Palmi, Calabria, deep in Italy’s south, where my Nanna Francesca was born. So many people warned me off going here, telling me it was too dangerous – including my own grandparents! But I’m eternally grateful Roger and I didn’t heed the warnings. For me, I think the pull of seeing the place of my Solano, Carrozza, Misale and Rizzitano ancestors was too great.
Like many parts of Italy’s south, there’s much unjust poverty yet there is such richness in the life, the cooking, the coffees, the music, art, the dancing and song stories. I love that in the space of a day in Palmi you can find yourself by the sea, in a gorgeous park, up the forested mountain stopped by sheep and a shepherd with a flowing white beard, or down in a cramped city street. Having lunch near umbrellas made of palm fronds next to the gentle swish of the sea or dinner where a tv surrounded by wine is blaring with a variety show on.
I still have the corno and chilli amulets from Palmi hanging in my Brisbane kitchen and I can still smell the salt and Vespa fumes, feel the sun’s blast and the coolness of the Tyrrhenian Sea of when I was in Calabria. And of course, I got to see where Nanna Francesca loved living with her Mum and her Nonna, the local baker. Sometimes it’s good not to listen to hearsay and judgments about a place and just find out for yourself.