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Unveiling Sicily’s Hidden Treasures: A Local’s Perspective on Cruising Reggio Calabria Marina with Insider Tips
Take one large melting pot. Sprinkle in equal volumes of Latin, Greek and Semitic blood. Heat to boiling point. And voila! You have a veritable witch’s brew, a Mediterranean Molotov Cocktail ready to explode.
You can only think and act Mediterranean if you are actually from the Mediterranean.
On being Maltese and British
I was born in Malta, right at the very centre of this sea, but at an early age we moved to England as my father was an officer in the UK RAF. For 15 years, “being and acting British” was my upbringing as the son of “an officer and a gentleman”.In Brixton (London) and Market Rasen (Lincolnshire), I attended two very classic old-style grammar schools where I was indoctrinated into the notions of “fair play”, “Don’t kick a man when he’s down”, “May the best man win” . And “iI’s not winning that counts but trying your best”.
In retrospect, all of this transpired to be a load of *&%@. Nowadays, the doctrine is to kick a man when he’s standing, kick him again in the crutch when he’s down, and make sure he stays down, as you progress forward.
View of rocks and bay
The Mediterranean Philosophy has finally won and we have converted the rest of the world! Fair Play and the Best Man? Not where money and power are concerned. But naturally when the lucre is offered, there is no need to try one’s best because the lucre itself has the key. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), a modicum of my Britishness has remained and it has also remained in Malta and with the majority of Maltese after 150 years of living alongside the British.
But, don’t be misled, we still have the strong Mediterranean character.
A Maltese Seaman
The late French author, privateer, smuggler and contrabandist Henry de Monfreid (early 20th century) cruised the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea for many years making his fortune and then recording all in a series of books about his adventures. On a number of occasions he wrote about his great displeasure in coming across Maltese seamen, describing them as being crooked gangsters, thieves, desperadoes and blasphemers!
Streets of Reggio Calabria
Malta of course has a lengthy history of piracy in the Middle Ages and its pirates have historically been described as the fiercest and most vicious. This was the result of living hand-to-mouth on a small island where dog-ate-dog and there was constant fear of either falling foul of the colonial masters or otherwise being dragged off into slavery by the Ottoman pirates.These traits of unpleasantness are by no means confined to Malta, being widespread throughout the Mediterranean littoral.
Some years back, I accepted an invitation from my English boss Philip (now sadly passed on) to accompany him on his cruising boat, together with another English colleague John and my other Maltese colleague Mario, on an extended weekend cruise to Taormina, Sicily and Reggio Calabria, Italy. The invitation was based on my reputation of “being handy in the kitchen”. However, cooking on land in a non-moving kitchen and cooking at sea on a wave-tossed boat are two different things entirely. After I served up my first breakfast of bone-hard, blackened bacon rashers, fried eggs that had stuck to the pan, and blackened toast, there was general consensus that further eating would be on land and in restaurants.
My reputation as a seasoned sea dog had already been sullied during the first night. With John, I took the first night shift whilst the two others slept. John had to go off to the loo, and in the gloomy darkness I took the wheel and noticed curiously that whilst a partial moon had previously been visible at the prow, it mysteriously disappeared then reappeared at the boat’s stern.
When John came back I mentioned this phenomenon.
“You idiot,” he grunted, frantically grabbing the wheel. “You’ve turned the boat 180 degrees. We’re heading back to Malta!”
Taomina Cruise Port + Reggio Calabria Marina
“No need”, he bragged.
Well, it was his boat. He was skipper and boss and had done this run often. He obviously knew best. When we arrive, the Reggio Calabria Marina was packed to the brim with boats. There was not a single berth available.
“Ha ha”, I thought. “So much for your expertise Philip the know-all”.
As we edged further in, Philip scoured the wharf as Italian Carabinieri (policemen) scurried about. He then waved to a lazy looking guy propped up against the marina wall, and the man sprang into action. He approached a Carabinieri and pointed at a Danish boat berthed against the marina wharf. The cop called two others and they boarded the Danish boat. There were a lot of hand gesticulations and displays of paper, which I guessed were permits,
The exchange crescendoed in a slanging match (in broken English) with the Danes (in perfect English-speaking) insisting they had the berthing permits, while the Italian police steadfastly shook their heads and demanded the boat back out of its berth, which they ultimately did.
Reggio Calabria marina
As the Danish boat backed out, we slid in. I distinctly heard one of the Danes giving us an earful.
“You crooked bastards”.
Having secured our berth, Luigi, who was a taxi driver, came aboard. The smell of something cooking led him to the small kitchen, where he picked up a pan, gave it a sniff, and grimaced.
“This is rubbish”. He took the pan to the boat side and poured it overboard. “You come eat with me at home”.
He rang his wife, and when we arrived the delicious smell was devastatingly overwhelming. What else may one expect from an Italian housewife’s kitchen? We feasted on grilled steak and a fresh salad with lashings of three different varieties of potatoes. Luigi showed us his wine cellar, filled our glasses directly out of a barrel and, needless to say, we all ended up pickled.
On the way back to the boat, Luigi insisted that wherever we went in Reggio, we mentioned his name and said, “We are friends of Luigi”.
Meanwhile, I had let slip that I was a fervent supporter of the then Malta Prime Minister Dom Mintoff. It did not go down well with Luigi.
Hee spat several times and exploded a list of obscenities. Later I realised why – Mintoff had worked hard to curb Reggio Mafia operations in Malta.
No matter. The next day, wherever we went, we did as we were told and said,’ We are friends of Luigi. ” Doors opened. Royal treatment and back pats ensured. We were kings for a day.
Yep. That’s the Mediterranean in a nutshell.
BeSeeingYou In: Taormina and Reggio Calabria
Good To Know: Don’t expect fair play. Beware of guile, be shrewd, and negotiate.
WOW! Factor: The beauty of Taormina.
Tip: Remain firm, determined and deliberate.
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“Better a word less than a word more.”
Time to shut up The less said, the better!