Saturday, July 16, 2022

Cleto or Bust

We checked out of our Salerno hotel. I found the desk workers here to be kind of rude. Another weird thing was that they insisted I hand them the room key every time I left the building. Like I was some sort of irresponsible child who couldn't be trusted to keep a key in his pocket.

The hotel was kind of fun because it was right next to the train station, so it was a bustling place. It was a convenient place to get a taxi.

We stopped in the town of Civita. It was sort of a pathetic effort to see some of the Parco Nazionale del Pollino but we didn't have any time to do anything more.

Civita was founded in the 15th century by Albanian refugees from the Ottoman invasion.

Got a little lunch in town at Agora.

Traveling takes a lot of money and time but seeing the joy on Lydia's face makes it all worth while.

I wanted to try all the good local stuff, and there was this like sampler platter thing on the menu...

These people brought like 42 plates of food. Like there's two of us here be cool.

One of the dishes was local stewed young goat, but it was pretty funny on the English menu:
"Made in Civita Kid"

There's nothing quite like tramping around in the Southern Italian sun at high elevation after having eaten 5 lunches worth of food. I did want to walk around a bit in order to pretend like I've seen this national park that the city sits in. I have not.

People just had grapes growing in their backyards. I wonder if there's some sort of drink that they could make out of these?

As we neared my ancestral home the topography turned into rolling hills of olive trees.


My great grandfather Ernesto Milito was born in Cleto in 1897 and arrived at Ellis Island in 1914.

Here's a postcard he had from home.

It's a very mountainy little town with a crumbling castle at the top.

I initially just tried to drive the car right up the town's little roads. They got narrower and narrower... pretty much a perfect car trap. Backing out without hitting anything was an unpleasant experience.

When I showed my passport during check-in, the lady running the bed and breakfast asked if I was Italian. I was embarrassingly happy for her to ask. I proudly told her that not only am I Italian but Cletese!

One legend about the birth of Cleto is that the village was founded by a handmaiden of Aeneas, Cleta. I ran this baby though google translate and got... some words.

"In the period of the Trojan War 10th century BC the queen of the Amazons Pentasilea was killed in battle by Achilles. Nurse Cleta, Aeneas's handmaid, became aware of what had happened, mad with pain, sailed to Asia Minor to retrieve the body of her beloved queen.
During the voyage a storm caught the ship on which she was traveling unprepared stopped on the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea where she founded a city to which she diets her name "Cleta".
Her last dedication was: "may my name never be forgotten, from now on all descendants to the throne will receive my name as a gift.""

Not a perfect translation but you get the gist.

I could have just spent the day lazing around peacefully in the land of my ancestors, but I have an illness, maybe ADHD, and decided to continue exploring south.

We drove all the way down to the tippy toe of the boot to Reggio Calabria.

The Riace bronzes at the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria seemed to be one of the Calabrian attractions that I needed in my life. They were cast about 460–450 BC. They are two of the few surviving full-size ancient Greek bronzes (which were usually melted down in later times), and as such demonstrate the superb technical craftsmanship and exquisite artistic features that were achieved at this time.

The Head of a Philosopher

I think it's cool that smart people know where a particular sculpture's marble was mined. This guy is from the Greek island of Paros.

That cash

A foot-shaped sarcophagus for a child. I don't know.

Honorary inscription dedicated to the Emperor Hadrian by decree of Regium's Decuriones. It may have been erected to record the construction of a thermal bath complex or the citizen's forum. 120 AD

"To the Emperor Caeser
son of the divus Trajan Particus
nephew of the divus Nerva
Traianus Adrianus
Augustus, Pontifex Maximus
holding the Tribunician potestas for the fourth time, Consul for the third time, Father of the Country
by decree of the Decuriones
erected with public money"

I like the work that abbreviations do in these stone carvings. That long line about "father of the country" is just "pot IIII, cos III, p p"

The museum talked a lot about the baths. They seem to have been one of the perks of the empire. Yes we conquered you but maybe some our cool bath technology will make you feel content being our colony. At one point the city's baths were destroyed by an earthquake. Luckily they had an emperor around to fix the place up.

Our old friend the amphora was in attendance.

After the treasures of the museum we took a walk. The locals seem to share my love of a good walk as well.

Sicily could clearly be seen across the Messina Strait. I need to check that place out one of these days. Surprisingly there isn't a bridge.

I or one of the friendly locals made some... cosmetic adjustments to the rental car at some point.

We went to a supermarket to buy some local Calabrian delicacies. One seemed to be baby food made out of horses.

You know I snagged some of that maccheroni Calabresi.

Back in Cleto there were a few tables set up in a stoney alleyway outside our B&B and some locals were having late dinners. We had a glass of wine outside next to them just for the ambience. They had a couple of kids with them which was fun because I could actually understand some of their childlike Italian.

We were minding our own business until a woman from the family next to us just blurted out of nowhere: "so you don’t speak any Italian?" She is an English teacher. She asked where we’d visited in Italy then asked why Cleto. Told her my bisnonno was from here. The family seemed to know local Militos, and pointed this way and that as they mentally cataloged where they live. “It’s not a very common name”. 

I guess our hotel host has been worried about whether we've been having a good time but can't speak any English. We can't speak any Italian so we'll just have to communicate by good vibes.

There were stray cats begging for scraps.

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