Wednesday, December 31, 2008


This is a partial view of the farmhouse in San Ferdinando di Puglia where my husband spent his childhood summers. He climbed trees, rode his bicycles, tortured lizards and played with a multitude of cousins, but also was expected to do his share of chores.

One chore he remembers fondly was the cleaning of the almonds. This is a job that has several steps to it. First you have to gather the almonds from the trees. Then you have to remove their furry green outer covering. Next, you have to crack the hard shell that contains the fruit. Finally, you have to remove the hard shell and seperate the shells from the almonds.

The children were paid something equivalent to 10 cents per kilo of clean almonds. The job was done sitting together around a large table with the nuts in their shells in the center. Each child tried to accumulate the largest possible pile of clean almonds, to earn more money at the end of the day. The fun was in trying to distract the others and steal a few of their clean almonds while they weren't looking!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Days Gone By

Being all together at the holidays typically leads to the telling of the old stories...of good times past, family quarrels, achievements, adversity overcome. The children love hearing about the lives of their parents, grandparents, even great-grandparents.

Many of these stories, both happy and sad, revolve around a large farming property that used to belong to the family. My children's great-grandfather borrowed a sum of money from his two unmarried sisters and invested in a large piece of malaria-infested swampland near San Ferdinando di Puglia. He had heard that Mussolini would be starting large land reclamation projects in southern Italy. His risk paid off and the property became a fertile and productive farm.

Yesterday, my husband took our sons and their cousin to visit the farm. The current owners welcomed them with open arms, gave them a tour of every square inch of the property, both inside and out, and sent them away loaded down with a large crate of fruit from the garden.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Last Photo of the New Area of Expansion...for now...

I don't know...this building just seems so out of place. All alone in the middle of a field of some pretty tall weeds. Kind of looks like the Mother Ship dropped it down in the middle of nowhere and said, "Okay, just try to look normal!"

Sunday, December 28, 2008

"New Area of Expansion"

The apartment blocks in this new neighborhood, that has yet to have been given a better name than "new area of expansion," has a collection of widely varying architectural styles. They are "cooperatives" and each group of owners has the freedom to choose the style and materials for their new homes.

I've divided them into three categories:

"The Good"

"The Bad" (because the line of rowhouses changes style halfway down the row)

"The Ugly"

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A New Neighborhood

A whole new (and very large) neighborhood is going up in Molfetta. It is located to the south-east of the junction between Via Terlizzi and Via Berlinguer in what used to be olive groves and countryside. Although the loss of nature areas always make me sad, I have to admit that Molfetta really needed new apartments. The building market had been completely blocked for 30 years, driving the prices of those few homes available locally sky high and forcing many families to move to other towns.

The construction has been going on for a couple of years now. Some buildings are completed and already inhabited, while others are still going up. Today's photo shows two completed apartment blocks flanking one still under construction. Imagine the noise, the dust!

Over the next few days I'll show you some of the new buildings. There are widely varying architectural styles set right next to each other.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Feast of Saint Stephen

Christmas may be over in your country/culture...or it may not have even arrived yet, for those of the Orthodox faith...or perhaps you don't celebrate it at all...but here in Molfetta, we are still in the thick of it. Saint Stephen's day is an Italian national holiday, as my husband came to fully understand when he fruitlessly went out in search of an open supermarket this morning. We are out of dish soap after the big dinner on the 24th and the big lunch on the 25th!

Today, tanto per cambiare ("for a change of pace" said sarcastically) the whole family will reunite at my house for yet another big lunch. Holiday = food around here!
By the way, Santa was good to me and brought me a new camera! Yeah! I just haven't had a chance to get out of the house to learn how to use it yet! Thank you Santa, you're the best!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas with the Family

For me, the best thing about Christmas is that the whole family gets together. This year my husband's three brothers and sisters came to Molfetta from the far ends of Italy to spend the holidays together. Unfortunately, my parents couldn't make it from the US. We hope to see them soon. The photo above is of the younger generation, my sons and all of their cousins.
My sons livened up the evening of the 24th with an impromptu concert. Their repetoire includes Jingle Bells, Ode to Joy and Mary Had a Little Lamb!
Happy holidays to all of you, wherever you are and whatever you may be doing today, I wish you all the best!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

These pictures are of the nativity scene that my husband has created in our diningroom. It is quite large, takes up a whole bookcase (books removed!). Some of the pieces date back to his childhood, while others have been collected along the way.
Tonight is "Christmas" as much as tomorrow here. I will be hosting 18 people for dinner tonight. We will exchange our gifts (mostly just for the children) and eat, eat, eat. The menu tonight is fish-based. We'll have smoked salmon, raw mollusks, and two or three other fish dishes. At midnight, or earlier if the kids are fading, we have the traditional procession around the house singing "Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle," or "You Come Down From the Stars" an Italian Christmas carol about baby Jesus. The procession is organised in order of age, with the youngest member of the family (who is my son) leading the way, carrying the tiny figure of baby Jesus around the house and finally laying him to rest in his crib in the manger of the nativity scene. If you notice, there's no baby Jesus in the manger in the photo at the top.
Sorry about the poor quality of these photos...Santa, remember I want a camera for Christmas? I've been good, really I have!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shooting Star

Another tiny bit of Christmas decor...this time across the front of our home.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Commercial Christmas

For over-the-top Christmas decor in Molfetta you have to head over to the local mall. Here my 9-year-old son patiently poses in front of the largest of the many Christmas trees placed here and there around the mall.

Note, it's complete with phony shopping bags of gifts...a subtle hint, just in case you forgot what you came to the mall to do! This year most shops are already offering up to 30% discounts on their merchandise to encourage recession and all. The normal "sale" season doesn't start until about the second week of January.

At the other end of the mall there is a display of nativity scenes which are more culturally appropriate here. The Christmas tree is an import from the north and many Molfettan families don't do one at all.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Gated Pier

This little gate guards an equally tiny pier along the port. I think it's quite attractive, but I'm not sure how effective it is in keeping anyone off the pier. You can just step down onto the pier on either side of the ramp. But, maybe its purpose is more aesthetic than anything else...
These little fishing boats are being guarded by the gate. You can see the fishing nets lying out to dry on the pier.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Harbour View

Molfetta's harbour looks pretty much the same in winter as it does in summer. Compare for yourself with the photo in my header (above). But the light, the light is very different.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Art Exhibits

There are two art exhibits on in Molfetta's old town at the moment. The first is a collection of handmade nativity scenes. They are made from a wide variety of materials and in a wide variety of styles. Some are made by professionals, others by amatuers and some by children. The scene above is made in clay.

The other exhibit is called "Black Box: Look in the Hole." Its concept is of a world "enclosed in a box that is the container of all the behaviours, habits, values, excesses and relationships that life offers in relationship to the environment... The artists observe the contents of this box through a hole." Etcetera etcetera... Very dark, very disturbing.

I recommend the nativity scenes...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Another Little Bit of Christmas Cheer

This building is attached to the Church of Death, shown in yesterday's post. You can find it on Via Morte. That would be Death Street in English. When I lived in the old town my kitchen door opened onto this street.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chiesa della Morte

The name of this small deconsacrated church located in the historic center is "The Church of Death." If you look closely you can see the skull and crossbones carved above the door. It has this cheerful name because during the Middle Ages the corpses of the local dead were brought here to decompose in underground crypts. In those days only the very rich or very holy got their own tomb.

These crypts can be seen through areas of the church floor which are covered in glass. There is a whole series of crypts for corpses in varying phases of decomposition. The last stop was the area closest to an opening onto the sea. One high tide and, swoosh, away you go! No more bones cluttering up the crypt...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Erboristeria Elios

Molfetta's historical center used to be an island - the Island of Saint Andrew, to be exact - and it sticks out into the sea about two-thirds of the way around. Along the side facing inland there is a high wall. There are many bars, shops and social clubs (think along the lines of the Soldiers Mutilated in the Great War club, not dinner and dancing!) built into rooms along the base of the wall.

These photos show the exterior and a slice of the interior of the Elios Erboristeria, located at the southernmost point of the walls, on the corner of Piazza Municipio. An "erboristeria" is an herbalist's shop. They sell all kinds of products ranging from actual herbs to natural remedies for a long list of various and sundry ailments to cosmetics, soaps and perfumes.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Little Bit of Christmas

I took a walk around Molfetta Vecchia (the historical center of town) yesterday evening and was surprised by the minimal quantity of Christmas decorations. But then, maybe just a little is better than way too much.

This house is located on the edge of the old town, just at the beginning of the Lungomare Marcantonio Colonna, the street that runs along the seafront.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Double Rainbow Over the Sea

The sea is that blue bit just above the gate...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Auld Dublin Irish Pub

This pub is located in Bisceglie, a small city just a few kilometers up the Adriatic coast from Molfetta. It's a favorite meeting place for the book club I belong to. They have a decent selection of beer and other beverages. I don't know how authentically Irish the place is...but they have great booths and lots of fried appetizers to snack on.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Focaccia Rising

I haven't shown you any food for a while. This is a homemade focaccia set out on the balcony to rise in the warm sun. It's not exactly my idea of warm these days, but this balcony is protected from wind and the sun was able to do its part. By the was delicious!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Apartments on the Edge

Many apartments are built around the perimeter of a city block, facing outward, leaving a large inner courtyard. Unfortunately, these open spaces aren't usually used for anything particularly interesting. They allow for windows and air on both sides of each apartment and provide a balcony for hanging out the laundry in relative privacy. Well, all the other apartment dwellers can see your socks and underwear, but at least they're not hanging out over the street!
This series of photos was taken around the courtyard behind a friend's house.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Via Puccini

These two streets seem to be divided by a sidewalk and a wall...and they are, but what you can't really see here is that the street to the right is *much* lower than the one on the left. There are large stone staircases every so often along the center wall to allow pedestrians to get from one level to the other.

Molfetta doesn't have any hills, per se, but you climb in elevation slightly as you move from the sea inland.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


This is the view from a friend's fifth floor apartment out over the rooftops of the neighboring buildings. What do I notice? A predominance of the color green and an amazing maze of TV antennas and satellite dishes! And, of course, the sea in the background: a constant presence in the Molfettan pysche...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Via Pietro Mascagni

This is a detail from yesterday's photo of the Sacro Cuore di Maria Church. I like the way the buildings across from the church are each a different color. And how about that forest of TV antennas!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sacro Cuore di Maria Church

This church is better known as "San Filippo Neri" which is the name of its "oratory." In the Catholic tradition an oratory is a place of prayer, but technically it means a structure other than a parish church, set aside by ecclesiastical authority for prayer and the celebration of Mass.

Oratories seem to have originated from the chapels erected over the tombs of the early martyrs where the faithful gathered to pray, and also from the necessity of having a place of worship for the people in country districts when churches proper were restricted to cathedral cities.

The term is used here in Molfetta to mean the activities organised by a church for the children of the parish. These include sports, crafts, organised games, drama, summer camp...whatever the church volunteers are interested in or capable of doing with the kids.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Puffo Sky

What a strange color of blue...this sky almost looks like the sea, like ripples in a blue pond, like layers of blue a Puffo!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ex-Cooperativa Fomalhaut

This is the building we used to live in before we moved out to the countryside about 2 and half years ago. It was a pleasant place to live. I had nice neighbours, always ready to lend me an egg or a cup of flour, there were other kids for my boys to play with and two nice large grassy areas where they could play.

It was built about 35 years ago when this southern side of Molfetta was "out in the middle of nowhere." A friend who grew up in this building tells of the long walk into town to go to school. Now there's an elementary school right across the street, my boys walked to and from school by themselves when we lived there.

The name is interesting: "Ex-Cooperativa Fomalhaut." A cooperativa is a building built by a group of people who put their money together (I'm sure there's also some government financing involved), buy a piece of land, and build an apartment block. They have to work out all the details of style, materials, costs, etc. together. It is now an "ex" cooperativa, I imagine everyone got tired of having to cooperate!

The name "Fomalhaut" is an unusual choice, as it is not an Italian word. In fact, Fomalhaut is the name of the 18th brightest star visible from earth. It derives from an Arab word "Fom al-Hut" meaning "the mouth of the fish." No one was ever able to explain to me how that particular name was chosen...not even the original members of the cooperativa!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Take a Break

A gaggle of gulls take a break on the breakwater off the south side of Molfetta's historic center.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


This is a decoration that can be found on some walls of older buildings. Apparently it allows for air flow between the outer wall and an inner wall, but I don't know much more than that.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pontifical Regional Seminary

The Pontifical Regional Seminary is part of the seminary I showed you in a past post, but is located on the other side of town. I believe the main difference between the two sites is that administrative affairs are handled in this building, while the other one houses the theological school. The local bishop has his offices in this building, located right in the center of town, across from the Villa Comunale (or City Park).

It's hard to get a decent photo of this building. It is surrounded by so much visual clutter, telephone poles and wires, garbage cans, parked cars, you name it! It's also very large and you can't back up very far from it to take a picture because you'll end up running into a building or find your view blocked by the trees in the park.

I have not been able to get out of the house to take new pictures, as I am busy translating all day, so I'm raiding old photos from my files. Shouldn't make that much difference, old buildings like this don't change much with time!

Saturday, November 29, 2008


This is the intersection at the foot of Via 25 Aprile, a four-lane road (that's big for us around here!). If you continue straight on through the intersection, you will arrive at the Prima Cala public beach that I featured in photos this past week.

Sometimes people don't quite make the curve, as you can see (if you click on the photo to enlarge it) from the condition of the road signs. One day a friend's brakes went out and she crashed into the two boxes (just beyond the first car in the right lane) and knocked out the traffic lights. She was fine, but long weeks passed before the lights were fixed...

Friday, November 28, 2008

November Sunset, 2

Here's another November sunset. Although I'm not a member of the Skywatch Friday group, I thought I'd participate today! Note the ever present olive trees poking up into the photo...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Empty Field

I love this empty field near my house. Not long ago it was an olive grove, but one day they (the infamous "they"!) came in with bulldozers and uprooted all the trees. That was very upsetting...the death of an olive tree seems sacrilegious around here! But I have come to appreciate the beauty of the field since then. I couldn't see it before, what with all trees in the way!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Prima Cala...deserted

This is the only decent beach left within city limits. In the summer it is jam-packed with sunbathers and swimmers. In the past it was clean and only *too* crowded on August weekends. But it has been literally garbage-strewn for the past two years. People don't tend to clean up after themselves and the city garbage department has not been doing its job very well.

It's nice to see it clean and empty.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Winter Beach

Sea, pebbles, seaweed...and no people!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Peace of Mind

November sea and sky as seen from the Prima Cala public beach. I love the sharp line dividing the two...the different shades of blue...

I've decided to try to keep the blog going by scheduling posts ahead of time and not spending time visiting other blogs...please don't be offended! I'll be back!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

November Sunset

November is my favorite month for sunsets in Molfetta. They are extremely vibrant and colorful. This is the very tail end of one...I was racing against time to get home and up on my roof to take the photo.

This is going to have to be my last regular post for the next month or so. I have just received a big and important translating job (a whole book!) and will have to work non-stop as fast as I can until it's done. That will leave me little time for blogging.

I will try to post occasional photos when possible, but I must admit that I have also been very frustrated over the past month with camera problems. My little point and shoot Kodak (which drove me nuts, but basically got the job done) died a sudden death a while ago and the quality of the photos I'm able to get with my other camera options is pretty pitiful! I'm hoping Santa Claus will keep in mind what good girl I've been this year! ;-)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saint Martin's Fritters, 2

And here they are...four types of fritters: onion and olives, mozzarella and tomato, tuna and tomato, and just plain dough for the littlest kids. These are eaten together with turnip greens which are boiled and seasoned with olive oil and a dash of salt.
The roasted chestnuts!

Chocolate and hazelnut torrone compliments of Rosa, who was invited, but couldn't make it so she sent the homemade dessert in her place.

Now, I wouldn't want you all to think that we don't do anything except eat around here...but...we actually do spend a lot of time and energy around the preparation and consumption of food. It's a nice way to socialize, especially when everyone helps out in one way or another.