It is definitely a more laid back lifestyle and their priorities are different and generally in a good way.
It is definitely a more laid back lifestyle and their priorities are different and generally in a good way, such is the Italian culture. My first thought is 'family' which is at the heart of everything and is like England was years ago, where family meal times meant all the family sitting round the table and eating together. Lunch and dinner is very important family time and in the south it is nearly always freshly cooked food and there is plenty of it.
Lunchtime is from 1pm – 4 pm rougly speaking as it does depend on the time of year. I lived in the coastal town of Scalea in Calabria where during the summer season lunchtimes tended to be shorter as the tourist trade is in full swing and shops, bars and restaurants stayed open later to cater for the summer trade, but don't expect all the shops to be open during the early afternoon. When it comes to reliable opening and closing times well even the bank open hours can't be relied upon but that's South Italy for you.
Italian people love to talk and will often just stop in the street and chat away taking the time to be sociable far more than what Iv'e seen in England. The obligatoryItalian coffee, I have sat in cafes many times just observing the Italians stopping off for an espresso as part of their daily lives, whether it's locals or people passing through there is always time for a quick coffee, friends and strangers alike talk away during this brief break in their day, we have costa in England but people just don't interact in the same way. I have often had journeys even it it's just a short one and stopped off for an expresso on the way there and back especially if i am travelling with a local Italian it's the Italian way.
Scalea old town
My Short Easter Journey
My favourite memory of a short journey was at (Pasqua) Easter where I took a 5km trip inland to look at an old property for sale, take some pictures and return to Scalea, all in all about an hour in theory!
Pasqua is a spcecial time as it is the first big religious festival of the year and also the first real holiday of the Italian year. I travelled with Sergio a well known local tradesman to see a property, as we drove up the windy hills to the village of Santa Domenica Talao we are stopped by locals and offered a small glass of homemade wine and cured meats by a friend of Sergio with the words you will here all day 'Buona Pasqua' (Happy Easter) that's before we even reach the village, once parked we then chat to the locals again big smiles and we were welcomed into an old garage where 5 men stood smiling and offering more wine and cured meats, oh yes I almost forgot we need to get to the property but there's no rush.
Once we had finished at the property we stopped at the cafe for a coffee and chatted to the locals who were in high spirits as Pasqua had finally arrived. That's the hour long gone, on our way back Sergio wanted to visit a local builder to see about a digger that he was interested in buying as we stopped again more warm smiles and we were invited into the house to talk about the digger and of course have a drink and nibbles. I was asked what I would like to drink and Sergio mentioned that I liked brandy, so without hesitation I was poured a very large brandy 'Buona Pasqua' he cried.
The locals are so friendly and welcoming even as a foreigner in a very Italian part of Italy I was welcomed with open arms and really understood how special Easter means to them and how that way of life is so few and far between in this modern age of rush, rush, rush.
The journey finally ended about 3 hours later and I was a little worse for wear, afterwards I reflected on my journey and how different that journey would have been in England. The southern Italian way of life is all about people and not so much about squeezing as much as possible into their day, getting stressed out and worrying about how much time was wasted, that time wasn't wasted, it was enjoyed by us all, he didn't buy the digger in the end!
Sunglasses, Style and Ice Cream
The six weeks of the Italian summer holiday is when Scalea really comes alive with people from all over Italy arriving for their annual holiday, the streets are awash with tourists, you see, sunglasses, style and ice cream. The Italians always care about how they look even in their summer clothes adorning the latest trends often accompanied by bright and garish sunglasses, strutting the streets and looking cool. The ice cream parlours are full of people if it is at 1 'o' clock in the afternoon or 1 'o' clock in the morning they will be there enjoying their frozen treats.
The Wonderful Food
Now for my one of my favourite subjects food, oh I love the Italian food, I ate in various places in and around the town and local villages, One thing remained wonderfully consistent, locally grown Calabrese food was always on the menu wherever you went, often times if it's not in season then it's not on the menu. Whether produced at the local farm or fished from the sea the food is always fresh, the freezer tends to be for ice cream and little else. If you walked around Scalea during the day you will see food for sale everywhere, there will often be stalls dotted all over the town, where local farmers will pick their crops early in the morning and drive down to Scalea to sell.
The Calabrese food is tasty, fattening and utterly delicious, I can recall many meals that I thoroughly enjoyed but the thing that stands out the most for me is the anti-pasti (first course) particularly in little trattorias and village restaurants where there would be a group of us who would more or less take over the restaurant on our visit. It is a sumptuous collection of small savoury/sweet treats, don't expect to return another time and get exactly the same dish as they will vary with the seasons and what is fresh that day, there is definitely no antiapasti menu. It is a culinary delight and I have often not known what was on my plate until I tried it, whether it was meat, vegetables or fish, savoury, spicy or sweet I always thoroughly enjoyed it. The trick is don't eat too much it is so tempting but you have to save room for the main course a mistake that many people make. The list of beautifully cooked fresh food that I have enjoyed is way too long to describe, but on return to England you really do appreciate how English supermarket food is not even remotely close to the real thing.
There is one particular cake shop in Scalea that makes cakes of all shapes and sizes and they are mini works of art. They can be shaped of people, churches, monuments and instruments to name but a few. Friday night was often cake night and ten euros worth of boxed heaven, three hungry men would struggle to finish them all. They are rich and full of sweet sticky flavour that is a joy to your tongue, if you are on a diet take the night off as they are traditionally made and have been made that way for decades, never having calories in mind, well let's face it a low fat version would never taste that good!
The Italian Way
I found the southern Italian people to be warm and friendly always wiling to chat and if you had a problem they were always willing to help. That reminds me of another little story just to sum up what the local Italians are like. My car had a flat tyre just a few kilometres outside of Scalea as I looked in the boot I realised I had a spare tyre but not the wheel brace to remove it, as I stood there wondering what to do a neighbour of my whom I would smile and say hello to stopped with her grandson to see what was wrong. Straightaway the young man was into the boot of her car and loosening the wheel for me. After we had finished the lady walked over to me and offered to pour mineral water on my dirty hands, a small gesture but such a kind and thoughtful act.
Everybody knows about north Italy, Rome, Milan and Florence, but the south is still under appreciated in my opinion, well worth exploring and finding out what it has to offer, it is much cheaper than the north, the climate is milder and there is so much to explore.
This is a brief history and just a few little stories of my Italian life and my wonderul experiences of living in south Italy, I never regret a moment and return as often as I can. Once you have experienced south Italy then nowhere else is quite the same.
Recommended Place To Stay in Scalea