Calabria: The Other Italy examines life in Calabria, the southernmost region on the Italian mainland. Culture, history, the arts, food, society and tourism are amongst the general topics explored in this non-fiction book. Whether read individually, as part of scholastic or classroom study or in reading groups, the subject matter and issues brought forth lend themselves to serious thought and discussion.
The following questions can be used as a springboard for discourse or conversational dialogue within reading groups, in classrooms, as part of study sessions or for essay topics. In addition to the contents of Calabria: The Other Italy, the articles posted on My Italian Blog continue a review of the region and several are linked within the questions below.
Calabria: The Other Italy has been selected by the Order Sons of Italy in America for their National Book Club and by the National Italian American Foundation for their Italian-American reading list.
- If you had the opportunity, would you like to live in another country? (Or have you lived for an extended period of time in another country?) If yes, which country would (did) you choose and why?
- Describe some of the positive and negative aspects of living in Calabria as experienced by the author. Which particulars did you find the most and the least attractive?
- As one might expect in a book about Italy, food features prominently. Was the cuisine described in the book similar to your knowledge and experience of Italian food? Were you familiar with any of the Calabrian specialties? Is there any dish you would particularly like to sample? For more reading (and photos) on the subject of food, see my blog posts: Trattoria in Cosenza, Trattoria Collinetta, Tavola Calda – Part 1 and Tavola Calda – Part 2, Le Frittole, The Bergamot: Calabria’s Incredible Citrus and The Precious Diamante Citron.
- We all grumble about the post office. What do you think about the author’s experience with Italy’s postal service as described in Chapter 2 and referenced in Chapter 11?
- Two chapters (#5 and #11) are devoted to criminality and the ‘Ndrangheta (pronunciation: n-DRAHNG-eh-ta). Had you ever heard of Calabria’s Mafia organization? How does this criminal element affect the daily lives of the local people, business and tourism? Have you witnessed or experienced anything comparable in your own life? For more information on the ‘Ndrangheta, see my blog post The ‘Ndrangheta. Other posts that look at the political situation include Elections in Calabria and Reflections: Drills and Politics in Italy.
- What do you think the author means by “matter-of-fact religiosity” at the end of “Reggio’s Guardian Angel” in Chapter 9? What place does religion hold in the lives of contemporary Calabrians?
- The Italian school system is discussed in Chapters 1 (“Have you got…?”), 8 and 9 (“What’s your favorite…?”). What are some of the differences as compared with your own country? For example, the oral exam is an important part of testing. What are some of its positive and negative aspects? Would you have fared well?
- The author notes a general lack of punctuality in Calabria. Would you find this frustrating? Would this be acceptable in your country? Have you experienced different approaches to time in your travels?
- A number of colorful anecdotes involve train travel. Have you ever ridden a train or taken public transportation in Italy or in another foreign country? Do you take the train in your own country? How does the author’s experience compare with yours?
- Of everything described in the book, what would you most like to see or which place would you most like to visit?
- Much goes into the design and creation of book covers. What does this cover image convey to you? The author gives some personal insight with regard to the cover in her blog post, “Reflection: Lining up Today’s Pixels With the Columns of Ancient Greece.” How do you feel about the image of the boat? What do you think of the optical illusions of the digital world as compared with those of the natural world and their resolutions?
- Calabria was “once the hub of the Mediterranean.” What changed over the course of history that resulted in the area’s relative obscurity in the 21st century? Do you see any potential for the region to gain a renewed importance or popularity in the future?