My Trip to Calabria

May 13th, 2011, 05:26 PM
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My Trip to Calabria

A few years ago a friend told me about a research study that stated the fastest way to learn another language was out of necessity. Well this turned out to be true on my recent trip to Calabria. About 7 years ago I studied Italian through a travel tape. I used some of this knowledge on that trip, but not much. I then returned to Italy 4 years ago and studied the tape again and used more of what I learned. This time I have no tape deck and I just didn’t get around to buying a CD. So I had to pull out every word I remembered, some words I thought were gone from my memory bank, and some words I invented to get me by. I was throwing around phases and my hands. I was able to communicate, but I had a headache after long conversations.
Let me start at the beginning. My DH and I are about to retire, therefore you know my age. My thought was, buy an apartment in Calabria. Winters would be sunnier and warmer than northeast USA. My husband and I could use the apartment for March and April, maybe February. The rest of the family (children and our small grandchildren) could use it whenever they wanted. My sister was interested in getting in the idea so now she and I were on a quest to buy an apartment in Calabria. It all sounds so wonderful. We had an appointment with a real estate agent, high hopes, and some money to part with.
We started our trip in Naples, where we stayed at the Hotel Piazza Bellini. Thank you Ann1 for the suggestion. The hotel arranged for a car to pick us up. After the 19 hour trip to Naples (door to door) this was one wonderful idea. Plus the car ride to the hotel should be a ride at Disney World. I did not know cars could maneuver around such narrow and pulsating streets. The hotel is in a great location, near the National Archaeological Museum. The rooms were quite modern and the hotel has a lovely court yard. We walked everywhere. The Archaeological museum houses the mosaics from Pompeii. It was easy to get around and very interesting. We did the Rick Steve’s walking tour. We went into the Spanish quarter and loved the narrow streets and street life. Then onto the harbor, the galleria, and the street that divides Naples into, Via B. Croce which becomes another name at some place along the way. We saw the duomo, many other churches, the castle etc. We even took the subway back to the hotel. All was great. No pick pockets or hassles. We did not go to Sansevero as we had been there before, but it is a must do in Naples. We had 2 nice dinners, great pizza and gelato. I also bought what I call a lobster tail pastry. It tasted just like the ones here in Boston, but the woman insisted you only get them in Naples. Who am I to argue, but it tasted the same to me. Later in the trip I did see them in the frozen sections of a supermarket and I think we are all eating the same thing, unless there is a particular bakery that makes their own.
yipper is offline  
May 13th, 2011, 05:28 PM
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After 2 days in Naples we took the train to Lamezia where we rented a car for our Calabria adventure. In Lamezia we asked at a hotel where there was a trattoria. The gentleman could not tell us the directions so he got his car and us 2 ladies got in with our suitcases and off we went. The trattoria was only a few blocks away and we had a delightful lunch while we waited for the car rental to open up. We were warned to be careful in Naples and in Naples they warned us to be careful in Calabria. So far we have survived.

Now off north on A18, to Campo San Giovanni and to the Borgos Posidone. We met a lady, Pia, in the village of San Giovanni and followed her car to our home for the next 5 days. This is where the Italian had to kick in. She did not have any English, which is fine and made life more interesting. This group of 5 renovated apartments was on a farm up in the hills overlooking the village and the sea. I think the buildings were probable for animals or feed at one time. The views were spectacular. The apartment turned out to be great for us. In the beginning it was a little different. The place was very nice, but only about 95% finished. The kitchen had gas cook top, sink, and refrigerator. There was a long counter top but no shelves or drawers etc. underneath. Also there were no sconces on the walls in the rooms, just light bulbs hanging out. Pia, the lady who took us to the apartments, turned on the gas and plugged in the refrigerator. I figured out that we needed to plug in the hot water heater which was in the bathroom. She did yell “caldo aqua” as she was leaving.

There was a main room with doors to a terrace with a great view, a bed, an amour, and table with chairs. Off this room was a nice bathroom. Upstairs was another bedroom with 2 beds and another large terrace with the million dollar view.
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May 13th, 2011, 05:30 PM
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Pia invited us for coffee at another apartment. Here we have the 40 minute conversation in Italian. I got that she is divorced, 2 girls in Milan at university, she is late for a dinner date, and she will take us to the supermarket to get supplies. Off we go. All is well. Now we are back at the apt. and she now wants the 5 day apartment payment in cash. We do not have this and give her a credit card. The website used credit cards. No no. Off again to the village, to the bank and we give her the Euros. Off to the apt. and she leaves, not to return for 2 days. Actually that was fine, but I thought that there might be someone around to give us info or to call upon in case we needed help. Now the sun is setting. We are the only people there. No phone and no one on the premises. We make a little dinner and drink a lot of wine. It is getting cold and no heat. The mind does wonder, so more wine. To bed with the comforter and I guess we will read.

In the morning we arise to beautiful sunshine, which we had every day. The view of the sea, the flowers the olive trees, the lemon trees, the orange trees (with fruit and flowers), farms on the hills, and the wild flowers all made us very happy. One morning sheep were grazing on the wild flowers under the olive trees. We were happy to be here instead of a hotel. We stared at the view; we drank our coffee, ate our bread, and had fresh oranges form the trees next to apartment. Our hope now is that we will remember how to get down to the village and then, most importantly, back to the apt.

Off to the real estate agency in Amantea. The guy was not too hospitable, considering we came a long way to see apartments and we had an appointment. He shows us 2 apartments. As I was taking pictures he said, “Are those pictures for your husband?” I said, “Yes”. He realized no transaction on this trip and all of a sudden the tire on his van was low and bye bye. That being said, if I was younger and my children were younger, it would not be a bad place to go in the summer for a month. We saw an apartment that consisted of three rooms. The kitchen was a good size eat-in kitchen with a washing machine. The terrace off the living room was large and had a fantastic view over the town of Amantea and the sea. It was for sale for 53,000 Euros. We also saw an apartment in Longobardi, which is a hill town very high up. The road to Longobardi is very switch back. The views were awesome. This apartment consisted of three rooms on three floors. No! Besides this town, although very old and charming, was lifeless. There was nothing to do. There was one tobacco shop that sold coffee and newspapers, but that was it. You could not drive down to the sea for dinner and have any wine as the trip back up took all your senses, plus where are all the trattorias. I think if I lived in this area for 2-3 months in the off season my DH and I would kill each other.
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May 13th, 2011, 05:31 PM
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There were gelato stores everywhere and pizzerias. Even Pia told us no restaurant in San Giovanni. We must go to Amantea. By now I was a pro at driving up to and down from the apartment. So off to Amantea one night. We cannot find a restaurant, so I go into a bakery and ask, “Where is a restaurant”? They reply “Pizzeria?” “No. Trattoria or restaurant.” Again out comes the car and we hop in and we are taken to a fish restaurant. My fear…… will we be able to find where we parked the car? I think I recognize the area we are in. I think we will be ok. The lights are dim in the restaurant, but the bakery lady opens the door and we are happily seated. It is 8:30. Now the lights go on and 2 other couples join us. The dinner was great as was the wine. We pay the bill and walk to the car. Saints be with us, we find the car and make our way back to the apt. where we drink more wine, put on extra clothing and then are ready for sleep.


The next few days we drove to Pizzo, Tropea, and Scalea. Pizzo was an interesting town but Tropea was really lovely and they did have restaurants there. We opted for a picnic on the beach. There was a group of teenagers having a delightful time pushing each other into the water. The air was warm, the water a beautiful light blue, but the water was cold. On the way back to San Giovanni we encountered a shepherd and his many sheep crossing the busy road. Don’t you just love it?


When we arrived at the apartment we decide to stay put and have a little pasta and wine. We also had some wonderful strawberries that we bought at a road side stand. Now the sun is almost set and the electricity goes out. I do have a number to call, but all I can think of is how do I explain this to Pia and how will she explain things to me. Down we drive to town to use the pay phone along side of the road. Remember the 90’s? As I am trying to use my little Italian a woman talks to me in English, Who she is I do not know, but she says someone will be there soon. Back up the hills. Indeed 10 minutes later a seemingly lovely man comes to show us where the circuit breaker is and all is fine. He gives us a small flash light in case it happens again. More wine, lots of clothes, a book and sleep.


One day we went to Scalea which has a delightful old town, but it is steep walking. Great views and a great work out. We walked around the old town and down to the new town. Now it was time for lunch. The streets of the town are now deserted. Where to eat? Fabulous gelato for lunch.
My sister has read that there is a Paleolithic carving of a bull which we should see. It is east of Scalea in a national park. Off we go. It was a beautiful drive, but a lot of switch backs and up and downs. When we get to this place, which we were not sure we would ever find you drive down, down, down into the valley on a small gravel road. There we are informed that the grotto has no lights as the electricity is out, but we can see the carving. We state that is fine as we have a flash light. With our meager flash light the grotto was dark, but we got the general idea of stalagmites and stalactites. We see the rock with the 12,000 year old carving, as it is outside of the grotto. Now that was cool! We drove further east to the 4 lane highway and back to San Giovanni where we went to the pizzeria for dinner.


I must insert that all along A18, the road that goes along the sea, there are many hotels. These hotels did have restaurants in them. We did not partake of them and maybe we should have. Where are the fava beans and the artichoke hearts?
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May 13th, 2011, 05:33 PM
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Another day we drove to the capital of this area, Cosenza. Do not bother. It has an interesting old town and the new part has good architecture, but it is a depressing place.

This was Easter Sunday so we decided that a picnic on the beach is the best idea. There were 6 of us on the large beach and the sun was wonderful. We drank our wine and ate our picnic, read and took a nap. This was the last day of our adventure. Off to Lamezia to a hotel, as we need to get up at 4:30 for our flight home. There was no place in Lamezia for a meal. I know it was Easter, but I hoped there was a restaurant or even a pizzeria. The trattoria where we ate before was closed. We drank more wine and ate hard boiled eggs for dinner in the dingy hotel room. Oh well it was a wonderful adventure and we were happy to have gone together to experience and see what we did.



When I arrived back home DH and children were so sad to hear that the apartment in Italy is not to be. I returned to work to find out a lady I work with went to Tropea with her husband during the same week and they were looking for an apartment. Both of them felt the same as I. It is a beautiful area, but not a place for us to buy an apartment. This made me feel better, as I kept thinking what did I miss? Although my idea of a couple of months in Calabria is not to be, it was a wonderful trip and I saw a part of Italy that I probably would have never seen. I am happy that I followed my quest and now I can think of another delightful idea.
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May 14th, 2011, 03:14 AM
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Great trip, but you should look in Puglia! I bought a house there 6 years ago and LOVE the area. Great beaches and hundreds of restaurants!
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May 14th, 2011, 03:34 AM
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It sounds like the area you looked in would not work out, but has that made you give up the idea of an apartment in Italy all together. Are there not other regions, or other towns in Calabria, that you could look in?
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May 14th, 2011, 05:36 AM
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What a fun report, yipper! As for the apartment thing, if you're only planning on using it yourselves for 2-3 months out of the year, why not just rent for those months and stay in different areas of Italy each year?
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May 14th, 2011, 06:50 AM
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Yipper I am so sorry the apartment did not work out. But I am so glad to read your report, as I am headed for a brief visit to Amantea this year.


And after having just returned from my second visit to Puglia, I will second Kate's idea to look in that wonderful region.

Thank you for your report.

Kate: Do you mind reveling your location in Puglia?
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May 14th, 2011, 08:05 AM
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Very good report, It is very interesting from the first words. I also love it because it describes an area with which I'm familiar. I have blood relatives,(as a matter of fact, one with the exact same name as mine, a first cousin), living in San Mango D'Aquino (St. Thomas Aquinas), in that vicinity. I have an apartment at my disposal there anytime I want to use it, as it belonged to my father way back when. I've been there a few times and I enjoy it immensely, as I do the towns which you mention. However, I can't imagine myself staying there for an extended time. I would go nuts! It ain't New York, or even Maryland.
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May 14th, 2011, 08:07 AM
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Besides, I love Naples more.
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May 14th, 2011, 08:37 AM
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pdx
 
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Fun trip report, the two of you are good sports and adventurous.
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May 15th, 2011, 09:19 AM
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Hi All,

Kate thank you for the suggestion of Pulgia. I might explore that.

Holly I think we will rent here and there. I thought about buying because that part of Italy is affordable and warmer than Boston in the winter. Our plan B is to rent in Italy for 2-3 months one year, Crete one year or maybe Nice. If we fall in love with an area that we can afford, it would be nice for us, our children and grand children to have a place, but it is not a necessity. Also the value of the dollar needs to be considered.

Yipper

Yipper
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May 15th, 2011, 09:54 AM
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HI again, Y!!

I just read your report again and I am puzzled by a few things. Most important: Why exactly did you rule out this area for an apartment? Was it not possible to look at others, besides the two that you saw? Or did you just not like the towns that you visited enough to pursue the quest...(?)

When you said the town was lifeless, you were referring to Longobardi, not Amantea, right?
(I am debating whether to spent the first night of my own trip in Amantea so am eager for comments on the town)

I am so surprised that you didi not see fave and artichokes in Calabria--maybe you should look in Puglia (!!) since they were piled high on trucks and in every market there the first week of this month!! How was the food that you did sample?

We have those lobster tails in New York, too!!
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May 15th, 2011, 10:30 AM
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Yipper,
Can you please say more about Cosenza? DH's family came from there in 1900 (actually a smaller village, Grimaldi, close by) and we are meant to go and see it next year. Nothing to do? Depressing, why? Thanks!
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May 16th, 2011, 04:23 PM
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Hello,

Eskcrunchy, these little towns are summer towns. The beach is great, but if you are there off season, as was my plan, there is nothing to do. If you are a native and have a lot of friends and a job, I am sure it is great, but for me sitting there in March, I would be a little bored. Also I was thinking we could drive from one place to another for day trips. Something like Tuscany where you can go to Orvieto, or Sienna, or Florence for a day. The towns were nice, but not as interesting as I hoped. Also driving up and down the coast is easy, but driving east over the mountains is a lot more time consuming than the rolling hills of Tuscany. I love the area for the flowers, sea and views. It was a nice vacation, but not a place to spend a few months every year off season. There were fava beans being sold along the highway. I do not understand the restaurant situation. Tropea definitively had restaurants and the hotels along the sea had restaurants, but in the little towns there were hard to fine. Amantea is a great place to stop for your first night. It has a nice shopping street and that is where we had our fish dinner. Also there is a restaurant in the old section that is supposed to be quite good. It does have a charm and you will be happy there for a night.

Oliverandharry, Now I am not an expert on this town, but I got the feeling it suffers from economic problems. The old town appeared much worn and the new part needed a face lift. The main park in the town was not well kept but Calabria is a poor area of Italy, so it is not surprising. I did see signs for Grimaldi, but not the town itself. I can say that the mountains and valleys in this area are lovely. I think you might investigate the agriculture in this area. I think this is around where they produce the mozzarella buffalo. Also the 12000 year old Romito is not far away. All the people we met were very nice and went out of their way to be kind and helpful, except for the real estate guy.

I hope this is helpful, Yipper
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May 17th, 2011, 03:15 AM
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Very helpful and very insightful. Many thanks!


Please let us know if you plan any other house-hunting trips. I can dream!!
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