The mongers all

Rumour has it there’s a market in town on Thursdays. We’ll take our Italian language skills on a field trip and see if we can avoid coming home with half a buffalo and a gallon of lard. We stopped for a quick coffee at the little bar on the piazza where we park – the owner knew we were ‘the Australians’ he had heard were coming. Due cappuccini down the hatch and on to the car…

From the terrace of our place


Geez! It’s bloody cold though – ice on the car and a wind that cuts through the many layers we’re wearing. There’s also snow on them there hills. Nothing above 3 degrees today. We found the market down a side street near the top of town and after minor parking and manoeuvring debacles, we descended, with burning cheeks, into the clothing stalls  and worked our way up to the food stalls, stopping only long enough for Pip to purchase a thermal undershirt from a bloke with a few tables of underwear and a cheeky smile.

Foodwise we started with a cheesemonger and tasted a few cheeses before a settling on a picante caciocavallo and a bag of fennel tarralle. Our biggest challenge, which Pip lunged headfirst into, was the fruitmonger, who spoke a dialect and worked at 100 mph. Still, we managed to obtain bewdiful little tomatoes on the vine, continental (!) parsley (which the fruit guy inexplicably bundled with half a stick of celery), spuds, eggplants, onions and the free gift of a lemon. We didn’t join the thronging masses walking away with bags of clementines and pears, but might hit those next time.

The supermarket was next on visit list and it lives in a shed off the main road out by the edge of town. It provided us with the rest of the essentials – milk, grated parmigiana, etc (where etc = wine and aperol spritz in tiny bottles). This would set us up for general life.

Our front door is on the left under the awning

You need to take account the fact that whatever we purchase we have to lug 500m up from the piazza where we park, so our excitement for new things is tempered by the reality of the walk at the end. 

Part of the path from our place to the piazza

 

After a tomatoey, cheesey lunch we snoozed a while (which is quite easy in 1 degree temperatures if you take the IKEA chair by the radiator) and took a turn around the village at dusk (round 5pm) before we headed home and Pip cooked up a delicious pasta with some of our hard won produce from this morning. We have noticed that the locals are very friendly – everyone offers a polite buona sera as you pass them and greets you in stores as they enter and leave. Nice.
Tonight we will offer up a silent prayer for the heating and internet to be fixed (well, I would if that was a thing I did). Tomorrow we plan to go for a drive to Melfi and possibly Potenza, snow on the roads permitting.

Cinderella Rockefeller 

Time to rekindle something else – that old driving on the right thing. 

We fuelled ourselves with the Amelindo’s continental buffet (I hope you read that with the voice of Hyacinth Bucket), though we were restrained and well mannered and did not stuff our pockets with ham and cheese as we left. Bussed it back the airport and followed the slightly hard to follow trail to the Europcar desk. Rejected their upgrade offers and made for the carpark and our blue Fiat Panda. Now with the GPS from Australia, you need to find somewhere with a view of the sky for the little Garmin to find its satellites – not an easy task in the highly regulated airport roadways but an absolute necessity to find your way out of the airport maze.

Eventually we just stopped at a tiny siding long enough for the Garmin to do its thing and for us to program it to lead us to Calitri. We were soon on the autostrada and heading south, managing to stay out of the way of the fast cars and the slow trucks and making our first stop at an Autogrill for coffee. It took about 5 hours and 23 euros in tolls to make Calitri after traversing country with groves of giant wind turbines. 

Roadhouse coffee - Italian style

Roadhouse coffee – Italian style


We met our contact, Emma, in the Piazza della Replublica and lugged our bags about 500m to the Casa de Feritoia, our digs for the next couple of weeks. Superb views and a cute little house. The main bedroom is particularly nice. Right now we’re waiting for the electrician to come and look at the heater in the main room and the internet (and the television). Then we’ll head out into the chilly darkness to find a restaurant. It’s market day tomorrow. 

Our little Panda in the Piazza

UPDATE: The restaurant we found was a keeper. La Gatta di Cenerentola (Cinderella Cat for those playing at home) a ten minute walk from our place and a twenty minute walk back – that’s a downhill / uphill thing – and our first experience with a restaurant with no menu. It’s a gorgeous little place with two small rooms (one in a cave at the back) and slick modern decor in a restored ancient building. We plunged in, prepared to take the unknown prices on the chin. Pip asked for local food and Antonella, told us her Aunty would just bring us the food. We were offered two primas and opted for Canozza in a vealy, red sauce cooked for 5 hours we were assured. While we waited for that, some savoury pastries appeared (for a second) and some of the local bread – they’re known for a wholemeal style. We also went local with the wine – Aglianico del Vulture, a robust red.

The cave out the back …

The canozza was perfect, and far too much for a prima. Involtini came next with potatoes in a chilli oil, eggplant, capsicum and zucchini. It was all we could do to share a Tira Mi Su, which was so amazingly good and more like a coffee zabaglione. We held our joint breath as we asked for the bill (our guess was that it would hit the 75 euros). Imagine our surprise at 39!

We rugged up and headed out into the borgo, light rain which turned to snow flurries falling. 

OTHER UPDATE: Turns out the radiator needs a part from the plumber and the internet needs the satellite guy to come. Cut off from the world we are – there’s no mobile data we can access in this area either! Pip’s worried she’s trapped in an episode of Survivor: Campania!

Dreamliner … Pfft!

We’ve rekindled our dislike for the Dreamliner. So crowded for a 14 hour flight – such thin seats for a 14 hour flight. Still. We made Abu Dhabi in reasonable shape and had a not so crowded flight to Roma – even got moved to a ‘with leg room’ seat.

Roma met us sunny and mild at about 1pm. The airport arrivals lounge offered us many taxis we did not want as we threaded our way to parking bay 24 to wait for our bus to the Amelindo Residence in Fiumicino, the small, beachy locale the airport is named for. It was one of those square, multi-storied buildings so typical of Italy. Given our lack of sleep for the previous 24 hours, Amelindo’s clean sheets and large, warm room were just what the dottore ordered. Over the road was a small bar with a big name, Baci e Abbracci and a delightful Christmas laser light show inside that made us look like we about to fall victim to a distant sniper,  and a pizzeria. The pizzeria required that we wait till 7pm for it to open, so we hit the bar thinking to sink a couple while we waited. 7pm is a stretch for those who’ve endured a 23 hour flight – trust me.

I feel a little uncomfortable …


These little local bars are gems. One man operations with a coffee machine and a selection of spirits and red wine; soft drinks and ice creams; crisps and nuts. We ordered a couple of drinks and a packet of chips, and the man bought us a small dish of olives. He also bought us two complimentary toasted sandwiches – bocconcini and tomato and a mortadella, egg and mayo. Our second drinks came with more olives, nuts, chips and snacky bits. The need to wait for the pizzeria had been negated. Our tired bods needed nought but sleep, and that is what they took. For tomorrow we drive.

Ostuni

Again with the south of Italy?

Italy is a soft drug peddled in predictable packages, such as hills in the sunset, olive groves, lemon trees, white wine, and raven-haired girls. Italia, on the other hand, is a maze. It’s alluring, but complicated.  Beppe Severgnini, La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind 

We get this. We totally get this. Well, in truth, the ‘raven-haired girls’ bit is probably out of scope, but the rest is eminently get-able. The south of Italy in the olive-pickin’ winter, cold air oozing* with the aroma of olive oil and wood smoke has got its hooks in Pip and I. The primitivo to lubricate our afternoon strolls and send tingles of warmth through our scarves and back up to our to our cheeks as darkness falls is addictive. Endless winding streets of whitewashed houses and marble paths have us wanting more and more. The cheese and the artichokes, the mushrooms and the rapini, the fiche d’India (prickly pear) and the gelato. Presepi Vivante … Puglia lives high on our list of memorable times in Italy. So high does it live, in fact, that we’re heading back to the south again. Not Puglia this time, but a little more to the left and up – to a region called Campania, and close to the region called Basilicata, which is the region next to Puglia.

The dart we threw at the map landed on a little town called Calitri. Small but typically picturesque, with an historic section on the hill called the Antico Borgo, where we’ve found an apartment to rent from an amicable American couple for a couple of weeks.

 

calitri

Unusually for us, we will not stop in Roma – arriving in the afternoon and staying the night near the airport before firing up the Fiat Panda (or equivalent) and nosing onto the autostrada south. Calitri is about level with Sorrento and then inland to the mountains. Sorrento is on the southern end of the Bay of Naples (near Capri). It’s about three hours from Roma, but we’ll take longer because … Fiat Panda.

Our last sojourn to Puglia had us hold up in a trulli in the middle of an olive and cherry grove, some distance from the nearest villagio, and while we loved it, we did have to drive to get anywhere (read: anywhere that had a bar!). This time we’ve plumped for accommodation in a town, handy to those evening strolls the Italians are so fond of. We too are fond of them and will attempt to blend in with the locals (at least until we open our mouths!)

So, Boxing Day will see us take a deep breath (that’s for leaving number young son in charge of the apartment) and then exhale loudly as we squeeze into our cattle-class seats for a quick 23 hour jump to Roma.

Our habit of en-blogerising our travels will be continued, as we leave the oppressive heat of Brisbane at this time of the year to coast into the chill of southern Italy. Non possiamo aspettare!

*carefully chosen instead of redolent – more ‘street’