitality, ancient flavors, amazing landscapes made of spectacular coastlines and mountains.
The village in Calabria where my dad comes from is called Saracena. It has around one thousand years of history and it is built on a mountain, about 600m above sea level. It is mainly split between the historic and the new district. You will find pictures of the historic part below. (Note: Click on the pictures to see them as a slideshow.)
…and here they are! So many beautiful childhood memories are related to this area.
My grandparents used to live there, and that’s the place my family and I used to spend our summer holidays. My friends and I used to play outside from the morning until it was time to go to bed. We never got bored and we always found something to do! Those were the happy times, when kids didn’t have nor did they need computers, smartphones or any other video games to keep themselves busy. If we didn’t have a bike or a ball available, it didn’t take us long to make up a new game to play. After lunch it was nap time, including a siesta for adults as well ;) Followed by the merenda (afternoon snack), which consisted most of the time of friselle (a kind of hard durum wheat bread that you soften up by passing it quickly under running water) seasoned with sliced tomatoes, olive oil and oregano. I still remember how the freshly sliced tomato perfumed the whole kitchen..:)
While we were busy playing, I remember my grand-uncle sitting in the shade making baskets, and the others sitting outside on the steps of their houses, or seeking shade at the door of their cellars having a chat until it was time for dinner. Lunch and dinner were the only times during the day where you didn’t see anyone outside. All the house doors and windows were left open to let a fresh breeze in. And all you could hear was the noise of the dishes and cutlery accompanied by the wonderful flavors of the prepared meals.
Times have changed though.. Today the historic district looks more like an open air museum where only few people live. The younger generations built their houses on the other side of Saracena, which are more spacious and were the infrastructure is much more convenient for their needs.
Laghetto (little lake) is located only a few minutes from the village. There is lots of nature! While driving or walking there you can enjoy the amazing view between mountains, valleys and on clear days you can even see the sea. Little creeks run through the area with cold fresh water coming straight from the mountain source. There is a fountain with running water year-round. Needless to say how great it tastes! A few years ago they set up a bbq area with tables and benches where people can go spend an afternoon together with family and friends. And that’s what we did :) We brought food, wine and a big watermelon that we cooled under the cold running water inside of the fountain!
Lots of memories are attached to the beautiful countryside as well. Since my childhood my grandparents and aunt have taken me there to pick figs and all the other yummy fruits!
Pretty much every family in Saracena owns a piece of land. And most families produce their own extra virgin olive oil and wine. Furthermore they produce so many more things that the countryside offers, such as jarred tomatoes, preserved eggplants, zucchini and olives, limoncello (liqueur made with lemons), finocchietto (liqueur made with wild fennel drunk after meals), dried figs stuffed with walnuts and almonds, marmalade of all kinds and much more.
Novacco is my favorite spot in the mountains! They are the closest mountains to the village, reachable by car in approx. 20-30 min.
You can find there a few vacation homes that can be rented out for very cheap. Next door there’s a restaurant that offers local traditional food. If you love nature you would enjoy the time there. No matter if you take a walk or even pick mushrooms in the summertime, or if you go skiing in the winter.
If you get a chance, you need to go and see all this with your own eyes! Especially if you travel from far away, all the way to Italy, don’t get stuck only in the main cities where everybody goes to. Go and discover what the south has to offer, that has not yet been invaded by mass tourism. And enjoy the great hospitality, landscapes and food traditions, still as genuine as they can be.