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Tammy on Calabrian Living

Every Castle has a Princess, this one wears running shoes.

For part one of this amazing tale click here.

It has been just over 7 months since I arrived here in Santa Domenica Talao, with excitement for my new life. What a journey of personal growth this has been, my limits have been tested, boundaries overstepped and perceptions of human interaction challenged.

There have been many ups and downs, and perhaps a few moments where the down of Calabrian living seemed to go on a little longer than I would have liked. I am so thankful for the amazing group of expat friends, who are more like family now and the new friendships I am forging within the Italian community of my village and also within the various athletic groups. 

I have been assured that this is normal within the first year of living abroad, and now as I look back at these months, I do snicker a little at the emotional outpouring that I seemed to have had during some of the moments. Or perhaps it is with more of a giggle at the way in which a dear friend helped me cope by excursions into the mountains and countryside following a GPS with poor translation skills in an Alfa Romeo station wagon, as if it were a 4x4 truck. Oh my we backed down some roads that left my palms sweaty.

One of these adventures, took us to the heights above Buonvicino, a lovely mountainside town not far from my village. The views were stunning… the roads and GPS not so reliable! But what a giggle of a day we had…. 

Mountain Road - Calabria
Calabrian Mountain Pass
Mountains in Calabria

The house progress is moving forward. The last few months have seen a lot of activity in that the exterior structure was completed with all walls, eaves troughs, roof, door and window sills of natural stone installed and the external walkways and terraces established. The changes to the interior structure have been more dramatic although to look at the house now, it would not seem so. In Italy, the houses are built of the clay bricks as seen in the previous posts.. and then coated with a cement.

When it is time for the electrical and plumbing pre-wire work to be done, they start to destroy the walls and floors to run plastic tubing in which the wires will later be ran through, and finally they apply cement over all this again, before thickly coating the walls and floors in cement. Sounds confusing and a bit of a two steps backwards and one step forward scenario?  Yes, I understand..

Lets lay it out in photos:

My House in Calabria

Walls erected in blocks with spray paint markings to indicate where electrical and plumbing needs to be installed. It was amusing to listen to both the plumber and electrician decide where my furniture shall be as they laid out their plans for work.

Building a House in Calabria

Then the walls are broken open and the tubes ran in channels...

House Construction, Calabria Italy

And more tubes and more channels.. its like the house is alive with black plastic serpents on the floor.. all for running electrical wires.

Bathroom Construction Italy

Bathroom plumbing.. white tubes are for water.. 

Walls being built

.. and the walls are filled back in...

Window Sills
Stone Sill

Door and window sills in natural stone are installed beautifully. I am very pleased with these, although at the time I chose them, I was not as certain! 

Window Frames

The framing for the windows and doors are installed at this stage and then plaster and cement is added to secure them solidly in the house structure.

Water Tubes for Heating

The view outside my bathroom window. Recall above all the white plumbing tubes on the floor, this is their beginning point where they will be attached to the water heater mounted outside.

Plastered Walls

and the appearance of plaster covering the walls. From construction to destruction to reconstruction and finishing surfaces.. it has been entertaining to watch. But I love this and how it is slowly starting to feel like a home.

Outside Walkway

The entry walkway is constructed with natural stone from the region.. and brings the house back out to the road edge— I am just in love with this!

Inside Stairs

The formation of the stairs.. a unique solution to room that was too high and too short.. but I love this feature- will be a focal point of my small home! 

Winter Festivals

The winter season, heavy winds and many traditional religious events and holidays have passed in the village. With the arrival of spring I am finding a renewed life and energy in the village, a new vitality. This also means that paragliding season is starting again, as well as running and many other outdoor pursuits.

Unfortunately, as I am not of the Catholic faith, my knowledge is minimal for many of the festivals and traditions, although I am continually striving to learn and understand. Although, I have attempted to be present at various ‘festa’ or gain an understanding. Perhaps next year, I will be better versed and not possess such a ‘deer in the headlight look’ as events unfold. 

Taking to the Air

On Palm Sunday, I found myself with many amazing pilots in a small town called Capaccio a few hours drive north of where I live. We were flying that day, the sun was bright and well- our launch site was just outside the confines of a lovely church on a craggy mountain. It was amazing to be there with the bells in the distance .. and to fly over is a memory I will treasure, although my time in the air was not memorable, I cannot wait to return there to fly again… with a great group of guys and see this area from the air.

Flying over Capaccio
Capaccio from the air
View from above near Capaccio

Easter Sunday saw us again take to the skies.. we really are a quirky bunch and the familiarity of these men is wonderful to be welcomed into. 

My Getaway

As things have settled into a routine in the last two months, I chose to use some quiet time in the building process to escape for a few days.. I chose to take my puppy and head south.. closing my eyes on google maps and letting the cursor find a location. It came out near to Capo Rizzuto.. so, off we went.

We arrived in both Le Castella and Capo Rizzuto,  we found golden beaches dotted along a lava rock coastline, warm but strong breezes and a town that was all but abandoned during the non-tourist season. It was like our own private paradise.

The few people we did speak to were amazing, friendly and really what I needed. A few days of anonymity. Of just being a tourist in the off-season with her dog.  

Capo Rizzuto

How could one not love this beach access???? Flowers, rambling stairways .. leading to a lava rock filled sea front.

Walkways to the Beach

Wooden rail walkways dotting the access to the sea.

Castle in Capo Rizzuto
Golden Beaches

Golden beaches in the center of the small village.

Dog on the Beach

A happy puppy running on the caramel coloured sand.. alone on the beach.

Il Borghetto

And as we wandered the countryside near Capo Rizzuto.. we found this amazing gem-  Fattoria Il Borghetto. Although we did not stay here this time, opting for renting a small apartment for our days, I will return here in the coming year .. truly remarkable.

Fattoria il Borghetto

A serene feeling wandering up the lane ..  the caretakers were most friendly to let me wander the grounds freely, although the facility was not open yet for the season, it was a beehive of activity in preparation.

Chair in the Garden
Grounds of Il Borghetto
Stables at Il Borghetto

Old stables converted to lodging.

Pool at the Farm
Outdoor dining

Outdoor cooking and dining space… gorgeous! 

On the Run!

Upon my return, and through some discussion with a local female, I discovered a local run... a short 8.5 km race in a nearby town. I have not trained for 7 months.. literally since I moved here, although I am always active. I left Canada tired from a lot of training and running.. I needed a break and to figure out if I even wanted to run anymore.

I went to the race completely unprepared.. and although it did not completely garner a success for me, I came away with a clear view of what I needed to bring forward from my Canadian life.. and that was to return to running.

I took my second place finish.. spoke to the large team of runners that seemed to be very capable and successful and within a few days, found myself at the doctors office to complete my medical forms and received word from the team that FIDAL had accepted my documents.

I am now officially an Italian athlete.. and hope to do my team proud.

Running in Italy

Church on a Cliff

And finally .. a gem that is close to my town- an amazing church perched on a cliffside in the region of Orsomarso, near Fiume Lao that I have visited many times before with my dog on our long excursions.  

This church is nestled on the edge of the cliff overlooking the river, with the cliff rising above it into a peak just beside it. To get there you climb a short but steep hill from the main road, to walk around the base of this peak and through rocky olive grove with some of the most amazing trees I have ever seen.. and out onto a point where the church is located.

Today, when I arrived, the church doors were open for the first time. I approached excitedly but also trepidation as I am never certain how people will react to my pup. The man and woman welcomed us inside.. and what a treat. A feast for the eyes and emotions!  

I quickly learned that the church is approximately 800 years old and is undergoing restorations. I was shown some of the discoveries.. the frescoes from the Byzantine era, and the striped wall paint from nearly 600 years ago, the altars that were within a century old were explained to me and they were more than happy to just have me there. 

Old Olive Tree

To access the church, you wander through an old olive grove filled with spectacular old trees such as this.

Church on the Cliff
Inside the Church
Byzantine frescoe

This Byzantine frescoe was uncovered and believed to be 800 yrs old.

One of the curiosities for me of this church, is the enormous grotto on the cliff not too far from the church. I queried, hopeful for direction to get there. I was not disappointed.. the lady explained to me about the trail, and also the wonderful news that the start of the trail from the olive grove prior to the church. Then she took me to the trail head and pointed me in the direction to go. Now, I had scampered in this area on a visit before, going to the left, not the right when I arrived at the first stone wall. By going to the left, I had found a dead end and nothing more than that initial wall.

However today, I went to the right as directed and around the end of the wall on a small trail up a small rocky incline and the tears welled in my eyes as I viewed the rock structure in front of me…  It was the castle tower she told me I would find.. and as she promised, if I went around the side of it and started to descend, I would find that the descent wound through the castle ruin, wall upon wall, room upon room… with the forest slowly overtaking it.  

Abandoned castle in the forest

Emotions overtook in this place.. such beauty, such history tucked away. Seemingly protected from the world. The feeling was strong whilst there.. a grounding of sorts. I recall back in 2007 when I first came to Italy, I had a very similar feeling in one district of Venice and as a result returned many times to discover more of my passion for this country, more of myself.

This church on the cliff has been a prominent interest for me since I first saw it.. and today perhaps I gained an inside as to why, maybe not. But I do know that I will return in the next few days, without my pup and wearing long pants to discover this castle.. explore the craggy cliff and get to the grotto. To understand the attraction I have to this place even more - one of the joys of Calabrian living…

Perhaps every castle does need a princess.. and just maybe- one that wears running shoes.

For Tammy's final update click here.

  1. Home
  2. Stories from Italy
  3. The Move to Italy
  4. The Village in Calabria
  5. Calabrian Living

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