Lasting Impressions, by Andrea Ogren

I’ve been traveling to Calabria since 2003-and have lived here since 2006-so it is getting hard for me to remember my first impressions. I remember falling in love with the beaches, being enchanted by the mountains and working hard not to blow my diet at everything I ate in between.

I knew if I lived here that would be a challenge.

I was lucky to have two great friends sacrifice their time and vacation money to help me move. We talk about our trip often and I’ve been pushing like crazy encouraging them to come back soon. A few weeks ago I asked my friend Andrea, of Andrea Unplugged, if she’d share her first impressions on bella Calabria.

And so she did … .

My first trip to Italy was perfect in my eyes. But who could honestly have a bad trip to Italy? When I was helping Cherrye move to Catanzaro, I was most excited about Rome. And Florence. And Pisa. And the gelato. And the cappuccino. But I didn’t really know what to expect about Catanzaro, since the only reason I knew of it was because of Cherrye and Peppe.

Once we got there we were graciously welcomed with open arms and kisses on both cheeks. Peppe and his friend came to pick us up, in two cars mind you, since six suitcases and 3 extra people wouldn’t fit in Peppe’s little car. In Texas, someone would have come to get us in their extended cab pickup truck, which is definitely not something you see much in southern Italy.

On the drive to Peppe’s house, it was hard to take it all in … the winding, mountain roads, the olive and lemon trees growing on the hillsides and the breathtaking view from a bridge spanning the valley.

Catanzaro was so much more than I could have expected. The people are extremely kind, even if you don’t speak the same language. They feed you (Cherrye’s suocero) and they take you out on the town for pizza and gelato (Peppe’s friends…wait, isn’t that the same as feeding you?) You do a lot of eating in Italy.

And of course, the area is just as enchanting as the people. For the first time in my life, I got to see a place where the mountains meet the beach at Pietragrande. And I also got to see an ocean in shades of blue and green … rather than the mud-brown-and now even more oil-polluted ocean I’m used to in Texas.

The best thing about staying in Catanzaro was that we had Cherrye’s new home as our base. It really helped me feel like a local.

If you are traveling to southern Italy and don’t have a real life friend to stay with like we did, I highly recommend making friends with the B&B owners where you will be staying via email-or find a blog, message board or Facebook group and make friends with someone there. You don’t have to necessarily meet up with them (be safe if you do), but they can help you discover local treasures you may never find in a travel book.

I’ve been busy planning my return trip to Calabria and now, with four years under her belt, I imagine I’ll see even more of Calabria’s unspoiled surprises.

Thank you so much, Andrea! You can read more about Andrea, her travels and adventures in the kitchen at her blog, Andrea Unplugged.

Traveling south? Click here to see how I can help you plan your trip to Calabria or southern Italy.

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