We didn’t see the sights: the Adriatic, the Centro Storico, the high-end shops. Our visit to this city near the sea was more momentous. My sister, Sharon Abbott Furze, is an artist. Due to the wonders of Facebook her contacts are worldwide. She had a dream in Southern Italy – to meet and work with a social media friend, Giovanni Marziano, whose work she greatly admires.* She had been in communication with him as soon as she knew we were coming to Calabria and he encouraged a visit. So with great anticipation and some trepidation we ventured into the unknown to find him. When we boarded the little puff-a-billy train to Catanzaro, we knew our destination…we just didn’t know how to get there. The directions from different sources were confusing. Did we get off at the Lido or at the Centro? When the train stopped at the Lido I asked the woman across from me (I now refer to her as my guardian angel), whether the next stop was the Centro. She looked concerned and said, “Come with me!” My sister, Sharon, was concerned, too. She knew that we were climbing off the train far from our hotel. The angel insisted, however, and indicated that this was the last stop. I followed her closely with my gaggle of friends alternately resisting and running along behind us to keep up. The angel hurried me, pointing to her watch. Only eight minutes to buy a ticket and get on the train. She stuck with us, though, until we were seated around her on what was to be a shuttle to the Citta. As we rode along she was writing out instructions for Sharon to find our B&B. She waved goodbye as we stepped out onto a dark and narrow platform. It was a bit off-putting. Three young men sat on a ledge in front of beautiful graffiti. It might have been frightening in New York but they were first in a series of people who guided us (some correctly…some not so much) to the streets listed on our instructions. The main street was easy to find. Dragging our bags through this bustling little city, however, was a bit more troublesome. Varied directions, stone sidewalks and narrow alleyways are typical in Catanzaro. Toward the end we had collected a posse of two older men and two young college students who finally located our hotel. We had scarcely laid our bags on the floor when Sharon was ready to look for her friend’s studio. Who knows how a well-known master painter will receive an admirer who is short on his language but brimming with enthusiasm for the chance to meet a fellow artist from across the world? We needn’t have worried. This warm and welcoming man made our side trip to Catanzaro the experience of a lifetime. Artists and non-artists alike, we sat spellbound as he demonstrated techniques that helped us understand the beauty of his pieces. A cigarette waving as he gestured and explained, he casually reached to his palette with his free hand, working magic on the canvas before our eyes. When our lack of language broke down communication, Sharon or Giovanni would run to the laptop and type in phrases on Google Translate, bringing us back on course. My excitement was heightened by the joy I could see in Sharon and my friends, Nancy M. and Nancy F. Giovanni was offering them personal insight into his artistic genius. He assured us that he had set aside the entire evening for us. Although his wife couldn’t join us for dinner, a bilingual student, Maria, made the dinner perfect with her facility to listen, translate, and engage with all of us. Our convivial group enjoyed every moment of this dinner. We placed Sharon, Nancy M. and Nancy F. in position to hear all of the pearls of wisdom that he continued to share. Joined in laughter and instant friendship we ate in the warm atmosphere of Giovanni’s favorite Trattoria in the area, savoring the typical food of the area. Delicious! Some of our favorite antipasti plus heavenly breads, including a pizza dough served without toppings with which he created sandwiched for all of us, folding in the regional pickled eggplant and slicing in the small hot peppers. He devoured those peppers with every course, even posing for the camera as if including them in his wine. The planked chicken with roasted potatoes and peppers was so divine that I risked rudeness and asked for a container so that my other sister, Carlieta, could take our chicken for breakfast in the morning. This morning, Giovanni called to let everyone know that he was in his studio. Once more he was open and giving. Sharon describes it best by saying, “He has a teacher’s heart.” There are other little memories about Catanzaro.
The assortment of people who gave me directions to the kiosk to buy our return tickets for the local train. The
man who was worried about being included in a photo I snapped of people passing him until we bantered back and forth a bit. The ride to the train station graciously provided by Giovanni (the brother-in-law) in a car so small that we feared being stopped by police. The lovers so engrossed each other that they didn’t notice the other waiting passengers. And the lovely B&B recommended by Giovanni because it was steps from his studio.
*You can find both artists on Facebook
TRAVEL NOTES: Unless you are going to the Catanzaro Citta, you can check on trains at http://www.virail.com/ For the local train, walk up about one block on the street perpendicular to the station a Catanzaro Lido until you see a building on the right. Go to the back and enter to buy a ticket. We heard that the shuttle train runs about every 1/2 hour.