When you’re in a tiny town with no car, what do you do? If you’re us, you sleep in, then you pack a bit of a picnic to explore the surroundings.
We left our adorable and comfortable room with our bag of food and headed towards a church Rafaelle had mentioned to us, the Madonna della Timpe. We weren’t really sure where we were going, so after heading a good bit out of town we figured we had gone the wrong way and turned around.
The town was lovely to walk through, though.
By this time we were getting really hungry, so we stopped in the first likely picnic-looking spot we could find – a small raised paved lot with benches around the outside. It looks pretty desolate in the pictures, but I promise it was fairly inviting. Lunch was the same as dinner the previous day – ‘nduja (spicy pork fat sausage), rosamarina (spicy fish spread), apples, hard bread, wine, pickles… and really gross olives.
When we were just about done eating, a couple of extremely skittish cats came nosing around the edge of the lot. So, we tossed them some cheese rinds. We’ve fed bread to pigeons (though not often – rats that they are), but never cheese to cats. This occupied us for a little while… we miss our kitties!
Feeling more fed, we decided to set out to find that church again – though this time we asked a man who couldn’t have been more than 5 feet tall for further directions. “Sempre diritto!” he said, making large gestures involving lots of use of elbows. We gathered we had chickened out too early the first time and took the one road out of town again.
Perhaps 500 meters past where we had given up the first time, we found this small wooden sign. If we hadn’t been on foot and looking for the sign, we never would have found it!
Had we been driving, we certainly would have been distracted by the beauty of the area…
We took the turnoff onto what rapidly became a dirt road, and walked for fifteen or twenty minutes through scenery that was really reminiscent of the Appalachians.
We couldn’t hear any traffic noise, just the stream tumbling by below and our feet kicking through the leaves.
I don’t know if the goat head with hair still attached made it more or less like West Virginia.
After walking a little further, we turned a corner to find an area where the rock wall of the path had been hollowed to form a wider flat area, which was occupied almost completely by a small church.
The small building nestled into its surroundings, perfectly fitted into the hollowed area. A small path, which we followed, led behind it towards where the stream was cascading down a man-made waterfall.
The area was so peaceful, and so different from where we’ve been the last few months. We desperately wanted to stay, but the sun was on its way down and I didn’t want to get stuck at the end of a dirt path in the middle of nowhere. (That’s the city girl in me talking.)
On the way back, Husbear took a brief detour to more closely inspect a small shack connected to the path by plank footbridge. It looked to me like the perfect home for a crazed ax murderer, so I hung back.
Back around the church and along the footpath… we of course made it back to the main road with plenty of time before dark.
We had seen some fun graffiti in Scigliano that we wanted to photo, so Husbear tested the long exposures on his camera (by now, it was full dark). I think the 10-second exposure on here worked pretty well. Though I’m still not sure if they’re wanting to say “No Thanks” or “No Tanks”, I suppose both sentiments are appropriate.
Later on, back at the B&B, I was trying to dry some underwear I had stupidly tried to wash out in the sink (when it had only 12 hours to dry) when there was a knock on the door.
It was Rafaelle, our host, inviting us to dinner! He knew we didn’t have a car, and thus very kindly invited us to eat with him.
We went to his house (right upstairs) with a bottle of wine about an hour later, and he accepted the gift even though he told us we were absolutely crazy for bringing white wine to have with pasta with red sauce. (I don’t know the rules yet!)
We had a lovely dinner of spaghetti with a very light tomato sauce and cauliflower in balsamic vinegar. More importantly, though, we talked for a long time with Rafaelle. He’s an architect who is passionate about his native Calabria, and he seemed genuinely sad that our trip through this region would have to be so short. He pulled out his archive of magazines and showed us pictures of Calabria’s beautiful towns – Scilla, Rocca Imperiale, Tropea.
Calabria isn’t touristy, and Rafaelle told us that a lot of this has to do with the Calabrians themselves. “You go to Naples, and there are billboards everywhere for their buffalo mozzarella – here in Calabria, we have the wonderful provola cheese from the Sila forests, and nobody outside of here knows about it!” He put a piece of cheese behind a napkin to illustrate. “We make a sign in very very small type and put it behind a tree, like this!” He went on to talk about Calabrian oranges, giving each of us one to prove their succulence, and Zagara amaro (digestive liqueur) which won gold prizes in international competition in 1979 and has been difficult to find ever since, even in Calabria.
A most edifying evening – great conversation and a wonderful time. We went to bed much too late – tomorrow Rafaelle takes us to the train station near Cosenza, and then on to Matera, where Mel Gibson filmed Passion of the Christ. This should be a very interesting town…