Postcards from Lamezia Terme

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.

Calabria Jewish quarter - Lamezia Terme

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,
Sognatrice, a.k.a.

33 Beans of Wisdom to “Postcards from Lamezia Terme”
  1. nyc/caribbean ragazza

    Great photos. Are coconuts grown in Italy?

    The kittens are so cute!

  2. Anonymous

    those things on the church (that you think look like artichokes) are pine cones. They are ALL OVER Sicily. ANd there are a few giant ones at the Vatican Museum! From what i’ve heard they symbolise fertility and life (being full of seeds). Google it and see what you get. INteresting about the Jews, i’d never heard that before. Vanessa

  3. sognatrice

    NYC, I don’t think coconuts are grown here, unless it’s somewhere in Sicily. We’re not nearly tropical enough, I wouldn’t think.

    Vanessa, pine cones were my second guess! The fertility/life symbolism makes sense, but it still seems a bit odd to me–I’ve never seen them on Roman Catholic stuff in America but perhaps I just wasn’t paying attention. But hey, if the Vatican says pine cones, we do pine cones! Thanks for the info 🙂

  4. sognatrice

    Ah, interestingly enough, pine cones comes from Pagan traditions. Not very surprising since so many Catholic traditions come from Paganism, but interesting nonetheless 🙂

  5. alicia

    I am so jealous of the wonderful things you get to see where you are.

  6. cheeky

    I loves this post. I loved the photos and the tour.

    I especially liked that vintage sign and the one with your name on it. Something really lovely about those two.

    It’s nice to learn new things and visit new places. I love history and you are living in the center of some very rich and deep history.

    I was wondering about the artichoke/pine cones myself. There’s always a finger pointed to something of paganistic origination when it comes to religious symbols and even celebrations. Some even say Christmas is originated pagan culture. Rubbish I say. If we want to really look at it, the days of the week originate from paganism so the truth is we could pick apart everything we do and point it, somehow, back to that direction. I find the whole thing amusing, at best!

    Oh, and thanks for provoking thought in me.

  7. cheeky

    *urgh . . . loved, although loves does work, sort of! Take out the “is” after Christmas also. Sheesh! I did well, eh?

  8. Paolo

    I loves me this post too! I liked it the first way, Cheeky – typos are the unintentional poetry of our time, don’t edit yourself!

    M, I have always felt kind of “Jewishy,” and wondered if I had ancestors that went marrano after the Inquisition.

    Of course, it might just be that I liked Jewish girls growing up, and yet, and yet…

    Thanks again for bringing a little Calabria to my life through words and pictures. Do you have a photo site online? If you don’t – Picasa gives you like 1 GB for free, hint, hint…

  9. Anonymous

    no coconuts here in sicily either….vanessa

  10. chris & erin

    oh….just LOVELY!

    (I was wondering about the coconut thing too!)

  11. Britt-Arnhild

    Thanks for this tour.

    In two weeks we are in Italy. How far are you from Rome/Terracina?

  12. Judith in Umbria

    Just charming! Thank you.

  13. sognatrice

    Cheeky, yes, but you’re my proofreader, so it’s all good 🙂

    Paolo, funny you should mention always feeling Jewishy–I said something to that effect to Rabbi Barbara as well. I figure that on either the Lithuanian or southern Italian side, I have some Jewish roots somewhere…can’t say as though I’ve ever been a sucker for Jewish guys though. Always been Eye-talians, American or otherwise. Huh.

    Vanessa, well then I suppose it’s decided–definitely imported. From where? Any guesses?

    Erin, thanks! And glad we’ve solved The Great Coconut Caper (sort of).

    Britt-Arnhild, I’m quite a ways from Rome–an overnight train ride, but I do hope you’ll check in with Shelley over at Really Rome Holiday Apartments/At Home in Rome blog!

    Judith, di niente! Glad you enjoyed 🙂

  14. heartinsanfrancisco

    Delightful tour! And the photo of the balloon guy on the bench is priceless.

    Touring Calabria with you is causing me to rethink a decision I made a lifetime ago, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

    Thank you for sharing. The tour (and the coconut) were perfect.

  15. Canterbury Soul

    you are me making falling for Italy. thanks for the excellent virtual tour!

  16. Gil

    When I was a kid (50’s) my Grandfather had a small Italian market in Queens, NYC and the owner of the pastry shop (Mr. Rossini) was an old Jewish man from Sicily. He used to make the best rum cakes as he used real rum!

    Interesting about the Pine cones as I always wondered about their significance. As you enter Federal Hill (Italian section) of Providence, RI you are greeted by a gigantic Pine cone. Small world!

  17. sognatrice

    HeartinSF, I’m rather partial to the sleeping guy too. You intrigue with your other comment though…hmm…

    Canterbury Soul, glad you liked the tour. Be sure to check out some fellow bloggers in Italy on my sidebar if you *really* are in the mood for love 😉

    Gil, well you know he was legit if he was using real rum–I could get drunk on just a few rum-soaked pastries around here! And the pine cones are in RI? Good to know. I wonder if they really are more widespread in America than I realize. Anyone else? Pine cones on your local churches?

  18. Cherrye

    Wait…there is another American in Calabria!?! WHOA! We’re BIG time!

    I did not know about the pine cones, but that is interesting stuff…

  19. sognatrice

    Cherrye, yes, we’re almost officially a handful–literally, I mean. Figuratively, methinks we’re already there 😉

  20. JennDZ - The Leftover Queen

    How fun! Thanks for the virtual tour! I had very much fun on this little trip.

  21. Wanderlust Scarlett

    Coconuts and kitties and saints… oh my!
    What a wonderfully fun tour. Thanks so much for bringing us along on that… I love to see things the way you look at them, and it always feels like you didn’t leave anything out.

    The balloon napper is toooo funny.

    Scarlett & Viaggiatore

  22. lacey kaye

    Once again, thanks. I just love this site!

  23. Sara

    Thank you for not leaving out the kitties! Cute kitties! Cute!

  24. sognatrice

    Jenn, glad you liked the tour. Someday you and Roberto will have to do it person 🙂

    Scarlett, I do try to pick the highlights, but there were other photos that didn’t make the cut. Paolo is right that I should start a photo site so I can put up the ones that don’t get chosen for a post. So…much…work…though….

    Lacey Kaye, how sweet of you to say! Thanks!

    Sara, the photo is kind of blurry, but it’s the only one I got of Mamma and Baby before Baby scurried off. There were actually two Babies when I walked up to them, but the first one darted before I could turn on the camera. I have one of just Mom that’s clearer, but not as fun, IMHO.

  25. a far away friend

    Once again, the shots of Lamezia are wonderful!! Those coconuts look so refreshing….you would have scored BIG points with me as well. I love the way you included the kitties !!!

  26. sognatrice

    Friend, glad you enjoyed. The coconuts were *so* good–I regret that I only got two 🙁

  27. colleen

    I could look at that winking doorway all day. And the man sleeping with balloons.

  28. sognatrice

    Colleen, glad you enjoyed the photos 🙂

  29. JennieBoo

    I think I like the coconut fountain best.

    “The Hubby” doesn’t like coconut, but this is AWESOME!!

    BTW, so glad you’re back!

  30. sognatrice

    Thanks Jennie; I’m partial to the coconut fountain myself. I remember the first time I saw it a few years ago–still get excited every time it shows up 🙂

  31. prof

    vous pouvez inscrire votre blog sur

  32. sognatrice

    Prof, thanks for visiting! I hope you enjoyed your stay 🙂

  33. 03.15.2008

    I love the coconut thing too – especially on the beach:


    Miss Expatria’s last blog post..Too Good Not To Post

    So true!



Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake