HAPPENSTANCE IN SPADES: I woke up a bit later than I expected (7:55) after being up a good part of the night, probably stressing about the next leg of the journey, my trek to Catanzaro. I often have dark thoughts asking myself “what am I doing here thousands of miles from home, friends, and family?!” I sort of recalled an 8:45 train, so I took a short shower, walked the few blocks to the moving walkway that took me down the hill, and then walked fast, helped by my new suitcase wheels, the rest of the way to the train, knowing I could always take the 10:45. Turned out there was an 8:39 train that was running late (8:45) which I jumped right on. In the seat across from me was a lady from Sweden, 70 years old, traveling alone, with even less luggage than me, also making plans as she went—just the person I needed to dispel last night’s “I must be crazy to be doing this” thoughts. Even better, she had a map that showed the train route up the Ionian coast that allowed me to sketch out a possible itinerary back to Rome—Crotone, Taranto, Bari, Foggia, and Pescara.
On this two day leg of my trip, I planned to go to several small towns in search of relatives of Cesare Fittante, an Italian friend of my mother’s in Seattle who’s in a wheel chair and unable to make the trip himself. Since there were no hotels or B&B’s in the small towns his familoy is from, I planned to do them as day trips from Catanzaro. Still, I needed a place in Catanzaro.
Sometimes, and this was one of those times, the search for a place turns out to a lot of fun. I asked a young woman, Natali, at a fruit stand near the train station if she knew of a place. Of course, she couldn’t let an old lady like me walk alone, so she pulled my suitcase and accompanied me to a nearby hotel, which I didn’t take because it cost140 euros per night for just me. Again, I didn’t bother to translate into dollars. Natali then walked me back to the fruit stand where everyone joined in the search, including her boyfriend, andrea, and a lawyer who was just there buying fruit. The lawyer called around, found a B&B for 30 euros, and then
piled all of us in his car (forgot to look what it was, but it was new and fairly big) to deliver me to a restaurant where I could leave my suitcase until the room would be ready at 7 PM. Check out the photo of my benefactors.
That left me with several hours to see Catanzaro, which like Reggio has a main street without cars, just for pedestrians. I walked its entire length looking in the stores and making some side forays as well. Then Natali and Andrea joined me for dinner at 8:30—dinner happens late here in Italy.
Turns out Natali is from Belarus and is in Italy for work—many women from Poland, Belarus, and Romania come here to do maid/ babysitting/elder care kind of work. I was totally impressed with her Italian which she’s learned really well in the 4 years she’s been here. Reminded me of me 30 years ago, only I didn’t stay so long. Andrea did the ordering for dinner—bacala, a type of fish and a plate of fried sea food, calamari, scampi, and some skinny fish that might have been sardines—all very good.
While waiting for dinner to come, Natali called around—everyone has
cells—got the bus schedule for me to go to Magisano in the morning. She even hooked me up with a friend of hers, Olga, who would be going there, too, for work.
MAGISANO & ALBI: There’s an old saying in Italy, “Vedi Napoli e mori,” loosely translated, once you’ve seen Napoli, you’ve seen everything and you might as well die since nothing else will ever be as beautiful. Well, I want to change that to “Vedi Magisano, taverna, o Albi e mori.” Nowhere is there countryside as spectacular as this area. The photos I took don’t begin to do it justice. It feels as big as the Grand Canyon, only you can see out to the sea. Everyone was helpful in Magisano, but all of Cesare’s relatives on his father’s side are dead or have moved away in the past four or five years. The photo of the record keeper shows how proud she was to search the records she got out of the vault. she wouldn't let me take a photo of them while they were open, however. Pretty much the same story in Albi, but in Albi, an old gentleman, Professore Cosco, (titles are very important here) who
knew Cesare’s mother drove me around to the cemetery and then up to La Sila, which is a huge, well groomed forest with huge pine trees. I didn’t know Italy had trees left, much less ones this grand. While I didn’t have much luck finding Cesare’s family, I had a great visit at the local elementary/middle school where the director took me from classroom to classroom and introduced me to the teachers and students, who were all wearing uniforms and stood when we entered the room. The older they got the noisier they got. They loved the fact that I was from Alaska. I told them no school in Alaska had the fantastic view they had from their school. In both towns, I created quite a stir. Everyone wanted to join in.
COFFEE: Every cup I’ve had has been wonderful, AND I have yet to see a Starbucks. There was a MacDonalds in Reggio with a hamburger that had basil on it. I didn’t go in so I can’t say if it was better than the American ones, but I wouldn’t be able to compare them anyway since I don’t eat the American ones either.
INTERNET: I’m now down at
Catanzaro Lido, the beach, not the old town up in the hills, and I’m back on the net. Old town Catanzaro didn’t have the evils of Mac or SBucks, but it also didn’t have the joys of the internet.
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