Thanks to NASA we have a star-light view of Calabria, the toe of the Italian boot, kicking Sicily into the Mediterranean.
New from Cathy Robbins--
A Torrid Splendor
In A Torrid Splendor: Finding Calabria, I take you, reader,
to this overlooked and neglected place,
its brilliant and rich history and its tension-filled present.
In 2017, The New York Times named Calabria one of 52 places to visit in its annual travel forecast.
A Torrid Splendor is the story of a ruined gorgeous place, a fallen woman, struggling to get up. This drama pulls us in to a place where we can learn to live, dream, recover.
Everyone knows that the topography of Italy resembles a boot. But few realize that Calabria is the only region on the the boot entirely encircled by the sea and blessed with beaches and sunny days. The Calabrian toe kicks Sicily into the Mediterranean.
About the size of Connecticut, Calabria is chocked full of riches. During antiquity, Calabria was Magna Graecia, the wealthy and dynamic western territories of the Hellenic city-states. Later she became a Roman province and the Empire's breadbasket. Plato, Pythagoras, Spartacus, and Hannibal were among the notables who visited or lived in Calabria. Remnants from antiquity, like the important port of Locri and the single standing column dedicated to the Greek goddess Hera, near Crotone, still dot the landscape. Medieval and Byzantine villages cap cliffs and rugged mountains that cradle rolling plains and valleys and plunge down to undulating beaches.
Over the centuries, however, Calabria, along with much of the South stumbled and crumbled. By the early nineteenth century, a French visitor declared, "Europe ends in Naples, and it ends there rather badly. Calabria, Sicily, all the rest, that’s Africa."
After unification in the nineteenth century, officials of the new Italian government were shocked at conditions of poverty, disease, illiteracy and crime in the South. By 2008, in a widely-circulating and excoriating memo, the U.S. Consul General in Naples wrote that if it were an independent nation, Calabria would be a failed state. The region flails in a trifecta of economic despair, criminal organizations, and disheartened young people.
Calabrians today are not so categorical about their situation, however. A new generation has reconsidered their home's condition in the context of its history and modern experience.
The world, too, is more optimistic. In 2017, The New York Times identified Calabria as one of 52 places to visit that year. It was the only place in Italy so designated, and the newspaper singled out Calabria's distinctive regional cuisine as just one reason for its appeal.
In A Torrid Splendor, I aim to take the dismal discourse that has enveloped Calabria and draw a wider public to the recent rethinking of its fortunes.