Sleep never felt so good. I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and noticed that sunrise was at 5:39 a.m so I decided to get up and go sit on the terrace and await the sunrise. It was rather cloudy this morning so I did not get any spectacular photos, but it was absolutely beautiful. Our hotel served breakfast beginning at 8:00 a.m. on the terrace of the hotel. I’ll try to get a great photo of that before we leave. We didn’t make it there until 9:00 a.m.
Today’s big adventure would be La Chiesetta (the Church) di Piedigrotto (at the foot of the grotto.) To get there we would need to take a Tuk-Tuk. Our driver was Giovanni. I swear he reminded me of my Grandpa Frank Lombardi. He spoke great English. He is Italian but he had lived 29 years in Ottawa, Canada. He now lives in Pizzo for 10 months and England for 2 months. He showed us his house that he shares with his girlfriend.
According to a 17th century legend, a group of sailors were caught in a storm just off the coast of Pizzo. Fearing an imminent death, the captain gathered his crew and together they prayed to the Madonna, promising to build a church in her honor in exchange for safe landing. When they landed on shore unscathed, they kept their promise and built her an alter inside a nearby cave. The cave is carved entirely in tufa stone and over the years local artists and sculptors have added to the display. Light seeping into the cave from the overhead crevices and nearby ocean cast a dramatic, yet somewhat eery, glow in the statues.
Towards the end of 1800 an artist from Pizzo called Angelo Barone began a pernickety job: every day going down to that humid cave and initially enlarging it by himself, he was able to get a wide cave. As he dug he saved some blocks of shapeless stone which, in a second time, he began to carve with his own hands, a spade, and a pickaxe. The result was an extraordinary group of statues. Everything derived from his fantasy and deep faith. He tirelessly worked for several years, and, after his death, his son Alfonso gave up being a painter and a photographer and, for over 40 years, he continued his father’s work.
At the end of the Sixties, a nephew of theirs called Giorgio Barone, coming back from Canada where he had moved, restored some statues which in previous years had been the object of acts of vandalism. Girogio Barone, who in the meantime had become a good sculptor, spent his summer holiday working in the cave: he also carved two medallions representing Pope Giovanni and John Kennedy.
Beautiful place—great afternoon. Tomorrow is our heritage tour!