Parva Grecia

A Grecanic enclave in Southern Italy

Little Greece, or rather the remnants of Magna Graecia, or Greater Greece, that great civilization of migrants and colonies that, from the 8th century BC, brought commerce, art and culture to the south of Italy, enriching it in unthinkable ways and making it the genuine centre of what the Romans later called Mare Nostrum, the Mediterranean.

These remnants have resisted tenaciously: one of the most tangible is grecanico, an intriguing language that has survived for millennia, resisting the barbs of progress, the most recent of which being the fascist era, when the government attempted to eradicate it by prohibiting its use. A language, which the UNESCO Red Book classifies as being among those at risk, that is almost magical, that survives through the few dozens of people that still use it in their everyday conversations.

A throbbing artery of Magna Graecia was Halex Flu (the ancient name of the Amendolea river), which was navigable in its lower stretches and thus played a strategic role in the Greek colonization of the entire valley. The backbone of the grecanica area, where Calabrian Greek is still spoken, the river winds extends for 38km. Those who travel from its source to its estuary find numerous testimonies of the transformation of the territory and its later abandonment. The life and identity of its people, however, has not stopped: there are still those who actively choose to cherish the heritage of their homeland and choose to talk about it.

People like Rosy, a young woman who is head of the Gallicianò Grecophone Study Centre Cultural Association, who passionately defends the linguistic and historical roots of the small village, holding grecanico courses for children and adults together with Domenico, the architect and custodian of the little orthodox church in the village. Like Raffaele, who in five years, with the help of many donors, has created the Gallicianò ethnographic museum.

Or like Francesco, who with the tours organized by his archaeological group, accompanies tourists along the Amendolea paths. Each year an increasing number of tourists are attracted by the barren charm of the landscape, the power of nature and the ancient sound of the language.

Almost thirty centuries after the first settlements colonized Magna Graecia, the remnants of the culture that transformed the south of Italy into the fulcrum of the Mediterranean still survive.

Grecanico is a language that has traversed three thousand years of history and continues to live in the voices of those few dozen people in the southern region of Calabria who still use it each day.

A river, the ancient Halex Flu, today called the Amendolea, was the gateway for the colonization, which headed upstream and inland. Along its banks there are still some visible signs of that golden age.

Today the area is suffering the consequences of a constant depopulation. Nevertheless, some of its inhabitants resist tenaciously and fight to preserve their unique heritage.

The territory of the ancient Halex Flu, with its wild and barren nature and its historical relics, has become an attraction for tourists, who each year are growing in number.

( 2018 )