I had told everyone about the little church in Centro Storico so we decided to attend Chiesa di Santa Maria d’Episcopio, or of the Madonna del Carmine this morning. Five foreign women arriving caused a greater furor than when I slipped alone in years past. As usual, though, all who were near us smiled.
A new priest has changed the service. Even here in a historic area of southern Italy, the Catholic service has become much more contemporary. Several young people, accompanied by a ragazzo playing guitar, formed a chorus for beautiful singing. As in the first time I attended (read here), there were many young families. This time the men in the congregation (of all ages) greatly outnumbered the women.
We stayed until communion was being served. Slipping out, we found the sign leading to the X1V Century Frescos in the original church of Centro Storico. Always when I have visited the area, someone spots us and lets the keeper of the keys, Stefania, know that people are wandering about. And so we were let in to the amazing depths of this tiny bit of history. This is not an ordinary museum, but a tiny building perched near the cliff of the old city.
As we were leaving, Stephania invited us through her gate to take photos of the view from her patio. We chatted as much as possible and wrote out our names for future Facebook friendship. What a beautiful woman with a lovely yard. It was a compact orchard with a pomegranate tree, an olive tree, vining grapes and gorgeous flowers. A bit of heaven close to the sky.
Wandering back toward the car, I stopped to admire a photo-worthy door. There were two men near it. With my usual lack of language skills, I thought one of them was asking if I wanted him in the photo. “Si, si, si“, I answered.
Actually, he was asking if I wanted the door closed. It all worked! And since everyone wants their photo taken, I snapped shots of each of them and showed them how they looked. Running to his truck, the communicative one reached into the back and handed us a lovely bunch of grapes. Another gift for the morning.
Our afternoon was joyous, too. Two years ago, my Italian friend, Vincenzo, and his wife took my daughter-in-law and I to Ristorante Stella dell’ Isola. It was a highlight of our time together in 2010 and I was impatient to get back this year.
Our first visit was for Carlieta’s birthday which we celebrated in Calabrese style…with more food than a large family would need and a beautiful cake as the grand finale! (Carlieta’s fun account of it is here.)
Unfortunately, Sharon was sick that day, so we just HAD to return and spend a glorious Sunday afternoon eating the special treats we love.
The food, view, and ambience keeps drawing us back. Encompassing all, though, is the warmth and charm of the owners who consistently treat us as honored guests while at the same time letting us feel like family. Gianluigi’s eyes light up when we walk
in as ours do when we see him.
Although Calin was prepping and cooking in the back this trip, the waiters tended and watched carefully to see that our needs were met. On this special day, Lorita chatted with me as everyone else toured the kitchen (which I had seen on Carlieta’s birthday).
Even the trip down the mountain from the restaurant is a pleasure. Views of the sea are interspersed with ancient olive groves. We stopped the car at each turnout to snap photos (including the selfie above).
We returned our rental car in the evening, ready to pick up the pleasures of living in our own little village. As Sharon and I took a late passegio amid the Sunday evening crowds, we met one of our favorite families: Brasile, AnnaMaria, Sylvana and Ernesto. The first time we saw Brasile walking with his son, we were drawn to this man and his family. It was a perfect way to end a perfect day, embraced in the spirit of welcome and joy by people who have come to know us in Scalea.
TRAVEL NOTE: Don’t miss Ristorante Stella dell’ Isola. It is located in the hills between Cirella and Diamante. You’ll be glad you went for this Calabrese experience. They organically grow much of what they serve.