I've just got back from two glorious weeks in Calabria, Southern Italy. This is our third summer in this wonderful part of the world - on the two previous holidays we visited the regions of Abruzzo, and last year, Puglia. So we've done the calf, the heel, and this year the toe of Italy.
Among the things that attract us is the almost guaranteed sun. Every morning it was a delight to open the shutters to blazing sunshine, and only on one day did it become particularly cloudy with some rain, although even on that day we had an hour of unbroken sunshine at lunchtime.
Then there is the rural Italian pace of life in late July/early August which is very 'andante'. And of course the food. Unlike most places in the UK, the only choice is Italian with no Chinese or Indian, or MacDonalds. And yet in each region, the food has subtle differences. In Calabria, the predominant distinctive is not-so-subtle hot peppers. Add to this the wine - and we drink only the local, highly gluggable, red wine, chilled - and the ice cream, and the espresso.
Our location this year was particularly spectacular, surrounded by forest-covered mountains with peaks, some 6000 foot high. This gave rise to a gentle cooling breeze, reducing the temperature to around 30c, which seemed to increase dramatically whenever we visited a town. Everywhere took a long time to get to, along some pretty scary bends encountering the sort of driving you would not believe. The towns are different yet have an attractive similarity. Architecturally we were baroque-ed out, as last year, but found a jewel of a Byzantine church in Stilo.
Language is mostly a challenge as very few people speak English and our Italian remains limited. This adds to the fun, and though we come back with great intentions to improve we've had little success so far.
We met some terrific people with whom we enjoyed some fascinating conversation. They included Andrew, Rita, and their lovely daughters, Lucia, and Sacha. Interestingly, Andrew wrote a book a few years ago, with the title, 'The Corporate Christ' which examines Christ's methodology from a business perspective - I hope to read it. Talking of books, I read some great books lying by the swimming pool but I'll resist commenting on these and save them for another post. Generally we enjoyed being together and not doing a huge amount. Andrew was with us, but we missed Jonathan who was in Uganda building a school, as you do.
Strange to say, we were glad to get home, partly to be reunited with Jonathan and his girlfriend who picked him up from the airport early the same day. And also because even all things Italian begin to lose their shine with familiarity. And because the holiday had done what it was meant to do - we were rested. refreshed and renewed, and just a bit bronzed!
One other thing - for the car hire we were upgraded to a red Alpha Romeo which really was fun!