In Calabria, land is generally considered the best investment one can make. As the saying goes, they’re not making any more of it.
People tend to hang on to the plots in the campagna (country) that have belonged to their families for decades even if they don’t cultivate them, so it can become rather difficult to find the “right” piece to purchase if you haven’t inherited any — one that’s not *too* far from your house, gets good sunlight, is relatively healthy, and most importantly, has at least a crumbling wall on it so that you’d be free to build or add on to the existing structure.
From all I’ve heard, trying to change the zoning classification of your land would make dealing with Poste Italiane seem like the highlight of your week.
Around here, if people have a campagna and still use it, they live in the village and travel to the land daily or a few times a week to tend to it. If the land has a livable structure (often a stretch to call it a “house”), it’s used mostly for storage, a base for barbecues/cookouts, and as an actual shelter maybe a few weekends a year, such as during vendemmia (grape harvest) or la raccolta when olives are picked for oil.
Last year around this time, P and I were lucky to find a small piece of land at the right price after saving up and looking around for years. And it was definitely worth the wait.
Isn’t anything truly worth having worth the wait?
Now that the weather is getting nicer, P and I have been able to spend more time in our campagna, home to about 40 olive trees and an extremely humble structure — part of it doesn’t yet have windows or a door in place, but we’re working on it. Pian piano as Italians love to say. Slowly, slowly.
There’s not much else going on up there, literally or figuratively. And that is exactly why I love it.
Being enveloped by nature simultaneously calms and inspires me in a way nothing else can.
Indeed, the more time we spend up there, the closer we move to figuring out how we could stay up there full-time with the whole brood — dogs, hens, goats, and all. Living out in the campagna doesn’t sound so crazy to those of us familiar with the concept of a house unattached to others and no neighbors hearing your every movement, but to some Italians, living outside the confines of a city or village is an idea that is, pardon the pun, quite foreign.
Recently when P casually mentioned to another couple how much we’d love to live up in the campagna, the wife looked at me as if I had just put cheese on my linguine agli scampi and ordered a glass of milk to wash it down, then asked, “Ma non hai paura?!” But aren’t you afraid?!
Of what, I’m not sure, but I imagine just generally not having people nearby, perhaps scary animals, insects, snakes. Boh. All I know is that lucky for me, I found an Italian who is entirely on the same wavelength with me on this one.
Far from fear, the overwhelming feeling I get from absorbing the sights, sounds, and smells of towering trees, chirping birds, and a ridiculous variety of wildflowers is . . . alive.
There’s no electricity or running water in our campagna, although P is working to change the latter as I type, so for right now, there’s no chance of an Internet connection, plumbing or a move in the near future, keeping our goats or hens up there, or even growing most types of crops. The olive trees, thankfully, do just fine without watering all summer. They range in age from five or 10 years old to hundreds, and I love imagining the stories each one could tell.
In fact, that’s absolutely one of my favorite things to do in the campagna:
Wrapped in the arms of my ancestors, I allow their spirits to guide me through the olive groves that P and I have worked so hard to bring into our family — and they may very well be the same trees my great-great-grandfather could only dream of buying from the baron who worked him and his fellow “contadini” like slaves a hundred years ago. I am repeatedly amazed and humbled that just a few generations later, here I am, so fortunate to have not only the choice but also the ability to come back to this place my family left in search of a better life, never to return for so much as a visit.
Yes, I love that the sun is emerging after what seems like a long winter away as it allows me to spend more time in the campagna — *our* campagna — imagining not only what these trees have already seen but also what they might see in the next hundred years . . .
Relaxing, daydreaming, soaking in the quiet inspiration, and simply being.
I can’t imagine anything lovelier than living among these glorious symbols of how far we have come, P and I, individually and together, and all that we can build in the future. And with each trip to the campagna, I invest myself deeper into this challenge.
Where do you find quiet inspiration?