Calabria: Southern Italy’s Heartland

Day 17-3 - October 6, 2015 - Tuesday - Serra San Bruno Exploration; Carthusian Monastery; Serra San Bruno Charcoal; Lunch; Saint Bruno Procession

Another day in Italy - another day in Calabria - another day to explore this beautiful hilltop countryside. We had breakfast with our group at the Villa and then at 9:00 Mimmo picked us up for our journey to the Serre, the rugged forested mountains of Calabria.

Maurizio gave us the itinerary for the day and then talked about the tragic true story of nine-year-old American Nicholas Green who was killed in Sicily. Robbers mistakenly shot into their family car.

Although grief stricken, the family donated the young boy's organs to save the lives of nine other Italians who benefited from their generosity. Traditionally, people in Italy did not believe in organ donations but because of the Green's example it is now more common.

The skies were gray and the fog hung in the valleys. As we drove on the switchbacks, we could see the thick forests of the National Parks of Calabria. The olives were ripening so the growers had spread nets under the tree to collect each and every olive as they fell to the ground.

Stretching our legs, we walked through the town of Serra di San Bruno. Today was the feast day of St. Bruno and the town was preparing for the procession to be held in the afternoon. We stopped to visit the "Mother Church" to see the statue and the relics of the saint.

The temperature was 68 degrees and the humidity was 72%. The sun came out and it turned out to be another beautiful fall day. As we walked through the fallen leaves, it brought to mind other trips we have taken in the autumn.

Our walk led us to the Carthusian Monastery begun by St. Bruno in 1090. His love of serenity and silence brought him to the Calabrian forests to build this hermitage.

We toured the small museum and watched a short video about the life of St. Bruno and his journey spreading his message all over the world. The earthquake of 1783 destroyed the original monastery.

The next discovery was to experience the process of charcoal production. Another Bruno, (not the Saint), a carbonaio, talked to us about how he stacked hard oak wood into 30 foot diameter by 12 foot high mounds.

The mounds were covered with straw and sand and the wood was set on fire. Holes were punctured into the mounds to help the fire breathe and smolder. After two to three weeks the wood was "cooked" and ready to be uncovered.

Bruno took us into the packaging area so we could see the pallets of charcoal ready for distribution. We left the charcoal plant at 1:00 and drove to Serra di San Bruno for lunch at Ritrovo Santa Maria restaurant.

When we finished our meal, a group of Franciscan priests came in. One of their brothers was celebrating his 25th anniversary in the priesthood and friends and family were there to congratulate him.

We had a relaxing walk to the grave site of St. Bruno and then continued our walk through the peaceful woods and back to the bus. On the way out of town, we had another “OAT Moment”.

As Mimmo turned the van to follow the regular route, we all saw the procession winding its way down the steep streets. We all got off the bus and joined the townspeople for their tribute to Saint Bruno.

After the parade had passed, we got back in the bus, we thanked Maurizio and Mimmo for the spontaneous opportunity, and at 3:15 we drove back to our Villa. We said goodbye to Mimmo as he will no longer be our driver on the final leg of our tour.

Gennie went to the office to transfer her notes to her computer and Vic started working on the video of the procession. Antonio told us there had been five minutes of rain while we were gone but the sun was out and promises of a beautiful sunset were predicted.

At 6:00 we had another learning opportunity – Antonio gave us a lesson in Olive Oil Tasting. We learned the differences in excellent, good, and mediocre olive oil.

Olive oil is to be used to dress food. He also told us that if one cooks with olive oil there was no reason to buy extra virgin oil, as the cooking ruins the taste anyway.

The next Discovery was “Cooking With Velia”! We were invited into the kitchen where we helped to prepare the meal for the evening and more importantly to learn some of her secrets for the delicious meals we have been eating.

We made pasta, salad, meatballs, and were able to get our hands right into the mix as well as learn a few cooking tips. Did you know that many Italians put nutmeg in meatballs? SO delicious!

It was 9:15 when our last toast was finished and we said goodnight to our extended family, Antonio and Velia.

The internet was sporadic this evening so we will hope that the journal goes up and you can read about our final day in Monterosso.

Accommodations: Villa Velia - - - Meal: B, L, D

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Sicily's Ancient Landscapes & Timeless Traditions


Golly Gee!!! What a lot of culture that is uncommon to most people. VERY interesting and sounds like a barrel of laughs. NUTMEG in meatballs? I'll take your word for that. LOL Sounds like today was lots of fun and enjoyable by all. Sleep well and TTYL - Blessing

Pat   October 6, 2015 - 4:10pm
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Processione di San Bruno

Processione di San Bruno (1:53)

  Open Video Player

Old Town of Serra di San Bruno

Old Town of Serra di San Bruno

Sheep on the Roadway

Sheep on the Roadway

Charcoal Woodpile

Charcoal Woodpile

Bruno the Carbonaio

Bruno the Carbonaio

Local Mushrooms

Local Mushrooms

  Featured Journal

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