This weekend, my aunt and I departed for one of her very standard 42 hour trips (don’t worry, she stays longer when she comes to the US. A full 72 hours if you include the flights!). This time, it was at my insistence that we go visit my dad’s home in Calabria, a gorgeous region way down south. Now, if you have ever explored Italy you have probably at least heard of the division between northern and southern Italy. First and foremost for me is what they are well known for: the North has art, industry, and invention, whereas the South has agriculture, food (read: gelato), and nature (hello sea). Granted, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it does start to demonstrate a few of the many differences. Even the culture is totally different, with southerners being known for their impressive shows of hospitality even if at the same time most northerners will warn you to watch your wallet with extra care. The South is also sadly more broke than the North. I remember driving down from Tuscany to Calabria years ago and slowly seeing the roads deteriorate, the tolls end, and half-built houses suddenly popping up. Things have changed since then, but with many young people and families in particular leaving the South only to come back for a summer vacation, nothing is getting much easier. When we went to my family’s home and I went to the town hall to get my Carta d’Identitá (yes, finally!!), my cousin explained that basically all of the towns in the vicinity are run by commissions instead of mayors because most of the mayors were indicted. Hopefully the economy improves and brings with it less criminal activity. In the meantime though, my family still has roots in Calabria – even if they’re a bit neglected.
Even with just our brief visit, my aunt and I still managed to reconnect with my roots. Not only did I finally get this benedetta Carta d’Ídentitá (I now have essentially a state ID here), but we saw some family members, ate tons of tartufi (invented in Pizzo! Apparently we used to stop there every year on our way home), and stopped by the Cuppari villa. The family villa is our pride and joy; although nobody has ever lived in it, it could easily house more than a dozen people and it’s literally on the water. Or at least 200 meters above the water with its own private road. My aunt spent a morning and part of the afternoon there, feasting on figs and tomatoes that grow on the property. But then we also went to Tropea and made not only one, but two trips to find some ‘nduja – a specialty salami from Spilinga, my dad’s town. It’s basically half ground bacon and half chilis. Several of our cousins make it and in the first place we went to, we asked for four pieces and got six. On the house, of course. Then my cousin took us to his niece’s ‘nduja factory, where we received at least 3 more kilos of ‘nduja and also soppressata. This morning I was mortally afraid that the Ryanair hostess would ask to weigh my bag: it had about 8 kilos of ‘nduja. We made it out of Calabria ok, if only weighed down by the generous gifts our family and friends made. But, worry not! I already promised to make it back for TWO whole weeks next year 🙂