I have been following several Italy travel groups on Facebook recently. The would-be vacationers are both looking for and giving out advice. The top destinations are Rome, Florence and Venice with the Amalfi coast and the Cinque Terre right behind. Calabria pops up rarely, usually because someone has shared a stock photo of Tropea and is asking if anyone has been there or knows anything about it. Then, the self-prescribed experts begin to weigh in. They talk about it almost in the same way that they talk about their visit to Sorrento or Positano. What’s the best hotel? What’s the most romantic restaurant? I never understand how people come up with the “best” so easily. My tastes are apparently more complicated, and my priorities are different when I think about a vacation in Calabria, or anywhere for that matter. Read More
Last but not least, the village of Zungri occupies the final place in an alphabetic listing of Italian communities. The fascinating Grotte degli Sbariati di Zungri or Sbariati Grottos of Zungri lie just outside the historic center, seemingly so far yet just 16 kilometers from the bustle of Calabria’s famous Tropea. Here, carved out of the natural stone, the ancient settlement of cave houses exudes a graceful tranquility in balance with the surrounding natural environment.
Fresh off the tree, dried, stuffed or baked, the fig is a classic fruit, ancient, in fact. The fig has been present from the Garden of Eden to the banquet tables of the Romans through to Christmas puddings of Merry Olde England. The Greeks most likely introduced this noble fruit to Southern Italy, where it quickly became a staple. Down in the toe of the peninsula, Calabrian figs are a must for the Christmas holidays. What makes them so special? I visited a family fig shop to find out. Read More
An anchor in the midst of Calabria’s Sila Mountains, San Giovanni in Fiore gained its foothold with the establishment of an abbey and remains forever tied to its founder Gioacchino da Fiore. A visit to this mountain town, the Sila’s largest population center, blends the story of an extraordinary monk together with innumerable generations of hardworking inhabitants who followed. Read More
All of San Giovanni in Fiore seemed to be driving down Via Gramsci as I searched out the atelier of Calabrian textile artist Domenico Caruso. I was looking forward to the encounter as I had admired photos of his extraordinary work for quite some time. And wouldn’t you know, the old carpet hanging in front of his shop distinguished the location perfectly: Caruso Tessiture Artistiche & Scuola Tappeti. I sought out a parking spot and as I was about to ring the bell, a friendly face popped out of an upstairs window. He would be right down. Read More
This past week I happened to be in Reggio Calabria for the Procession of the Madonna. The festival is a constant for the city, not only in religious terms but with regard to families, neighbors, friends and between fellow Calabresi. As I followed the celebrations, I realized that the procession has also been a constant for me over the years I lived in the area and on my subsequent return visits. Read More
Whenever you embark on something new, there’s that level of uncertainty until it’s all over and you can sit back and reflect on how it went. You want everything to be perfect and you do everything in your power to make that happen. As owner of my new travel company Karen’s Travel LLC, I ran my first Calabria Cultural Tour this past June and the burning question has been, how did it go?Read More
Are you familiar with Mattia Preti, the Italian Baroque artist known as the Cavaliere Calabrese or the Calabrian Knight? The paintings of this important exponent of the Neapolitan School grace churches and museums around the world. His hometown in Calabria also boasts numerous of the artist’s masterworks, and a visit to Taverna opens a window on his long and noteworthy career. Read More
The Sunday excursion is quite popular in Italy. A little fresh air, a little culture, and a lot to eat. Recently, I happened upon an outing from Reggio Calabria to Caulonia. The day was to feature Caterina Niutta, an area craftswoman who would demonstrate “eco-printing” and serve a locally prepared lunch.
Looking at the graceful image of the ancient bull, I wondered what the artist who carved it 12,000-14,000 years ago was like. His artistic ability must surely have been valued by his community. The fundamental human expression feels timeless and lends a greater intimacy to the prehistoric burials at the Grotta del Romito or Hermit’s Grotto in northwestern Calabria. The natural limestone cave, one of Italy’s most important fossil sites, is situated in the foothills of the Pollino Mountains in a district of the town Papasidero. Read More