Even before the alarm clock tells me it is time to do so. Just ahead there is an adventure, a trip towards an exchange, an early meeting with my trip mates. Some doubts, some impressions of those who have already walked around its narrow streets and, nearly without being aware, our transfer to Valencia seems to me shorter than usual. I feel anxious, a flight and in the twinkling of an eye we found ourselves negotiating hot to get to Rome, that city I had always studied about, the one I see in pictures and films, and also in my free dreams of Audrey Hepburn and Roman Holiday. What an intense and ephemeral magic! Those terraces full of glamour, those postcards passing in front of my eyes, the cobbled streets…Impossible to retain so much beauty. Every step I take, I imagine them in black and white. I really want to come back here one day.
Again during a light sleep I remember how someone in Spain asked me “Calabria? But do you know where you’re going?”. Sure I didn’t, but it is there where the magic lies.
How wonderful! It’s 11 at night when we get to our hotel and at our arrival I find four smiling people who welcome us as if it was early in the morning and they weren’t tired. Now think about a still life painting with plenty of contrasts and you will figure out what the place was like: stone, mountain smell…It was dark so I imagine the trees that I can’t see, I smell that surrounding nature that gives me a peaceful feeling. The picture is completed by some delicacies worthy of a group of old friends who meet again after years without seeing each other.
If I have to describe that small village of Santa Severina, I can’t avoid remaining wordlessly, and I hesitate whether I will be able to convey to you what that square meant to me. It was as if time had stopped and I, with no intention, soaked up all that simplicity. This trip had already started being great!!
Time stops in a church, nearly a cathedral, with a good piece of History to tell and some manuscripts filled with antique writings, which have been carefully preserved. Hardly a few steps separate the most ecclesiastical Middle Ages from a fortress surrounded by high walls, with some skeletons that are kept and exhibited as if someone had left them there for me to see them and now tell you about it. Like this, many other surprising things, one happening after another, that make me enjoy more and more this constant flow of History, culture and people, the later ones as noble as their treatment to these Spanish travellers.
Next stop: LALEO. This is a school where you can learn Italian, sleep, eat and live together with other people. So far nothing strange or exceptional except for the price of the courses and stays offered. They were economically accessible and this is something unusual nowadays. And once again, really nice people there!
Our beautiful and interesting trip goes on. Now we are on a glass-bottomed boat from which I can see the seabed. I decide to have a swim and go to that place, reaching a peaceful state that my body and my mind had been demanding without success for a long time. Another fortress in Le Castelle, where I can’t stop taking photographs that I exchange with David. He teaches me hot to make the most of my Nikon. Thank a lot, my friend!! At dusk a new dinner together. The Irish are sitting close to us in a balcony with views over the sea. They are also great people and have plenty of things to say and to share with us… don’t you, Pepe??
There aren’t many more things to add, just that our exchange ended up full of history (and stories), of monuments and old books, truly old documents indeed, and a carefully preserved geography populated by the unassuming Calabrian people.
The Italians, the Spanish and the Irish, we all made a big effort so as to communicate and understand each other in English. Good memories that will be hard to forget…Some pizzas in a medieval environment, some nice music in a remote place, a local policeman who picks us up and takes us to the supermarket…
Everything seemed to be pretty normal during our stay there but if I hadn’t seen all this with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it. It’s something hard to explain when stress is the only companion you have in your daily life.
I’m glad to say I’ve learnt a very important lesson: I should always enjoy my life and everything around me slowly, in a calm way. Just life, nothing else.
My name is Antonio Chacón, I am responsible of restaurant & bar services at CCT (Murcia), and a travelling companion in this touristic and gastronomic exchange in Santa Severina. I can’t say when but I’d love to come back to Calabria one day. Thanks for everything.
Many thanks to Joe, Joseph, Calum, Francis, Martin, Edvania, Roberta, Ciccio, Rosa, Carmine and Alessio.