In Calabria

When we had almost reached the eastern coast of the peninsular part of Calabria, I couldnot resist any longer. Michal stopped the car at the side of the road. I got out and made these pictures.

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At home I looked back at them. Most of the pictures were upside down. This one brought memories of what I had read about the cathedral in Sevilla, a masterpiece of moorish architecture. If I remember right one of the big innovations back then was to turn the design of the- was it Doric?- pillar upside down. The result was less plump and far more elegant. 

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The next day Michal went out alone in his car to explore the region south of Reggio Calabria. He found this fine example.

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At the same day this picture washed upon the shores of the internet: the unfinished constructions of Oscar Niemeyer’s buildings in Brasil.

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Michal Libera had come over to edit a book and write the preface to it. He had also come with the e-version of Invisible Cities, Calvino’s book about cities that exist in the stories about them, and thus in the imagination of those who hear these stories. He had to prepare a lecture on the subject. People who will attend the lecture will hear a lot of stories about the unfinished constructions Michal has encountered. The villages in Calabria will become their invisible cities, simply because the villages are also partly invisible when you walk or drive through their streets.

The peninsular part of Calabria is coastal to two different, maybe even three different seas. The western part has its Tyrrhenian Sea; the more southern part marked by the visible presence of the Liparian archipelago is also known as the Liparian Sea. That is where I live. I prefer this name, maybe because of its Gulliverian touch. South of Reggio Calabria, where the distance of the mainland to Sicily is at its nearest, and further around the corner up north again, the sea is called Ionian Sea.

In my view is the harbour of Gioia Tauro. It is an important commercial harbour. Different cargo ships rest in the bay every day, add a primordial sense of calm to the landscape. “Look,” they seem to say, “all those sea monsters you painted on your maps, they never existed; we are just big iron animals, once we are in open sea, we’ll disappear and travel with the speed of time to the other side of the earth.” It is said that Ulysses sailed around here; some parts in my view are described in Homer’s book. I don’t see that when I look at the sea. I see Gioia, I see Aspromonte, I see Stromboli, Etna on a clear day; I see places I’d like to visit in one big tour, recording their sounds.

Primordial, primordium: an aggregation of cells that is the first stage in the development of an organ. We are back at metabolist architecture and at the different metabolism that to me is the central point in post-whatever architecture in Calabria. It is architecture without architects used to build houses that were never meant to be houses. The main part of it is not built, exists in daydreams.

We went to the other side twice. One reason was to visit Badolato, to make some recordings in its living room shaped alleys. Badolato is one of those Ionian towns built on a rock; in a way it looks like a hat. In every way it looks very impressive, most of all upon arriving. It transmits a sense of hope and catharsis at the same time, reveals itself as the end of a mystic path. Probably it was also meant this way, if you consider this allegorical picture by Dürer.

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From the town’s center on the top you descend to after and previous lives through the little streets that lead you from one level down to the other, until you are at the bottom, fallen of the hat like a bit of dust. On your way you will encounter old houses, some of them abandoned, some of them closed, most of them open, all of them finished. Back up, there is the central square, the well preserved houses around it, a small footbal pitch, a few bars and a lot of panoramic view. Sit, have a cappuccino, talk a bit, go.

The real beauty on the Ionio is the abscence of everything and it is the open sea: its brilliant colors and movements turn it into a sensual being. The archeological site of Caulonia is a very fine example of the abscence of everything. There is nothing but stones, big white stones consumed by wind and rain. Together they form the outline of the great big building that stood here, built by the Greek that came from the other side of the horizon some two thousand and five hundred years ago. I walked over this site,  road carried by pillars marked one border, the railway track was behind the bushes, left and right nothing, no house, no wanderer, no guard, no nothing, little flowers, lots of them, and grass moving in the wind, a few trees rustling their rustling sound. And the sea. It was perfect. 

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