December, 2017 – January, 2018
Friends staying over provides the opportunity of hiring a car and driving around Calabria for some sight-seeing and photos. With a drive south of Cosenza to Falerna first, decided to explore the small villages of Altilia and Malito.
As Ben, our guest from Thailand leaves tomorrow after only a short stay of a week during the Christmas festive season, it is time for a sight-seeing trip to a few southern villages. Decided on a drive to the coastal town of Falerna first, before heading north to Cosenza again but via inland, to explore a couple of the smaller villages in the hills.
The great advantage about Cosenza is that regardless of whether you want to surround yourself with beautiful beach, coastal ancient villages, or immerse yourself amongst stunning mountains in a national park, it’s all within an easy drive from the city.
A quick trip to coastal Falerna in the province of Catanzaro only to find that as expected, most things are closed as this is a summer town really.
There’s always time for a leisurely coffee and snack before a long walk on the waterfront to take some photos. And of course, a long walk builds an appetite for a delicious Gelato (€1.50) at the Bar Gelataria Jolly on Viale Aldo Moro 10, before heading north again, to the hilltop villages.
Visible from the highway from Cosenza to Lamezia International airport, I always comment on how I would like to visit a village perched high on a rocky ridge hill top, whilst driving past the Altilia turn-off sign.
Today, we decided to take the turn-off on the highway to do some exploring.
The winding narrow road climbed higher and higher until finally reaching the small quaint village of Altilia, which strangely enough is like a ghost town, and at over 590 metres, much colder than Falerna’s sea-level location.
Located near the Savuto Valley this ancient tidy village boasts stunning views looking down and across the Savuto Valley. The village’s roots date back before the tenth century, which is evident in the gorgeous stone architecture.
A quick panorama video taken with my Lumix compact camera, so that you can get a feel for the vistas from Altilia – simply gorgeous! Next time, I’ll try The Beast (my three-kilo Nikon and lens) to take a video.
Meandering the cobbled lanes and just having fun, the occasional local’s head popped out of a window or from around a corner, to see us strangers in their village – quite funny.
In a very strong dialect, one elderly lady eyed my face suspiciously as I approached and in her croaky voice uttered: ‘I don’t know you’. In such a small village and given her age, I’m sure she knows everyone here and possibly related to many.
After many photos, exploring many stoned lanes, and with worsening weather, we decided to push on as the afternoon’s light dimmed slowly, and the temperature dropped significantly.
On to the neighbouring village of Malito we drove…
Although Malito’s origins are unknown, some believe that this village dates back to 986 and some believe older, due to the Pagan ruins and sepulchres’ discovered. And yet, there is also the fact that in 132 BC, the Romans started the road that took four years to complete, connecting Capua to Reggio Calabria, and which crossed the Malito Fields.
Sometimes it’s really hard to find any information on these small villages situated on the outskirts of cities. I would love to know if anyone has any history for this village?
For now, we are happy to explore around Malito on a crisp winter’s afternoon and mess about in this chilly altitude!
A quick escape to Scalea and Paola
As the buses are a little hit and miss over this festive season, decided on a drive to Scalea today as Ben needs to catch his train back to Rome.
Discovering that the train didn’t stop at Scalea, we drove south along the coast and back to Paola, where his ticket commenced. Quite strange as typically, all trains stop at Scalea.
Beautiful Scalea is a relaxed seaside town during the winter months although summer months are quite different when this town becomes a tourist resort destination. Many local and European tourists flock to the beach and bake.
Paola is similar in the summer but a little less up-market than Scalea. Still, I’ve visited this town when thousands of beach goers cram the seaside. Both towns are great stops for visitors and have reasonable train and bus infrastructure.
New Year’s Eve
With road closures on every side road to Corso Mazzini, this kept a lot of the crowds away as by the time we arrived at the concert, it was quiet.
The annoying thing is that to enter Mazzini, security searched everyone and no plastic bottles were allowed, not even water bottles – only plastic cups. We had de-cantered alcohol into plastic bottles pre-empting the glass bottle ban, so, we stood there pouring our drink into plastic cups. I believe this ban was so that the crowd would buy drinks from Bars, which had stayed open. The whole organisation was much more stringent and very different to last year’s event where we could take our own alcohol, much more laid back, and enjoyable.
The concert was good but much too short, especially for how much it cost the Cosenza Commune – many locals are not happy with this expense.
Following the concert, crowds, which had swelled to many more people, wandered up and down the Corso, being directed one way or another by security, and not allowed to wander off to blocked side roads.
New Year’s Day
After rolling in at around 4 a.m. and a much needed sleep-in today, a well-earned chilled day is agreed by all. Not a great way to see the new year in, but necessary.
Typically, everything is shut on New Year’s day in Cosenza, at least until later in the afternoon. Even Bars, typically open all day long and into the evening are shut; and where you buy coffee, pastries, and savouries.
Venturing out for coffee and pastry, just like last year, we found Bar Bronx opened before 16:00hrs, so flopped onto the chairs and grazed before heading home once more.
An excellent time was had by all and look forward to the next New Year’s Eve – hope I’m here…