This time next week I'll be on the bus, heading down to Calabria! I hope the last week in Rome flies by since I'm a little bored to tell you the truth. How can I be bored in Rome - you ask. I know...I know...Rome is full of beautiful ancient monuments, and I am sure I have not seen even half of them but after two years here, enough's enough.
The main reason I am happy to leave Rome is that I cannot wait to experience a different side of Italy, the non-touristy Italy. I have travelled through most regions in Italy but have only ever lived in the tourist infested city of Rome and the postcard perfect but very touristy Taormina.
It is now time to try my hand at village life, at the bottom of the 'Italian boot.' And what better place to experience the real Italy then in Calabria?
Relatively untouched by the commercial world, compared with its brother and sister regions this part of Italy remains relatively unspoilt. Calabria is full of mountain towns scattered like confetti amongst the lush vegetation. Malito - bel ragazzo's village is one such hill top town nestled 700 odd metres above sea level in the northern Calabrese mountains not far from Cosenza. It is a small but beautiful town inhabited by 800 people.
Have you ever been to Calabria before? Do you know where Calabria is? It's ok, don't be embarressed if you've never heard of it, or don't know exactly where it is on the map. You are not alone. Most foreigners visiting Italy have never heard of Calabria before. Calabria is a region ignored by many, with guide books quoting it as an ugly place, best seen at night. The same guide books say Calabria is a land of danger and death, where the ‘ndrangheta’ incites fear in the hearts and minds of all who pass. You may have heard Calabria described as a backyards country, ripe with corruption and poverty, its only worth being the easy access to Sicily the island further south.
Not many people have mentioned that on a warm spring day the wind will gently fill the air with the sweet perfume of jasmine and pine. In autumn the mountain sides are transformed with an explosion of colour as the green leaves revolt into shades of red, bronze, yellow and gold. Summer time sees the temperature sore, the ground dry and the feverish ambiance of the festive season is unleashed. And in the winter time the mountain towns are delicately dusted with a sprinkling of fresh, clear snow, while Calabria's own ski resort opens for business. It is rarely noted in guide books that at no point Calabria is more then 50 kilometres from the emerald green seas, and that the region has what is to be considered one of the finest Italian coastlines. No one has mentioned that Calabria has many towns almost perfectly preserved from medieval times, rich in history and culture.
It is true that you may not always find menus in foreign tongues but please do not misinterpret that you are not welcome! On the contrary, Calabria opens its heart and its arms to visitors. Every pietrino has a story, every piazza a song, every paese a legend. Go on, come and see for yourself....next time you are in Italy don't listen to the guide books, but listen to the people who live there and come and discover it yourself.