A Small Taste of “Magna Graecia”

Coming back from a trip full of images, voices, meetings with people, and discoveries, you try to put some sort of order in your mind. The classifications often get lost and emotions prevail.

A few days ago I was in Calabria, in the region of Catanzaro, in the small town of Soverato. The occasion was a European project bringing together people from Calabria, Puglia, France, Slovenia, Lithuania, Germany and Greece. The title of the project is EU Read & Art and the idea is to create trailers for books of all genres, which are uploaded on a website:

But where should one begin and where should one end when talking about a place? A place that will become the setting for several trailers created there.

First of all, one could talk about the Ionian Sea. The deep blue-green waters seem endless. And the city's sandy beach, which has given it a great tourist development, reaches as far as the eye can see and beyond.

The author Eliana Iorfida, who was born there and after wandering around, returned and lives in her homeland, has written a very special novel, Il figlio del mare (The Child of the Sea), which shows the importance of the Ionian Sea, lying in all its beauty in front of the white beaches.

The old villages all around like crowns in the beautiful landscape, perched on the hills for fear of pirates.

Today every village has its "Marina".

However, as soon as you talk to any local people, you will discover their adoration for Greece. Everyone wants to have Greek roots! Or instead, they do and they fervently believe it.

Like Hilario, the small van driver who brought us to the city from the airport. He proudly says that his name is Ilarion, he knows the Odyssey in every detail and of course, he has visited Greece many times.

Besides, Soverato is also located in an old Greek colony, Polyporton. The original village was St. Maria di Poliporto. The new name is derived from a type of cork tree that grows in the area and was used for ship navigation. It thus became Suberatum, Soverato and Suvaràtu for the locals.

Everywhere our Greek origin sparked discussions and of course, from the first moment, we felt that we were on our territory.

Everywhere this Mediterranean, warm aura. In every moment. One of the first things we had as a “mission” when we arrived was to discover elements of the history, culture and products of the area. We split up into groups and to find our way, we had to ask people on the street. That’s how we learned about Antonello Gagini’s famous Pietà which we would see two days later in the old town.

We smelled bergamot, tasted spicy flavours, touched ceramics…But the most beautiful part of our tour was when we found ourselves in front of the fishermen’s church. Unusual exterior murals described what for the locals was a miracle. Salvation from a terrible storm. The oblation was precisely the creation of this church. Once again there was the warmth of the people, with an elderly teacher who saw us and taught us the most beautiful lesson at 92 years of age…

Later, with the fishermen themselves in their association, we learned about the difficulties of the profession, which nevertheless continues to play its role in the economy of the region. And of course, we talked about recipes. 

The next afternoon we will visit the old Soverato and experience the warmth of the people again. From the solemn mass in the church with the famous Pietà to the remains of the ancient settlements, the olive trees that descend to the sea, reminding me of the landscapes in Lesvos, the elderly who treat us with Brasilena, a strange coffee-based carbonated soft drink, and the poet Nicola D’Amato who yet again declares his adoration for ancient Greece. Even the Technological Institute which is based in the city is called…Cadmo.

We then walk along the alleys and later we continue to the “Botanical Garden”, with the most wonderful view of the sea. And yet it has been abandoned by the authorities (well, apart from history, we have more in common with Calabria). As in Greece, wild boars are also coming down here. For us, the visitors of a few days, this abandonment - as dusk falls - seems extremely charming. The voices are lowered and the eye follows the magic. 

This is intensified when the manager of the Jump group of Soverato reads us Ottavio Rossani’s poem about the city, which ends like this: 

…And yet this language of the earth,

With sun, salt and African winds

Is deeply hungry for love.

And it drowns there, with no way out…

(Soverato from the collection Riti di Seduzione)

Next to us is the old tower, a symbol of Soverato, which unfortunately belongs to a private owner (!) and cannot be visited…

We also learn that there is no public transport in the city and life for the elderly in the old town is thus difficult. All this in a city that has the highest per capita income in Calabria!

…to be continued…


Kostas Stoforos



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