Mount Calabria in bloom: stories of rebirth and resistance

“A land of legends and warriors”. Words from Antonella Vincenzi, who after traveling the world to work, has decided to return to her Civitathe northernmost strip of Calabria, on the border with Basilicata, the gateway to the majestic mountain landscapes of Pollino National Parkthe largest in Italy with its 192 thousand hectares.

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Calabria, the mountain that is reborn and resists

In the village of Civita (province of Cosenza), Antonella Vincenzi has reclaimed her grandmother’s house and opened a b & b, La Magara, the name, which in the local dialect was once called “the female witches”.

Not a witch in the classical sense of the term, but with a much more subtle meaning: figures attached to white magic, creatures who are able to look beyond the apparent and undermine the consolidated order, and who as such inspired fear.

Thus it was, according to legend, that one of them, lured by the deception of a group of women into an abyss, was pushed into the abyss; however, she was rescued and laid a curse on the city and its inhabitants.

Civita, where everything is magical

In Civita still today, everything is imbued with magic, starting from the anthropomorphic houses in the historic center. The facades are reminiscent of human faces: the windows as eyes, the external exhaust ducts in the shape of a nose and the doors to the shops for supplies on the ground floor that represent the mouth.

They also call them “talking houses” or “Kodra houses” (from the Albanian painter Ibrahim Kodra, who used to depict them in his paintings), and they have huge, disproportionate chimneys. Their function was apotropic: to keep evil spirits away from homes, according to the Arbëreshë culture of Civita, a city founded in the 15th century by an Albanian community fleeing the Ottoman occupation (interesting Arbëresh ethnic museum, with relics of local customs and traditions).

A fascinating world to discover not only through stories, but also to experience the people’s deep sense of hospitality.

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The project “Desired inhabitants”

It is no coincidence that its own Antonella Vincenzi is one of the initiators of the project Wanted residents, to snatch the old village from depopulation and oblivion. “The reaction we get is incredible,” he says. “We receive many phone calls from people who would like to come and stay here with a project to be carried out”.

The basic condition actually for the sale of properties (prices on average fluctuate from five thousand euros to restore houses ai 25 thousand for those who are already in good standing) is that the buyer transfers his residence to Civita, perhaps establishing a business that is useful to the community.

How do you have e.g. Gal Glick, 30, Israeli. Arriving here by chance, he is about to open an inn with space for smart work and kosher cuisine based on local ingredients, such as almonds, local flour and Calabrian peppers, powdered crusco (crunchy) pepper dried in the sun.

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The new residents at work

Glick is with the help of the residents renovating a building in the historic center according to the canons of green construction.

Like him, there are others. Some come from Switzerland, some from Milan, some from Rome. “Our experiment in social regeneration aims to promote an exchange of cultures, experiences, skills and professionalism to be made available to others, to a community that thereby becomes richer and more conscious,” explains Antonella Vincenzi, who is educated in sociology. announcement.

“Those who come here, in return for some renunciation and comfort, will have genuine, authentic relationships, look for nature, which is wonderful with us and is already within reach outside the door of the house.”

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Waiting for dawn. Grazing

It is already clear that nature is prevalent as we from Piana di Sibari begin to rise in height towards the village.

Along the way, they deserve a stop Cerchiara di Calabria, with the monastery of Madonna delle Armi, perched on a cliff overlooking the plain, and the Grotta delle Ninfe, with sulfur-containing water and mud with excellent therapeutic properties.

Each curve offers a magnificent view of the Ionian Sea on one side and the Pollino massif on the other. Just to enjoy all its beauty, Roberto Rugiano, the local environmental guide, invented “Dawn in the pasture”, an experience that reconciles with oneself and with the rhythms of nature: Wake up very early to reach San Nicola, panoramic terrace overlooking the bay of Taranto, in time to watch the sun rise from the sea and then help the local shepherds milk the animals and make cheeses, complete with a breakfast with aromas and flavors from past times.

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Civita experience: tradition alive

With its Civita Experience, Rugiano also offers other activities: from excursions to Pollino Park.orienteering and to the nocturnal survival bivouacs, up to the baking with the bakers and the making of wicker baskets with the local old women. All experiences that have one thing in common: the preservation of traditions and nature. This is how the association “Pollino’s seven winds” and the naturalistic falconry center were born.

“Pollino’s Seven Wins”

The latter is a beautiful project that Rugiano is carrying out with his family and some volunteers, taking care of about thirty specimens, including eagle owls, peregrine falcons, buzzards, golden eagles and barn owls born in captivity.

“The aim is to make people aware of and educate people to respect these magnificent animals and create synergies in the future with organizations and institutions for repopulation projects for birds of prey, which in many parts of Italy and the world are threatened by the hand of man. without any spectacle: in fact, in our center we do not do shows and we try as much as possible not to distort their lifestyle “.

Raganello Gorges

In this area, birds of prey are protected thanks to the presence of Pollino National Park. Many build nests among the cliffs of Raganello Gorge, one of the most spectacular gorges in Europe: it is 17 kilometers long and in some places reaches a depth of 800 meters. From the Civita it can be reached by walking 600 steps down, up to the Ponte del Diavolo, suspended about 40 meters above this gorge.

A good idea from a good wine

There are several guardians of tradition and ecosystems in this corner of Calabria. In Saracena, the Arab village, as the name suggests, with a jumble of alleys and stairs, Claudio Viola, 42, after graduating from Urbino in sociology, today takes care of the family’s vineyards with his brothers, his mother Margherita and father Luigi .

The latter has the advantage of having transformed Moscato di Saracena, the fruit of the grapes Moscato, Duraca, Guarnaccia bianca and Malvasia, from a beverage produced exclusively for private use, into a wine which has created a good economic activity for the country. A commercialized and award-winning nectar that has become a Slow Food Presidium “for the special vinification procedure already known in the 16th century, when wine appeared on popes’ tables, making it unique among the world’s passito wines,” explains Viola , who try other native productions, such as white Raspato.

Morano Calabro, birthplace

Also emblematic is the story of Selene Rocco, who lives in Morano Calabro, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, perched on a hill: at dusk it really looks like a life-size Christmas crib. Together with her husband Paolo Giugliano, a few kilometers from the inhabited center, at 1,100 meters above sea level, she gave birth to a beautiful reality whose focal point is the restoration of a local tradition: wild lavender, which grows spontaneously in the rocky soil of Pollino, between 900 and 1,700 meters above sea level.

Lavender Park

“Until the 1950s,” explains Selene Rocco, “lavender was an important incentive for the local economy. After the afforestation work in the area, it is disappearing, also because it is a plant that does not like the shade.”

With the help of CNR, which in vitro created a cultivable mother plant that retains its original properties and which the couple wanted to call. Loricanda (in honor of lavender and Bosnian lighthouse, “Lord” of Pollino National Park), Lavender Park was born.

The Pollino show

It is an educational farm that attracts more than twenty thousand people every year. In addition to admiring the cultivated fields and the botanical garden with more than 80 varieties of the aromatic shrub, you can experience the process of extracting essential oils, making (and buying) soaps, bath salts and candles, but above all, discover the countless secrets and curiosities of a plant that has antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. All in a magical setting surrounded by Pollino’s peaks, which house dozens of hiking trails.

One among all, the one who gives Colle Impiso (1,575 meters) leads in about four hours to the Serra Dolcedorme (2,267 meters), the highest peak of the Pollino massif and the entire southern Apennine arch. From there you can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding peaks, Piana di Sibari and the Ionian coast. A performance.

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