Impressions of Calabria: 1777 - 1890
by Antonio Parisi and Tony Ghezzo
A compliation of comments from various people about their experiences in Calabria.
In 1777, H. Swinburne wrote about the province of Vibo Valentia: "Monteleone is a well known town built at the top of a beautiful hill. From this incomparable position I had the opportunity to admire for long stretches of time the beautiful panorama. The castle of the Barons, surrounded by luxuriant evergreen trees, occupies the highest part of the hill. Down, in the eastern side is the placid Gulf of St. Eufemia on one side and on the other side the majestic Apennine mountains. I don't believe anybody can find a better looking, richer and more majestic sight in the world."
In 1778, John Richard, abbot of Saint Non, wrote: "We were very surprised to see that this land, Calabria, described by some as a frightful place, is one of the most hospitable places filled with cordial and generous people. Without a touch of exaggeration, I must say that its kind and peaceful inhabitants when they open the door of their homes they make you feel that you own the place, that you're free to do whatever you like. They are happy to satisfy any of your wishes and desires."
In 1778, Dominic Vivant de Non wrote about the province of Cosenza: "Nothing is more attractive, richer, better farmed and better populated of the coastal area. The towns are built one next to the other: we don't have in France anything like it: this area, near Cosenza, is built so richly and with such a charm. We followed the Crati river that runs in a plain not larger than 2-3 miles. This is a wonderful land that looks like a garden cultivated with lots of fruit trees, but among the olive and the mulberry trees grain and wheat are planted. The coastal area has good-looking homes and is definitely one of the richest and best developed areas in the world."
In 1780, John Baptist Fortis wrote about the province of Reggio Calabria: "The coastal area of Reggio is no doubt the most beautiful and mesmerizing sight in Italy. The area abounds with gardens planted with all kinds of citrus trees. The heavenly fragrance that emanates from their blossoms in the early evening, the harmony of the farmhouses, the friendliness and the amiability of the local people, everything make this country superior to any other country that I have known and visited so far."
In 1786, John Henry Bartels wrote about the province of Vibo Valentia: "Among all the people that I have known here prevails a kindness that in our country is totally unknown. If you, for instance, walk in one of their fruit orchards or in one of their vineyard, the owner always greet you with a big smile, picks up the best fruit from a tree and offers it to you saying: "Please, try this one."
In 1792, Fredrick Leopold, Count of Stolberg, wrote: "I'm leaving deeply moved this most beautiful province of beautiful Italy, the closest to the sun that everybody loves. This great land is cooled by the breeze of the two seas, by the gentle winds from its high montains, by the shady wood, by the numerous creeks and rivers. Sights of the sea, of the beaches of Calabria, of the channel, views of the open sea, of the Lipary Islands, of the Aetna Mountain, everything glorified by the splendor of an extraordinary nature fill my life of beautiful memories."
In 1792, Frederick Leopold, count of Stolberg, wrote about Catanzaro: "Catanzaro is situated at the top of high hills. The sight of the city surrounded by lush green meadows is most beautiful. From Catanzaro to the valley down below there is a beautiful paved road."
In 1806, P.L.Courier wrote about the province of Reggio Calabria. "We are at the lowest point of the boot in the most beautiful country of the world. Looking at these rocks surrounded by myrtle and aloe or at the palm trees down the valley, you have the impression of being near the river Gange or the Nile....The sight of Nature is breathtaking....and what about the perfume and the scent in the air around the city of Reggio..... You can smell the fragrance for miles..."
In 1879, Francois Lenormant wrote the following about the province of Catanzaro: "We left Catanzaro very early in the morning to reach the railroad down the hill before the sun became too hot. The cool air of the early hours produces a fantastic atmosphere that is difficult to describe: thousands of delicate perfumes from plants, flowers and trees all around you permeate the area with their devine scent. Then slowly the sky becomes clear, there is not a cloud in sight, the top of the mountains assumes a beautiful color pink, as the poet Homer wrote "just as touched by the pink fingers of Down"....All of a sudden a golden ray appears over the mild waves of the sea and over the land, the red disk of the sun starts emerging from the sea while Apollo Helios reveals his presence throwing his victorious darts."
In 1890, Paul Bourget wrote about the province of Crotone: "Crotone lies down there majestic, white and yellow, near the limits of its harbor, where yachts of all sizes are lazily anchored. Our boat left the harbor about a hour ago and we are sailing now along the coast. The cliff and rocks slip near by while we admire down below the intense blue sea. A pleasant breeze produces at times long gentle waves that are comparable to the languid swelling of the chest of a sleeping person. Then the coast becomes rather flat and in its center stands up a bright column: it's the only relic of the ancient temple of Hera Lacinia."