Ferragosto fun in the Sila

The western end of Lago Arvo.

The western end of Lago Arvo.

Six months ago I hoped to have most of my adventures from last August posted here–but that hasn’t happened. So today I am revisiting one of my favorite days in Calabria. The weekend after Ferragosto we drove up to the Sila, the mountains above Scigliano, to Lake Arvo. As we drove higher, the lowland tree cover gradually gave way to evergreens. We passed through a small town with some kind of dirt bike motocross gathering, and beside the road a stand was set up to sell local mushrooms. Sila motocross (1280x960)When we reached the lake, the town of Lorica had a street fair in progress. Sila bar (1280x935)After refreshments at a local bar, we wandered along the lake and through the stalls selling clothing, souvenirs, toys, and leather goods. What a crowd! Families were out for the holiday weekends, and kids took turns getting pony rides.Sila pony (1280x1066)

We decided to continue to the far end of the lake, and find a place to have some lunch. As the road wound through thick pines, traffic clogged to a crawl, with cars parked Italian style all along the road, wherever they would (almost) fit. It was easy to see the cause of the backup–a roadside grill sent smoke and a mouthwatering aroma into the air. We drove a bit further, and then turned back to try lunch at the grill.

The line at the grill caught our attention.

The line at the grill caught our attention.

We each had a grilled sausage on a bun with various toppings–sauteed greens, mushrooms, sauces–and beer was the ideal drink in the summer heat. The few tables were crowded, but we were able to join a couple at a larger table, and visited with them in my feeble Italian. They were enjoying their annual tradition of a summer day trip to the lake. The crowd was definitely Italian–we didn’t recognize any other foreign visitors. Our entertainment was the team manning the grill, with one guy warming the bread on a side grill, while two others grilled sausages as fast as they could, taking them from long ropes of sausage hung up above the smoking stove.

The grill team cranked out a lot of sandwiches!

The grill team cranked out a lot of sandwiches!

We returned to our rental in Malito with great memories of our day in the Sila.

I certainly enjoyed mine!

I certainly enjoyed mine!

Calabria from a bicycle

Today I’m sharing a video I found on YouTube, the bicycle tour of a British guy named Pete, through Calabria. I encourage you to take a look for more of his videos–a nice combination of video footage, his own commentary, and some stills edited in. If you’ve considered cycling through Calabria, Pete’s experience may help you prepare. And if you celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday, you may be inspired to bicycle your way through some of those calories!

A night in Agrifoglio

When we drove south to Calabria in August, we were hoping to get a room at the B & B we stayed in nine years ago in Scigliano–B & B Calabria.

What were we thinking? It was Ferragosto week, and our friend Raffaele could not accommodate us. He recommended another B & B, in a different part of Scigliano, the frazione of Agrifoglio. I didn’t know there was such a thing.

Valentino (left) and Mario de Rose welcomed us to the B & B Agrifoglio.

Valentino (left) and Mario de Rose welcomed us to the B & B Agrifoglio.

Agrifoglio is a tiny hamlet a little higher in the Sila foothills than Scigliano, and closer to the town of Colosimi. We took the road to Colosimi, and after a couple of phone calls to get directions from the Bed and Breakfast Agrifoglio, Valentino arrived at the old, now closed, Coraci railroad station, to meet us. From there we wound our way along the hillsides for the few miles to Agrifoglio.

The B & B was renovated in the last couple of years, and has two rooms for rent. Both are large, comfortable second-floor rooms (that is the first floor in Italy, because they don’t number the ground floor, but second floor in American), and have private bathrooms. There is also a lounge for guests. Downstairs in the breakfast room the wall is adorned with Mario’s certificate as a “Cavaliere” (champion) of “Sua Maesta” (his majesty) the pepperoncino, issued by the Italian Academy of the Pepperoncino.Agrifoglio-certificate

Valentino speaks English pretty well–his dad, Mario, doesn’t. Both are very hospitable, and we were happy to have a comfortable bed (with memory foam pad), and windows that opened as the evening cooled off. The bathroom had a toilet, sink, and tub/shower, but the hand-held shower head did not have a secure holder, so really had to be hand-held.

Grapes ripening in the B & B's garden.

Grapes ripening in the B & B’s garden.

Agrifoglio is very small–there’s no restaurant or even a coffee shop, so we drove back to Colosimi for dinner at the Blue Moon Ristorante Pizzeria, and were glad we did. No one there spoke English, but we got by, and enjoyed the pizza we shared. In fact we liked it enough to go back a few nights later! They were doing a booming business that night, and everyone in the place seemed to know each other–gotta love small town life.

Agrifoglio-breakfastAfter a terrific breakfast the next morning (check out the photo!) at the B & B, Mario and Valentino showed us around their garden–grapevines, dahlias, sunflowers, and a couple of holly bushes. When I commented on them, Valentino told me that’s what “agrifoglio” means–holly. And when we prepared to pack up, they packed up too–a bunch of the breakfast food went into a take-home bag for us to have for lunch.Agrifoglio-garden

I recommend this place for anyone needing a stop on the way up to the Sila, and it is roomy enough to be comfortable for a few nights if you’re exploring the area. We hadn’t planned to stay there, but I’m glad we did.