Monday, January 15, 2018

Gioiosa Ionica, Calabria, Italy


Benvenuti in Calabria--Welcome to Calabria!

My husband and I flew to Italy last August, on a dream come true trip for us! We would be spending three weeks in both the south and north of Italy, revisiting relatives we last saw in 2001. In that year we spent an entire month in Italy with our two young adult children, traveling again from the south of Calabria to the north, and sightseeing the major cities of Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice, Genoa, and Turin. This trip we were excited to be able to see a very special, week long, saint's feast day celebration in my husband's hometown and visiting with relatives who still lived in the town and also those who were traveling to see the celebration.  We flew from New York to Rome, and then connected to Calabria at Lamezia Airport, where we rented a car and drove to Reggio Calabria.
(All photos and photo collages will increase in size if clicked on)


We stopped in the town of Siderno, where my husband's oldest sister and brother-in-law live, and met in La Vecchia Hostaria--a wonderful local restaurant. My husband's nephew, wife, and daughter were also visiting from Brooklyn, New York, and we dined together, happy to see everyone again. Afterward, we went to my sister-in-law's house for dessert.  She prepared a chocolate dessert called sanguinacchio dolce that is my husband's favorite--photo bottom middle. It is made with pig's blood and sweetened with sugar, chocolate, and spices We also had pastries for those of us who are less adventurous eaters.


We then drove to my husband's hometown of Gioiosa Ionicawhere we had reservations to stay in a bed and breakfast called "La Vecchio Stazione." Our room was very comfortable, had its own bathroom and was air-conditioned, which is a treat in Italy. Every morning we would cross the street to the "Bar Pasticceria Gatto de Pasquale Gatto," where we would choose cookies or pastry and a cappuccino or cafe latte for breakfast. 


Gioiosa Ionica also called Gioiosa Ionica Superiore, as there is also an area of the town called Gioiosa Ionica Marina, which is closer to the Ionian Sea. This view is looking up from one of the town's piazzas.....


...and this view is looking west from the top of the town, from a terrace of my husband's aunts home. You can see a medieval castle on the upper right. which dates back to the 12th or 13th century, during either the Swabian or Angevin domination. The Chiesa Matrice, or Mother Church, the oldest and largest church on Gioiosa Ionica, is seen in the upper left of the photo. It was built during the 17th century and has had many additions and renovations.


A closer look at the castle. It was also the home of a feudal lord in the 17th century. This part of Italy was inhabited since ancient times as Greek and Roman ruins have been found nearby,  and it has also invaded by many over the centuries.


A view over the town's rooftops towards the Ionian sea, which is about five kilometers (3.1 miles) away


Of course one of the first things we did was walk to the home where my husband was born and left as a young boy to immigrate to America with his parents and siblings. The house is located near the town's market, towards the middle of the town, and is now owned by another family.  We were able to go inside in 2001, and our children and I were very surprised how small and humble it was. My husband remembers they did not have plumbing or electricity when he lived there, but it has been modernized since.  Southern Italy was very poor in the 20th century, and although its economic status has greatly improved it still does not have the economic advantages, or tourism, as the of the rest of Italy.


We enjoyed walking along the narrow streets of the town, marveling how many of these buildings have been here for many hundreds of years.


I was fascinated to see the dichotomy between ancient and abandoned buildings ...


 ...and modernized and contemporary buildings in Gioiosa Ionica.


Another interesting part of the town was the medieval aqueduct of the Galizzi River, characterized by pointed arches and support the conduit, clearly attributable to its medieval age. It rises at the foot of the cliff, and water is still running down it. High above we could see ancient buildings clinging on the top of the cliffs, and hills full of cacti, that were full of prickly pear fruit, which my husband told me they call "Fichi di India." He remembers eating them as a child and still buys them when he finds them for sale in our area.


Of course, the best part of being in Gioiosa Ionica was visiting with cousins and their families and being with our sister-in-law and brother-in-law and family for a week. We had wonderful times and many delicious meals together!


We visited the early 17th century Church of Saint Rocco, who is the patron saint of Gioiosa Ionica. Inside we saw the statue of the saint that would be paraded through the town and from church to church on his feast day in great celebration and fanfare. The wooden statue was carved in Naples in 1749, and transported to the town by ship.Thousands of people return to Gioiosa Ionica for the event, and we were excited to be here to see it. The Feast of Saint Rocco in Gioiosa Ionica dates back to at least 1583. He became the patron saint of the city in 1743 when a bubonic plague outbreak miraculously ceased when prayers to St. Rocco intervened. 


The streets of the town were all decorated with fanciful lights and the main piazza was bustling every evening for a week leading up to the feast. Many vendors set up booths to sell food and other items and multiple stages held musical and opera entertainment. 

 It was all very exciting and our anticipation grew, as we awaited the Saint Rocco feast day event, which I'll show in my next post.


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Sunday, January 7, 2018

On Our Way To Italy, With a Stop in New York


Happy New Year, again, to all my readers! Our Christmas decorations are all safely packed away, and we're back to a healthier diet and trying to fullfill our resolution to begin to walk or hike a few miles again every day.  Happily, our weather has been sunny and mild, as we escaped the cold front plaguing the east. All we need is more snow, as we are far below normal so far this season

As I promised in my last blog post, I'd like to show some of the photos and memories I have of a trip my husband and I took to Italy this past summer. It was an "off the beaten track" type of trip, as one half of it was visiting Calabria, in the very south of Italy, in the town where my husband was born, for a celebration of the patron saint of his town. We also visited a few more towns in the south--many places American tourists usually don't visit, unless they have relatives that originated from them, but very worth seeing. The other half of the trip we visited my husband's relatives living in the north, in Genoa and Bologna, and a few other scenic towns.  


We began our trip to Italy with a stop in our old hometown of Brooklyn, New York.  It is always a thrill for us to return to New York for a visit, as it seems we have made a trip there every year in the past five years that we've lived in Colorado.  I've been blogging for ten years and the first five years was mainly about my life in New York City.  If you click on the word Brooklyn, under my header photo, it will take you to all my posts about my hometown borough. If you click on the words New York Cityit will take you back to all the places I visited in New York.  In both categories, you will have to scroll back and back and back, and so on, to see them all, as I blogged quite a bit about the greatest city in the world!



Because we had to change planes in New York, before continuing on to Rome, Italy, we decided to spend a night in Brooklyn with dear friends.  It was a beautiful day in early August, so we took a walk along Brooklyn Bridge Park to enjoy the sights. I blogged quite a bit about this part of Brooklyn, and you can read those multiple posts pages beginning here. if you are interested in this fabulous and scenic part of Brooklyn. 

Brooklyn Bridge Park offers spectacular views of Lower Manhattan...


...as well as the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.


...and contains the very fun, Jane's Carousel, which you can read more about here.


It was fun to visit with our friends and begin our trip to Rome and then take our connecting flight to Lamezia Terme International Airport in Calabria. In my next post, I'll show you the town in which my husband was born, and how it prepared for the very important and festive feast day festival that lasted a full week. It was a dream come true for my husband and me!

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