After my jaunt in Sicily with Anna, I boarded another one of the South's famous long-haul buses headed to Castrovillari, Calabria to continue my No Calorie Left Behind Tour. The highlight of the trip was taking the ferry that links Messina, Sicily to Reggio Calabria on the mainland. There's always talk about building a bridge from one city to the other (this was one of Berlusconi's always promised but never realized initiatives), and the fact that it still has not been built really is absurd, as you can see just how close the two are to one another in the following photo. Dear Italy: invest in infrastructure! Still, despite my shock at this shortfall, the ferry ride was beautiful and refreshing after a couple hours already cooped up in the bus.
There are some really ridiculous signs in this country (like arrows pointing toward "All Directions"), and after disembarking from the ferry, I saw what has to be one of my all-time favorites. Please see below. My subtitle for this sign would probably be something along the lines of "Beware of Edge" or "Don't Be An Idiot and Drive Off the Cliff," but it certainly would not simply be "Deep Water".
Finally after six hours I arrived in Calabria and my first day there was Mamma's 50th birthday party. Her friend hosted the party at her house, and both Mamma and various friends and aunts spent days preparing food. It seems that every time I go to Calabria I manage to hit some important holiday, whether it be Christmas, Silvia's First Communion, Easter, or Mamma's 50th! The party was lovely, and Mamma received a showering of both love and special gifts from her friends and family. I was happy to be able to see the extended family and meet friends who apparently had heard "so much" about me. One friend, after hearing me laugh, described me as solare, which I guess would be best translated as sunny. That's some kind of compliment.
Azzurra, Mamma and me
Nonna, Mamma, and Nonno
The "whole family", albeit blurred
Me with Giuseppe
Dancing with baby cousin Laura, one of the twins
I miei frattelini Italiani
My little Italian siblings
The aunt and uncle that live above Azzurra's family recently built a house in Le Vigne, the country near Castrovillari, and they have a pool! We spent two full days eating and pooling and lounging there together. I taught the kids Marco Polo, and we also attempted handstands, took turns leading water aerobics, and did the George Washington hair roll.
Above is Zia "condimenting" the pizza, and below you can see the special oven she has, which can fit four pizzas at a time.
Azzurra and I decidedly preferred the pizza with potatoes and prosciutto. My mouth is watering just thinking about it, and I ate them just yesterday.
We also spent one evening in Lungro, where Mamma is from, visiting the nonni and the family of the cousin that is getting married this weekend. I always manage to fit right into the family arguments and make fun of everyone just as much as the others. Between all the various confusion, I said playfully, "Non si capisce niente in questa famiglia!" or "Nothing makes sense in this family!" Nonna had the perfect way of explaining it: "C'e' chi lo vuole cotto e chi lo vuole crudo," which means "There are those that want it cooked, and those that want it raw." This proverb is so much more wonderful in Italian because it calls to mind the two types of prosciutto, cotto and crudo, and I can imagine a family at the deli fighting over which kind of ham to buy for lunch.
I won't bore you with the details of another sappy good-bye; suffice to say that it felt like a tragedia. I felt like I was moving off to college for the first time and would never see my family again. Everyone kept asking me when I was coming back, and I really had no answer except to say, "Soon." Fortunately, after so many good-byes I'm starting to run out of tears and into emotional exhaustion, and I console myself with the fact that while I'm leaving behind one family, I'm moving towards another one. And for that, I can't wait.