This is our fourth trip to Italy. On our first trip we spent an Easter holiday exploring Rome and the Amalfi Coast and fell in love with Italy. On our next Italian vacation we explored Milan, Verona, Venice, Emiglia Romano and Florence. Two years ago we were lucky enough to spend 5 months living an hour north of Rome and getting to know Tuscany and Umbria. We knew that on this trip we wanted to spend some time exploring our roots in Calabria.
When we told our Italian friends and acquaintances that we were planning to spend a few months in Calabria, they where aghast. “You’re going where?” “The people are different there.” These were the typical responses we got when we told friends that we were not only visiting Calabria, but thinking about settling there. I’ll be honest, although Nick was unaffected by their comments, their genuine concern made me a little nervous about our plan.
If Italy is a boot, then San Sostene Marina is on the ball of the foot. Google said it would be a seven hour drive. People had warned us that the roads in the south were dangerous, but we found the highways were well-maintained, with plenty of busy rest stops along the way. There were tunnels going through the mountains and bridges spanning the steep valleys between them, but it all felt safe and efficient.
When we arrived at our rental house in San Sostene Marina, we were blown away by the beauty of the house and grounds. The pictures did not do it justice.
Villa Marina sits in a small estate with two homes, all enclosed behind a gated wall. The yard is a lovingly cared for small farm with citrus, olive and fruit tree as well as a vegetable garden. Flowers are in bloom everywhere. Small harmless lizards scatter as we walk through the yard. The caretaker encouraged us to pick anything that we want from the trees and the garden.
The first thing we discovered was a fig tree right behind our house, loaded with ripe, sticky, black figs. We ate figs like they were candy for two days, until the tree was bare.
Most of the citrus is still green, but we’re enjoying ripe lemons and oranges. There are also pears, pomegranates, and prickly pear that tastes like sweet melon. The garden has basil, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. There’s a hedge of rosemary right next to the house. It’s like the Garden of Eden.
Just outside our front gate is a beautiful sandy beach. The water is crystal clear. The waves of the Ionian Sea break gently on the shore. We can hear the rhythm of the waves from our terrace. Sunrises over the sea are spectacular.
Every afternoon we take beach chairs and an umbrella to the beach. Nick swims while I lounge in the shade of the umbrella and enjoy the view or read. If it’s not too hot, Bella will join us for some beach fun.
Although beach season is over, there are a few restaurants within walking distance that are still open. We don’t often eat out, but the food at “our” local places is delicious and reasonable, so we’re dining out here on a regular basis.
One of the things we are enjoying most about this area is the people. The Calabrese are welcoming and friendly. Nick, especially, has been using his improved Italian language skills to connect with people.
This part of Calabria is beautiful. It’s hard to imagine that we’ll find a place that we like better than this. We’ve visited a few of the nearby hill towns, including Nick’s ancestral home of Cardinale, but I’m going to save that for another post. And we still have two weeks left to explore. We can’t wait to discover more of this magical place.
Ci Vediamo! (We’ll see you!)
Lynne, Nick and Bella