As Cosenza is home for a year, then why not start enjoying this city and revel in Christmas festivities, Calabrese style?
Christmas lead up
Following some manic food and liquor shopping over the last few days, Christmas Eve is finally here…
Cosenza has been incredibly busy for the last 2 weeks, but especially this week – so many people rushing around for last minute presents or food.
Discovered the Christmas markets, which are only 5-minutes from the apartment. Selling mainly Chrissy decorations, you can also buy some take-away food snacks from stalls at the markets.
Christmas lights adorn trees in the park but also in the streets above roads, which is the open air light museum that Cosenza puts on each year. The city is heaving with people.
Typically, Christmas Eve is big in Italy with a feast in the evening. You then wait up through past midnight when you can open presents, which is what we used to do as children in Australia.
There is also another feast that follows this eve – Christmas lunch. This sitting takes several hours or more with family gatherings, stories, music, and a lot of stirring – as we call it in Australia: taking the p*ss.
After cooking a sumptuous garlic prawn over a bed of spiced Cous Cous (not exactly traditional Italian food), we decide to venture out just before 21:00 hrs as this is when Cosenza locals put on fireworks.
I wasn’t quite expecting a deserted city with only the sound of fireworks with firework bombs going off for about 15 minutes. It is totally random, mental, and sporadic – almost like a war zone.
Fireworks are thrown down from balconies at your feet. You need to scarper or else, although it is fun wandering through the smoke-hazed streets.
Scenes from the movie 28 Days Later spring to mind as only one or two souls are brave enough to venture the deserted and quiet streets tonight.
Definitely worth a mention is this piece of Calabrese history adapted during Christmas time.
The rural Calabrese folk come to Cosenza from the mountains and busk in the streets or go from shop-to-shop busking, playing La Zampogna -ancient bagpipe.
Typically, men in pairs (Zampognari) play Italian bagpipes made of goat or sheep skin bladder and timber (Cherry wood or other), dressed in folk clothes of yesteryear.
You can find at least five different kinds of Zampogna in Calabria. And this history is linked to shepherds and their nomadic pastoral life of looking after herds away from home.
La Zampogna and other instruments would be brought along to comfort shepherds to make them feel at home. Only using the materials available on the mountain, most of the time the Zampognari made their own instruments.
On reaching new pastures with their animals, the Zampognari would rest with a little wine and chunks of hard cheese, before settling down to an open-air concert. Their music would echo around the surrounding mountains and filter down to the valleys below.
Children were particularly thrilled when sighting the Zampognari as they knew that Christmas was close.
With an obligatory visit to our fave coffee shop Matteotti, to wish everyone best wishes and of course to stop for coffee and pastries, now returning home to prepare a feast of roast chicken and vegetables. And for dessert, more sublime pastries from this wonderful coffee shop, of course.
A passeggiata (stroll) through Cosenza to help the feast digest and ready for the arrival of The Kids (Lorraine and Bob) tomorrow – very excited.
Hiring a car in Lamezia Terme Airport is so much easier than relying on the airport bus service from Cosenza. And, much better when you have a car to meet guests at the airport.
I still cannot understand why the schedule for the airport bus is so poor when there are so many flights to and from Lamezia Terme. This is the only International airport that services Calabria.
Excellent to catch up with the kids again, which I haven’t seen since July and so very excited. An evening with pasta, wine, a movie, and lots of catching up.
A drive to Paola saw us indulging in nibbles and coffee at a little Bar on the seafront, as sadly, the favourite Carp Diem Ristorante that serves delicious seafood is closed.
Very quiet along the waterfront this time of year – it is winter.
After seeking out a safe park for the car in town, strolled up to the Old Town’s gate, which is lovely and adorned with religious statues.
Everything is shut as it’s the middle of the day, which is the way in which most of Italy operates. Will have to return for a proper look.
The gorgeous Tyrrhenian Sea’s coastline on one side and mountain view vistas on the other, graces the drive back to Cosenza.
About a month ago we met a very sweet lady in Cosenza’s Angelo Azzurro café.
Overheard speaking English – not common here – we received a kind invitation to visit at their house in Rogliano on the 28th December.
As the kids are with us, I checked that this is still OK.
Amazing how a random five-minute conversation with a total stranger found us catching the train from Cosenza to Rogliano, on somewhat of a mystery tour.
Our host picked all four of us up in a little Fiat Panda and off we chugged up the long winding road, huging the steep hill.
What a lovely way to spend a few hours with locals and their friends – another travelling couple that live in Australia, but wandering the globe.
Travellers always have so much to talk about and especially over wine, cheese, and wonderful Italian delicacies. The simple things in life are the best.
After the drive back to town, we wandered around Rogliano before the train to Cosenza arrived – a wonderful afternoon.
A pizza at our fave Pizzeria L’Antica Tavernetta in the Old Town – always excellent and inexpensive – a stroll back to the apartment, movie, and drinks finished off another very lovely day in Calabria.
Today a longer drive with our guests, heading south this time along the pretty Calabrian coast and the Tyrrhenian Sea to Tropea.
Apart from Tropea’s beach, which hoards of locals congregate to in the summer, this town is famous nationally for its red onions.
Sadly, I didn’t get to taste any on this day or even see any in the grocery shops. Wrong time of year perhaps?
The coastal drive after Lamezia Terme airport is quite special and although the day is somewhat freezing – snowed on our evening’s return trip – Tropea is beautiful.
I can fully understand why locals flock to this seaside town.
The town precariously rests around 30 metres up on a sheer cliff line. The steep drive down to the sea is dramatic to say the least, especially if you’re not the driver.
Connected to the mainland by a narrow strip and situated on a reef, Tropea lies in the gulf of St. Euphemia.
A passeggiata (stroll) around Tropea is an energetic pleasure but there are always many restaurants, bars, and cafes to stop at for while.
Talk to a local for some insight – don’t be shy – they are very friendly.
Spent a few hours at The Metropolis in Rende looking at the shops and introducing the kids to a wonderful Gelato from our favourite C House Coffee Shop.
Waiting on a parcel from IKEA so decided to try our luck at the depot. Driving out to the backstreets of a commercial area in Rende proved both confusing and irritating as streets don’t display road numbers.
Finally stopping at the very expensive and flash Alfa Romeo showroom, the very helpful salespeople gave us the correct directions. Off we set once again to the Depot. Luckily, the parcel did arrive – success as I doubt a public bus services this area.
New Year Eve’s festivities
Last New Year’s Eve in Cosenza saw 100,000 people congregate for festivities, music, and fun in Corso Mazzini, so, decided on leaving the car in the carpark today.
Instead, walked through the Old Town and up the hill to the Castello Normanno Svevo. It’s a long steep walk up and back, but well worth the wonderful views of Cosenza.
Preparing for the evening with food and drink, decided a movie would help to keep everyone stay awake for the countdown to midnight.
Venturing out at about 15 minutes before midnight down to Corso Mazzinni and up to Piazza Bilotti, all seemed quiet.
The band is good enough but without a countdown and only the time on a digital board up high, it’s a bit flat seeing 2017 through.
Suddenly from nowhere, the Piazza exploded filling to the brim with people, drink, and more music. The whole place is rammed with bodies…103,000 to be precise.
Great atmosphere but as toilets are either a lengthy line-up or scarce, walked back to the apartment at 02:30 am for a toilet stop, then decided to feast on more but cold lasagne! Think we’ve had a tad too much to drink.
Venturing back out as the morning is still young and wanting to see more of 2017’s first day, after a couple more hours the cold started seeping in, so headed back for some sleep at around 4:30 am.
A great effort team and we beat our last year’s effort of 3:30 am in Puzzuoli!
New Year’s Day
Needless to say, no one surfaced until lunchtime. And, needing coffee, headed for a long walk to the Bar Bronx for great service, food, and coffee.
Sporting slightly sore heads, a quiet rest of New Year’s day with another movie in the apartment’s warmth finishes off the day.
Saying goodbye again
An early rise this morning as the kids are off back to the UK.
The drive to Lamezia Terme Airport is eventless and so is returning the car to Europcar. Great service from this company. At €210 for the eleven days (and €45 for fifteen days of parking in Cosenza), it is worthwhile and easier than catching public transport. Timing buses with flights at Lazmezia is a bit of an art as buses don’t return to Cosenza regularly. A wait of over an hour is common. Last time I waited over 2 hours as the bus never arrived.
Sad to say our goodbyes again but perhaps a quick trip to the UK this year is on the cards – if I’m allowed back in, after my detainment at Heathrow last year.
Snow in Cosenza!
About a week after the kids left Italy, Cosenza became very cold and icy again. So much so that it snowed for several days.
It was cold enough for the snow to stay on the ground for about a week before the rain washed most away. Unusual for Cosenza as typically, the city may see snow for a few hours one day during the year.
Apparently, this winter is the coldest in 72 years for Cosenza – just my luck.
I’ve officially named our apartment The Cozhotel – Cosenza Hotel – as we are starting to get several visitors, which I love.
My very good friend stayed with us in February for a week just absorbing the culture, food, and locals, which also consisted of a 5-hour scrumptious lunch at our lovely friends’ house in Rogliano.
Not much sight-seeing for my friend on this trip as it was more about chilling and relaxing. The next catch-up will have to be on my friend’s boat in Fiji.
Invited to a friend’s birthday wig party, I also dragged (exaggerating) my visiting friend along.
A gorgeous birthday party saw everyone making a brilliant effort with brightly coloured fashionable and not-so-fashionable wigs.
So much fun and a hoot! And in true Italian style, loads of food and cakes were consumed throughout the evening. I love the get-togethers here but with all this food, I’m not so sure how everyone stays so slim…