{ITALIA} CALABRIA AND FAMILY

San Giovanni in Fiore | Where is June?

{San Giovanni, Calabria}

This is Part 2 in a series of posts about my trip to Italy in 2014.  {Read Part 1/Roma here}

Calabria: Days 6 and 7

Leaving Rome, we headed south, 5 hours by train, to the region of Calabria.  Both of my grandfathers immigrated to the United States from Calabria.  Unbelievably, their towns happen to be only 30 km apart.  Prior to leaving on our trip I was able to connect with family and plan time in each town.  My cousin Elena, spoke English and was an immense help!  While in Rome my rusty Italian served us well.  In southern Italy it was a totally different story.  Very few residents spoke English and all of them spoke in a regional dialect, so it was almost impossible for me to communicate.  Aaron can tell an extremely funny story about my conversation with a cab driver in Cosenza.  I mistakenly asked for a 50 km cab ride instead of a ride to the train station.  Funny now, extremely stressful in the moment.

Click through to read more about our time in Southern Italy:

southern italy | Where is June?

Our first stop, after getting off the train in Cosenza, was Pedace.  My paternal grandfather’s town.  We were warmly welcomed and had easy conversations {thankfully translated}.  Lots of hugs, kisses, and wine.  Pietro, the older gentleman in the picture below, is my father’s first cousin.  The highlight was taking a Sunday evening stroll.  Aaron and I were like celebrities-everyone eager to meet us.  We walked to my grandfather’s childhood home.  It was almost dark and a car was parked in front, but my cousins and I happily stood in front for a picture.  At dinner my cousins made fun of me.  I asked to share a pizza.  “Mangia poco!”  To their standards, I ate very little.

Scarcello Familia | Where is June?

 

Pedace Italy | Where is June?

The next morning, my cousin kindly offered to drive us to San Giovanni in Fiore, my maternal grandfather’s town.  She also offered to stay with us and serve as a translator.  Pietro came along for the ride as well.  We were embraced instantly.  My cousin Lucia, seated next to me and holding my hand, didn’t want to let go!  She repeated my mother’s name to me. “Carolina, Carolina.”  {My mother’s name is Carol.}  There were pictures scattered on the kitchen table.  I was surprised and then overcome with emotion.  The pictures were of my grandparents, my mother and aunt, and of me!  They knew me and loved me through the pictures my grandfather sent home to Italy.  The tears flowed.  The answer to my mini-breakdown?  Food and a round of shots.  Good Italians!  Before eating a lovely lunch, we visited my grandfather’s home.  The doorway and street were from another time.  Another lifetime.

Perri Familia | Where is June?

San Giovianni Italy | Where is June?

Our time in Calabria was quick, life changing, and quite an emotional roller coaster.  I would go back tomorrow if I could.

love for italy

1. We loved the warmth of my family.  My cousins, on both sides, were insanely gracious and welcoming.  We felt the love instantly and we were quick friends.

2.  The sense of awe I felt standing where my grandfathers were born is indescribable.  They both came from humble beginnings, traveled to a new world, and made a life.  The amount of courage and bravery that took is remarkable.

TIPS

1. If traveling by train in Italy, use the electronic kiosks in the train stations.  They have an English language option and there were virtually no lines.  Be careful of pick pockets.  They love to target tourists when they are distracted.

2.  Error on the side of First Class.  The price of a First Class ticket versus a regular ticket was nominal.  It was worth traveling in the First Class cars during lengthy train rides.

 

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