Sunday, April 08, 2012

Meredith’s Perugia #33: Calabria In Deep South Gradually Climbs Back Up In Tbe World

Posted by Our Main Posters

The “toe” of Italy. To the west is haunting Sicily, and to the east is lively Salento.

All of these areas are increasingly becoming tourist hotspots as they have the hottest sun and least crowds and their history is pretty interesting. The further back in history you go the rainier and greener and more prosperous these provinces were. Once they were very well off.

They were also being given special economic boosts courtesy of the European Community - at least uintil “austerity” became the mantra of the day and their special programs had to be cut back.

In the 20th century maybe a higher proportion of the population from the Calabria province moved to the US than from any other. Pity. Scarce talent.

Posted by Our Main Posters on 04/08/12 at 06:52 PM in

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I seem to recall: did Candace Dempsey say her family originally came from here? And where did CBS’s Doug Longhini’s family come from? A quick search suggests it was from here.

No surprises if you know Italian and Italian-American history. In the 20th century this was a tough region with its own mafia and one of the reason so many moved from here to the US was simply to stay alive and make a living.

Nowadays most Italian-Americans from elsewhere in Italy seem unabashedly proud of where they migrated from. Even most Sicilians.  Not all Calabrians though.  Almost always ambivalent.

If you are going to meet any Italian-Americans less than fully proud of where they came from (or even have a real chip on their shoulder about it) chances are it will be from Calabria.

European tourists seem more up to date. Could explain why Dempsey and Longhini really lost their judgment and tempers over Italian officialdom’s handling of Meredith’s case.

How absurd. Their vision of Italy no longer exists.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/08/12 at 08:07 PM | #

From the Mediaset “bassdrum”:  “The murdered in Perugia British student’s father anticipates (“cheats”) Amanda Knox.”

Il padre della studentessa inglese uccisa a Perugia anticipa (“frega”) Amanda Knox.

Posted by ncountryside on 04/09/12 at 04:55 PM | #

Thanks ncountryside. Good that Italy is alerted to the book “Meredith” which will be available in the UK and via the internet on 28 April. It sounds really good - best thing John has ever written, it just soars, someone who has seen it shared with us.

Also there is a profusion of reports on the book today in the US and UK. The Associated Press sent out a release to all its 1000-plus members. Some fact checking would have been nice, and a correct description of what still lies ahead, but pleasing, nonetheless.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/09/12 at 08:59 PM | #

I speak only Google Translate when it comes to Italian, but I don’t think the brief notice cited by ncountryside says that Meredith’s father somehow “cheats” Amanda Knox.

Anticipate (the word) simply reports that John Kercher is getting his book out earlier than Amanda’s. As for “frega,” I don’t see the word in that notice at all. Is it offered as a synonym?

Kercher gets in the first word. Whether this will make a difficulty for Amanda we don’t yet know.

Posted by Ernest Werner on 04/09/12 at 09:45 PM | #

I have checked and the title in Tgcom main page has been changed. The original title posted during the first afternoon, in Italy, was JK “frega” AK; I translated it with “cheats”.

Posted by ncountryside on 04/09/12 at 10:00 PM | #

Reference the last video, of Catanzaro, which is Calabria’s provincial capital on the south coast.

Could any other country in the world come up with a freeway roundabout 30 stories high?!

That has to have amused and excited the engineers and builders involved. Italy has a lot of amazing concrete and that looks to be some of the best.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/10/12 at 02:56 AM | #

I too am looking forward to buying John Kercher´s book. It´ll finally be something worth reading and all the other books I have recently tried have unfortunately been so unbearably dull ! What a pity it doesn´t come out till May.

As far as I know Meredith´s father was actually a relatively well-known commenter on the music scene in the 80s , wasn´t he ?  Here are some of his publications from back then on Amazon: Kercher

Who would have guessed that what tragedy was still in store for his family ?

Posted by aethelred23 on 04/10/12 at 06:43 AM | #

My parents emigrated from Calabria to the US 60 years ago.  Life was hard and there was little opportunity (less than usual) after WWII. 

Southerners in general and Calabrians in particular have taken a rash of crap from northerners (called “polentoni or “polenta eaters” by the southerners) for 150 years. 

It is funny that nowadays in the US when I meet somebody with Italian background, I might start up a conversation in Italian.  Inevitably we might talk about where our ancestors were from.  When I mention “Calabria”  I get a funny look (meaning a little bit of disdain).

Despite its poverty, Calabria is an area of warm, friendly people.  The area is relatively unspoiled.  The silliness about “N’Drangheta (the Calabrian mafia) being everywhere is no more true than the mob being everywhere in New York or Chicago.

Posted by Gonzaga on 04/10/12 at 09:56 PM | #

A great blog about life in Calabria written by an American expatriate who returns to her roots is at

Posted by Gonzaga on 04/10/12 at 09:59 PM | #

Hello Gonzaga,

I know exactly what you mean. When I mention that my parents are from Sicily I always get the same reactions as you.

Greetings 😊

Posted by Terry on 04/12/12 at 01:48 AM | #

Hi Gonzaga and Terry.

Most of these excellent videos of Italy we keep turning up are not made “officially” or commercially to simply draw in a few more tourists. They are made with a real passion, locally, usually with driving music that is ideally matched. Therre are clearly talented video artists behind these who are making a proud statement about their place.  These on Calabria and Salento and Sicily seem to me among the very best.

Where I live is at the River Hudson edge of the area where the HBO Sopranos series was set. Last week I asked two Italian-Americans I have known for a long time who did not find that series easy - one a builder, one the owner of a large deli where we shop - where exactly they were from. They each rather sheepishly said Calabria. I suggested to go look at these videos and it is not hard to find many more than these.

With not many exceptions, these videos of provinces all over Italy have had 50,000 or more looks, and combining a bunch of them on a single site could be a real way of opening a window on a province. It would not require many words. You may even want to set about it.

I had a couple of encounters with the mafia here in NYC in the 80s and 90s. I was headed from home from the UN shortly before Xmas and came across the bodies of Paul Castellano head of the Gambino family and his driver outside Sparks. Only 2-3 other people were there, and a single cop, though within 20 minutes it was total bedlam.

John Gotti organized that hit. I got curious about his club on upper Mulberry Street and walked by and looked in and when I looked back a bunch of them had spilled out of the club and were grinning at me and giving me little waves. I grinnned back but disappeared fast as I had no desire to be confused with any FBI.

But that’s all gone. It was exclusively Italians (Rudy Giuliano here, and acquaintances of Dr Galati there) who were brave enough to hit back very hard against the mafia in the 90s and for all practical purposes they are no more. I’ll always admire those who hit back for that. Now Italian names are over half the fashion stores in New York and great Italian delis and restaurants are everywhere and Fiats are starting to appear.

Anti Italian hotheads like Bruce Fischer (himself an economic disaster) and Doug Preston will be around for a while, I guess, but the real Italy and the Italian presence in the US seems increasingly hard to hate. From Italy there’s just too many good things to learn.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/12/12 at 02:47 PM | #

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