September 26, 2007

Calabria and Travelling Back in Time

My MIL's cousin's wife wrote the second part of her story (see part I). It is about how she felt in love with Calabria. And I realised that we are both fascinated about something in Calabria that has to do with travelling back in time and with learning how to enjoy the simple life. Please read her travel experience:

In 1997 me, my son and L. (my MIL) took the sleeper from Mestre to Pizzo. Don't think of it in terms of "Orient Express" cause we are really miles and miles away from that. In Italy, modern and updated things stop in Rome, than, everything becomes Far West or Bronx as you said...

But, we arrived safe and N. (MIL's friend) was waiting for us at the station. That was the first time I met her and suddenly for me it was like paying a visit to a nice aunt. She gave us a delicious tomato sauce for our first pasta at home.

I have not been back in Calabria since '92 and was prepared to find things unchanged. But, little by little things in the house were improving due to many small renovations L. did during our stay. Lack of water was sometimes a problem but I sensed it in a bohemian way. Thanks to L. again I was figuring out better my approach to Southern way of living which is totally different for a person coming from the ultra operative North. From that year on I met and knew lots of friendly people always available to help and share with you what they have. Every year I can't miss the 'pantagruelian' (enormous) dinners of N. - each summer she cooks for around 10-15 persons in the typical southern way - I mean frying, baking, stuffing.... It's very difficult to stay in shape until the end of the vacations.

Through the years I've had the time to realize how wonderful the sea was, crystal waters and nice beaches that have nothing to envy to the Caribbeans.

Besides, I like how the natives are so bound to popular traditions, how they decorate and adorn the streets, the churches and the pure simple fun they have during the days dedicated to celebrate the Saint of the village.

It seems as they're still living in the 50ies. In the North we've almost totally lost this kind of genuine attitude.

You see now how positive I've become and I would go on telling you how many beautiful aspects I find in every situation.

I really like her narration. I experience the same every summer. And after I realised that I especially enjoy our stays in Calabria due to that feeling of travelling back in time, I know better than before how to decorate our palazzo. I definitely do not want to see too much (or any at all) modern furniture in our house. I really enjoy the simple decoration of my family's vacation apartment. It is still decorated like back in the 60ies, 70ies when my husband was born. This orange lamp in the kitchen, the chairs, the tiles ... It is like coming home after travelling the world. And I want to have a similar feeling in the palazzo.

Check the writing and pictures of sognatrice at bleeding espresso... She moved from the US to the little village of her ancestors in Calabria. A real travel back in time.

Photos 1 - 7:
Fiat 500 in Pizzo; one of N.'s famous pasta dishes, near Capo Vaticano via flickr; Pizzo Marina; fiesta della Madonna del Carmine; fishermen at La Seggiola; il trenino a Vibo Marina - the little train that my husband took as a little boy more than 30 years ago - and it still travels from 7pm until midnight all summer long.

September 23, 2007

Calabria in the 90ies

I got a very interesting email from one of my favorite Italian family members in Venice, my mother-in-law's cousin's wife.

In her mail she told me her first impressions about her first holiday in Calabria back in the early 90ies. Read what she wrote:

(...) I'm so fond of all Calabria that coming there on vacation for me now it's like coming back home. I feel so comfortable and enjoy all the aspects of the surroundings. But, it hasn't been so since the very beginning. Let me tell you my first terrible impressions of the first time I arrived there.

It happened in 1992, after a never ending journey by car. The house had been closed for many years and we arrived in July. It was hot of course and no air conditioning nor ventilation in it. Many times I slept in the beach-chair on the terrace. Along with the bad impression I had of the constructions which always seems so uncompleted and ruined, most of the time we hadn't water for showers or cooking. We had to spend part of the day stocking bottles and bottles of water for the main necessities.

I was desperate and wanted to go home. Much probably I wasn't in the mood to accept those things cause we mostly spent our holidays in the mountains in Suedtirol where everything is so accurate, clean, tidy, you know what I mean.
Anyway I couldn't help it and we finished our vacation.
Next time I'll tell you how I changed my mind.

The 'house' she is talking about is the appartment of my in-laws in Vibo Marina, 4km from Pizzo. Here, my husband spent the first 6 years of his live. When his parents, originally from Northern Italy moved on, they kept this home as the family's holiday residence.

I really appreciate this story as it is so true. I had the same experience back in 1996! I spent the first summer in Calabria with my husband (boyfriend at that time). It was an adventure for both of us! He hasn't been back there for years.

Of course meanwhile many things have improved, we got aircondition and water is secured. Even the construction ruine of 30 years in front of the house is finished and painted since last year.

I am curious to read the prosecution about how she felt in love with Calabria. Thank you for sharing!

picture 1: taken 2006 at restaurant Go, view of Vibo Marina, picture 2: taken 2005 at my family's house, view of Vibo Marina's port

September 13, 2007

Things to do in Pizzo

If you would visit Calabria and would spent some time in Pizzo, here are the things not to be missed:

Ice cream:
Il tartufo was invented here in Pizzo to honor the visit of Prince Umberto I of Savoy in 1943. There are about 15 gelaterias in Pizzo, all small family business with their own secret recipe for the tartufo.

Tuna & swordfish:
Pizzo is famous for its swordfish, pesce sparda and its tuna. Even the Japaneses import the tuna of this region.

Walking up and down the small alleys in the old centro storico and enjoying the views of the sea and the roofs of this picturesque little town. The main sight is il castello Murat, where unlucky Joachim Murat, ex-king of Napels and BIL of Napoleon was imprisoned and executed in 1815. Also impressing is the amount of 10 churches in this little town of about 9.000 inhabitants. One is built into a grotto, la Chiesa di Piedigrotta. But the heart of Pizzo is La Piazza Repubblica. It is also called il salotto, the living room, as this is where people meet, especially in the evening.
Castello Murat and view of Pizzo MarinaCastello Murat and view of Pizzo Marina

Pizzo's coastline is about 8 km long and you can find large white sandy beaches and small little bays. The beach at Pizzo Marina is in 5 minutes walking distance from the old town. The beaches are all public and you can bring your own umbrellas and seats. The beaches at the Marina even have a shower (not common for free public beaches).

You can easily explore everything Pizzo offers in one day. But only when you stay, you realize and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.

To explore the surrounding, I recommend the following day trips outside Pizzo:
- Eolie Islands (a group of 10 vulcanic islands including Lipari, Panarea and Stromboli) by boat. To embark at Vibo Marina (3 km) or Tropea (25 km).
- Vibo Valentia (10 km), the capital of the province with the same name (VV) and its old castello
- for a change of the beach drive up in the cooler mountain area and visit the monastery of Serra San Bruno
- more mountains: Sila National Park - skiing in winter seems possible!
- Tropea (25 km), which is the 'pearl' of the costa degli dei, coast of Gods. Actually most tourist aim for Tropea and not Pizzo. To me these two cities are like the little ugly duckling and the proud swan. And you can guess what I prefer.

September 09, 2007

Calabria and Beautiful Flora (part II)

It takes a summer full of sunshine, just enough rain and a mild winter to be surrounded by this beautiful and colourful flora in Calabria in the South of Italy.

Photo from top: pink oleander with blue clematis (?), pink bougainvillea, palm trees with purple bougainvillea

Enjoy the last days of summer. Two more weeks and summer will end officially.

09.09: Buon cumpleanno to my MIL!

September 06, 2007

Luciano Pavarotti

I am a fan of Pavarotti's voice - to me, the most touching voice on earth. I wanted to bring this divine voice to you in two of the most beautiful songs he ever sang.

Close your eyes and listen

Pavarotti sings 'Caruso'

And one more: Pavarotti sings Nessun Dorma live in Paris

Bravo e Grazie!

Luciano Pavarotti, the singer with the most beautiful and divine voice on earth died this morning at his villa in Modena from cancer, age of 71. For more than 43 years Pavarotti sang in the greatest opera houses in this world. Alone at New York's Met he performed 400 times on stage. He was part of 'The Three Tenors' and also popular for 'Pavarotti & Friends', his cooperation with other artists.

Official website of Luciano Pavarotti.
American Public Media celebrates the life of Luciano Pavarotti on Performance Today.

September 04, 2007

Flora of Calabria (part I)

White Oleander

00 Fixings and Faucets

I found the German website Megabad that has resonable prices for Duravit bath fixings and delivers to Italy when the time has come. That means I do not have to buy everything here and now in China and ship it and store it! I am relieved. How to store 6 bathrooms? Where and without disappearing...

I have good experience with several Duravit products. E.g. the toilets from the Serie Starck 1 and Starck 3. The picture left shows the wall mounted compact WC Starck 3 (360cm x 475cm). This fits perfectly small bathrooms and guest toilets. I have them all with WonderGliss surface finish for longterm 'clean and attractive-looking'. It costs 149 Euro (or 193 Euro with WonderGliss) via Megabad.

What is the advantage or disadvantage of a one piece WC? Has anybody experience? Or is it just a matter of space and design? We have thick walls and could mount them all. My husband says it would look nicer. Or should we use a one piece toilet for the masterbathroom like the one in the picture (Duravit Starck 3)?

Regarding the faucets we just love the simple design of META.02 by Dornbracht (see left picture). However, here in China I found some design copies from Beijing based brands that seem not bad either and cost only a fraction.

While the original Dornbracht faucets cost between 170 and 225 Euro via Megabad (depending on what you want), the Chinese one by Boloni cost about 83 Euro and by CIBOL about 60 Euro only (all plus plus pop-up waste, siphon, screws etc.) Left picture shows the faucet by CIBOL.
(Remark: Looking at CIBOL's website, you find a showroom picture looking pretty much like the latest cover of the Duravit brochure. While Boloni has no pictures on their website. Probably they do not want to get into trouble with all the European brands they copy.)

For the sinks I am not sure yet. Too many options:

Rapsel Kanal Grand In my opinion this is the smallest and nicest designed 'one piece double sink' Grand Kanal by Rapsel (110cm x 50cm).

This is another Duravit sink from the 1930 Serie. This would match our iron claw foot bath tub in the masterbathroom. However, we tend to combine the one 'antique' looking bathtub and its matching 'antique' looking faucets with modern classic style fixings and faucets for shower, toilet, bidet and sinks.

More modern but classic would be this Happy D sink with chrome stand from Duravit. Unfortunately the chrome stand is more expensive than the sink and I would need two of it for the masterbathroom. Maybe I find something else.

For my sons tiny bathroom (the one that hangs on the side of the house) I thought about this Vero sink (left picture), still Duravit. It comes in different sizes and I thought about the 500cm x 470cm one. But maybe instead of this edgy sink a curvy sink, like the Happy D, would be better for a children bathroom.

Still so many decisions to make. But one is done.
We bought the iron claw foot bath tub last Saturday here in Beijing. The Chinese brand name is Varro, but somehow it is related to the US brand StThomas. I am not sure if this is their Chinese joint-venture, but Varro definately delivers products to StThomas. So we spend only about one tenth of the price StThomas charges in the US. I hope it does not break after one year!

The German Brands:
Megabad (online discounter)
The Chinese Brands:
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