January – September, 2017
On the way to the spectacular Sila National Park and nestled amongst sweeping hills in the Savuto Valley, lies the quaint village of Rogliano in Calabria, Southern Italy, which is not frequented by many foreign tourists.
So, you are assured of a genuine and warm Calabrese experience on your visit.
It also helps that I’ve made wonderful friends that live in Le Manche, a mere couple of kilometres up a steep hill, from Rogliano, which makes visiting Casa Maria, a highlight in anyone’s stay.
From Cosenza’s Central train station, the rickety old one-carriage and Graffiti-splattered train (€2.40), whisks you around the hills and to Rogliano. Well perhaps ‘whisk’ isn’t quite the right word and ‘chugs’ is a better one as you travel on a diesel train. If you’re lucky, you may get to travel on a double-carriage train. This is a much newer train and in use when festivals and fairs, such as the St Joseph’s fair is on in Cosenza, as these events draws many people to the city from neighbouring villages and region.
The journey only takes about half an hour, travelling through beautiful mountainous countryside and forests, whilst you steadily climb the surrounding deep valleys.
I love this little trip to the mountains – it’s quite special and I never tire of this journey. And always reminisce as to what this area must have been like when my grandmother and father grew up here, and only wish that both were alive today to ask them more questions. You never seem to ask questions about your parent’s heritage whilst growing up, which is such a shame as all that history and experience is lost forever, once they’re gone.
The more time I spend living in Calabria and meeting wonderful southern Italians, the more I want to learn about this region of Italy.
Everywhere has it’s ups and down, and I’m not saying this area is perfect, but it has been good to me so far and I’m really enjoying living here.
If you asked me 10 years’ ago whether I’d see myself living full-time in Italy, I probably would have laughed at you. As an Australian, it’s difficult to live in Italy for more than 90 days in an 180-day period. Read about what I’ve had to go through for a visa: Citizenship blues: The Italian Job
These are the kind of thoughts that cross my mind during this short train trip.
I am lucky to travel through the various seasons in this gorgeous region, which provides a natural ever-changing colourful backdrop – one more beautiful than the last.
Note: Trains from Cosenza run on 2 different timetables during the year. The changeover for summer is from July to September and typically, less trains are schedulled.
Rogliano is the village where my grandmother was from and so, I feel that part of my roots belong here. And similar to my father’s village (Parenti), which is only about a short 25-kilometre crazy bus ride around the mountains from Rogliano.
In these small isolated villages during my grandmother and father’s times, I’m told that babies really were delivered in their homes and not in hospitals. Typically, this was by a neighbour with some experience and a stand-in midwife. Lighting was scarce and life was very basic and rustic.
Today however, Rogliano boasts around 6,000 residents and although quaint, is bustling with many restaurants, coffee shops, museums, and the medieval Old Town, which is enough to keep you occupied.
Throughout this year has seen many trips to Rogliano to catch up with friends or continue on a wonderful steam train trip (Il Treno della Sila) through the Sila National Park, or a bus excursion to the Amalfi Coast. Loads of fun and a great way to see Italy. Not to mention the scrumptious food that’s either prepared for us at Casa Maria or enjoyed when venturing to Rogliano’s great and inexpensive restaurants.
Meandering the streets of Rogliano and stopping for an Espresso or an Aperitivo is wonderfully relaxing. The people-watching is also great. I love the village feel of Rogliano, as I do with its Old Town.
A little walk up the hill from the train station, will have you strolling the Corso (main road) with many little authentic bakeries, delicatessens, bar and gelato stops, and much more.
Once you visit the Corso and especially if you stop and meet a few locals along the way, if and when you return, you will be remembered.
I think that even though my Italian is improving, I don’t really blend in with the locals here or in Italy for that matter, and especially in small villages. Perhaps it’s because my grandmother was from this village and this spot resonates with me, but I can mostly understand the locals speaking the dialect, which incidentally, is a little different to the Parenti dialect.
An open-air street art museum with life-size sculptures graces Rogliano’s Corso alleyways, which is worth taking in on your stroll, but more on that below.
The Old Town
Following a powerful earthquake, the original village was re-built in its current position, which dates back to medieval times (1300-1400). Still in tact and not having suffered the wraths of historical wars, a visit to Rogliano’s Old Town is a must.
Climbing up and down the narrow cobbled alleyways, will leave you wanting to stop for an Aperitivo somewhere to rest.
Take a leisurely stroll along the Corso and in its narrow alleyways. It won’t be long before you bump into twelve intriguing sculptures made from either wood, stone, or iron.
The sculptures were completed during six days. Artists only had six hours to complete their piece as the worked was ranked. A few of the sculptures look as if it would have taken more than six hours to complete.
Food in Rogliano
Spending loads of time in Rogliano and also house sitting for a week, goes hand-in-hand with sampling Rogliano’s culinary delights…and delights there are many.
Although nothing beats our friend’s famous and scrumptious dishes made with loving hands and true Italian food obsession, picking fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden, cooked and straight onto the table.
A group of us went to this restaurant that makes the only ‘real’ Pinsa in the village and what an incredible experience devouring this delicious dish!
A Pinsa is a type of pizza that I haven’t tried before, never really heard of until I arrived here (I hear echoes of Heathan). The Pinsa is made with three different types of flour and is proved for around 150 hours in the fridge. You cannot believe how light and fluffy this type of pizza is, and not heavy at all – it’s simply divine. I urge everyone to try one of these at least once in your lifetime, if you can only stick to one.
Ristorante Pizzeria La Lanterna
Newly opened on Vico Donnanni snc with owners eager to please. Perched on a higher part of Rogliano, the views from the outside seating area stretch across the picturesque and undulating Camminella Valley.
Enter inside and you will be greeted with a very tasteful and fresh modern décor, which invites a cool atmosphere.
The Antipasto (€6+) and Pizza (€3.50+) are simply delicious and servings are plentiful. The usual beverages are available as is bottled and house wine. Eat your excellent pizza whilst enjoying great service in this noisy but fun ambience.
Slainte Irish Pub
Walk along Corso Umberto to discover this quiet pub in Rogliano – well it was quiet until our rowdy group rocked up.
Surrounded by exposed ancient stone walls and a low heavy-timbered ceiling, you feel as though you’re thrown back in an old English pub from the medieval period.
The blinding difference is the cost and strength of the drinks though – extremely cheap at €6 for 3 rums and one liqueur, accompanied by nibbles. All of this makes for a very pleasant experience, with lovely and friendly staff thrown in.
Bar Gelateria Misaggi
Stop along Via Antonia Guarasci, 18/20 for excellent coffee, pastries (€1.20+), service, and Aperitivo. This is a great breakfast stop for the obligatory café and Brioche, especially on a Sunday morning. At this time, local Roglianese flock and parade along the streets chatting the morning away, before speeding back home like a puff of wind for a leisurely Pranzo (lunch).
On Via A De Gaspei, 1/A-1/B, this lovely bar offers excellent coffee (€0.80+) and wonderful baked-on-site pastries (€0.50+). Give this bar a go if you’re in the neighbourhood – it’s worth the stop.
Food in Santo Stefano
As Santo Stefano is only the next village over from Rogliano so not too far, decided to sample some of the delights on offer here also.
Il Nuovo Cacciatore Ristorante e Pizzeria
On Via Nazionale, 15, lies this wonderful and loud large family restaurant. Don’t expect a quiet tête-à-tête romantic dinner here – it won’t happen.
The food is excellent and not over-priced with good pizza (€6+), amazing specialty meat dishes (€8+), and much more. Everything including the wine is made in-house using the best of local produce. Expect great service from the restaurant’s friendly staff.
When we thought we were too full even forgoing dessert, the owner insisted we try his specialty sweet: Chestnuts drenched in a locally made Rum liqueur. I enjoyed the liqueur but the chestnuts were a little dry for me…still it was a lovely gesture and think this was due to being with our local friends.
Sadly, on this evening though, we had a set of Exorcist twins next to our table that were bent on screaming their lungs out and wouldn’t let up. If I hadn’t been with our friends, I would have said something to the parents who were not controlling the tantrums.
Just a quick trip to Santo Stefano on Via Nazionale, is the excellent Dolce Café, which serves wonderful freshly-made Zeppole (€1) and excellent coffee (€1+). Many more pastries and cakes are freshly made on the premise, for your delectation.
Only opened a few years, the décor is modern and staff are great in this very busy café.
House sitting in Rogliano
More like a country resort or retreat, complete with a lovely pool, who wouldn’t stay and enjoy house sitting at Casa Maria?
As our friends are taking a break for a week in Sicily, we stayed at their beautiful home looking after their menagerie: 2 cats, 2 dogs, a pony, a peacock, chickens, rabbits, bunnies, and 2 goats.
Apart from the chickens and rabbits, all the animals have names of course, and are like children.
After seeing the guys off in the morning, we were left to our own devices and hoped like hell that we would not loose any family members, whilst ‘Under New Management‘.
Warned of his trick in advance, Rocky the older dog was feeling sorry for himself at being left behind. And so, feigned a limp (an old car injury) for a little while, before realising his attempt did not make a difference on the new management.
Sally, the younger dog, is an affection tart and doesn’t care who gives her loads of affection or food for that matter – it’s all the same to her, the little cherub.
All the family members have their own great and cheeky personalities, which we have grown to know and love over the week.
Bruno the miniature pony, is full of mischief when not being fed. Although during feeding time, nothing can stop him from his eating mission, so, I can brush him without any problem, whilst he slowly munches away at his food. Although, I discovered rather alarmingly, that he is a frisky little devil in the afternoons and dusk…but I won’t go into that little issue!
The house-sitting week passed much too quickly as we indulged in copious amounts of puppy and animal love, not to mention exploring Rogliano.
Returning to Cosenza
Southern Italy really is a region of extreme temperatures at the moment.
From experiencing the coldest winter Cosenza had in 72 years this January, to the hottest August on record for a very long time, Cosenza’s heatwave has me melting, especially after returning from Rogliano’s slightly cooler climes.
In August, the temperature here reminds me of SE Asia, albeit not quite as high in humidity yet, but it is climbing daily. August 2016 was definitely not this warm. Typically, Rogliano is a few degrees cooler, but even in this village, it is also balmy this year.
The unusual number of bushfires this season have scarred the beautiful mountainous landscape and hope this will recover with the coming rains.