The Calabria region of Italy
The magnificent fortress of Le Castella is located on the eastern end of the Gulf of Squillace in the province of Crotone. To be precise, in Isola di Capo Rizzuto looking out over the protected marine reserve of the same name. You don't need much imagination to see the Aragonese soldiers locked in combat with Turkish pirates five centuries ago.
The main structure dates back to the Angevin period. The giveaway is the cylindrical tower which juts out over the walls. Yet, the ancient Greeks did build some defensive walls in the shallows many years before. Pliny, in his Naturalis Historia, mentions various little islands such as Dioscuri, Calipso, Tiris, Meloessa and Eranusa. These collectively may be the origin of the name Le Castella.
There are a number of Calabrian salami or salumi which are worth a mention, the most famous are Capocollo and soppressata.
The deboned loin of the pig is used for this product. The meat is salted for at least a week after which herbs are added and it is wrapped for a maturing period of 100 days It has a delicate smoked aroma thanks to black pepper. This gets more pronounced as the maturing period increases.
Crotone is the City of Pythagoras and only this suggests old Kroton has a lot more to it than at first meets the eye. In fact, Crotone is the oldest part of Magna Grecia in Calabria, while at the same time being the youngest province in Italy. Between the two an awful lot has happened in 5000 years.
For a start the land has been constantly eroded by the Neto river which flows from the Sila mountains, once a favorite spot for Virgil. This has left many small coves and beaches popular with tourists. Some of them also harbored the Greek fleet which at one point was set alight by the wives of the sailors who were tired of traveling.
Dreaming of the summer and an empty beach, try making this after dinner five fruit liqueur at home.
The recipe has been taken from 'Calabria a Tavola' by Ferretti and Serra.
For 1 liter: 2 lemons, 2 oranges, 1 medium sized citron, 2 limes, 4 mandarins, half liter alcohol at 90° proof, half liter water, 300g sugar.
On a good day from the highest point of Vibo Valentia it is possible to see the Sila mountains to the north and the summit of Etna in Sicily to the south.
As for the east and west, the town is the ideal base to explore central Calabria as well as the coastal resorts on both sides of the 'foot' of Italy.
Its name is a corruption of 'Veip', 'Hipponion' and 'Valentia', all identities given to the area at different times in its history.
Today, it is the provincial capital and full of imposing official buildings, from the Norman castle to numerous renaissance and baroque churches.
The Sibari Plain also contains hundreds of orchards producing clementines. Little did we know before writing this that the Clementine was named after Father Clemente who combined two mandarin strains in Algeria at the turn of the 19th century.
This area bordering Basilicata in the north and the Ionic in the east comprises 15 comuni and around 40,000 people. The largest town, Trebisacce, holds a quarter of that number, so little more than 2000 people live in each of the remaining comuni.