One of my work-related adventures was a trip to Lamezia Terme, about an hour and fifteen minutes from me. It’s the home of the main Calabria airport, but other than quick stops on my way in and out, I hadn’t seen much of Lamezia, as we affectionately call it, until last week.
Lamezia has a peculiar history in that it’s formed by a group of separate villages: Nicastro, Sambiase, and Sant’Eufemia. Each has retained its own heritage, of course, and I found myself in Nicastro last week.
Lucky for me I was joined by a fellow American who lives in Lamezia (Nicastro) as well as in the nearby mountain town Serrastretta, where her father grew up. Rabbi Barbara Aiello, Italy’s first woman rabbi, is the founder and director of Italian Jewish Cultural Center of Calabria (IjCCC). She made for an excellent tour guide and filled me in on a lot of local history.
The study of Jewish culture in southern Italy may seem strange to some, but as the Center’s website states: “[i]t has been estimated that prior to the Inquisition, at least forty per cent of the combined population of Calabria and Sicily was Jewish.” The presence of Judaism was evident throughout the Jewish quarter where we walked, as you’ll soon see.
If you’re interested in learning more about connecting with your own Jewish roots in Calabria, contact Rabbi Barbara as she runs tours, helps with genealogy searches, and more!
Care to join me on a little virtual tour?
Come on in!
In addition to Judaism, Roman Catholicism was also in the air as I happened to arrive in Lamezia on the day before a big celebration for Sant’Antonio, whose feast day is June 13th–also my brother’s birthday (Happy Belated!).
This is one of the many tributes to Sant’Antonio that I saw.
When I mentioned that I had never seen such a display for any saint like this back in my village, Rabbi Barbara wondered out loud whether there wasn’t some connection to Jewish tradition, the lights corresponding to the lighting of the menorah.
Now we’ll move from the small to the grand. Below is the the Duomo of Saints Peter and Paul. This diocese produced two Popes, Papa Innocenzo IX and Papa Marcello II, who are on either side of the facade; Saints Peter and Paul are below. Excuse, please, that the Duomo is partially obscured by the festive lights strung across the road.
This is a small shrine we stumbled upon. Out of curiosity, does anyone know the symbolism of the the objects on either side of the cross on top? They remind me of artichokes, and I’ve seen them elsewhere (Cherrye, you remember the big ones in Catanzaro Lido?). Just wondering what they mean.
And now for other shots of Nicastro and the festivities.
Here are some boys kicking around a soccer ball (and looking at me suspiciously) in “Il Timpone,” the Jewish quarter of Nicastro, described on the sign as being an industrious Jewish community from the 13th to the 16th century.
An interesting facade, perhaps in the Trompe-l’œil style?
Sorry, don’t know much about this sort of thing but it sure is pretty, no?
A sign advertising a vintage clothing shop!
Who knew there was one in Calabria? Unfortunately it was closed, so I can neither confirm nor deny its existence (but again, pretty, no?).
I just love that they sell coconuts this way at these festivals. So tasty and refreshing as you meander along. P loves coconuts too, and since he wasn’t with me, I persuaded one of the vendors to sell me whole coconuts to take home. I won *big points* with P here.
Of course I can’t leave out the kitties.
Or the funnies.
Your jealousy. My wealth.
Is that kind of like “My other car is a Mercedes?”
Girls in t-shirts are only 15 euros around here, folks.
That *is* a summer deal.
Yeah, I’m kinda tired after all that too.
Sending you limoncello wishes and peperoncini dreams from Calabria,