Image Description: The exterior of the Chiesa di San Brizio, Calimera.
By Massimo McKie
Buongiorno. Καλημέρα, Good morning. As the sun rises over the sea before me, I look back and see a town paved in stone from the ancients. A town left so untouched by the Romans during their reign, that the old men who sit on the piazza converse in a Greek tongue the archipelago hasn’t heard in centuries. A mix of old Greek and Italian lead to slurred words over espresso stained lips. Across the row of cafes and tobacco shops sits a chapel standing proud; morning bells ring as the faithful gather for mass. And what a beautiful morning it is. It’s in the name, “Καλημέρα” from Greek, meaning ‘good morning’. And each one here feels magical.
The routine stays constant, but the novelty never fades. The town rises early. I put on my coat and walk down to the café to indulge in one of the town’s most precious delights. Pasticciotto. Unique to this area of Italy, the pasticciotto remains to be the best dessert-you-can-eat-for-breakfast-food ever to exist. Crumbly pastry in the shape of a football with a lemon custard filling. Hungry yet? I sure am. One bite leads to three more pasticciotti down and before you know it lunch has been pushed back a couple of hours.
While sipping my coffee time stops, it works differently here. And that’s not the physics major in me talking, it really works differently. Sitting outside the front of a café here for an hour, you lose your thoughts to the humdrum of the town around you. The tires bumbling on stone streets, teenagers fighting boredom by smoking on the sidewalk in sportwear stolen from western fashion five years ago.
This is where my family came from. Thousands of kilometers away I feel its pull; on my wrist lays the metal bracelet that was given to me here. An anchor back to where part of my soul still lies with a culture I strive never to forget. A culture everchanging, but still rooted in what makes these kinds of towns unique. Rooted in family, community and a love of life and its simplicities. Detached from the world’s busy nature and narcissistic drive, this community says good morning. Slow down, have a pasticciotto and let’s chat for a while. Everything else can wait.
In the park lies a plaque with an ancient stone inside. It reads:
“Zeni su en ise ettù sti Kalimera”
“You are not a stranger here in Calimera.”
And truly, no one is.
For all who may visit, let it be your home for a short while. You’re no stranger. You’re family.
Ci vediamo presto.