Today we are talking about The South Country: Journeys in Calabria, a book written by Edward Mallia published by Gruppo Albatros Il Filo.
We of Gruppo Albatros Il Filo have had the pleasure of interviewing Edward Mallia who told us something more about his book The South Country: Journeys in Calabria
- How was your love for Calabria born?
In the late 1960s I joined a student group from Malta for voluntary work with the Opera Nomadi of Reggio Calabria and the FUCI of Melito Porto Salvo (MPS). That provided an opportunity to engage in social interaction with a wide cross section of society in Reggio province: the “middle class” students of FUCI, the lay and clerical helpers of the Opera Nomadi, and the groups of nomadi in Reggio and MPS, plus a community of fishermen and their families in MPS. As work and rest periods were rotated, there was contact with all these groups as well as some time left over for short excursions to places like Palmi and Scilla on the coast and Gambarie and Zervo` in Apromonte. That was the real start of my Calabria “love story”. But just recently I discovered a photo of myself sitting next to the driver of a “carozzella” running along the Reggio lungomare, with my parents in the back. The date: September 1950. So maybe that was when the “mustard seed” was actually sown.
- Who is your favorite travel companion?
This is not an easy question to answer, for the simple reason that I never had regular travel companions. My one enduring friend from the voluntary service days, Gianni Romeo from Melito Porto Salvo, was never a keen walker. Anywhere that could not be reached by car was out of bounds. Sleeping under tent or in a rifugio was anathema. In the early 1980s I persuaded my younger son to accompany me for two long winter walks in the Pollino and in Aspromonte. In the middle 1990s, by which time I was teaching at the University of Malta, students acommpanied me on two long summer trips in il Massicio del Pellegrino and Il Pollino and in Aspromonte. After that, up to around 2016 when I stopped going on long walking trips, I had no travelling companions. Sometimes I did join up with local people for short day excursions.
- How did your passion for writing come about?
In fact my “passion for writing” came with the job as a research scientist. But I must confess that certain interests, not directly related to my work also played a part. An engagement with political and academic life in Malta, starting at long-range while living in England but in 1983 going “on-site” as I returned to Malta, involved me in in signifiant amounts of writing: newspaper articles, pamphlets, reports on environmental problems. After 1990, when I joined the staff of the University of Malta, there were regular requests from Government for reports on subjects like national energy use, air quality, annual emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) etc., all of which involved extensive writing. As far as writing related to Calabria was concerned, I had used a number of occasions when in Rome visiting my parents – my father was the Malta Ambassador to Italy for some 5 years – to visit libraries that specialised in material related to Il Meridione d’Italia to collect material which could be fitted into a text that I had promised myself I would write.
- What do you love most about Calabria?
I am not sure I want to answer this question. An answer would involve a presumption of picking and choosing those features of Calabria and inevitably of calabresi I find agreeable. That in its turn could easily create a temptation to tell people what I think they want to hear. Perhaps the best I can do is to refer you to Leonida Repaci’s Calabria Grande ed Amara, in the first chapter: Quando fu il giorno della Calabria: the author relates the creation of all the best features and qualities of Calabria and calabresi. But then, satisfied with his sublime piece of work, the Almighty falls asleep, allowing the Devil to bring down on Calabria le calamità e le necessità that afflict the region. My answer to your question would follow the lines of the response of the Almighty when he woke up, without any pretense to his status, of course!
- Why do you prefer to get around on foot? What motivates you to take these “adventure” trips?
Starting with “motivation”, my first contacts with Calabria, though restricted to the extreme southern part, provided many indications of attractions in other areas of the region. It was also clear early on that some of the more exciting prospects could only be explored by walk, and walk that could easily take two or three days especially in winter. That immediately introduced an element of “adventure”, requiring decisions as to how to reach starting points by train and/or bus as well as attempts to get useful information from locals. So it is not the case of a “blind” preference to get around on foot but much more of “foot” being the only method of locomotion if one wanted to visit certain places.
Another aspect of “motivation” that may need explaining is that for repeat visits to places. Let me mention one instance. I have followed the “fortunes” of the two villages of Roghudi and Ghorio di Roghudi in Aspromonte from the time of my first visit in summer 1972 to 2013, by which time both had been completely deserted by their former inhabitants. In the winter of 2011-2012 while walking out of Ghorio on the road to Bova, I stopped to chat to a group of workmen engaged in road repairs. After a brief conversation, one of them said “I have met you before! I was the boy who took you to Siviglia’s house after that drinking bout at the bar”. He was referring to an event of 38 years before when, having arrived at Ghorio in early evening not carrying any tent, I had been offered lodging in an empty house in the upper part of Ghorio afflicted by slow landslip!
We at Gruppo Albatros Il Filo can only thank Edward Mallia for taking the time to answer our questions, and wish him the best of luck with his book The South Country: Journeys in Calabria and for the future.
To you, the reader, I wish you a good journey, lose yourself in the beauty of Italy.
Talk to you soon.