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We hear this question a lot. Where did you hear about it? Why did you choose it? How did you find it?

From unexpected places on the more modern streets an unexpected view of the Centro Storico.

From unexpected places on the more modern streets a perfect view of the Centro Storico.

Valid questions for Americans. After all, it’s a grueling trip from the west coast of the U.S. And it isn’t on the typical European tour. Most Americans would choose Positano to the north or Tropea to the south. Even Diamante, a classicly beautiful art town is only about 15 minutes away.

The baker in Diamante is willing to cut the loaf to desired size and doesn't mind posing either.

The baker in Diamante is willing to cut the loaf to desired size and doesn’t mind posing either.

Yet here we are in Scalea, a small town of about 12,000 year-around residents which population swells to around 200,000* in July and August. Tourists from Italy (many from Naples), Britain and Russia spend their holiday month here. Many of these vacationers have built and bought properties here, expanding the town with houses that are vacant most of the year. Isn’t this a place to avoid?

Interesting juxtaposition of old and new in every fortress town here.

Interesting juxtaposition of old and new in every fortress town here.

Perhaps for me the question is not…why Scalea? A more pertinent question is..why travel the way I do? And how does Scalea fit into my travel mode?

When I began traveling after my children were grown, I wanted to see everything. I was a vagabond. With a carry-on and a tote bag I could easily go from Athens to Rome, from Delphi to the Peloppenese or from Florence

Interesting...I don't remember seeing a newspaper. Obituaries are on bulletin boards dotted around all of the towns

Interesting…I don’t remember seeing a newspaper. Obituaries are on bulletin boards dotted around all of the towns

to Venice. As I began to understand what experiences I treasured, I recognized that sight-seeing alone didn’t work for me.  It has been my desire for many years to stay in places long enough to know the butcher, the baker, etc.

Scalea fits the bill. Not only is it steeped in history (the coastline of Calabria is dotted with medieval walls), but it is a vibrant community. And now it is familiar.

No packaged meat here!

No packaged meat here!

I know the man at the train station and the butcher on the corner. I can easily navigate the streets, recognize the shops and know where to find what I need – from food to household supplies to a friendly face.

Living with history.

Living with history.

I now think of Southern Italy as the REAL Italy. The rest of this country seems more European. And although my love affair with Italy is from border-to-border, I’m at home in this gritty, earthy, atmosphere that is a combination of the passion of Italy and the hospitality of Greece.

Pasta with vongole

Pasta with vongole

And there’s the continuing gratification of being recognized. I am greeted in shops and on the streets with smiles of recognition and a bit of disbelief that I

Fruits of the sea

Fruits of the sea

have really returned from America. It feels good.

It’s this heart of Scalea that draws me. I am surrounded by opportunities for connection in a culture that values conversation as well as productivity. Family remains the main topic of conversation and food is a highlight of every day.P1090321

It’s a place to combine delectable cuisine and memories. When I took my group to one of my favorite trattorias  I was thrilled when the

Our wonderful wine from a neighboring pizzeria.

Our wonderful wine from a neighboring pizzeria.

chef/owner came out to greet me, recalling my flock of grandchildren who came with me two years ago. I was even happier when my sisters and friends loved the place as I do.

And they did love Scalea.

The lido in front of our apartment.

And did I mention the beach? The lido in front of our apartment.

For a month it became our home away from home. We knew exactly where we wanted to go for special occasions or to buy the 2 liter bottle of wine in our old coke bottle. We wandered, we visited, we ate, we sat on our balcony by the sea, talking and marveling at the sun setting over the Mediterranean.

Why not Scalea?

Calabrian Sky

Calabrian Sky (Carlieta’s Photo)

*This is a hard figure to believe but I heard it from many sources.