destination calabria:photo tour of a medieval village in southern italy (part I)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted some photos, and I think it’s time. I’m still camera-less, but I do have some shots stored away, so let’s go back to a lovely day in May when Luna and I took a walking tour around a section of the village.

It all started out in the little piazza near my house where the main church is located; truth be told, I hadn’t even brought my camera but then I saw these:

roses in front of church, calabria, southern italy

So I went back home and grabbed the macchina fotografica. I don’t know how these roses ended up there, but it’s certainly not uncommon to find flowers outside the church in the morning.

By the way, we have 13 churches here in all (reminder: 300 people), but only one operates full time. I promise to write more about the history of the village at some point and how it’s been largely abandoned (inspired by Farfallina!) but until I can get more photos to accompany it, we’ll just have to stick with what I’ve got.

Here’s the bell tower of La Chiesa Matrice/La Chiesa di San Salvatore, built in 1218.

bell tower, calabria, southern italy

After we wound down one of the winding streets, I saw this cactus giving a helping hand to a piece of fallen fruit:

prickly pear cactus, calabria, southern italy

The fruit is a fico d’india (Indian fig) aka prickly pear. I’m not quite sure why the one in the grip of the cactus is ripe when none of the others are–and actually I’m not sure why that one is ripe at all.

Remember this was May, and their season is now (sorry I can’t get a good photo for you Gil, but do check out Sara’s post!), so that coddled one sure was special.

Moving on. . . .

Want to go in?archway, calabria, southern italy

Sorry, but there’s really nothing else behind there except this:

grapevines, calabria, southern italy

No one (human) lives in this part of the village, and so much of it is falling down, boarded up, and otherwise abandoned-looking.

Here is my very favorite abandoned house. abandoned stone house, calabria, southern italy

If you peek in through the crack in the front door, you can see la famiglia gathered inside the small room on the first chilly night of the year:

La Mamma stirring the sugo one last time before getting the water ready for pasta, resting the wooden spoon on the side of the terra cotta pot, and wiping her hands on her well-worn but clean apron.

La figlia embroidering sheets in preparation of her upcoming matrimonio, pulling the thread up through the fabric and back down, over and over, her feet resting on the old braciere.

Il figliolo and PapΓ  playing briscola in another corner, their many layers of clothes making each throw of a card less dramatic than it normally would be.

[I may or may not have spent many hours sitting near this house over the past four years.]

But back to 2007, and back to greenery, which is just around the corner.

Can you find Luna?

calabria, southern italyEccola!

luna balloona

And finally, a quick glance back at where we’ve been before we move on.medieval village, calabria, southern italy

Won’t you come back and continue our passeggiata?


[tags]calabria, southern italy, badolato, medieval villages, dogs[/tags]

48 Beans of Wisdom to “destination calabria:photo tour of a medieval village in southern italy (part I)”
  1. Farfallina - Roam 2 Rome

    Bellissime foto Sognatrice! πŸ™‚

    I loooove prickly pears! The tricky part is taking the outer layer out πŸ™‚ but then add lemon and salt, and it’s yummy!

  2. Gil

    Thanks for the beautiful post. It is amazing to see that there are still so many flowers just growing there. I also love prickly pears but haven’t had one in many years.

  3. sognatrice

    Farfallina, thanks–you can have all the prickly pears that have been allotted to me in this lifetime…sorry, I’m just not a big fan in any way I’ve had them. But they are pretty!

    Gil, believe me, there’s not a whole growing around here right now–these photos are from May πŸ™‚

  4. MB

    Great pictures! I just love the old medieval villages. We have our fair share of old abandoned houses too and I can’t help but wonder what happened to the inhabitants. They moved on to America, Argentina, Germany, or France, or other similar places in search of jobs, I’m sure. Sad to see them abandoned and rundown though.

  5. Jeni

    Beautiful little tour there! Made me feel almost like I was right there with you.

  6. nyc/caribbean ragazza

    Great photos. What used to be the population of the village?

    What do they do with the other 12 churches?

  7. Figs Olives Wine

    I loooove this post. So sad to see so many abandoned homes,but what a stunningly beautiful village. Michele, you are a smart, smart girl.

  8. sognatrice

    MB, yes that’s the fate of the ex-inhabitants around here for the most part…but that’s not all there is to the story….

    Jeni, thanks! Glad you liked the tour πŸ™‚

    NYC, they say that as late as the 1950s, the population up here was around 8000, but I’ve seen estimates from centuries ago well over 10,000. The other 12 churches? Hmm…I think I’ll have to save that mystery for another day….


  9. sognatrice

    Amanda, thanks; even though it’s sad to see them, there’s something oddly romantic about it as well…definitely easier to walk around and take photos (and imagine the lives that have passed through) πŸ˜‰

  10. witnessing am i

    What a great eye you have. And being so far from Italy, I will work on the assumption that the images are current. They are so warm, so clean. I love the angles.

    And how nice of you to link pronounciations — you are the Mama of Thoughtful.

  11. The (Mis)Adventures of a Single City Chick

    I love when you post photos of your town. I feel like I’m right there seeing it firsthand. So pretty. Kind of like a little escape for me from my desk at work. πŸ™‚


  12. Sparky Duck

    Gorgeous pictures. Plus who knew Italy had cactus plants

  13. sognatrice

    David, the images are a few months old, and I’m glad you like them; I hope the pronunciations and definitions help the spread of italiano πŸ˜‰

    Christina, I’m so happy to oblige!

    Sparky, learn something new every day, they say πŸ™‚

  14. tongue in cheek

    Glorious!! How I wish I could be there too!! Wonderful photos! Thank you for taking us along!!

  15. janey wan

    Beautiful photos.

    Thanks for linking to me for the middle name meme. I promise to get to it. I’ve changed my user name. So go to my post today to see why.

    formerly “inwestcliffe”

  16. Sabine

    Awesome photos (and awesome place, really!!). I don’t like prickly pears either. I have tried them once, though. But farfallina, where do lemon and salt come in?! They are so sweet that salt sounds obscene in connection with the fruit…

    Oh, and isn’t this funny: I have prickly pears on my blog today too! How strange… πŸ˜€

  17. Anonymous

    i have so enjoyed your blog! i have friends who just married and are now thinking of moving to southern Italy from the US, so i’ve been doing some research for them. sounds like you are having an amazing time, so i will share your blog with them. actually, you might like (or may already know about)a new video communication service they’re planning to use to keep in touch with us poor ‘ole folk back in the states. it seems like a pretty cool way us to keep in touch face to face – we’ll find out soon. i believe it’s and i think it’s free, too. keep up the great writing!

  18. Marmite Breath

    Beautiful. Just beautiful.

  19. sognatrice

    Corey, thanks for coming! It was a pleasure having you along πŸ™‚

    Janey, *love* the new name, and especially the reason behind it. Brava!

    Sabine, I happen to know some people who put salt on watermelon too (hi Cherrye!)…I don’t get it either πŸ˜‰ I’ll have to check out your post!

    Anonymous, glad you found me! Please do pass along my blog to your friends, and tell them if they’d like to email me directly, my address is on the front page on the right. I’m not sure which service you’re referring to, but Expat-Blog lists a lot of great stuff for expats on there. Thanks for stopping by!

    Nat, hi, I’m blushing πŸ™‚

  20. Britt-Arnhild

    Oh, beautiful, charming. I always love to visit Italy, real or in blogs πŸ™‚

    I am going back to Italy again in three weeks, another week in Venice….. πŸ™‚

  21. Mallow

    Wow – those are gorgeous pictures are giving me such a travel bug!

  22. Karina

    What great pictures! I love the cactus one, especially with the oddity of the ripe prickly pear.

    And the little story of the famiglia was great, I could just see them all in there!

  23. Jen

    Wonderful photos! And thank you for the wonderful wander. How cool!

    Why are the buildings abandoned? Is there not enough work? Are people moving out of the region? Can I buy one, lol?

  24. Currier Quinn Balent

    Lovely pictures. What a neat little village to explore! I especially liked the picture of the cactus lending a helping hand to the fallen fruit. I also liked the picture of Luna. I’m a sucker for dogs, especially dogs that look exactly like my dog! πŸ™‚

  25. sognatrice

    Britt-Arnhild, woohoo! That means more wonderful Italy photos over at your place!

    Mallow, glad you liked, and thanks for stopping by πŸ™‚

    Karina, thank you much cara πŸ™‚

    Jen, as I hinted, I’ll someday write a post about the status of the village, but for now I’ll just say that it’s not so much that people are moving out, it’s that they’re already gone–pretty much after WWII the village emptied out. More details to come! And there are plenty of houses to choose from if you’re looking….

    Currier, I had a feeling you’d enjoy that shot of Luna; and I have yet another surprise coming up that I think you’ll like πŸ™‚

  26. Calabrisella

    ‘nu villaggio meraviglioso!
    grazie for taking us on a mini tour …

    ps: Luna Γ¨ super carina!

  27. Wendy

    Ilove it when you put pictures of your village on the blog. Beautiful!

  28. Frances

    Oh I so want to visit!
    Actually through your splendid photolog I feel like I have.
    Prickly pears are my favorite fruits.
    Ciao Bella

  29. Frances

    I’d like to post afew of your recipes on She Who Blogs if it’s okay with you.
    Send me a shout at
    Waving wildly at you from New York

  30. Louise

    Thanks for sharing that….great pics!!

  31. african vanielje

    It’s so beautiful sognatrice and you have such an eye for unpretentious photographs. I loved this post. I love them all.

  32. somepinkflowers

    we don’t have a single
    old medieval village
    in my neighborhood
    so i depend on the kindness of others like you for such things!

    grazie for sharing the great photos
    and also for the vocabulary lessons.

    when i practice my italian,
    it makes me believe
    i will be back there some day soon…


    is *luna balloona*
    italian for cute doggie?

  33. Shan

    Wow! Amazing pictures. Auntie Yoli (Maya’s Godmother) is leaving for Italy on the weekend. Wish I was going with her.

  34. KC

    The pictures of the abandoned part of town are so evocative. We have many unused churches here too, but I don’t think the town has become any smaller. Hmmm, I wonder what that means? πŸ˜‰

  35. sognatrice

    Calabrisella, thank you for coming (and Luna says grazie) πŸ˜‰

    Wendy, so happy you enjoyed!

    Frances, your favorite fruit? You would just pass out at how many around here are just never even picked. If I had a camera, I’d take some photos of all the abandoned pricklers. I’ll send you an email shortly πŸ™‚

    Louise, thanks for joining the tour!

    AV, why thank you; what a lovely thing to say πŸ™‚

    SPF, I’m glad to share my medieval village with all those who don’t have one. Isn’t Italian fun? I do hope when you come back you’ll head further south….

    Shan, Auntie Yoli’s coming? Look out Italy! πŸ˜‰

  36. sognatrice

    KC, you ask an excellent question. Once I get a working camera again, I’ll definitely take more of the abandoned parts–I love hanging around there anyway πŸ™‚

  37. Cherrye

    Don’t let it fool you, people! That village is HELL to walk through!! lol

    But, luckily Sognatice’s casa has (almost) ice cold aqua on-hand…

  38. Leanne

    Cannot wait for the next passigata!

  39. sognatrice

    Cherrye, all that city living has turned you into such a wimp! What you don’t realize is how much I save in gym memberships πŸ˜‰

    Leanne, Part II is up!

  40. Maryann

    Oh Sognatrice..thank you for the walking tour. I now see why my grandparents chose to live where they did in NY. A steep dead end street, all stone walls with narrow walkways. And did I say steep? Steep as heck! :)I think it reminded them of Italy. Thank you for the pics.

  41. The Daily Rant

    I am enjoying the “tour” of your village through your photos….although, I didn’t know you guys had cactus down there! I’m very ANTI-cactus – reminds me of the Southwestern United States which I am NOT a big fan of. Are the cactus all over and are prickly pears the only kind you have?

    As for eating them – I’ve never had anything except Prickly Pear Jelly, which is pretty good. There are recipes everywhere, but this is from,1-0,prickly_pear,FF.html

    Maybe it will inspire a What’s Cooking Wednesday recipe!

  42. Taffiny

    love the photos, roses on church steps, archway like a maze. (something romantic in it. As you say)

    Love that, the abandoned house, listening to you, dreaming into a space, trying to feel its history. Giving it a meaning, I’m sure it misses.

    I think things in nature are complete without us, flowers, mountains, trees, are happy to just be, I am sure they enjoy our joy in them, but they don’t need it. But a building, I feel is different, it longs to be filled, to be a home. It was built for a purpose, and I think it wants to fuflill it.
    Now they are like standing memories.

  43. My Melange


    I thought I grew up in a small town, but with only 300 people, I think you are living in a smaller town than I did. Nice pic’s. Thanks for sharing a bit of your life.

  44. mamacita chilena

    Wow, your pictures just bumped Italy up a notch on my “Countries I must see before I die” list πŸ™‚

    Great blog! I’ll most certainly be back!

  45. JennieBoo

    A beautiful post complete with lovely photos. I especially love Luna, but you knew that, right?

    The roses are lovely and sad, at the same time.

  46. Alex

    Your writing is beautifully evocative of this village that seems almost to have fallen out of time, or, perhaps, been forgotten by time. The pull of the past can be very strong in places like that. Your words capture the special quality of the place wonderfully, and with great immediacy. Thank you for letting us see it all through your eyes and sensibility.
    I started out with a great long list of projects to buzz through this morning. Haven’t even looked at it! — My whole being has been in Badolato, looking out over the haze in the hills, wondering what Luna has got up to, hearing the wind in the trees, feeling the sun, quite lost out of my here and now as I sensed the wistful echos of so many lives that seem to have just disappeared out of the place and left time adrift. Completely transported. Grazie tanti!
    The law has lost a bright new practitioner, but we’ve all gained a great new writer — and a gifted photographer! Cause for celebration! Break out the prosecco!

  47. Wanderlust Scarlett

    Again… wonderful tour, you are a fabulous guide.
    I want to paint that arched doorway and the bell tower… what great photos!!

    Scarlett & V.

  48. sognatrice

    Maryann, it all does make more sense, doesn’t it? Where I’m from in PA reminds me a lot of this as well, only they built the towns in the valleys rather than up on the mountains–and yet there are still lots of steep hills and windy streets.

    Ranter, yes, I’m aware of your anti-cactus stance. I don’t have a feeling one way or the other one them, but they are kind of pretty, especially with flowers and/or fruit. We do have regular old pears, although the ones grown here by locals are really small–but man are they tasty! We get other, more normal-sized imported from the north, I imagine.

    Probably won’t see prickly pear jam featured here, but I have passed along this recipe to a jam-making-fool-of-a-friend–she loves it, thanks!

    Taffiny, I like that sort of thinking, and I think you’re right–the things that existed without us don’t really need us, but what about those things we’ve put out there? Don’t they feel abandoned too? Lonely? Not fulfilling their purpose? Interesting….

    Robin, yeah, this is a smaller town than even the one I grew up in, although not by much. Guess I’m a small town kinda girl.

    Mamacita, welcome! I hope to see more of you around here πŸ™‚

    Jennie, Luna is always happy to hear it, though πŸ™‚

    Alex, what a lovely comment, thank you so much! I only feel slightly guilty in taking you away from your projects though–I’m a bit selfish that way πŸ˜‰ I hope you’ll be back around, and that you’ll be bringing the prosecco πŸ™‚

    Scarlett, yes! Paint! I really need to take some lessons, or at least mess around a bit with paint….

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

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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