first post

July 25, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

first post to journal.aprigliano1st journal entry
1st entry – calabria 2009

This first posting was done on Saturday, July 25, 2009.
And the website – – went public August 1, 2009.
March2011 005aFor years I’ve maintained a written journal and this is my first effort at an electronic format. This is not an interactive forum, no comments are possible, actually no comments are allowed. (It may be that eventually this will change, but in this first iteration, it is a journal not a blog. And yes, all the people that know me are not surprised. What do I care what others think…)

In spring of 2008, I bought my first camera – Nikon D60 – and began to take pics. The website and other cameras came next.

This posting is part of the travel-category calabria-09 and applies to the 2009 trip to Italy, specifically our visit to Aprigliano and Reggio. I am using the upcoming trip as an opportunity to keep a live record of the travel. (My first trip back to Calabria was in 2006 and Rose and Derrick had the cameras. For that trip we stayed in Gioia Tauro and did side-trip through out Calabria. The image is me in front of our house in Corte. The scrawl on the wall advertises that the property is for sale.)

calabria itinerary

July 26, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

calabria – 20092nd entry – calabria 2009

old-picI’m beginning this trip on my own. Rose and Derrick will join me the second week.

The black-and-white images I am using for these initial posts are off the web.

Draft Itinerary

Wednesday, August 5, 2009: Arriving LaMezia Terme, Calabria
Depending on time of arrival, I will either drive into Aprigliano or stay overnight in LaMezia. (I’ve decided to stay overnight and not risk driving to Aprigliano at night.)

Thursday, August 6: Aprigliano
This first day, I’m planning to get situated and to walk around with my camera.

Friday, August 7: Aprigliano
I’ll begin a methodical route to shoot as much of Aprigliano as I can. I may go to the cemetery in the morning.

Saturday, August 8: Aprigliano
This will be the first trip out. I may either go to La Rota or I may go on to Paola.

Sunday, August 9: Aprigliano
I will go around to all the churches that are open to shoot inside.

Monday, August 10: Cosenza
Want to visit with Franco and shoot at the Domenican and Fransciscan churches that I didn’t get to in 2006.

Tuesday, August 11: This will be my last day in Aprigliano before I head down to Reggio.


August 1, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

packing for calabria3rd entry – calabria 2009

musiciansThis is the first time I am taking camera equipment on a plane. I have the right size bag, however it doesn’t have wheels, so I’ll be lugging it about. I spent the day trying to find a collapsible luggage cart that folds in such a way that I can fit it into the camera bag itself. No luck.

The other change was the check-baggage. I had planned to check two – the small bag and the tripod case with clothes wrapped around the tripod. Once I began packing that plan proved unworkable. That would give me three bags with no wheels. The new plan is to take a bigger check-baggage and to put the tripod, surrounded by clothes, in this bigger bag.

Also, today went live. Before I announce it, I want to see if I can get to it from Aprigliano. I’m hoping to find an unsecured router. Or an Internet cafe.

Part of the reason for the journal is to keep notes so that I can systematize the process.

I am now debating who I tell about the journal. If I knew I would be able to access it to post while in Italy I’d tell a number of people. I may try it and let them know to check it.

itinerary #2 – corte

August 2, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

4th entry – calabria 2009

In Corte, I want to go back to visit my cousin who just purchased the house I was born in. She decided after many years that she wanted more room. She even invited me to stay with her. How strange to stay in the house you were born. I’ll visit and take pics instead.

The pic on the left is me standing in front of my house before my cousin’s purchase.

I want to add a side-trip to Grimaldi, Martirano and Conflenti. In Martirano there is a great monument to the fallen and Conflenti has the Santuario della Madonna della Quercia.


August 3, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

last of the preparations5th entry – calabria 2009

aprigliano_1950I believe I have it all packed. Tomorrow morning I’ll pack the laptop and the the trip folders.

This morning I talked to Antonietta and made sure all was set. She mentioned that they had received my letter, so I re-said what was in the letter. I’m finding that writing in Italian is an easier process than talking mainly because I can edit and research. When I’m talking, especially on the phone, I slip into an mixture of Italian and English. Where this works with Ciccio and Mafalda, it does work as well with people who only speak Italian.

Tonight I learned how to add pics to the journal postings. And I’ve been using the laptop without all the addons for the last three days. I’m glad I did. It got me to change windows and other settings to fit into the 13″ screen.

Tomorrow I leave about 8:30 and head to Detroit. The flight out isn’t until 7:45.

Also found out that August 16 is the feast of San Rocco. Mario is one of the planners and if it’s a big event Rose, Derick and I will drive up to Aprigliano.


August 4, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

at the detroit airport6th entry – calabria 2009

Scandale in una foto d'epocaModern technology. Here I am at the Detroit airport in the business lounge with connectivity.

I left Pittsburgh this morning at 9:30 mainly because I wasn’t sure about getting here and finding everything. Well, I got here in 4 hours and am now waiting until 7:00 PM to board, but that’s OK, I’d rather be early than stress.

Security was OK, the camera and lenses went through with no problems. The new bag is great it has the room for all the electronics.

This is my first time in the business lounge and I have to say it makes the layover OK. There’s food, connectivity, electricity and comfort. Who would have thought that I’d have the laptop and connectivity? I should be able to find the same services in Rome another place where I have a 4 hour layover.


August 5, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

rome’s leonardo da vinci airport7th entry – calabria 2009

fiumucinoI have a 5 hour lay-over in Rome. I hate the Rome airport, especially the domestic terminal. It is old, dirty and the air conditioning is almost non-existent. Terminal C which is the international terminal is fine, but I then have to go to the domestic terminal to go to Lamezia, Calabria. I understand that it is a busy airport, but when are the Italians going to get it fixed up?

Lamezia in central Calabria is another busy and not impressive airport.

Luggage return took a good hour and by the time I got the rental, it was 8:00. I asked about sunset, because I wasn’t willing to head out to Aprigliano in the dark and the attendant told me that it would be dark in half hour. I then went with my original plan to stay overnight at a small hotel near the airport.

The hotel was cheap and OK.

morning 1 – lamezia and aprigliano

August 6, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

8th entry – calabria 2009

Thursday morning I left the small hotel early and headed out for Aprigliano. I was going to have to figure out how to get to the Autostrada. Italy now has traffic circles at major intersections and they are a whirlwind to get through. If you miss the exit you’re off in an entirely new directions or you keep circling. I missed the exit for the Autostrada and ended up on the coastal road. I didn’t mind that, because I wanted to see the beach area north of Lamezia. Well an hour ride through the area cured me. The area is typical low-end beach options and not all that attractive. The Lamezia area is industrial and very green, the beach area is sprawled all along the coast.

I got back on the Autostrada and headed north to Aprigliano. The exit is at a pretty, flats town – Rogliano. This part of Calabria is only flat along the coast and Rogliano benefits from the topography of the area. The town is a good size, the road in is manageable and it has a nice centro.

From the Rogliano exit to Aprigliano is a good half hour. I like the road to Aprigliano, it’s the beginning of the ascent into the mountains. It’s also a road I remember and so it was less intimidating to drive it on my own.

The driving on my own was both exciting and scary. I had this very nice small car Fiat Punta, but there was no one there to look out for signs and directions. This is a disadvantage when travelling at 80 kilometers an hour, but I believed I could remember enough of the road to get there without getting too lost.

The first stop I made was at Le Donnici. This is a small paese 10 minutes north of Aprigliano. For the first time I took out my camera and began shooting this really nice church and the flowers off someone’s balcony. It felt great to not be lost and to take pictures.

When I was back in Calabria in 2006, I realized that at home we talk a dialect, an Apriglianese dialect. And in that language Le Donnici came out I Runnici so I would be looking for signage that had the place name spelled with an R. It took me a while to understand that the correct pronunciation was different than what I had heard all my life. This is a relatively small sub-urb of Aprigliano, but it had some beautiful houses in its medieval streets.

The next turn-off was at San Nicola, a small suburb of Aprigliano. I asked two ladies waiting for the pulmine – bus if I was on the right road and when they said yes, I started shooting to outside of the church of San Nicola. Also posted outside the church were death notices. I had to shoot these. The road that is the small village of San Nicola is on the south side of the mountain valley. Aprigliano is opposite it on the north side of the valley.

After taking pictures in San Nicola, I headed to Aprigliano.


morning 2 – aprigliano, by myself

August 6, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

By 9:00, I was in Aprigliano. Wasn’t sure if it was too early to show up at Mario’s and Tonina’s, so I drove up to Guarno, the central section of Aprigliano, parked and headed up the street to Santo Stefano. Naturally everyone in the parking area and in the piazza gave me the once over – who is this stranger? The statue in the piazza is a memorial to those who died in WWI.

The church in Guarno was open so I went in to find four women cleaning. I asked if I could shoot. Also, introduced myself, but they didn’t know my family. It was fun walking through Santo Stefano in the morning, on my own shooting pictures.

By 9:30 I headed down to Santo Leonardo, the section of Aprigliano where Mario and Tonina live.

I got unpacked and met Alyssa, she’s the youngest daughter home from college. I went back up to Guarno and found Mario who introduced me to Totonno’s son. Totonno is my first cousin. His son Salvatore is younger than me, but looks quite drawn. I kept wondering if he isn’t ill. Mario also introduced me to all the other people in the piazza. By 12:30 it was time to go home for the mid-day meal. Mario took the steps down to his house. I didn’t know where the steps were had walked the road. (I know the steps in Santo Stefano and the once leading to Corte, by where Mario and Tonina live and the housing on that slope of the mountain didn’t exist when I live there.)

The mid-day meal is the main meal of the day. It is large and hot. Mario and I came in, and he went to change out of his street-clothes and into at-home clothes. We then sat down to eat. (I will talk more about the mid-day meal in other postings.) After eating, Alyssa and Tonina cleaned the table. I tried to help, but they would have none of it. With the meal done and the dished cleaned, it was announced that rest was in order. Me still being on Pittsburgh-time announced that I was going over to the cemetery to take pictures. They all left the street-floor and went off to their apartment on the first floor. I packet my camera and drove to the cemetery.

The afternoon was miserably hot. A fact that became a recurring experience. No one was out, the American with his camera was the only person out in the afternoon heat and sun.

I went back and rested for a couple of hours. At 5:00, Mario came down and knocked on the door to announce coffee time. We sat in the downstairs kitchen and had a coffee. This is strong espresso in a tiny cup. The coffee was the “hold-you-over” until supper snack.


early evening – visiting with aurelio

August 6, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

Supper, a light meal, was going to be at 9:00 and afterwords we were going to La Grupa, another section of Aprigliano, for a concert. Mario also told me that if we wanted he was willing to take me up to the Rota, a small farming area half-hour north of Aprigliano, to visit with my cousin Aurelio.

We drove to La Rota around 7:30. Aurelio had just finished milking. Aurelio is a Capisciolto – the business side of my father’s family, and his mother’s side of the family. Aurelio’s father and my Capisciolti grandmother were brother and sister. The Capisciolti own land and ran businesses in Aprigliano.

Aurelio 113Aurelio owns a large track of land where he grazes a herd of sheet, makes cheese and ricotta that he sells in the area. Aurelio is probably in his 70’s. He knew I looked familiar, but couldn’t place me. (The last time I saw him we were both young. I was a junior in college and he was living at La Rota, but both his parents were still alive and his brother was still living at home. They were all involved in the cheese production business.) I took my ball cap off and he immediately recognized me. I look like my dad and he made the connection.

Aurelio is this strapping man who still works a 12-hour day tending a herd of sheep and producing milk, cheese and ricotta. This is his career and he makes a good living. La Rota however is off the road leading to La Sila, the huge national park that covers the entire middle of Calabria and is forest covered mountains, and therefore remote. If I had stayed the two weeks in Aprigliano, I would have gone back to Aurelio’s and asked to spend the day with him out on the slopes with the sheep. Aurelio is famous in town for two things – he has never married and his herd is registered with the livestock commission making his milk, cheese and ricotta agency approved and acceptable for sale nationally. Aurelio kept inviting us to stay and eat, but I was a bit worried about driving the off-road after dark so we left.

Back at Mario’s we had the evening meal. This was a light meal made of left-overs, one recently cooked dish and a salad. Cheese was on the table for both meals and dessert was fruit. Afterwards we all got changed into less casual, house-clothes and drove to Guarno. We were going on a passegiata. We walked from Guarno to La Grupa. Along the way everyone we chatted with the other Apriglianese out for the evening walk. We ended up in a small piazza in La Grupa. The entertainment was a band singing American songs.

paola – il santuario di san francesco

August 7, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

9th entry – calabria 2009

Mario, Tonina and I left for Paolo early. Tonina had asked me if I wanted to visit any particular place and I had mentioned Paola. She suggested we go Friday rather than wait until the week-end. The week-end would be crowded with Italians going to the beach and others going up to the sanctuary. Paola is on the coast and Aprigliano is in the interior.

The road to Paola is one of the few east-west roads in Calabria. The SS107 was built during the 50’s and it was one of the many construction projects that helped revive Calabria after the war. Mario said he would drive which thrilled me. (I had printed out directions before I left, but he knew the roads and the short-cuts.) We ended up going right through Cosenza, passing the hospital where Mafalda was taken after Connie was born. Mafalda had developed an infection and she had to be rushed to the hospital in Cosenza. In 1955 rushed meant being taken on some type of stretcher through the medieval streets of Santo Stefano and to the place where they were able to get her into someone’s car. I remember visiting Mafalda with my dad. What I remember from the visit is the gardens surrounding the hospital and my finding a plastic star on the ground.

SS107 is a scary road. It’s a narrow, two-lane superstrada, the Italian designation for two lane highways, that literally climbs the mountain, goes through a long tunnel and then descends to the Mediterranean. Along the way there are 90 degree turns and crazy Italian drivers. (I was glad to not have attempted this road on my own.) My last visit to Paola was back in the early 70’s. I got off the train from Rome and then made my way to Aprigliano by train and bus. (The mail rail-lines travel the two coasts and from there it’s a matter of taking small trains to the mountain villages.) The train was a funicular, an incline in Pittsburghese. It climbed the mountain, went through a long, dark tunnel and then descended to Cosenza. From there I took a bus to Aprigliano.

Paola 014The Santuario was great. Mario and Tonina enjoy going on religious outings. The place is this restored mountain top complex full of medieval buildings and modern structures. The religiosity of the place wasn’t something that I was interested in, but the complex was amazing.

The old hermitage – medieval caves that San Francesco used – has been restored and cleaned, the medieval church is beautiful and the modern church dedicated in the last 10 years is an amazing example of modern Catholic architecture.

A great story – the grounds are sacred, because they have all these locations where San Francesco did something amazing – fought with the devil, held up the mountain, cured someone. One of these locations is a spring on the side of the mountain face. The spring is always crowded with people filling bottles of water to take back with them. I quietly walked away, leaving Mario and Tonina to drink at the holy spring. Mario comes down to me with a ladle of water from the spring. I was stuck, to refuse would have been rude and inappropriate, so I drank. The rest of the day I had visions of gastric upheaval. It never happened.

After the visit to the santuario, Mario drove into the city. Paola is a busy seaside resort that caters to pilgrims and the beach crowd. Not my kind of place.

On SS107 is the amazing village of San Fili. The village is perched on the top of a rock crag. The barren rock is crowned by this beautiful medieval village.


afternoon – la madonna delle timpe, san leonardo belltower

August 7, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

I was supposed to have lunch with my cousin, Maria Lucente, but we got back from Paola late, so I walked over and negotiated going over the next day for the mid-day meal. She had not cooked the pasta, waiting for me to show, but the second piatto was all ready. We agreed that we would have left-overs tomorrow. After that discussion we decided to walk to La Madonna Delle Timpe. This is a small chapel a 45 minute walk from town.

M-Timpe 085

Maria used to walk this on a regular basis, but recently she had fallen on the one of the steep grades and was now hesitant about going out by herself. Given that I was going with her, it was OK. Also, she’s the keeper of the key to the small hillside chapel, so I knew we could get in and I could photograph.

We walked leisurely. Maria brought a walking stick and I my camera. It was great walking and talking with her. She is an honest and simple woman who has lived her whole life in Corte the southern section of Aprigliano. We talked about life, her life, her husband’s death and her life afterwards.

When we got to the chapel, the key would not work. That was OK, because what was more important was the time we had spent walking and talking. Also, she had gotten a chance to go back to her favorite chapel. (Her children had insisted that she not go by herself, well she had gotten someone to go with her, she had gotten to walk in the blazing sun which she liked and she and I had had a chance to laugh and remember.)

M-Timpe 092We walked back. I now have the key that did not work. Maria has a second key that works, so she uses it. I will give the key I have to Mafalda, in a shadow box, as a Christmas gift. She’ll love it.

When I came back Mario and I went to San Leonardo and I got to shoot in the church. I remember there being a wax effigy under the altar, but Mario didn’t. I may not have made myself clear. I like being in the churches by myself. It’s the one time I wish I had all the professional lighting stands. After shooting in the church, I got to go up the bell-tower and shoot from there. At one point the bells started tolling it shocked the hell out of me.

morning – il rosario

August 8, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

10th entry – calabria 2009

At 6:30, Alyssa and I joined a group from Corte in a walk to the chapel of La Madonna delle Timpe saying the rosary as we walked. The morning rosary was part of a seven day cycle and this was day four. There were about 15 people. Because Alyssa was new, the group leader had her lead the rosary. There I was walking with a group through the mountains praying the rosary. I recorded the group and will put the recording on the website.

At the chapel there was a short ceremony and when we were all finished we had espresso. Someone has brought coffee in a thermos and cups. There we were in the middle of a mountain path having coffee. It as the best.

When we got back home, Alyssa, her father and I had breakfast.

Agosto 012Given that it was still early, I decided to walk down to Agosto and try and shoot the chapel of L’Immacolata. Mario and Tonina had told me that Agosto is the least re-developed of the various communities that make up Aprigliano. I found a small neighborhood situated on the side of the mountain closest to the stream – Crati. It didn’t seem any less inhabited than other parts of Aprigliano. However, it is one of the non-contiguous sections and the most isolated. I asked around and was told who had the key. The woman was a bit suspicious about my asking for it, but she did give me the key.

The chapel of L’Immacolata was another amazing place. It was full of paintings, frescoes and statues. It finally dawned on me that these are great examples of primitive, regional art. Imagine the artists who were employed to paint all the various pieces in the many churches and chapels of Aprigliano. When I go home, Tonina and I agreed that these churches and chapels were the museums of Aprigliano.

After shooting the inside and outside of the church, I walked down to the Crati. It is a small stream. I remember it as wide and scary.

The walk back was all uphill and by this time it was almost noon. The sun was beating down. I now understand that common expression differently than I ever did before.


afternoon – maria lucente

August 8, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

For the mid-day meal I went back to Maria Lucente’s. We had the meal we were supposed to have on Friday. The meal was traditional and great. For dessert we had the standby cetrioli– garden cucumbers. After eating, I went into the room that had been Ciccio and Mafalda’s first apartment.

Corte 004

It was also the room where I was born. Maria bought the one-room building after her husband died and renovated it into a very beautiful dining room. I took many pictures. Through the doorway behind Maria Lucente is a small room with a fireplace. Mafalda told me the three of us would huddle around the fire in the winter. (There’s an image – Mafalda and Ciccio two young, beautiful people with a baby huddling together in front of a roaring fire.) The layout was still as it had been 60 years ago. Mafalda even told me where in the room I was when I fell off the table and cut my head on a axe. (There’s a different image.)

After lunch Maria and I went to visit another Capisciolto relative – Armelia. Armelia’s husband had died in late July and she was still mourning. When I got back to Mario and Tonina’s they told me about Armelia. She and her husband came back to Aprigliano after having spent 20 years or so in Toronto. Armelia is a true Capisciolto, meaning a good business person, and she was able to operate a home-business when she and her husband returned. Mario and Tonina also told me the Armelia lives in a huge house with 4 bathrooms. I’ve only been in a small kitchen, so this was a surprise.

early evening – santo stefano

August 8, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

At 5:30 I went up to Santo Stefano, the church. The last time I was in “our” church was 1957. The church was open for mass. I got there early enough to shoot before mass started. The church is not well taken care of. The frazione– section – Santo Stefano probably lost the most people to immigration and the area is just now beginning to revitalize. (Some of the housing is being bought by young couples and renovated. This is a different process than building new. There has been some new development in the frazione, but the old medieval housing stock has been vacant for many years. Since 2006, I have noticed slow but constant move to revitalize this top of the mountain frazione.)

S-Stefano 020I shot the things I remembered – the painting of Steven being stoned by the mob, the statue of the Dolorosa, the ceiling. I had totally forgotten about the Dolorosa. This is a classic statue, with Mary in black and in a very sorrowful pose. This image has been in my head forever and I could recognize this statue in the various churches through out Italy, but I never knew where the seminal image came from. It came from the Dolorosa in the church of Santo Stefano.

On leaving the church, there was a group filling bottles from the fountain at the bottom of the church steps. It was my job, as a child, to go up every night to this fountain and fill the jugs so that we would have water for breakfast the next day.

Next I headed down to the Vico, because that church would soon be opened. The Vico is the southern most frazione of Aprigliano. It’s where the train station is. However, it also seems to be the frazione most separated. This is mainly because the Cosenza diocese has assigned a different priest to the Vico church than to the other churches in Aprigliano. This slight change has people talking about the Vico as a separate village. I don’t know if this is true among the people who live in Vico. This also means that the rituals that create the calendar that this area lives by is interrupted and having two different priests managing the church schedules. The Vico group co-ordinates its feast days and its celebrations with the churches on the other side of the valley rather than with the churches of Aprigliano.

The place was a bit intimidating. It’s also the one frazione that no one in my family is associated with. When I got to the piazza to ask directions to the church, a young man insisted on showing me the road, fine. As soon as we got away from the piazza he tried to sell me a lottery ticket. I told him no. When I got to the church, it wasn’t opened and there was a large crowd of children playing soccer in the square in front. It didn’t feel right, so I took pics of the outside and then left.

evening – visit with rosina ciaccio

August 8, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

When I was walking around Santo Stefano, specifically in the vinella, Rosina Ciaccio’s door was opened so I went and knocked on the door. One of her son’s answered. It was Rocco her youngest. I really don’t remember him. He was very young when his brother and I played together. I visited with them for a while, found out Rocco is living in Padua with his family, but in the summer the whole family comes back to Aprigliano. His wife’s family is from Grupa, so she and their two sons stay there and Rocco stays with his mother in Santo Stefano. He was interesting to talk with. His brother was on his way to visit, but because it was near dinner time I left went back to Mario’s and then went back to Santo Stefano.

By the time I got back Franco was there, so I visited with them for the next hour.

portosalvo and sunday mass

August 9, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

11th entry – calabria 2009

I was going to go up to Portosalvo to take pics, so I drove up to Guarno, because I needed to get back in time for the 10:15 mass at San Leonardo.

Once in Santo Stefano I met a man who was heading out to La Sila and asked about the key. He showed me where it was kept and told me that whenever the key is not there, it means someone it at the church. Key in hand I made my way to Portosalvo.

Portosalvo 019

The road, a dirt road one lane wide, was all uphill. I don’t remember that. I guess the last time I was there, I was so glad to have found the key that I paid no attention. This time I had the key to the front door. The chapel was dark and I had no idea where the lights were, so I used the flash. I took several pics of the bell-tower. It was in the sun and looked great against the blue morning sky. Because I had been here back in 2006, it wasn’t such a “wow” experience.

It occurred to me that I had begun to rely on the bells from San Leonardo to tell me the time. The bells tolled every 15 minutes, so I always knew what time it was. I realized that doesn’t help with being on time, it just tells you if you’re late. By 9:30 I was on my way back.

Mass at San Leonardo was another experience. The church was packed, something that Mario’s family commented on. I sat there with Tonina and all the ladies who had been at the rosary came up and said hello. Alyssa was up in the choir loft and Mario was somewhere else.

Corte 057

San Leonardo is the church for Corte and its bell-tower with la madonnina on top is the defining landmark for Aprigliano. The church is also surrounded by the new housing plan that Mario and Tonina live in. It’s the entrance into Aprigliano. Another reason why Agosto and Vico get pushed to the side. In actuality, San Leonardo is really in the middle of the mountain side making it the middle of Aprigliano, but because Vico and Agosto are off the main road, San Leonardo has the feeling of the gateway into the town. I remember it always having an uppity reputation, and the generation that created that reputation is now the in-charge generation. (Santo Stefano it’s rival has faded, but it seems to be on the rebound.)

In the afternoon I went with Mario and Alyssa into the archives at San Leaonardo and we found my Baptismal certificate. (It states that I was 4 months old when baptized. This information is there, because it was unusual to wait that long before getting baptized. My mother told me that I almost died soon after I was born, so they quickly baptized me. And once I recovered, they waited until spring to take me to church for the more formal baptism. Two different people baptized me. A friend of my mother’s brother who was in his early teens did the first baptism. In early spring my mother’s friend was my sponsor. No one else was mentioned on the certificate.

We also found Connie’s birth certificate and Ciccio and Mafalda’s marriage certificate.

the cemetery crosses

August 10, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

12th entry – calabria 2009

Monday morning Alyssa, AnnaRita and I went to join the rosario walk to La Madonna delle Timpe. This time they aske AnnaRita, Mario and Tonina’s second child, to lead the rosary.

It was a beautiful morning and I took pics of the sun on the back of the church rather than any inside shots. A couple of the shots have a shadow of me taking the pic.

Unlike the Saturday rosario walk, no one brought coffee. The walk back was still pleasant and several picked blackberries to eat or take home. Also, all around us you could hear the sheep bells and the sheep dogs barking.

After the mid-day meal I went to the cemetery with Mario, Tonina and Alyssa. With Mario there I got to all the graves I could not readily find the last time I was there. I also got to see the cappelle, crypts,  that Mario purchased for his family. Death is a different experience in Aprigliano. Mario and Tonina were proud of the fact that they had already purchased the crypts where they would be buried.Cross 024I can’t see Ciccio and Mafalda doing that. In Canada as in the US, pre-buying your burial plot and maintaining it is not a thing people do. As a matter of fact most people would think it strange if someone did that. In Aprigliano, that Sunday morning Mario and his family went to the cemetery to clean the family crypt.

One thing I had noticed the last time I was shooting at the Aprigliano cemetery was the various crosses atop each grave. I began shooting these crosses and was astonished to discover that they were all different, that they all seemed hand forged and that some of them were truly beautiful. The one in the pic was the so unusual. The cross seems like a modern construct and yet it was atop one of the oldest tombs. I suspect that when it was put up it was the cheapest thing the family could afford. (It looks like someone found two discarded pieces of metal on the foundry floor and forged them together.) Now the contrast between an old brick tomb and a modern-looking cross is great.

the drive to reggio

August 11, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

13th entry – calabria 2009

Tuesday morning I left Aprigliano and headed down to Reggio. Mario had suggested and alternate route and I was almost ready to take it, but AnnaRita explained the alternate road to me when she and Alyssa came back from the rosario walk and it sounded a bit difficult. I decided that I knew as was comfortable with the Rogliano road that I had come up and that I was going to use the same route to get to the Autostrada.

The trip down to Reggio was fine, I was on the Autostrada and I had talked to the owner of the house we were staying at in Reggio and his directions sounded very simple. I was still on the Autostrada by myself and even though I had done this trip a couple of times in 2006, I was doing it on my own.

I managed to get to Pellaro with no problems. As a matter of fact it was very easy. The Autostrada ends in Reggio and becomes E90 the superstrada along the Ionian coast. The superstrada is a two-lane road. Once I got the the Pellaro intersection, I made the right followed traffic into the center of town and the owner of the house we were renting met me and I go into the house by 12:30. Rose and Derrick were due by 3:00.

Pellaro 001Pellaro is a sea town. The house was on one of the two main streets. It was a beautiful house even if, in the inside, it was not well cared for by the young man who inherited it. It had been his grandparents’ house and he was in the first stages of making a summer rental.

The house was huge. You come in on the street level into a beautiful foyer. It still have what must have been his grandparents’ furniture. You go up these great stairs. (All construction in Italy is cement and hollow, terracotta blocks covered with plaster.) These stairs were topped with rich, dark planks of oak making for an elegant solution to cement stairs. The main floor has this large living room/dining room combination with a large kitchen, pantry and bathroom. This floor has four balconies. The third floor is three large bedrooms and a bath. The two front bedroom share a huge balcony. The top floor has a small room with a door leading onto the terrace. The terrace is the width and length of the house including the balconies making it the largest contiguous space. It is finished with terracotta tiles, railing and low walls. On the east/west sides the house has a garden and a street. It fronts one of the two main streets of Pellaro and it sits against another beautiful empty house.

The house was built in the 1920’s after an earthquake. There are a few pre-earthquake houses left in Pellaro, but much of the old housing stock was either destroyed in the earthquake or torn down to build the ubiquitous post WWII housing that is all over Italy. It’s their version of the Levittown housing that litters American suburbs.

The young man – Paolo – was very helpful and accommodating. He recommended two things that were amazing – a coffee shop, and a small boutique market. The coffee shop – Tahiti – was a gold mine. The granita was to die for and the gelati were sinfully deliciously. The small market became our food store and for the week that I was there we ate food from the market six out of seven days. Across the street was a vegetable stand with great fruit and vegs. The owner was this very generous woman who treated us well. She gave us basil, she gave us figs – the first of the season – both without charging us.


August 12, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

thoughts on aprigliano14th entry – calabria 2009

weddingThe most amazing discovery were the churches. These are the museums of Aprigliano and there are many of them. I was able to get into all but one – San Demitri – and that was because I had forgotten it was there and ran out of time.

I will begin to create separate pages for each of the small mountain churches and will post pics of the paintings and frescos .

italy does not have interner everywhere

August 12, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

15th entry – calabria 2009

Reggio 062I am in Reggio di Calabria, one of my favorite cities. (I have to write and not use any contractions, because I do not know where the apostrophe is on the keyboard. Getting the @ symbol was a discovery. Derrick knew where it was because he did a presentation in Germany a couple years back and someone showed his where it was.)

The five days in Aprigliano were great. I must have taken close to 500 pics. I also kept notes and will post them as soon as I get a chance.

Today’s agenda includes eating gelato. (The young woman showed me where the apostrophe is.)

The villa where we’re staying in Pellaro, a suburb of Reggio is a beautiful home. All the amenities aren’t there, but the owner has brought in people to repair and install. Hopefully by tonight all will be in working order.

My cousin’s luggage was not on the plane when they came in yesterday. We tried making phone calls, but in Italy phone calls are like shouts across the alley. So this morning I suggested we go to the airport and see if the luggage was there. Face to face works best.

The driving – it’s still true, in Italy traffic rules are suggestions. I was on a two lane road yesterday, but there were four cars across and motorcycles on either side. I am more confident in driving down here, because there are other people in the car that can look out for sign. In Aprigliano, first there was the sheer cliffs and there you are in the mountains and cannot see around the next bend. Here on the ocean, the land is flat and the roads are flat. There are no flat surfaces in Aprigliano.

Last night we had supper on the terrace overlooking the Straights of Messina and Sicily. An amazing view. I look to the left and there’s Etna with smoke coming out of it’s top. On the Calabria side, the foothills of the Aspromonte are all brown, there is no vegetation on the hills. In contrast, Aprigliano in the northern part of the Aspromonte mountain range is all green. Sicily is all brown. I’m beginning to think that Sicily may be an interesting place.

sunset – stretto, sicilia, and etna

August 13, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

16th entry – calabria 2009

Pellaro 034In Pellaro we had a house with a beautiful terrace. A terrace that overlooked the Straits of Messina – Stretto, the mountains of eastern Sicily and Mount Etna. We had dinner every night on this terrace looking at the setting sun as it died behind the mountains. This feature alone made the house and Pellaro worthwhile.

Behind us the brown mountains of Calabria surrounded the houses of Pellaro. But these was barren and uninteresting compared to the blue Stretto, rugged Sicilia and towering Etna.

Our dinners were supplied by this great boutique marked down the street from the house. Daily we went in a bought the dish of the day. We also bought the local cheese and the local wine. I don’t know what I liked best the food or the view. The view was another WOW. The food was good and allowed for an even deeper appreciation of the WOW. I took no pictures of our table laden with the local products. All I know if that we ate and ate very reasonably.

pellaro – the good, the bad and the ugly

August 14, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

17th entry – calabria 2009

This year my cousin found a house to rent in Pellaro, a suburb of Reggio. The town is about 20 minutes south of center city. I pulled into Pellaro on Tuesday and it wasn’t until Saturday that I got a chance to shoot pictures.

The house is an inheritance and the young man who now owns it is trying to make it a rental. It was a beautiful and huge house. The problem was that we were probably in Italy the two hottest weeks and the house has no central air. The first night we had no air in the bedrooms; the second night I had air, but Rose and Derrick had to wait until the third night before they had air in their bedroom.

Casa 009

Some things that I really liked about the house:
– the foyer
– the stairs
– the roof terrace.

In town, we spent most of our money at the Tahiti Coffee shop, the boutique market around the corner and the vegetable market across the street. At Tahiti we had granita di caffe every morning; at the market we bought local wine and local cheeses; at the fruit stand we bought tomatoes, plums, figs and cucumbers. The food was wonderful. I don’t think we had anything that wasn’t fresh and had great taste.

The main square however was dilapidated and dirty. The streets were not clean, they were full of broken cement and there was dirt and sand everywhere. I’d wear Crocs when walking around, because my feet would sweat from the heat and I’d come home and had to go wash my feet because they were filthy with dirt.

The town had no pretensions and on one level that was quite nice, however it made for a “working vacation.” And for the most part I never mind that, the problem was there were few options outside of going food shopping and preparing meals. The one night we went out to eat, to a highly recommended restaurant, we came away very disappointed. The menu was nothing unusual or particularly good. In Italy I’ve always eaten great bread, at this restaurant we had American-style rolls. (There is a fascination with all things American, but bread is not something we Americans do well. Why would you serve American-style soft bread in the land of crusty bread?)

Pellaro 046The best part of both the house and Pellaro was the rooftop terrace and the view of the Straight of Messina, the mountains of Sicily and Mount Etna.

Sicily was perpetually covered in a haze. That may have been, because it was extremely warm and the heat generated a foggy vapor that clung to the mountains. I kept thinking that in the fall, once the miserable heat lifted and there was no humidity the view across the Straight would be amazing. There were many nights when Etna was under cloud cover.

The other great thing about having Sicily across from the roof top terrace was the boat traffic on the Stretto and the planes landing. The boat traffic made the scenery idyllic. The jet traffic brought us back to reality and allowed us to look at the underbelly of the planes as they buzzed overhead.

The roof top like the rest of the house was under realized. A retractable awning would make it usable all day. Instead we had to wait until the sun was ready to set before we could endure the heat. Having our late afternoon drink on the terrace instead of on one of the side balconies would have allowed us more time staring at Sicily. I used up all my staring time. It was something that made being in Pellaro worthwhile.


August 15, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

18th entry – calabria 2009

Other years August 15 has always been a down day – the stores are all closed, the towns are closed – so this year we decided that we would plan an outing for the 15th. We had decided to go out the one of the Aeolian Islands, an archipelago off Sicily’s northern coast. And between research and a program I saw on RAI, I suggested Panarea.

We went to Reggio on Wednesday and go tickets for the 15th. On Saturday we headed out early not wanting to be late, well that was an American way of thinking. The boat was a half-hour late pulling into the port at Reggio and it was a mob scene. (This same boat was taking people to any one of the five Aeolian Islands.) And to add to the stress we were to transfer at Lipari to another boat that would take us to Panorea. I kept thinking, this will never work. The boat was a hydrofoil.

When we got to Lipari the transfer was across from us. Obviously, everything was running late. We got to Panarea and it again was a mob scene. Even the “beautiful people” have to put up with crowds. We went to a small market, got was and headed towards the beach. Well that wasn’t going to happen. Panarea as all the Aeolians are volcanic islands rising out of the sea. There is no beach, the housing in all on the clifftop and to reach the water many houses have long spiral steps that go down to the sea. The rocks were miserably hot and the sun was baking anything out. I panicked. I had avoided the sun for 10 days and now I was faced with a six hour stay with no beach or umbrella.

Panarea 060I went to what turned out the be the most desirable and luxurious hotel on the island – Hotel Raya -and asked if they had “day-passes” for the terrace with the umbrellas and chairs. The young receptionists had me ask the owner – an older woman. I put on my best American charm and asked her if there was any option for using the terrace with the umbrellas and chairs. For some reason she said yes.

Went out and called to Rose and Derrick and announced that we could use the terrace. After getting over the shock of having been given permission to use this luxurious promontory and after settling down from the fear of being stuck in the baking sun to wither, I finally looked out and saw … What was in front of me was a “WOW”.

This flat vantage point looked out on the Mediterranean littered with huge sailboats and even bigger yachts. And in the middle of all this money were jagged volcanic slabs punctuating the blue. (I know how to think about and talk to rich artists, rich intellectuals, the landed gentry, but I have no idea how to think about people who spend their money on yachts, people who leave port in the morning and spend the day sunning under a desert like sun rolling on azure waves. I don’t know this form on human.) But I quickly let go of that confusion, took out my iPod and headphones and began listening to Dylan … to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands with all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves.

Around 5:30 we left the terrace and went walking through the island. All the housing is whitewashed. This uniformity makes the place truly beautiful – the sky-blue water, the red volcanic rock, the green cactus and the white structures.

Panarea 019The island had these narrow roads and the vehicle of choice is the golf-cart. I guess when you have the Mediterranean to show off your 80 foot yacht, driving around in a golf-cart is OK. We went to the cemetery where the locals are buried. It is a simple place of simple tombs. Everything is above ground, because you can’t dig into the volcanic rock. The mountain side behind the cemetery was covered with prickly pear growing from every rook and cranny.

It finally came time to go back to the docks and wait for our boat back to Reggio. On this trip we would not need to transfer. The boat was 45 minutes late. This time I was really anxious. What were we going to do if it didn’t come? (We had gone to the Hotel Raya for a drink, and two Heinekens and a Martini and Rossi cost us $42.75. Imagine what a room would cost? Also, we suspected the waitress pocketed most of the money.) And the people-watching on the dock was depressing. I never saw so many frivolous peacocks in one small space. Men walking, as if they owned the world, get into catamarans at 9:00 at night and head out into the Mediterranean. Many time, while waiting for the boat, I kept thinking of the cliche – Mussolini made the trains run on time.

I was glad to be off Panarea and heading back to the real-world.

reggio – my favorite place in calabria

August 16, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

19th entry – calabria 2009

Reggio 058Reggio di Calabria the southern most city on the mainland is my favorite place. It is truly a beautiful city; a city full of art and the most spectacular lungomare in all of Italy. I discovered Reggio back in 2006 and one of the reasons I was willing to go back south this summer was because of Reggio. Between the beach, the lungomare and the two main streets that border the area you have one of the most magnificent piece of WOW. And to top it all off Cesare’s is in Reggio. Cesare’s is a kiosk where you can get one of the best gelatos in the world.

Two streets up from the lungomare is the main shopping area – a no traffic street with some of the best shops. Reggio is Calabria at its best.

The cathedral boasts a rock that St. Paul supposedly touched. The palazzi fronting the lungomare create a magnificent backdrop to the palm trees and the green strip bordering the sea walk. And look in the opposite direction and you see Messina and the mountains of Sicily. I don’t know of any other Italian city that has both the man-made beauty and the natural wonders of Reggio.

We walked a deserted city, because we were there late morning, early afternoon. I stayed in the shadows and even then I got sun. Reggion is 7 degrees north latitude of the Sahara. Imagine how hot it was.

perched on the rock – scilla

August 17, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

20th entry – calabria 2009

Beautiful Scilla hugs the mountain and spills into the Mediterranean. It sits north of Villa San Giovannini, the transportation hub between mainland Italy and Sicily. Scilla fronts the northern most point of Sicily. It a a city literally built into the rock face, so walking around requires great stamina. You are going up and down the mountain. Yes, the streets are beautifully restored; yes, there is a beach section for tourists and a sea-front section where the locals moor their fishing boats, but any time you walk, you’re going up and down a mountain.

Schilla 014We had one of our best meals in Scilla. I had home-made pasta in a white sauce of zucchini flowers and muscles. I had to stop myself form licking the plate. The waiter was very quick to point out that the muscles were from the local fishermen and fresh.

Scilla is divided into terraces. The top of the mountain is where the locals live. The next terrace down is full of restaurant and churches. The sea terrace is divided in two by the foot of the mountain. The left is all beach and tourists, the right is all fancy restaurants and B&B’s.

Before it was a tourist destination, Scilla was a working fishing village. The statue of the boy and the sword-fish it a reminder of that long ago profile. Today the tourist industry has replaced the search for fish.

Scilla has an unusual reputation. People tell you to be careful while in Schilla. Stores and restaurants will take advantage of tourists, and guard all your belongings. For me, these comments are pure Calabrese. I can hear my mother saying,  “Remember, nothing can be as good as it looks, and don’t trust another Calabrese especially one that has made it.”  It could well be that Scilla deserves its shady reputation, but it’s also more beautiful than most of the other Calabrian villages we visited. And, it was clear of trash. Not something I can say of many other Calabrian villages.

gerace – byzantium on the ionian coast

August 18, 2009 calabria, diario/journal

last entry – calabria 2009

The village of Gerace was a great discovery. The road along the Ionian coast is a narrow, heavy trafficked, two-way local that goes through every town between Reggion and Crotone. It’s not necessarily a pretty road given that the railroad sits between it and the sea. We wanted to go to Gerace, but we knew we would have to deal with E90 and therefore we had to push ourselves to grit our teeth and make the drive.

You can see Gerace, sitting on top of its mountain. Gerace is perched atop a 500 m vertical rock. From the E90 and we kept thinking that it was going to be a miserable uphill drive. The road turned out to be fine.  The village of Gerage was another WOW. This is an excellent example of Magna Graecia – Greater Greece. Gerage was at one time the central Greek village governing this entire area of the Ionian coast.

Gerace 100We parked at the very top and walked into town. From the parking lot you look out at the mountain massif of the Aspromonte – a volcanic mountain range in central Calabria. The town’s leaning is Byzantium not Rome. The cathedral and other small churches look like the churches I saw in Jerusalem, not the Latin churches of Italy. The cathedral had a great display of religious art – monstrances, chalices, and statues all made of precious metals. Even the vestments on display were sewn in gold and silver. The main piazza is circled by three ancient byzantine churches. The smallest had all these icons. It looked like no other church I had been to in Italy. The largest in the group was no longer an active church and the sanctuary was all in-laid marble. Again nothing Latin about it. The windows were like those in the Crusade churches in Jerusalem. It was very disorienting, you had to keep reminding yourself that you were in Italy and not the Middle East. Take a look at the pictures of the king and queen on the wall to the right of the icon. Who are they and what are they doing in a church in the heart of Calabria. Also two of the churches we went into had domes made of inverted, terracotta roof tiles. Different.

Gerace 124Gerace was unspoiled by tourists and visitors. The small shops that carried souvenir type items were free of the clutter I associate with tourist traps. We couldn’t get over how beautiful the city was; how clean and well maintained it was. It was a city that people took pride in. It was a city with few abandoned buildings. It was a city of lush garden plots attached to houses. (In Aprigliano, the best they could do was cultivate the slopes nearest their homes and even then many of the gardens were quite distant from the house.) In Gerace, it seemed that every house had as attached walled garden. And these gardens were full of grapes and figs and pomegranates. It made for a beautiful sight to have the green hanging over the hundred year old stone walls. You knew that Gerace was a living city. In addition to the gardens there were the modern cars. Nothing ostentatious, but nothing banged up battered.

Scilla boasted all this rehab work. There were signs everywhere of officially sanctioned restoration. Gerace on the other hand had no official signs, but the whole village had been restored in a lived-in style. (Assisi is the Disneyland of religious destinations – pretty but sterile.) Gerace has real people living out their day-to-day lives in one of byzantiums old centers.