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Ever since the magazine International Living ran an article a few years back called "Nine Places Where You Can Retire and Live Like a King," a number of sources have cited that list. There are the old stand-bys such as Cuenca in Ecuador..."lush greens, luminous flowers, babbling rivers..." and almost anywhere in Costa Rica. There are also a few big cities such as Vienna and Capetown. There is one place in Italy on the list (presumably, as a retired monarch you will not need a car, so the ten dollars a gallon will be of little import) and it is a mere 100 km (60 miles) from Naples! It is called Calitri. Cited in one source:
Calitri is a small hill town in that part of the Apennines known as Irpinia. It sits at 600 meters (1800 feet) along the Ofanto river near Avellino due east of Naples. It has around 5,000 inhabitants (down from a high of 8,600 in 1951). According to a town official, since that article ran in International Living 60 British and/or Irish families have bought places and moved in for some of “unspoiled Italy at its finest." Calitri even has a yearly festival called the Sponz Fest – great food, films, music – all that. The term Sponz comes from a dialect word sponzare, a term from the good old days, meaning to soak a dried cod (the only fish available back then) for three days until it became edible, during which three-day cod-soaking period people would get sloshed, married and party until the fish got chewy enough to eat. A good time was had by all.
Strangely, on that Live Like a King list, there was no mention of Albania! I specifically remember an article (ok, it was an ad) in the International Herald Tribune a few years after Albania had overthrown its loony Commie overlord, Enver Hoxha (see this link) and the fish were jumpin' and the cotton was high. At the time I was fed up with my puny and meaningless little life and was looking to turn my innermost rapacious and swashbuckling robber-baron fantasies to life! The ad appealed to me:
the rapacious and swashbuckling grammar for a
moment (“…most unknown…”). The main point of this
full-page ad was that Albania was so poor that I
could live like a king on US$35 a month! Indeed, I
could lead a “feudal lifestyle” —that meant land
and servants— (“surrounded by undemanding domestic
helpers”). Also, I would pay no taxes. Then I
could become an Albanian citizen and cash in on
the benefits, two of which were that I could buy a
“restored noble title” and then become a minister
without portfolio! It was reprivatized boom-town
benevolence all around.
was tempted. First: Could I scrape together the
$35? OK, I could wash a few more windshields at
the street-corner near my house. Wait. What if my
nation didn't recognize Albania?! I looked it up.
Not a problem: “Albania is easy to recognize; it
is approximately 5’ 10” tall, swarthy and shaped
like a vegetable.” My ship had come in. Stop. I
checked to make sure that there was a port in
Albania with docking facilities for my ship. Yes!
And, as it turned out, the entire harbor was just
a metaphor, too, so it was better than I thought.
I was on a roll, and pass the butter, please!
Hoxha's leftover two-man bunkers still dot the Albanian
countryside. I wanted to let my serfs live in these things.
started pandering to my feudal fantasies, big
time. I saw myself unrolling that wad of
one-dollar bills. Thirty-five big ones. The ooh’s
and aah’s of the admiring peasant hordes swept
over me, and “undemanding domestic servants”
hoisted me to the sedan-chair which they had
acquired just for the occasion (by removing the
passenger-side front seat of the one sedan in
Albania). They paraded me in triumph over to my
inauguration as Restored Duke and handed me my
passport. I started worrying about my title. If I
was nobility and a minister without
portfolio, what did people call me? What was the
proper genuflection before me? Mother Teresa (an
Albanian!) (photo, below) wandered into my
daydream, smiled at me and told me not to sweat
the small stuff. I was amazed at how well I
understood Albanian. That language is called
"Shqip" in the Albanian language, itself. Albania,
is called "Shqipëria," which is probably what has
deterred large-scale movements of foreigners into
that nation in the past.
Teresa, bust in Naples.
Wait. That flash of Mother Teresa unleashed a pang. I thought of the Book of Isaiah: “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning forks; nation shall not lift up a sword against a nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” My conscience twinged at my lack of compassion. I made an e-coli bacterium look like Buddha. I thought of the remark in the ad that “Albania lacks almost everything” and asked myself, "What can I do?" It came to me. I’d set aside some of my $35 to import swords and spears into Albania and then set my serfs to beating them into ploughshares and pruning forks. I then recalled singing that passage in a church choir when I was in school and changing it to “tuning forks” instead of “pruning forks.” I started to giggle and wondered if Albanians had my droll sense of humor. I made a note to myself to brush up on sheep jokes.
alas, I never went. Various things intervened, and
I had to content myself with articles in magazines
and now even on Italian TV that tell me that I can
live like a king in Calitri not too far way from
my own princely place overlooking the bay of
Naples. Maybe I can still commute!
But...but...is there something they are not telling me? Ah, there it is...
I'm not saying that Calitri is not a great place to visit, get married, soak your cod, enjoy the traditional palio (horserace), the fine religious architecture, the numerous food festivals, or even meet the Scazzamauriegghje, a delightful invisible imp of local folklore. He wears a red beret (how do they know the color of the beret if he is invisible? I don't know.) Yes, all that. Live like a king if you must. Dance with the villagers, but know that there is another dance going on just below you, a perilous tectonic bump and grind, for Calitri is in the dead center (perhaps a poor choice of words) of the Irpine hills, the earthquake capital of southern Italy.
it's me. I'll stay put.
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