"You must have heard how military art, agriculture and livestock breeding are common to everyone; that everyone is obliged to know them and these are the noblest among them". Thus spoke Tommaso Campanella, an important Renaissance philosopher of Calabrian origins who, inspired partly by the beauty of his land and partly by the generosity of its fruits, modelled on his Stilo, hypothesized the creation of the perfect town, the City of the Sun. He paid this utopia with his life, but the Calabria region is always united to the South of Italy by a fierce and beautiful destiny.
The Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Goths, the Longobards, the Byzantines, all the dynasties that reigned from the Reign of Naples onwards, the Angevins, the Aragoneses, the Bourbons, the Hapsburgs, the soldiers of Napoleon, the Garibaldines, have left a trace of their passage and remembrances in the memory of the region, suspended between two seas. The silver cliffs that fall sheer to the luminous sea have watched, without judgement, the actions of Garibaldi and, millenniums before, those of Ulysses, who navigated between the dangerous fauces of Scylla and Charibdys and after him other two Greeks that have come from the sea: the bronzes of Riace.
A possible itinerary in the ancient Magna Grecia starts at the National Museum of Reggio Calabria, by admiring the bronze statues of these two heroes, perfectly preserved, that date back to five hundred years B.C., abandoned for two thousand years in the sea and found incredibly intact and beautiful in 1972. Once the needs of the soul have been satisfied, the ones of the senses can be richly complied with: the local cuisine gives the palate mustica (sun-dried newborn anchovies preserved in Bruzio extra virgin olive oil) and Soppressata (di Calabria Dop), the famous salami sacked in pork gut, made with shank, shoulder and pork lard.
Ascending the Tyrrhenian coast beyond Villa San Giovanni among wind-carved rocks, hard and of rough beauty, that melt into the sweetness of the citrus fruit groves, as lively as the Bergamot (di Calabria Igp) and as mild as the tangerines (Clementine di Calabria Igp), one meets with other artefacts of the civilizations that have inhabited the region.
In Palmi, besides assisting to the parade of the Giants, two gigantic wooden and paper-pulp figures representing a woman named Mata and a Moor named Grifone, accompanied by a third simulacra, a horse, visitors can visit the ethnographic museum that illustrates the cycles of the year and of life, the work of the peasants, the fishermen, the art of the shepherds, dancing, music, religion, superstition and magic.
Calabrian cuisine uses many sharp spices, as in a sacred and apotropaic rite. In fact, when a Calabrian asks for peperoncino (chilli pepper) and pours it over the dishes religiously he does not only perform an act of nutrition but he also relates the history and the culture of his region, of ancient hunger and of the desire for abundance. For this reason, pepper, onions (well-known the red ones of Tropea), beans and pumpkin are at the base of Calabrian cooking. In Tropea, the pearl of the Tyrrhenian coast, one's sight will be delighted with the remarkable Romanic-Norman cathedrals and one's taste buds with the renowned red onions, white in the centre and tending towards lilac on the outside.
6 kilometres from Tropea there is Drapia with its typical salted meat: bacon (Pancetta di Calabria Dop), sausage (Salsiccia di Calabria Dop) and "capocollo" (Capocollo di Calabria Dop). The latter, obtained from the upper part of boned pork loin, is shaped and salt-dried, a process that can last from four to eight days. The pieces are then cleaned, vinegar is added and then they are sprinkled with black pepper grains, wrapped in natural membrane and hand-bound. After at least one hundred days of maturation, when it is said that patience is the virtue of the strong (therefore of good cooks), capocollo is ready to satisfy any gourmand.