Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Buongiorno Calabria

Saturday 5th March 2016

Sicily waved us off in style with a bright blue sky to show off Etna's  new coat of snow. We were soon packed up and ready to leave Camping Lagani - a great Camperstop, though we did seem to have been allocated a pitch in the middle of RAI's 'Just a minute team' who chattered non-stop in mega-decibel Italiano, without hesitation or deviation, but with much 'alora' repetition. The woman next to us had a fearsome cackle, you could hear her throughout the site. It sounded like a holiday camp for Disney witches.

Moments before we drove off a chap with a small truck of oranges turned up. Gill bought a few kilos to juice later. With Etna receding in the wing mirrors we headed north towards Messina and the ferry.

Thankfully both the autostrada and Messina were quiet. Saturday morning is a good time to be on the road here. I think Sicilians are pretty relaxed about early rising at weekends, so it's a good time for non-natives to travel. Despite the usual Muriel dickyfit we found the ferry terminal easily, and as the traffic was light we were boarded and on our way in just a few minutes.

The Straits of Messina have to be one of the most expensive bits of water on the planet. At their narrowest point try can't be more than 3 or 4 kms across, yet the Traghetto is 56 euros. Berlusconi promised the Sicilians a bridge, but it never happened, maybe because of the financial crisis, or perhaps it simply got overlooked in one of Silvio's infamous 'blond moments'.

Soon we were back in Calabria and trundling up the autostrada flat-out at 47mph. The road climbs steadily, but you are scarcely aware of it as much of it is in tunnels. Eventually north of Rosarno you reach a plateaux. Though we were less than 30 miles north of Sicily it was like travelling into a different climatic zone. Small copses of poplar dotted the valleys. The bark was almost white and the serried plantations had a pallid, almost ghostly pallor. In fact compared to our weeks in Sicily the entire landscape looked colourless. I commented in the blog in November about Calabria looking like the north. I wondered if I was being fanciful, but Gill commented, "It looks quite northern here." She does not do fanciful, and she studied geography. So, it must be true.

A few miles north of Vibo Valentia we cut across country, swapping spectacular views of Mare Tirreno for equally spectacular views of Mare Ionio. The history of Calabria is one of poverty and underdevelopment. Parts still look somewhat desolate and forgotten, but there is evidence of investment, not just in infrastructure - regional airports, new dual carriageways, but more pleasing we passed a large new university campus at Catanzaro. If the south is ever going to shake off its impoverished past then it will need to retain its best educated young people. Where are the jobs for them though? Most I suspect will head north to Turin and Milan. We were interested to see what the area around Ciro Marina was like. We had already experienced being the sole tourists in Secca Grande. Would the Calabrian coast off-season be equally god-forsaken and empty?


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