Trulli Magic…

 

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The region of Puglia, or Apuglia as it is known in Italy, covers much of the heel and the boot of the country. There is a lot to see of interest in the area including the capital city of Bari, known as the ‘Milan of the south’, the famous baroque city of Lecce, the white town or ‘citta bianca’ Ostuni, the fishing villages of Polignano a Mare and Monopoli and a stunning coastline of beaches and coves for swimming. Puglia is also renowned for it’s specialty food and wine. It is known as the ‘breadbasket’ of Italy as it produces more than eighty percent of the country’s pasta. Orrecchiete pasta, shaped like small ears, can still be seen being made on the old streets of Bari by local women. The region also produces the famous primitivo wine, much of the country’s fish and more olive oil than the rest of the country combined.IMG_8835

With all of this and more on offer I have flown down from Milan to spend a couple of weeks holiday. For the last few days I have been in the town of Martina Franca. This is another Puglian town with a noteworthy centro storico, famous in the summer months for it’s belcanto festival. I was lucky enough to see my friend, soprano Jessica Pratt, singing the lead role in the rarely performed Giovanna d’Arco by Verdi at the Palazzo Ducale. It was a wonderful night’s entertainment in a stunning setting. But now it is time for us to take a ‘real’ break.

We arrive at Masseria Fumerola early one afternoon at the very beginning of August. It is hot. Very, very hot. There is not a breath of air and it is siesta time, so the silence is palpable. The heat is almost a tangible thing. It eminates off the bright white of the conical trulli rooves, off the white, rough hewn stone walls and off the incredible, sparkling blue water of the swimming pool. The initial impression is one of stark beauty. Beautiful, gnarled olive trees offer shade from the unrelenting sun, gigantic flowering cacti grow in the hard earth and the scent of wild rosemary hangs in the air; it is possible we have arrived for a few days in paradise.IMG_8806

We are shown to our accommodation and settle in to our surprisingly cool trullo. Originally constructed out of dry stone as simple farm dwellings or shelters for animals, they feature one room under each cone and extra rooms in additional alcoves. In the 19th century the dry stone was easily deconstructed when the property tax inspectors paid a call. I think to myself that hopefully the 21st century Italian tax men are on holiday in August and that with any luck we can keep the roof over our heads for the next five days! The decor is authentic and neutral, in keeping with the rustic style.IMG_8956 Trulli are notoriously difficult to heat in winter and our lounge room features a large, stone fireplace which we won’t be needing. The bedroom is comfortable and the bathroom is large and modern. We have a private terrace complete with a lush, green lawn.

 

IMG_8947Staff at the masseria are unobtrusive and unfailingly helpful and smiling. Nothing is too much trouble during our stay. This place has the feel of a small, country house rather than a hotel. We spend much of our lives in hotels and this is exactly what we are looking for…the feeling of a home away from home. Breakfasts are on the terrace and feature home made Italian style cakes and pastries. Leisurely, simple lunches are taken near the pool in the former pig sty, no evidence of the past remaining. A friendly girl named Paula delivers fresh salads of mozzarella and bright red tomatoes with barley bread from Lecce accompanied by glasses of crisp, cool white wine. IMG_8888We sit on white painted chairs at rustic wooden tables. It is a perfect setting and I am reminded of my childhood Enid Blyton books in which food consumed outside by the Famous Five always tasted better. I can’t disagree with them here. Every flavour and colour seems brighter and more enhanced. Dinners are a simple affair on the terrace beginning with a spread of delicious antipasti: marinated artichokes, grilled zucchini, eggplants and peppers, creamy mozzarella cheeses, frittata, homemade focaccia, prawns and salamis. After a main course of fish or meat a gelato is offered, followed, if you so desire, by a limoncello in the lounge room. We chat amicably with other guests after dinner…it is almost like a family occasion and we thoroughly enjoy the intimacy of the whole experience.

The long, incredibly warm summer days are spent by the swimming pool. As the sun moves through the cloudless blue sky so we move our sun lounges to follow the shade. There are bikes for hire at reception although I notice they are in the same place when we leave as when we arrive. IMG_8935I am glad we are not the only sedentary ones. It is too hot to move too far or too fast. We both have plans to learn some music for upcoming jobs but the scores lie closed next to our sun beds and remain there unopened all week.

Evenings are glorious. A faint breeze blows and the sun turns the fields to a golden yellow. Swallows swoop down to the empty swimming pool looking for insects, wasps buzz and bats fly silently overhead. The joy here is in the simple pleasures.

More information at masseriafumarola.it

Observations from a sunlounge…an irreverant take on the Italian Beach…

IMG_8797 Only bikinis shall be worn. The one piece does not exist. The bigger the woman the smaller the bikini should be…preferably the G-string variety.

The “small bathers principal” also applies to men. Your beer gut should completely obscure your swimming costume so that when you face someone front on it actually appears as if you are totally naked (in Australia we call this the ‘verandah over the tool shed syndrome.’) My European friends are welcome to ask me to define both ‘verandah’ and ‘toolshed’…preferably over a drink.

Men should either shave their entire bodies or look like chimpanzees. No middle ground acceptable.

It is compulsory for all men to totally ignore their wives, girlfriends and mistresses to stare blatantly at women exiting and entering the water and say in an exaggerated undertone “mamma mia, mio dio, che bella!” You do this automatically regardless of whether the subject is bella or not. Because we can’t see your toolshed (it’s obscured by your verandah), we will thankfully never know if you are genuine or not. PS…don’t worry, you will be forgiven for this behaviour. We know you are religious because your medallion, when not obscured by a forest of chest hair, is brighter and more dazzling than the sun.

Children should run around all day in the extreme summer heat without a hat, protective clothing or sunscreen. In fact naked is best. The ‘slip, slop, slap’ campaign has not reached Southern Italy (in any case slipping, slopping and slapping would make you look unattractive and that is unacceptable). Skin cancer doesn’t exist in the Northern Hemisphere anyway.

When a child needs to wee pick them up and encourage them to piddle into the moat of their sandcastle or into their plastic bucket. Convenience is best. In fact, if your child’s sandcastle or bucket is not available then encourage them to piddle in/on someone else’s. I mean, if you move away from your chosen spot someone might come and steal it…or a sudden move (admittedly quite difficult in high heels) might cause your suntan to become uneven…and that is sooooo uncool.

Beach buskers…ummmm…if you are going to serenade a woman on her sun-lounge with the most appalling, excruciating and terrible rendition of ‘O Sole Mio’ (with guitar accompaniment), you may want to check first that she is not an opera singer. But thanks all the same for the entertainment. You were so very, very bad that I almost enjoyed your performance. Note to self; if I sing really, really badly in the future will I get paid more because people feel sorry for me??!!

Polignano a Mare

Polignano a Mare

If you are a non Italian speaker the most important phrase you can learn is “NO, I don’t want to buy a sarong.” If you are really studious you could expand this phrase to “NO, I don’t want to buy a sarong in black, a bracelet, a sarong in green, an umbrella, a sarong in purple, a dog that can say ‘ti amo’ while it’s ears flap up and down, a blue sarong, a yellow submarine, a sarong in any f’ing colour.” The really clever should learn all the above in French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Russian and Urdu…because the salesman’s linguistic abilities know no limits. Better still, forget the above and pretend you are deaf and blind, thereby avoiding a raised blood pressure on vacation. And try not to constantly think what a pity it is that no one is trying to sell you a nice, cold bottle of pinot grigio!

The smaller and rockier the beach the more money it will cost to spend the day there. Foreigners will be charged more on principal. The man who rents the sun beds will randomly decide a price based on the size of your bikini.

The ocean is not for swimming. It is in fact for standing in chatting on your i-phone or in large family groups in your designer sunglasses, preferably whilst eating focaccia or pizza.

Water sports are forbidden. Bats, balls and frisbees ruffle the mirror-like surface of the water causing you to momentarily lose sight of your reflection.

And finally, it is acceptable to laugh at the foreign girl from Australia when she jumps out of the water every time a piece of seaweed floats by and says, “Shit. Sorry. I thought that was a shark!”

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