Some people have yet to discover the beautiful region of Calabria, but most of all, the Calabrian hospitality, the friendliness and kindness of these inhabitants. Some people wonder about coming so far down to this part of Italy and others rest amazed and thankful that they managed to come and visit this part of Italy and see what Calabria really has to offer.
The origins of the Calabrian people
The Greeks had taken control and settled all over Calabria in the eighth century. It was then conquered by the Romans in the second century BC, then by the Goths, the Byzantines, the Longobards and the Normans. It was only in 1861 that Calabria became part of the unification of Italy.
We can see a lot of Greek influence in the local people and their customs. Quite often, you see elderly Calabrian women who look Greek as they dress in black and sit outside on the doorstep of their homes. Their faces are very dark.
The Calabrian Greek language
The official language of Italy is Italian, but in Calabria, there are local dialects in every area. Each one slightly differs from the other but what I noticed was that some words are actually Greek. The dialect is Calabrian Greek. It is slowly disappearing but many people are trying to preserve it as it is testament to their Greek origins.
Times were hard for the Calabrians at the beginning of the 19th and 20th Century. Calabria was left poor and many people started to emigrate to the north of Italy, Australia, Canada and America.
You can also meet many American-Italians here so you will always find someone who speaks English and will tell you their stories of when they lived in those countries. Unfortunately, some people never came back. In those days, it was such a long journey. They had to go over on ships and the voyage took up to one month.
Today Calabria is kicking back with 800 kilometres of beautiful coastline, Greek ruins and blue-flagged sandy beaches. 3 modern airports and an efficient railway system ready to welcome its visitors.
The hospitality of the Calabrian people
Calabrians are extremely friendly and helpful people. They actually go out of their way to help you. I remember asking for directions to a place and they got in their car and asked me to follow them. It surprised me.
They always seem to have time for you whatever they are doing. When they see tourists at first, they may look at you in a slightly strange way as if they are surprised to see you, but this is slowly changing. They are seeing more and more foreign visitors.
Calabrians may seem a little reserved at first, but after a while, they could not do enough for you. They would even give you their last crumb. They love eating. After all, they are Italian. If you go to someone’s home, this will be the icing on the cake to a great holiday.
A spicy Calabrian character
If not, you can go to an agriturismo farmhouse to experience the same hospitality. They love showing off their culinary skills and even more when you have finished everything on the plate. Their cuisine is spicy just like the Calabrians themselves. They are very lively people and happy.
You will see them in action at one of those tarantella festivals. Calabrians love singing and dancing. You have to be quite energetic to dance to the Tarantella as it involves quick sharp movements. Calabrians are also very religious and take part in religious processions or festivals.
Hospitality towards each other
You can feel safe walking around Calabria. Everyone looks out for each other. I would not feel safe about walking down some deserted streets elsewhere, but everywhere I go in Calabria, I seem to feel safe. Many tourists say the same thing and how glad they are to have come to Calabria and seen it for themselves.
Large Calabrian families
Calabrians like Italians have large families although, this is changing as many young people prefer to have one or two children. I have met some Calabrian families who have 4 children. Family is important to them and you will see this at festivals, weddings or in some restaurants, especially agriturismo.
The family is large especially when all the relatives get together. I noticed that in most Calabrian homes, they have floors built above their homes, some unfinished, for their grown-up children to eventually move in with their families.
You can see apartment blocks being occupied by only one family. Grandparents always stay with their daughter or son’s family so most children are brought up by grandparents while parents work.
The hospitality of neighbours
The family extends as they treat their neighbours like one of them. The neighbours quite often grow fruit and vegetables in their gardens and give some to the houses nearby.
In return, some of them help with picking olives or helping with other little jobs needing done. Most people leave their doors open and some of them even sit outside their doors chatting.
Hospitality towards tourists
Calabrians love tourists and are happy they have taken the time to come and visit their beautiful land. Many bars even give you some free stuff. I have often been given a free miniature cake or some savoury snacks. I remember being given a free sample of lemon granita.
The restaurants are the same. They sometimes offer you a free liqueur or a coffee. Many bars and restaurants now employ young people who can speak English, although they like when you can try to speak a little Italian. They always make you feel welcome even if they gesture with their hands. Their smile says it all. You can read about the typical Calabrian family here.
Enjoy more Calabrian customs and culture on our guided tours with our trusted partners. Cook with the locals.