And Other Adventures in Calabria
By Mark Rotella
(North Point Press, Hardcover, 9780865476271, 320pp.)
Publication Date: July 2003
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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An effortlessly artful blend of travel book, memoir, and affectionate portrait of a people
Calabria is the toe of the boot that is Italy—a rugged peninsula where grapevines and fig and olive trees cling to the mountainsides during the scorching summers while the sea crashes against the cliffs on both coasts. Calabria is also a seedbed of Italian American culture; in North America, more people of Italian heritage trace their roots to Calabria than to almost any other region in Italy.
Mark Rotella’s Stolen Figs is a marvelous evocation of Calabria and Calabrians, whose way of life is largely untouched by the commerce that has made Tuscany and Umbria into international tourist redoubts. A grandson of Calabrian immigrants, Rotella persuades his father to visit the region for the first time in thirty years; once there, he meets Giuseppe, a postcard photographer who becomes his guide to all things Calabrian. As they travel around the region, Giuseppe initiates Rotella—and the reader—into its secrets: how to make soppressata and ’nduja, where to find hidden chapels and grottoes, and, of course, how to steal a fig without actually committing a crime. Stolen Figs is a model travelogue—at once charming and wise, and full of the earthy and unpretentious sense of life that, now as ever, characterizes Calabria and its people.
Mark Rotella works as an editor at Publishers Weekly. His writing has appeared in The New York Times and elsewhere. He lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.
"Italian Americans of a new generation are discovering their homeland, and they could not ask for a better guide than Mark Rotella."
"Stolen Figs is a charming, entertaining, graceful, warm-blooded tale, a genuine contribution to what we know about who we once were."
--Bill Tonelli, editor of The Italian American Reader
"Calabria deserves to be discovered and Mark Rotella is an enthusiastic and compassionate guide, traveling from the top to the toe of this least-known region of Italy to uncover the people, the food and the folk traditions that make up his Calabrian heritage."
--Mary Taylor Simeti, author of On Persephone's Island: A Sicilian Journal