Saturday, July 29, 2006

The ponderous Puglia post

One of the biggest complaints I've been getting recently is the dearth of posts on Il Sette Bello. The truth is I've been on the road so much lately that I've had little time to fill everybody in on the latest dirt. I'll try to be more active. Promesso. A Saturday evening post, just before we head off for dinner in Martina Franca (yes, another Slow Food Guide recommendation), is a good start.

Where am I?

In Puglia, the stiletto heel tip of Italy. Putignano to be precise. I am posting from a country house on the outskirts of town. Nothing but bails of hay and ancient olive trees between here and the horizon. This post is a first for Il Sette Bello. I am posting on the road -- in the middle of nowhere, actually -- thanks to a wizzy piece of kit: a mobile broadband card. Il Sette Bello has a strict editorial policy of remaining ad-free, but just this once I am happy to plug this wondrous technology from 3 Italia. (I am trying it out for an article.) The coverage is much better than I expected. And, they tell me, growing. On the way here, Xtina was emailing work while I was driving on the Autostrada south towards Naples, prompting this honest assessment of my life choices:

Xtina: (Upon receiving confirmation her email had been sent as we sped south) You know, sometimes I really am happy you're a silly journalist.
Me: (A sharp look at my passenger)
Xtina: Sometimes. (kicks up feet on dash, turns up radio and bobs head to the music)

With this 3 Italia card, we have had a fast connection everywhere we tried it out. And, we're in Mezzogiorno country, the notoriously deprived south. I hope the same fantastic coverage is available in Amandola. Gulp! There goes my excuse that I cannot get online while at the house there.

What are we doing in Puglia? Good question. Xtina and I were invited to a "party" last night in Noci -- for those of you checking your Italian-to-English dictionary, yes the town is called "Nuts". (What do you call a person from Nuts, anyhow?) I digress. A friend of Xtina's from work, Walter, was having a big bash in a masseria, an old farm house on the outskirts of town. He and his girlfriend's favorite 150 people (and me) were to be there. That's about all the instructions we received. When we arrived we learned this was Walter's wedding reception. He hadn't told a soul he was getting married. He just wanted us to join him at the party, which started at 9 and they were still serving food at 3 a.m. The incredible thing about stumbling into a wedding reception blind is that everyone arrives under-dressed and confused, a bit embarrassed they hadn't thought to bring a present, hadn't known, actually. The first few minutes are awkward. But Xtina and are pros at this. This is the second time it's happened to us. In a week. Last Saturday evening we arrived at Ostia for a party organised by our friends Pietro and his Russian girlfriend, Masha. When we arrived, Erwan, a French pharmacist with an Italian boyfriend, was officiating a wedding on the beach around a circle of umbrellas. Pietro and Masha, in dripping swim trunks, were exchanging vows. Xtina and I were dumbstruck, nothing a few glasses of wine couldn't cure.

So, last night was not nearly as awkward for me and Cri as it was for the others. Firstly, I didn't know Walter, but was grateful for the invite and the chance to witness a Pugliese style wedding. (Imagine an endless parade of food and reception that goes til dawn). But it still leads to the nagging question that strikes at the national identity of the Italian male: why are they so uncomfortable about the topic of marriage? The women in their lives seem sweet, a good catch even. Why so reluctant then? And, when they finally take the plunge, they are in denial, so much so that they fail to tell us why we are there to celebrate with them. Oh, right, you're getting married. Congrats, amico. Sorry about my appearance. Had I known, I would never have shown up in shorts and sandals.

Xtina and I will be chewing over this at dinner tonight. (Next post will include photos...lots of sea and flesh.)

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