Life is funny. When I began to study the Italian language as an adult and made my first attempts at conversation, I would never have imagined that one day I would be capable of giving full-fledged presentations in Italian or would appear on Italian TV.
But that’s what serious study and dedication will do for you.
BOOK ABOUT CALABRIA
How did my appearance on Italian TV come about? If you’re familiar with me at all, you know that I wrote Calabria: The Other Italy, a non-fiction book inspired by my four years living, working and traveling in the fascinating region in the toe of the Italian boot. (I also have this blog – My Italian Blog – on which I post articles about Calabria and Italy, in general.)
My book has been warmly received in Calabria, where I was awarded the Premio Calabria in 2015. This school year, a Linguistic High School in the town of Villa San Giovanni adopted Calabria: The Other Italy for use in their English classes and I met with the students at a presentation a couple of weeks ago.
Calabrians are curious and pleased with my efforts of promoting their region to the English-speaking world. In addition to my book and blog, I’ve spoken about Calabria at a number of events in American libraries, bookstores and Italian cultural centers. I keep up to date on the region when back in the United States, and I visit Calabria often.
PALAZZO DELLA CULTURA IN REGGIO CALABRIA
Last week I spent a pleasant morning at a new museum in Reggio Calabria, the Palazzo della Cultura, “Pasquino Crupi.” This very large exhibition space features an intriguing mix of collections, each significant in its own right: a group of art works confiscated from a local ‘Ndrangheta mafia boss, a treasury of religious art and icons, as well as permanent and rotating displays by Calabrian artists.
At one point I noticed a small group of individuals, seemingly in the midst of a meeting, moving from room to room. I recognized at its center Edoardo Lamberti Castronuovo, Assessore alla cultura e alla legalità dell’ex provincia (the Minister/Director of Culture and Legality in the Former Province – a complicated title in that the Italian provinces have been recently abolished, so he continues to carry out his prior administrative function during a transitional phase in the political restructuring).
I decided to boldly approach the assemblage and introduce myself and my book, as I figured we had a common interest in the culture of the region. Dr. Lamberti Castronuovo’s curiosity was immediately piqued, and this chance meeting led to an invitation to take part in a program at his television studio, the taping of which was scheduled for the following day.
The program was ReggioTV’s Salotto dell’Editore, the Editor or Director’s Salon. This talk show, hosted by Dr. Lamberti Castronuovo, features guests talking about various cultural topics from a circle of big easy chairs in a living room setting. The spacious, well-equipped television studios are located in an industrial area in the town of Campo Calabro, just north of Reggio, and in addition to TV broadcasts ReggioTV operates a news website.
The numerous taping areas are quite large, and the studio space for the Salotto dell’Editore held five oversized armchairs and two loveseats. For this edition they were filled with the good doctor, several winners of Reggio’s International Nosside Poetry Prize (Mary Grammatikaki with her translator Vasiliki Vourda, Gioacchino Amaddeo and Fulvio Cama), Pasquale Amato, the award’s founder and local historian, Antonio Federico, the author of an educational book about the mafia for middle school students, and myself.
The evening ranged from the presentation of poetry in several languages to that of a brightly colored children’s book with illustrations and cartoon vignettes to accompany the youngsters throughout the year and make them aware of the anti-mafia culture available to them. The book’s title is Educ@agenda. Pillole in legalità. Perchè la mafia è una brutta malattia or Education Agenda, Pills for Legality, Because the Mafia is a Terrible Disease.
The discussion focused on the positives of the region, dating back to the time of Greater Greece and the ancient poetess from Locri, Nosside, for whom the prize has been named, to the verses of a cantastorie, a modern-day troubadour or singer-songwriter, who entertained with a very interesting new instrument of his own invention. Reggio’s Fulvio Cama has recently constructed a type of lute from a piece of bergamot wood, calling it the bergaliuto. He accompanied himself on this delicate sounding instrument in a medley that explored a range of folk cultures, beginning with an ethnic Greek melody and ending with a song in the local dialect about Reggio’s incredible bergamot fruit.
WATCHING MYSELF ON ITALIAN TV
The program aired the following evening so I was able to watch it the night before I returned to the U.S. I must say that it takes some time getting used to listening to one’s own voice on recordings, so imagine the feeling of hearing and watching yourself speaking another language on Italian TV.
I was asked about the concept of the “other Italy” and spoke about Calabria as being off the average English-speaking tourist’s travel route. In fact, a number of people have told me that before becoming acquainted with my book, they thought calabrese was just a sort of Italian pizza or sausage, but now they know Calabria is a southern Italian region (with excellent pizza and sausage!) that they want to visit.
Dr. Lamberti Castronuovo gathered an interesting and diverse group of individuals for this edition of the Salotto dell’Editore at ReggioTV. Art, culture, legality, nature, image: topics with which to move forward for a better future. I’m glad I studied the Italian language as hard as I did, so I could take part in events such as this one and have the opportunity to speak first-hand and exchange ideas with the people of Calabria.
Read more about this fascinating Southern Italian region in Calabria: The Other Italy, a nonfiction, award-winning book that explores daily life, culture, history, the arts, food, society and tourism of Calabria, Italy. Available in paperback and e-book versions.
“Like” Calabria: The Other Italy’s Facebook page for more beautiful pictures and information.
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