We travel to the “toe of the boot” for our next featured ‘regione’ in Italy – rustic Calabria. Our family visited Calabria back in 2007. Our plan was to visit a cousin of my father, Bruno, who lived in Florence but spent his summers at his little apartment near the sea in Calabria. Year after year, he invited us to visit. When finally we were able to make the trip, we learned that Bruno was unfortunately too sick to travel that summer so off we set determined to still have an adventure by the Italian sea. Our first stop was the little town of Scalea, a magical town lying along the Tyrrhenian coast in northwestern Calabria. Our hotel overlooked the crystal blue sea and ‘spiaggia’ (beach) full of orderly colorful umbrellas that are a common sight on Italian beaches. Our first morning as we sat on our balconies enjoying the sea air, a call came from the front desk that we had visitors. Baffled, we all piled downstairs to see who could possibly be there.
In the lobby sat two unfamiliar faces. They introduced themselves as Felice and Lena, relatives of Bruno by marriage. Bruno had told them to please look after us during our stay. And look after us they did, Italian style – we were inseparable. They took us to the beach each day, to lunch at their favorite local restaurants, cooked us dinner at their house, gave us huge bottles of homemade limoncello and the Calabrian digestivo, liquirizia, a thick black liquid that tastes of licorice. Mama mia, that stuff was potent! We would sit out on our hotel balcony late into the night, pouring sip after sip of liquirizia, watching the moon rise high over the sea, reminiscing about family and the magic of Italy.
There is so much more to tell of our magical trip to this remote corner of Italy – the people, the land, the food – ah, the wonderful food. And time to tell one previously untold story of a very unfortunate boat ride for me on our visit to the Aeolian islands; stay tuned for that one. In the months and weeks ahead, we hope to share a little bit of the magic that is Calabria and its wonderfully unique rustic style of cooking.