Destination Calabria

Calabria Travel Blog

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My great grandmother and a very small part of her family....

In 1949 a little Italian man named Vincenzo Cosentino left his beloved homeland. He left his adoring wife, his 4 daughters and only son. He traveled across the long and empty sea to the other side of the world to a very foreign and exotic land called Australia. He traveled with nothing, arrived with less than a dollar in his pocket and only the clothes on his back. It was a totally foreign and new land and he didn’t understand a word of what anyone said.

 

Life was bloody tough.

 

A year later, with a job and a bed in the shed of a friends property he happily welcomed the arrival of his equally brave and resilient wife Rosa and their 5 children. They all lived in that empty old shed.

 

Approximately Nine months later their first ‘Australian’ child, and daughter, Annunziata was born.

The village on the hill is where my grandparents were from... San Giorgio Morgeto

 

That woman is my mother.

 

This blog details the highly emotional and spiritual journey that took her back, for the first time ever, to her mother land. 50 years after her family first set sail from the shores of Calabria:

 

My parents had never been ones to travel for a number of reasons, but I’m somehow the total opposite. I’ve been trying to encourage my mother to make the journey for years and was finally able to make it happen. I happily took on role of travel co-ordinator, organizer, concierge, driver, navigator, porter and financier to make it all happen.

 

We arrived in Calabria in Rosarno on the northern coast.

view of San Giorgio Morgeto - my grandparents village...
Right on the arch of top of the ‘foot’. It was nice to see some blue sea water and reasonably clean beaches.

 

We immediately were greeted by family members. There was a lot of tears as my mum proceeded to hug and hold cousins, aunts and uncles, that she’d heard so much about, talked to, but never met. We were taken to a cousin’s house in Polistena and then the extravaganza of our first family lunch started.

 

I’ve never been part of such a thing, and I’ve had 5star Christmas banquets!

 

The food just kept coming and coming. It started with entrees of bread, salami, cheeses. Then was a delicious pasta. Followed by some very tender fresh veal. Then came the salad and vegetables. After this was fruit and I thought it was all over (I’d actually been full after the first bits of cheese and salami).

this is the building my grandfather was born in....
Once the fruit was finished, out came an assortment of nuts. Now I was beginning to worry that I didn’t know the ambulance number. Then came a large tray of selected cakes and coffee. Following the coffee was some Grappa. After two shots of Grappa we moved onto some more potent local  Calabrese liqueurs. By now my back teeth were submerged under the contents of my stomach. I was starting to swoon as the tub of fresh gelati came out and we were served a big cup of some delicious ice-cream.

 

God Siesta’s are great! I had an hour nap and came back. They were all still eating and drinking…

 

Over the next few days I visited all the spots that had been important to my grandparents. This included their village, where they lived, where they were born, where they farmed, where they washed their clothes, where they went to church, where they went to the beach, where they went to market.

the town square my grandparents courted in....
It's a very green and beautifully picturesque area.


We met many cousins and other relatives,  including my grandfathers remaining sister and my grandmothers two remaining sisters.

 

Everyone was so unbelievably warm and friendly and I soon learnt that my capacity to eat was directly proportional to how much people liked me.


My wild young second-cousin-once-removed also hijacked me from the family. She took me out partying till 5am in the night. We drove all over the countryside of Calabria and climbed an ancient castle to watch the shooting starts. The whole place was magical. The next night we went to Regio, the capital, for the Feast of The Madonna celebrations (ie Mary mother of Jesus, not the Material Girl).

My mum meets her 99year old aunt for the first time....
It was a pretty cool city and it was such a great feeling to be a part of it.

 

The whole time I was in Calabria I could feel and hear the blood pumping through my veins. I was totally aware of where I was, where I’d come from, and who I was. I couldn’t stop imagining all the possibilities and alternatives that had lead to my existence and my status. It was at once warming and yet overwhelming.

 

I’m also infinitely grateful for the extreme sacrifices my grandparents made to make the life I have possible.

 

In some ways, ironically, I’ve returned the favour. By heading back in the other direction to the way their boat went, to start my new life here in Europe. However, I’ve certainly done it a hell of a lot easier than they did…

 

Grazie tunto Nonno e Nonna!

 

Life moves in some beautiful circles.

Joost1976 says:
i realy loved your story you came back to europe and me, i love to go and live in Italy
Posted on: Aug 09, 2008
petew says:
Good stuff mate!
Food looks excellent.
Posted on: Nov 05, 2007
yuna_82 says:
it is just strange....also I have been there this summer and I loved that small town! ....I've a drawing of the fountain in my room!
Posted on: Sep 27, 2007
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My great grandmother and a very sm…
My great grandmother and a very s…
The village on the hill is where m…
The village on the hill is where …
view of San Giorgio Morgeto - my g…
view of San Giorgio Morgeto - my …
this is the building my grandfathe…
this is the building my grandfath…
the town square my grandparents co…
the town square my grandparents c…
My mum meets her 99year old aunt f…
My mum meets her 99year old aunt …
My beautiful mummy and her 89yo au…
My beautiful mummy and her 89yo a…
my gorgeous Zia Theresa!
my gorgeous Zia Theresa!
Zia fires up the pizza oven...
Zia fires up the pizza oven...
Mum and her aunt (my grandfathers…
Mum and her aunt (my grandfather'…
wash day
wash day
Colourful Rooftops
Colourful Rooftops
a roman candle?
a roman candle?
Geno tries to look Italian...
Geno tries to look Italian...
my aunt was drying chillies so i s…
my aunt was drying chillies so i …
my aunt was drying chillies so i s…
my aunt was drying chillies so i …
my aunt was drying chillies so i s…
my aunt was drying chillies so i …
holy tomatoes!
holy tomatoes!
more chillies
more chillies
these are the rocks my grandma was…
these are the rocks my grandma wa…
Street Wedding
Street Wedding
the coast near Gioiatauro
the coast near Gioiatauro
on the jetty
on the jetty
on the coast
on the coast
dinner?
dinner?
home made sausage...
home made sausage...
entree
entree
no more please!!
no more please!!
an old alfa....
an old alfa....
a calabrian door
a calabrian door
Hot Chilli Window
Hot Chilli Window
another door
another door
dusk in the village...
dusk in the village...
Sunset looking at Sicily
Sunset looking at Sicily
Feast of the Madonna, Regio.
Feast of the Madonna, Regio.
Feast of the Madonna, Regio.
Feast of the Madonna, Regio.
Feast of the Madonna, Regio.
Feast of the Madonna, Regio.