I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked: ‘Why Calabria in southern Italy?’
Followed by the next question: ‘Why would you want to leave amazing and beautiful Australia?’
Locals here are incredulous that I would ever want to leave my country, let alone live in Calabria.
To put things into perspective, my father was Calabrese (northern-Italian mother) and I grew up with many stories about a spectacular Calabria. Perhaps it’s an obvious choice even though I do love Australia, my country of birth.
I also have to mention that I think our politicians have ingeniously marketed Australia in such a way that many foreigners see this country as a utopia. A paradise where everything runs smoothly without any problems and one of the best countries in the world. Sure this is true to a point, but as with many countries including Italy, Australia has its good and bad points.
Having travelled for most of my life, I feel at home almost anywhere.
It doesn’t bother me whether I’m out in the middle of the Sahara Desert sleeping in a Bedouin tent, sailing in the Caribbean Sea, travelling for days deep into the Amazon, motor homing across European borders, or enduring an arduous ascent of a Chilean Volcano, I always feel at home.
Where is Calabria?
If you haven’t heard of Calabria then you really should make an effort to visit this untouched part of Italy, which is the toe of the boot.
Surrounded by the gorgeous Tyrrhenian Sea on its western shores and flanked by the sparkling Ionian Sea on its east, you are ensured of beautiful beaches on your visit.
This region only covers around 15,080 km2 and with a population of just under 2 million people, serenity can be achieved.
What else is there about Calabria?
But Calabria is not just about sand and beaches…
…or its profound history, quaint sleepy villages, the Sila National Park, and the traditional Aperol Spritz in the summer – although not invented in Calabria.
This marvellous region in Italy is also about its passionate and hospitable people – not forgetting the incredibly scrumptious food.
Spending hours over an amazing ‘pranzo’ (lunch) lovingly prepared by a Calabrese until you’re too stuffed to move, is common practice, especially on a Sunday.
Most Calabrese have a patch of land somewhere or in their backyard. Growing fresh produce to preserve or to use straight from the garden in what can only be described as the freshest and most flavoursome of traditional dishes is commonplace in Calabria. But I digress…
Back to ‘why Calabria?’
Following the war, Italy lacked food and work, which forced many Italians to take the daunting step to seek work in other countries.
Some remained in their newfound country, whilst others eventually returned to Italy.
My father remained in Australia.
The trials and tribulations of arriving in a foreign land such as Australia in the 1950s are plentiful. After enduring a 40-day voyage at sea (sounds biblical), arriving in Australia without a word of English, without friends, and without a job, my father found work on building roads.
Imagine how hard it would have been in those days (or even today), pouring hot bitumen for roads under Australia’s scorching heat?
Over time and without help from anyone, he taught himself how to speak, read, and write English. Working and saving hard to buy land, he realised his dream in this new country and started farming for the Sydney markets.
Farming in Australia is not easy as we experience a lot of droughts and floods.
These are some of the harsh stories of reality that still resonate with me today, but also, these stories make me appreciate the Calabrese strength, courage, and resilience.
Although my father never had the opportunity to return to his beloved Italy, he longed for his children to visit his village, understand our heritage, and see the beauty of his Calabria, which his heart never left.
Nothing would have made him happier than to know that I’m here…
These deep-seated stories inspired me to start travelling at a young age and finally to my father’s village in this beautiful Italian region.
My time in Cosenza allowed me to connect with my heritage, improve on my forgotten Italian, and absorb the wonderful Calabrese culture, especially the food and is a gateway for me to visit my family’s villages to reconnect.
Photography and writing journey
As a travel photographer and writer, I love to inspire people to visit regions of our globe that are not so well known, such as Calabria.
My work also includes street and documentary photography. Capturing the essence of a candid moment is my passion and strive for images that etch in people’s minds. I hope that you appreciate my photography as a true and sometimes raw representation of reality, to bring awareness of social conditions.
Although I picked up my first camera at age 10, it’s only during the last decade that I have devoted quality time to build a portfolio and my two websites. When working in my profession as a Technical Writer, my time is limited for creative ventures.
As well as digital, I still use old 35mm film cameras, so because the images are candid, I rarely use a flash. When necessary, some editing such as cropping, dust removal, or contrast adjustment is applied but I really don’t like post-production.
Why am I telling you this?
Photographic exhibition in Calabria
Whilst in Calabria and together with the Piano B – Event Project Management team, I had the fantastic opportunity of holding a solo exhibition: Image Earth Faces Photographic Exhibition in the delightful village of Cerisano, north of Cosenza. I am very grateful to the Mayor of Cerisano Lucio Di Gioia for supporting my work.
Take a peek at the elegant and stunning fourteenth-century Calabrese Palazzo Sersale venue – video credit: hallo bunny.
Following this exhibition, I was commissioned to capture the essence of the tiny village of Castrolibero, which is just 12 kilometres from Cosenza and then exhibit the photos.
A second photographic exhibition in Calabria
Everything was prepared but on the day of the exhibition and hanging my photos, the heavens opened and the continual rain cancelled the weekend event. The Chiesa Santa Maria della Stella does not have a roof but what an amazing space to exhibit.
The exhibition was pushed out but on returning to Australia for 6 weeks, borders closed and I was marooned for 3.5 years because of COVID-19. Returning to Calabria in July (2023) for several weeks, I will publish some new posts (eventually).
I hope that you check out this Image Earth Travel site for many more posts on Calabria, other musings of Italy, but also loads of posts from travels around the globe.
With a plethora of destinations in alluring Calabria to explore, write about, and photograph, stay tuned for more posts.
Please also pop over to my portfolio of 62-plus countries on my photography site – still many more countries to upload.
Leave me a comment on what you would like to read regarding Calabria, Italy, or another destination but remember, I only write about where I’ve visited.
Note: All photos by Nilla’s Photography unless otherwise mentioned. No part of this post was composed with the help of ChatGPT or AI.