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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 16 January 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 16 JANUARY 2016 15 course, it is a place to have a relaxing and quiet holiday. But you may struggle to locate any of these places on the map, although if you look up Aspromonte (which means white mushrooms in Greek), you will come across the Greek towns of Amendolea, Bova or Vua, Chorio, Condofuri, Galliciano, Roccaforte, Roghudi. All are worth visiting. On our way to the Greek towns, I had stopped by a tourist office in the city of Reggio Di Calabria. When I told the cute little Italian man that I was in Calabria to look for Greek speakers, he became so excited and animated that I thought I would have to practise first aid on him. By t Greek dancing. taly meets Greece GREEK MUSEUM I should note that the coastline of Calabria, especially around the Bova Marina area, is wonderful. There are few tourists, it has the best gelato in all of Italy and of course, it is a place to have a relaxing and quiet holiday. But you may struggle to locate any of these places on the map, although if you look up Aspromonte (which means white mushrooms in Greek), you will come across the Greek towns of Amendolea, Bova or Vua, Chorio, Condofuri, Galliciano, Roccaforte, Roghudi. All are worth visiting. On our way to the Greek towns, I had stopped by a tourist office in the city of Reggio Di Calabria. When I told the cute little Italian man that I was in Calabria to look for Greek speakers, he became so excited and animated that I thought I would have to practise first aid on him. By the way, Reggio Di Calabria is home to the Museum of Magna Graecia, including the famous Riacce Warriors found in the 1970s. The museum boasts an enormous collection of Greek artefacts from southern Italy and it is an excellent way of acquainting yourself with the rich Greek history of the area. You will not be disappointed and you may use it as an opportunity to reflect on the long history of the Hellenes in Europe. APULIA From Calabria, we briefly visited the region of Apulia, an area that has more towns of Greek origin that maintain a significant level of Greek speakers. This area features eight large Greek towns and is known as Salentine. However, there are significantly more, and even across 'Magna Graecia' you will come across up to 60 settlements that remain Greek in spirit or have a loose affiliation to the Greek culture. Some of the Salentine villages and towns include Martignano, Martano, Sternatia, Zollino, Corigliano d'Otranto, Soleto, Melpignano, Castrignano dei Greci, Soleto and Melpignano. In Sternatia, a town of 2,800, more than 50 per cent of the people speak the Greek dialect; however, these are mainly the older residents. On the day we chose to trek out to the town the heavens opened up and the rain, or rather flooding, reminiscent of Noah's day took hold. Looking for an arc or a sanctuary, we chose to shelter in what appeared to be a school or church. Once inside, I could hear a group of people talking Greek and a level of Greek that could be understood far greater than the Calabrian dialect. Therefore, we soon became friends with those also seeking refuge and found out that this town, like many of the surrounding towns, is passionate about preserving its Greco identity. Once the rain stopped, we walked around the town and found that many of the shops had Greek signwriting and there was a map of the area that was translated into Italian and Greek. And just like our visit to Bova Marina, word got around that we were looking for Greeks, so a carload of teenagers drove past and offered a lift to the Greek town of Calimera. In a province of Brindisi (San Vito Dei Normanni), a friend of mine, Ida Zerva, lives her own Greek/Italian life. Ida is unique to the area as she does not have a Magna Graecia heritage, for her roots are derived from mainland Greece. Her grandfather was the General Napoleon Zervas, later a government minister, who fought in World War II. She is also a descendent of Nikolaos Zervas, a general from the Greek War of Independence. Ida spends her summer, almost annually, in Greece. This is something most of the Greek speakers in southern Italy rarely get the opportunity to do. She is not the only half Italian and half Greek person, as there appear to be many others in Italy with a similar heritage. Hopefully, their use of Modern Greek will enable Hellenism to survive in Italy. THE PAST, THE FUTURE I have always found that in areas where economic prosperity is low, it tends to help keep a language or culture stronger as the community depends on each other more. Certainly I have witnessed this on my travels to many countries. I hope that the remaining speakers maintain their role as guardians of Hellenism in a region where 15-20 per cent of surnames have a Greek origin. The key is to keep the culture alive with the emergence of Modern Greek as an alternative language. The old Greek language is now just a far cry from when Greeks ruled the Mediterranean. The landscape of Magna Graecia offers brilliant trekking opportunities, sightseeing, beautiful beaches and wonderful hospitality. Grecanica people offer trekking guides for their region. It is heartening to see that tours have started coming from other countries and I was lucky to attend a press conference for one of these tours. The press conference showcased dancing and singing, discussions with the locals and in a true case of Athenian nature, an argument broke out amongst the visitors on some trivial matter that only a Greek could comprehend. I could go on and on about the cultural fetes that are held annually, the endeavours of many to preserve the Greek language and culture in southern Italy, the lone Greek farmer who refuses to move from the heart of the mountains so he can remain in a ghost town, the brilliant work of a monk from Mount Athos, the entire village that followed me around and any number of stories. Instead I will just ask you to create your adventure to the region, to help the people economically. In concluding, I offer you the reader this thought: if the ancient statues on display in Greek museums could talk, I am sure they would sound and display their pride in the same way as the Greeks that I met in Magna Graecia. * A version of this article appears in the forthcoming book The Many Faces of Hellenic Culture by Billy Cotsis (firstname.lastname@example.org). Billy Cotsis with Greeks in Vua.
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