Wednesday, November 10, 2021

September 2021 in Puglia

Cisternino, Puglia, Italy. September 2021 (and a bit of October).

I didn't blog last September's visit to Cisternino as it was mainly eating and drinking with friends and enjoying the warm weather. This year's visit was a little more action packed.


Six weeks in Puglia in bullet points:

  • We flew in and out of different airports thanks to flight cancellations
  • Our wonderful cleaner dealt with mould and mustiness before we got there
  • We helped harvest Mino’s grapes twice (white and red)
  • We stumbled into a German talent show
  • We tested out possible venues for my 70th next year
  • I did my 100th parkrun at Salento’s 100th event
  • I worked out how to use the NHS Covid as a green pass
  • We sold Sotto Le Stelle and were sad to see it go
  • We tested out many local bars for the best aperitivo
  • We celebrated world Bluetit day!
  • There was some churn in bars and restaurants
  • We helped a neighbour and got a free lunch
  • I had a drastic haircut

Flights to and from Italy: we had two return flights (LGW / BDS) with EasyJet cancelled (original and the re-book). We considered driving down with the advantage of transporting back wine, olive oil, etc. But instead we booked a British Airways business class flight (LHR / BRI) using air miles and a two-for-one voucher. BA then cancelled the outbound leg so we booked a flight with EasyJet again. That meant we were doing an X-shaped flight pattern: outbound Gatwick to Bari, return Brindisi to Heathrow! BA then cancelled our return leg so we booked for Bari to Heathrow but two days earlier.

Fortunately we have a friend who lives 10 minutes drive from Heathrow T5 and close to Wraysbury station. So we parked our car in his garden and caught the train into Waterloo and down to Gatwick. On our return it was a short taxi ride to pick up our car, handover olive oil, hazelnuts and sun-dried tomatoes as payment and head off back to Penrith.

Mould and mustiness: Our wonderful cleaner, Rosaria, took it upon herself to go into our flat and check it out. She discovered mould on the walls and a very musty smell. Hardly surprising as the place had been locked up and airless for 10 months. She took it upon herself to bleach down all the walls, clean and air the place thoroughly and put the bedding through a wash cycle. What an absolute gem.

Grape harvest, red and white: one of the fun parts of being in Italy is helping to harvest Mino's grapes and get fed afterwards. This time we were there for both the red and white grape harvests so we got fed twice - result! 

Harvesting the white grapes:

Post-harvest meal with an amazing, telescopic, expanding table (from 6 to 20).

Germany's Pop Idol: We popped into the main square for a beer and stumbled on this in the town square one afternoon. We had front row seats so were obliged to yell and cheer with great gusto after each act! Watch out for us on German TV next January; the show is called Deutschland sucht den Superstar.

70th birthday planning: next year I will be celebrating my 70th birthday in Puglia. One possibility is to find a masseria with accommodation that can provide both the food and also accommodation for at least some of our guests. We tested out a couple on friends recommendation and will be doing more when we return next May.

parkrun number 100: one's 100th parkrun is a significant milestone in the parkrun world and you get a free T-shirt. In the normal course of events I would have achieved that milestone 18 months ago but Covid postponed it. As it happened Salento parkrun restarted the very weekend after we arrived so I was able to run my 100th in Italy amazingly, coincidentally at their 100th event. Curiously enough I have now run more events in Italy than my nominal, original home parkrun of Tooting Common. 

Read more about Salento parkrun Number 100.

Green Pass Italia: if you want to dine indoors or visit museums art galleries and music concerts you need proof of a recent test or that you have been doubly vaccinated. I worked out how to use the NHS Covid certificate in the Italian green pass app. I was also able to help some of our less text savvy friends to get the same set up. 

We sold Sotto Le Stelle: this probably deserves its own post. The short version is that a friend was interested in buying the place but when he found out the current market value he lost interest. However that prompted us to put it on the market and quickly found a full asking price buyer. So we completed the sale on the 6th of October 2021. We were sad to see it go but for the last two years it has generated no income and still incurred costs. It all helps with the life simplification.

Aperitivo testing: often evenings start with a gin and tonic and aperol spritz in a local bar. Prices and ambience vary so we thought we would conduct an informal survey of various of the bars around town to see who did the best. Criteria included price, strength, quality and price of the nibbles and the views. After extensive tippling we decided that Chirico Bistrot was the best all round although unsurprisingly Giorgio at Bar Porta Piccola was the cheapest.

World Bluetit day: Mary is a member of a Facebook group called the The Bluetits Chill Swimmers (Cumbria flock) who support each other in their open water swimming exploits. This started with a local group in Pembroke but is now worldwide. It is not a formal organisation as such but just a shared enthusiasm for icy waters. They decided this year to have their first ever world Bluetit day and encouraged wild swimmers to post pictures of their exploits. We went with our Welsh/Italian friends Carole and Alessandra and held aloft specially printed and laminated bluetit logos for added authenticity. However with sea temperatures of 23°C they were hardly in Bluetit territory!

Restaurants and bars: we dined in many of our usual, favourite restaurants and noticed a few changes. Trying out Cisternino's newest fornello pronto and birreria (Birrosteria 72014 formerly Porta Grande) from our old friend Umberto (ex Diaulicchie pub). 

His old, real ale bar had been given a makeover and is now run by somebody else. Birrosteria 72014 under Umberto's influence now sells artesanal beers as well as the usual local red wines. The restaurant directly below us used to be a creperie but now sells fishy food (see next).

There is such a thing as a free lunch: Lagravin is directly below us and their chimney emerges on our terrace. While we were still in the UK, with our permission, they ran a TV aerial from our roof down the front of the building and into the restaurant in order to show some Italian matches. 

They made the same request while we were present and we were happy to accommodate their request as it didn’t really impact us. A man came up with a very long coil of aerial cable at one end to our TV aerial running along the gutter and down the front of the building. 

The proprietor was so grateful that when he spotted us coming out of our front door he was effusive in his thanks and invited us in for a free meal. I had a very delicious roll containing prawns wrapped in Parma ham and a bottle of beer while Mary had the octopus in a bun. We were very is restrained as we didn’t want to abuse his hospitality.

Extreme haircut: After a haircut the barber always holds up a mirror behind me so that I may admire his handiwork and my ever growing bald spot. As the hair thinned over the years I knew there would come a time when I would have to go short to avoid the dreaded comb over (for which there doesn't seem to be an Italian word). So I went to Jos barbers at the bottom Via Dominico Cirillo and, with the aid of Google translate asked "Lo vorrei corto ma non calvo" - "I want it short but not bald". Well I shall certainly save on shampoo from now on!

Then back to the UK for cold, wet weather and grey skies. Boo!

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