This is my first blog post. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until about a month ago upon reading a “how to” article that I learned where the word blogging came from—web logging glided to leave off the “we”, just in case you’re anything like me. Looking at it now, I suppose I should have figured it out years ago, but one day blogging was just there and it was assumed that anyone under the age of 70 should know what it was all about. Well, I’m now in the process of learning what it’s all about.
As all of the guides tell you, a good blog should have a focus. Mine is Calabria and Italy. As you may have already noticed, I’m publishing a book on Calabria, the region that fills out the toe of the Italian boot, poised to kick Sicily. I lived there for four years, teaching English, perfecting my Italian and soaking up everything about the people and the place. Have I mentioned the wonderful food yet?
People often ask me how I came to choose a place in Italy that many haven’t ever heard of and that few have visited. And it’s not only Americans who pose the question. Italians from other regions scratch their heads when I say that I lived in Calabria. Even Calabrians themselves raise a curious eyebrow. Well, the truth is that I didn’t exactly choose Calabria. The region more or less chose me in that it offered the best option at the time I was looking for a teaching job in Italy.
BACKGROUND: POISED FOR A CULTURAL IMMERSION
Having studied the Italian language and culture for several years and having visited many different areas of the country, I felt ready for an immersion experience longer than the individual months I had spent on my various learning vacations in Rome, Florence, Lucca, Sorrento and Taormina. With my TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) certificate in hand as well as a heap of academic credentials behind me, I didn’t think finding a job would have been all that difficult, but then again I wasn’t aware of the ins and outs of obtaining an Italian work visa. Suffice it to say, however, that there are overwhelmingly more outs than ins, and a legitimate employment offer is only the first step in a long and more often than not fruitless process of gaining legal working status in Italy.
Ironically, Calabria, a region hailed for its lack of opportunity for the local inhabitants, turned out to be the best offer I had. A few “better” schools in more northerly locales rescinded their proposals in the face of the work visa obstacles. Others were willing to take me on with low wages paid under the table, but in addition to the difficulty of covering the high cost of living, employment in the larger cities frequently came with long, uncomfortable commutes from home to work. Calabria, on the other hand, offered similarly low wages, but included an apartment within walking distance of the school. In spite of many an Italian’s warnings against embarking on such an adventure in the country’s hinterlands, it seemed like a no-brainer to me. So, armed with my 42x24x4-inch garment bag, I boarded an overnight train headed for Calabria.
RESIDENCES IN LOCRI AND REGGIO
The train took me to Locri, a coastal town on the Ionian Sea, what would roughly correspond to the ball of the foot with respect to the Italian boot. I arrived in the fall to what seemed a quiet seaside municipality, albeit its frequent characterization as a “hotbed” of the ‘Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia. Two years later, I would move to Reggio, the capital of the province (also referred to as Reggio di Calabria or Reggio Calabria, distinguishing itself from Reggio Emilia in the Emilia–Romagna region). Just around the bend from Locri, Reggio lies along the Strait of Messina and faces the city of the same name on the Island of Sicily.
I taught, studied and traveled during my lengthy sojourn. I’ve always been a letter writer, or I should probably say, always was. I’m now more of an email writer. During my time in Calabria, I wrote extended emails to family and friends. Many of those initial impressions and timely observations have made their way into my book. Now, I send emails in the other direction.
MORE OF CALABRIA AND ITALY
I keep in contact with many friends, follow area happenings and routinely visit. There’s always something old to revisit and something new to discover. And, to my letter, email and book writing, I’ve adding blogging!
I look forward to sharing more of Calabria and Italy with my readers. Please feel free to comment and come back often!