Monday, July 18, 2022

A Mysterious Meeting and a Cave Dinner

We only had a bit more time in magical Cleto so we made it count by doing some more exploring.

Our B&B had a really great breakfast. I seem to somehow have failed to take any pictures of it, but there was some sort of a tart or something that had thinly sliced fresh fig on top which was delicious. I guess figs are a locally grown product.

We whipped out this cannolo I bought yesterday in Reggio Calabria

It was unsurprisingly very sunny and hot today, and Cleto is a very steep and rocky place, so I got very hot and sweaty while exploring.

Sadly many of the houses were abandoned.

This church had no roof.

While it was kind of sad to see Cleto in such a state of disrepair, I was looking at the town through the eyes of someone who'd held this place in reverence for decades. So to me I found the crumbling stone buildings overlooking the fields of olive trees to be sort of romantic. I could just sort of imagine what my ancestors' lives might have been like here. Would they still recognize the place? If I had more time I would have liked to have scoured city hall for records of my people.

The castle at the top of Cleto's hill is a place that I've been wanting to visit for some time. So when I was blocked by this "no yelling at big black hands" sign I walked under the chain holding it up and continued exploring.

Reading about Cleto's history was a good gateway to learning about the history of Italy as a whole. For example, Cleto's castle was built by the Normans. I never knew the Normans were ever in Italy at all.

They ate Sicily and southern Italy.

I was also surprised to see this Orthodox-looking church here as well.

We were finishing up our sweaty hike around town and walking back towards the car to head out of town. One of the rare cars pulled up and stopped next to us, and the window rolled down. "Are you John Milito?" The look on my face must have be priceless. In the moment I had no idea who this was or how they knew my name. I haven't figured out how/if Giuseppe and I are actually related, but his name is Milito and he's from Cleto, so I feel safe putting money on it. I wouldn't mind putting the time into figuring it out exactly one of these days given the materials. Anyway I told him I was coming to town and he was like "sorry I live in northern Italy." Bummer. Then without warning he just drives down, says hello for like 10 minutes, then drives away. Like the odds of him seeing us at all seem to be very low. It was a very cool way to end our time in Cleto.

I spotted this World War II memorial and there were a few Militos on it. The inscription says some thing like "they were lacking in luck, not in valor."

There were a few older guys sitting out front of a store. I asked them if it was open and one hurried in to tend shop. I didn't actually need anything but he was very nice and chatty(in Italian so that didn't go great) so I was determined to buy something.

Ice cream bars was the correct answer to the riddle.

And then we drove away, back through the olive groves. I think the place is more beautiful than I imagined. I'll definitely have to return one of these days and do more exploring.

I guess Italian national parks are full of towns, which feels strange to me. Generally in the US they are like the wilderness right? Not a lot of people live inside a national park in the states I don't think. Anyway, here we are in Camigliatello Silano, just shopping and having a hoot in Parco Nazionale della Sila.

There just so happened to be some sort of little festival taking place. I was excited about this bootleg Simpsons sign on this unrelated carnival ride.

They are big on mushrooms around here. I think Sila is a base camp for nearby skiing expeditions.

Our next location for good times was Matera.

Matera is famous for having a bunch of caves with a history of continuous occupation dating back to the Palaeolithic (10th millennium BC).

Lydia has a history of continuously eating ice cream since 1989 AD.

We visited some cave people dwellings.

I thought this cave system for storing snow for refrigeration was pretty genius.

Don't mind if I do.

I took fancy pants Lydia for dinner at the fancy pants Michelin star winning Vitantonio Lombardo Ristorante. The restaurant occupied a series of caves in the cliff side.

The amuse-bouche was very amusing indeed. It came out in a giant model of I think Matera, and even had dry ice hiding somewhere that was shrouding everything in mist.

Tiny pizzas.

There was some poetry going on here that I appreciated. This dish was entitled "I dropped the egg in the garden."

Seabass in olive crust with occhipinti beans on white chocolate and vinegar water

You know me, I was just trying to have a nice Italian dinner, maybe some spaghetti, have some wine, and go home. But Lydia was like "I'M NOT LEAVING TILL WE EAT PIGEON MEAT AND MAYBE A THING THAT LOOKS LIKE A CHERRY BUT IS REALLY PIGEON LIVER PATE".

She's a real sick character sometimes. Leave those pigeons alone, Lydia.

She loves it.

Even though I knew what this was, biting into it and not tasting cherry but instead the taste of what is often referred to as a flying rat... it was sad for me and my mouth.

Dessert was another fun situation. I got "A Cigar for Mozart (chocolate, grappa, apricot, and tobacco)."

It was fun, but it was actually not what I was intending to procure. Someone at a table next to us got something with actual smoke, and the waiter put a headset over their ears while they ate it, which I assume played some sort of memorial music for all the pigeons.

We were lastly treated to a sort of ending amuse-bouche that we didn't order. It was meant to evoke some sort of local religious procession that I think involves smashing some sort of idol or something? Anyway there was a big chocolate ball that our server dramatically smashed for us. It was dessert pandemonium.

Our waiter was fun and his English was pretty good. He was busy though and spoke very quickly. When the dishes are that complicated you really need to have a small conversation each time a new plate comes out.

The chef even came out to bid us farewell. Neither of us understood a word of what the other was saying, but the good vibes were there.

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