Our visit to Calitri was much too brief. As the bus pulled away, we both felt that we had barely scratched the surface of this cittadina where my grandparents were born. I stared out of the bus window, wondering when we would be back, walking these streets again. I was happy that we had taken the plunge, gone off the beaten track and made the journey here, but disappointed that I wasn’t able to go to the town office and research my family’s heritage. In a perfect world I would have met long lost relatives, they would have invited us to their home and we would have enjoyed a long evening together, complete with a home cooked meal and lots of wine. We would have struggled to communicate and made plans to meet again. To be honest I didn’t really have that expectation when we made our plans to go there. We had decided to make this detour on our way from Rome to Positano and at the last minute I packed the little bit of information on my family that my mother had sent to me. As I mentionned before, when we made our plans for this vacation there was virtually no information available on the internet about Calitri. We were happy to have made it there, found a decent hotel room to sleep in and sensed a connection to my family’s roots.
There is one other thing that this trip to Calitri did for us-instill us with the desire to explore southern Italy. I will give credit to J. for immediately saying “We have to come back. Let’s rent an apartment and use it as a base to explore southern Italy.” I thought “Wow, this is a man whose family was from Norway and he wants to drive around the south of Italy with me!”. Yes, we want to drive around all of southern Italy. Go to places that we’ve never read much about. Get lost on back roads and have to stay in towns that we never planned on visiting. I’ve mentionned Carla Capalbo’s book “The Food and Wine Guide to Naples and Campania”. I want to start in Calitri and use this book and go and eat my way through the towns, going from cheese makers to wineries, from olive oils mills to small family run farms. I want to sample local breads and just made mozzarella, still warm and oh so creamy. Sip limoncello and taste just picked figs. Talk with these artisans and fill the car with their precious products, knowing that at some point we’ll be lost and hungry and can pull over and have an impromptu picnic.
Campania is really just a start. We really want to drive around the coast-starting in Puglia and continuing down along the heal of the boot. It’s a long trip and I have a lot more reading to do and even more Italian to learn before we set off on this adventure. If you can dream it, you can do it and my dream of exploring Italy goes on and on.