Touring Southern Italy- A merging of cultures
I passed a funeral in Locorotondo today. Was not expecting it as I was frantically searching for something to eat, I had waited to long to stop. You see here in Italy you must be seated for lunch no later than 14:00 or they will not seat you.
I was racing around, (which is my usual state when doing research), and realized I had not eaten. It was not 15:30, and at that hour of the day the staff is dining, when the funeral crossed my path as it marched up the hill towards the Chiesa Madre in the center of town. Stopped.
There they were, the entire community walking slowly behind the limo with casket all in black. One cannot race in front of a funeral. One waits. Time has stopped. One cannot photograph a funeral either. Respect is everything in southern Italy. I am sure at one time, the casket was laid on a carriage drawn by a horse. Life can resume its usual speed once the funeral has passed, but it forces you to stop and consider time. and your life of course.
I have dedicated two weeks to discovering "la Novita" in Puglia and Basilicata, with one day dedicated to "i Miei" that is my ancestors, honored with a stop in the unknown town of Oliveto Citra Provincia di Salerno, birth home of Maternal grandmother whom I adored. The major part of this visit to southern Italy, is to see what is new, different or interesting, in order to advise my clients better.
I have been to Puglia and Matera before, and have already led tours here, on a few occasions, however, some time had passed, and therefore research is required, to stay on top of my game so to speak.
When asked if I am here for vacation, I shrug....I am here just 48 hours already and have already visited nine hotels. The list even becomes longer asas I travel from north to south. Matera, Bernalda, Faesano, Martina Franca, Lecce, Ostuni, Monopoli, Otranto, Leuca, Gallipoli, Taranto before departing Puglia. There is no time for a cafe in piazza or a rest near the piscina. Do you understand how much time it takes to find where you are going. I do not use GPS, they do not really work here, intuition and a 4th generation Michelin spiral bound map are my travel companions and accessories. No, I am not here for a vacation.
Do not get me wrong. I adore this work... it is not work... but a found joy in life that not many can experience. This can only be said the Italian way, I found a passion, "To know Italy", is my passion. Maybe an American will not understand this. But here "passion" plays a role in each and every day, and more so the further south that one goes.
As for food, I am trying to dine on less flour every day. I adore la Pasta. And nothing improves my disposition better than steaming hot pasta and red wine, immediately I become a joyful person once again, however, flour on top of flour, does nothing for a middle aged body that is not getting her normal exercise. Difficult as it is to pass up orechiette ( little ears) for lunch AND dinner, abstention every day either during breakfast or lunch, is what I am trying to do. The good thing is Puglia is known for their vegetables. Last night in Cisternino I went to Zio Pietros’ Maccelleria ( butcher shop) . Apparently Cisternino’s speciality is grilled meats selected by you from the glass case, weighed and grilled over an open fire right there in the butchers shop is a common way to dine. I suggest that Jack the butcher in Aspen, set up a small dining room in the back of the Butchers Block to be able to stay competitive and try this novelty. This concept will catch on easily apart from the fire marshals objection to the open fire pit in the center of Aspen. This will help them stay on top of Whole Foods in El Jebel.
What I have noted so far is that this area has an unusual amount of Great Pyranees, those big white fluffy dogs that are used to herd sheep. Here the tradition remains of the transhumanza or the movement of the herd from summer to winter pastures and vice versa, whereby those dogs come in handy to control the herd movement. They are everywhere. There is not one GSP in sight here. Even the "Cane in Giro" or tame abandoned dogs that lounge around on the streets seem to be Great Pyranese.
To be continued.. further south, Lecce, Otranto and Leuca.
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